A Travellerspoint blog

Boarder Crossing/ Quito


Boarder of Ecuador – Ipailes
Finally I am making my way to my next South American destination, Quito city in Ecuador. So the bus journey was a long one where I didn’t realise it was a non express bus which meant that it had stopped whenever anyone who would hail it down. Got to Quito and went to The Secret Garden a recommended hostel – screwing when I had to walk up 4 flights of stairs to get to the roof top for the reception desk after a 10hrs bus journey not forgetting the lack of food that I had! Got there and I told a white lie on how I had already pre-booked the room…ouch! But luckily they had rooms available which was a bonus, next was dinner and guess what they had nothing! Not even a chocolate bar….after a bit of rummaging around the chef did scrap the last of the evenings veg curry which was cold but boy was I grateful! I had my dinner on this amazing view of Quito city, the night lights with huge mountains in the back ground I could not wait for the morning to see the view in its full glory. I was glad to see the roof terrace full of other travellers – I’d must admit it was a typical backpacker imagine where there was a big circle of travellers around this open fire (in a wheel barrel) some playing the guitar, clapping hands, braided hair with a million and one wrist bands lol it was here where I met Katherine (Kate) from South London! Through Kate I met another Kate from Australia and Ida from Sweden! All 3 had been travelling together for at least a month if not longer.

I had spent a majority of my time here in Ecuador with the girls’ which was great! Quito itself was big! It had some familiar facades that I have seen during my travels - the colonial look. One evening I remember we were all just walking around looking for a place to eat or something and we came across a lot of the locals in shops, restaurants well anywhere that had a tv (which in this case everywhere you would find a TV even in the church!) this could only mean 1 thing and that was the futbol was on! I don’t know who was playing but the crowd went crazy as in happy and excited – very passionate. My vivid memory of this was passing a KFC that was packed out with all locals including the managers, customers, cleaners etc all inside were glued to the tv lol!

Here in Quito I managed to find a Hare Krishna run restaurant / temple called Govinda’s. The girls were interested in coming along and checking it out. It was amazing inside and weird to see HK speak Spanish lol The food was amazing and a lot of it. Ok so here in South America you could eat on the cheap as in real cheap! All you need to do is order the meal of the day aka Almuerzos. This normally includes a soup, a main course which will always come with rice, salad with either some sort of meat, fish or veg (tortilla which is egg lol) and a drink. I didn’t realise how many Indians I came across here in Ecuador esp. in Quito…it was a good feeling.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:31 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)


all seasons in one day

As I had missed Halim at the bus station his Colombian friend Cesar popped over to my hostel to see if I was ok which was sweet. He had also arranged for me to get on the correct bus to Pasto where Halim would be waiting for me. So I set off on another long arse bus journey. The only thing that I can remember that struck me on the bus journey was that the portion sizes of the lunches here are HUGE! I ended up asking for a doggy bag as there was no way I was gonna finish the meal. I did have an American guy who was very quite, who had to deal with long journey sickness we didn’t have much in common apart from our Spanish was not that great. I did practise my Spanish though on the bus journey as I was lucky to have a really nice old lady who had helped me by asking me questions and corrected my structure and pronunciations.
Arrived Pasto in the evening, in traffic and I was glad to see Halim at the bus station! We headed towards the Cesar’s aunts house as Halim was staying there. I was greeted by a healthy serving of dinner – I was still stuffed from lunch but knowing that the aunt was preparing the food just for you, you eat! I must have pilled on stones since leaving London hahahaha – all I seem to do at the moment is move from 1 place to another and eat like 4 or more times a day. Halim had left the next day to make his way towards Ecuador as he had a flight to catch for the Galapagos Islands. I didn’t want to outstay my stay at the aunts’ house so I thought I would stay for 1 night only and make my way towards the boarder. That afternoon after finished my lunch and watching Fantastic Four in English yay the aunt and her 10yr old nephew Kevin just told me that they were moving house – boy did that throw a spanner in the works as I didn’t know whether that was them saying you got to go – but through my broken Spanish they were happy for me to stay. So there I was helping this Colombian family move house after being in there house for not even 24hrs lol. The Colombian do not mess when they need something done. We had moved, settled in their new house by 10pm, had dinner and all rooms were ready for bed time.

During my stay at the Restrepo’s I had regular Spanish classes as no one spoke English lol. The aunt taught me some everyday Colombian dishes, we went shopping together just done normal everyday chores which was nice. The dad took me to his work place – at a military school yay men in uniform mmmm :o) and I was lucky to see a Colombian military wedding which took place in the evening. Maria-Luiz (the aunt) and Kevin took me to Laguna de la Cocha it is Colombian’s largest and one of most (in my opinion) beautiful lakes. It is surrounded by wooden houses painted in bright colours’ many of them were either budget hostels or restaurants serving fresh trout. We took a motor boat to take us around the lake and we also went on a little trek to see the lake from man-made view point. It was a nice day and nice of Maria-Luiz to take me here! She did not ask or want me to pay for anything during my stay and for this day trip! I spent some time with Maria best friend who had invited for an evening meal and some salsa, meringue and reggaeton dance classes all in Spanish!

After a few days at the Restrepo’s I decided to meet up with Alexander Barrera who is the vice president of Colombia CS. I stayed at his house for 1 day, 1 evening – he showed me around Pasto. I tried some amazing traditional ice-cream to me it was like a sorbet (no dairy) but tasted creamy. The way the ice-cream is made in a big steel bowl with another outer bowl filled with loads of ice. Both the bowls where being hand whisked with a metal spoon over and over again to produce this amazing non dairy ice-cream! Pasto is an area that not many in fact hardly anyone actually goes to see it only to get to Ipiales (the boarder crossing) but for me I had a great time there. Pasto has an really big and clean shopping malls, surrounded by huge mountains everything is modern but you can still see traditional clothing worn by the locals – just feels cosy.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:52 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)


overcast 29 °F

I am still trying to find an area where I feel more at home so I decided to leave Medellin and head towards the Salsa Capital Cali. Leo was sitting next to me during my 8/9hrs journey and half way through the night the bus had stopped for a break and he had introduced me to a typical paisa drink called Agua de Panela. This drink is basically unrefined sugar that is melted in hot water and is very good to warm you up. We got chatting and I found out that he works alongside a group of teenagers who have been involved in crime but want to make a change. So I was lucky enough to tag along in one of his workshops. So after checking in my hostel (by the way it was amazing, brand new, breakfast included, with a steam/sauna, hot showers and NO one there – felt so alone!) I had got a cab to the office and spent the whole day there at the workshop. It was more like a Spanish listening class for me but at the same time I met a lot of young and bright guys – overwhelming speeches that they gave, we had a sessions of mediating alongside debates overall is was a different experience that I did not see coming! After one night at this amazing hostel I decided that I need to move in to a hostel with more travellers so I went down town. During this time I was in touch we a CS (couch-surfer) who was planning to get to Ecuador. I wanted to go through the boarder crossing with someone as I heard stories how hard it can be. So my plan was to meet Halim at the bus station and travel with him – this did not happen as we couldn’t find each other :o( but I headed back to my new hostel and I was surrounded by really nice travellers who were also on CS. They were surprised and happy to see me again. Henry and Hench were the 2 main guys that I chilled with. That night we hit Tin Tin Deo and then to another Salsa club – this night was great. I got to chill with the locals and dance salsa. The clubbing vibe is SO diff to the UK as everyone has only one thing on their minds and that is dancing! No one was interested to get drunk (other than the travellers lol). In this hostel they had regular free yoga sessions and a gym on site happy days so I had taken some advantage of this plus Hence is a gym instructor :o)
Some of us from the hostel decided to go to a water theme park and I am glad that we did. This theme park was on a busy main road which and from the outside it did not look that interesting or fun. We were like the first 10 or so people to enter so none of the rides were open…Once changed in our swim suits we strolled around until the rides started to open. Our 1st one we hit was a little scary but what the hell I went. So it was basically a zip line where you’re hanging loose and at a point if you don’t let go handle bar will hit a stopper which forces you to jump in to the water – I screamed 1st time, the 2nd, 3rd time was great! Several rides were crazy water roller-coasters, extreme steep drops – loved it. The weather made it more fun as at one point it was pouring down with heavy rain. The only downside for this was the funfair was closed – we were told that we will get electrocuted.

During my trip here in Cali I have met some travellers who have become my friends and I am looking forward meeting them again! The annoying thing that I have experienced is that you met the most uplifting people during your trip but are going the opposite direction to you – it’s hard but I can say is that you will make your friendship work if you both keep in touch during your individual journey and who knows I may just meet some of them soon.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:48 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)


sunny 26 °F

My next city was Medellin. I had left Cartagena early not knowing that they were celebrating their independence day but was planning to go to Medellin with 2 travel buddies who joined me. It was not even an hour in to our 12hr trek that the time belt had snapped…arrrggghhhh. The evening weather did not help either as it was hot, humid and infested with mosquitoes. We had no choice but to get out of the bus as it was too stuffy inside. The driver had semi fixed the time belt…well till the next toll charge spot. Once there we had to wait to get another bus which took about 2hrs aaaarrgghhhh the joys…well they do say ‘the backpackers experience’. So far I have met different people within the same continent but from different cities and they always have said that their city is better than the other lol…reminds me of London with the love hate relationships between east and west then you have north and south…but its funny when we all come together when faced against people outside London lol. This is exactly what had happened when I arrived in Medellin. I travelled with 2 Dutch people who stayed in Cartagena with me. So I met a local guy who was expressing his love for his city Medellin and why it was so much better than Cartagena and you know what I must admit that I do agree with him.

Just a little insight of Medellin’s history, well it is renowned for its cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar. This guy was so rich that he once offered to pay off Colombia’s foreign debt, and paid his hitmen US$1000 for every cop they killed. This is why we always had that thought of Colombia being so dangerous and to be honest I have not experienced any danger….yet.
Arriving in Medellin early morning I was surrounded by valleys of green mountains everyway but as you enter the Medellin it becomes a gleamingly, modern and forward looking metropolis in its centre. This city is extremely clean and not seeing a speck of dirt in sight, it puts London to shame! The one thing that I found very strange is that McDonalds here is SO expensive it’s a joke – there McFlurry was like £2.60! I know what you’re thinking! I stayed at the Black Sheep where I met another traveller who had made me see things in a different light and who had given me some advice as she has been travelling for over 5 years or so. I did check out Medellin with a Newcastalian chick who now works in Bogota with her b/f to Pueblito Paisa a replica of a typical Antioquian Village which was cool. On the way up there you would find a load of people exercising using outdoor equipments and from the top you can appreciate the whole of Medellin. I did go down to the city centre area where I found huge figurines of Nel Gomez work and the gigantic neo-romanesque Catedral Metropolitana.

I also went to Guatape and El Penol, which is a tiny getaway town for the locals. The area is an artificial lake, El Embalse del Penol that has many little islands scattered – emerald green lakes and valleys of different shades of green combined by blue skies just made it amazing. El Penol is a granite monolith which we climbed up to appreciate this view. We had built up an appetite so we ate a typical Paisa lunch which was rice (Arroz), Chicken (Pollo), Bean (Frijoles), Plantain and salsa. This was followed by a dessert which was milk and corn…weird but tasty as in you had to sprinkle some sugar bit like cornflakes and milk lol but with sweet corn….stuffed we headed back to the hostel to pack my stuff and make my way towards to Cali.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:42 Archived in Colombia Tagged medellin Comments (0)


sunny 35 °F

Cartagena is another beautiful colonial city which boasts a lot of different quarters. You have the amazing old city where we stayed, the warm tropical weather (as we are still on the Caribbean coast), the city centre areas where you have the 5 star hotels overlooking long stretches of wheatish brown sand, everything you would expect a city to have but you would see the traditional chivas buses or horse and carriages, the palanquin women in their bright traditional clothing. I went to a local bar where the locals hang out…a relaxed aura around the bar, salsa played loudly, locals dancing anyway they could find a place to boogie and some enjoying cold cerveza’s (beers). After our cool experience at the bar we were looking forward to our evening tour of the old city on the Chivas bus. The deal was you would pay 40,000 pesos on an 2hrs bus journey around key areas whilst a traditional music band are on board, you are also given 2 bottles of rum, coke and ice. Half way our drunken bus journey we stopped off at this place which overlooked the Caribbean coast where people were just dancing – reminded me of the t-mobile adverts lol. Here I was approached by loads of street sellers one who came to me with a baby sloth! Yes a sloth and just kind of gave him to me (obviously for some $$$ in return) – it was weird. Back on the bus we headed to a night club (Which was also included in the fare) – a good 1st day/night in Cartagena.
On the way back from the old town to our hostel (which was in the Getsemani area) me, Gillian and Mark well I was approached this guy who dressed up as a red Indian and he had literally got down on one knee and was declaring his love for me awww lol he was so excited to know that I was Indian and how he wanted to make his future wife…he did tell me that he looks better in his normal clothes bless. Waaayyyy to short for me

02.11.11 Cartagena / Mud bath
I went to Volcan de Lodo El Totumo aka the mud bath. It was funny coz it looked like a man made volcano but apparently gases from the ground come thru which gave it a nasty farty smell when bubbled lol…refer to the pictures. So it was a weird feeling. Standing up was a bit crazy as I couldn’t balance properly at times but when lying flat you would simply float and feel really light– weird feeling. If you can take a mud bath anywhere just try it. So we had a guy who would take pictures for us (which we had to pay), men who were in the baths were giving massages (which we had to pay for) and once out we had to bath ourselves well women were standing on the waiting line ready to pounce on us as we were approaching the lake as they also wanted to be paid for their services lol. In the evening we headed towards the old town to Café del Mar to see the sunset and it was not as nice as the day we had arrived but still strikingly beautiful. We had sat on the walls of the old town overlooking the Caribbean Sea…nothing but masses of water and never-ending skies. Cartagena old town was a small town that reminds me of Antigua and Granada very Colonial but has its own little swagger – music is very big here and everyone loves to dance everywhere and anyway. The weather during the days that I have been here has been amazing some of you may find it a bit too hot (35deg) but I loved it!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:09 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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