When we flew into Medellin, Columbia, we only spent one night in a hostel before taking an overnight bus to Cartagena. From what we were able to see, Medellin was a super nice city. It was located in a valley between mountains, so driving down into the city offers excellent views of the whole place. After arriving in Cartagena at 7:00am, we had to take a taxi directly to the company, Enlace Caribe, who helped us take our vehicle off the ship. This company was a life saver, and without them, we probably wouldn't have been able to do the work ourselves. Like I said earlier, this whole process took four days, but required very little of our help. The only thing we had to do was show up everyday, and depending on what was going on with the unloading of the ship, Seth got to run around the city with one of the workers signing documents to get our Jeep back. In the mean time we got to walk around Old Town Cartagena.
Now, Old Town Cartagena was cool. It was a whole walled in city right up along the coast that used to defend the city within the walls. Within the walls there are tons of vendors (who aren't as annoying as the ones outside old town), shops, and restaurants. The old town was just a five minute walk from our Hotel (Casa Mary B&B) and we ended up visiting it three times to check out restaurants. The city seemed safe, with all sorts of people out late at night. As usual, we just didn't put ourselves in bad situations.
On the fourth day at noon we got the Jeep back, and started our journey south. We decided to take the mountain road, but it was slow moving. The road was Columbia's version of an interstate winding through the mountains, except there was only one lane going each direction and lots of semi trucks along the route (when building the road they didn't think to have two lanes going uphill). This led to many trucks getting stacked up behind each other going up the hills, and cars passing them on the winding roads. We were surprised we didn't see any serious accidents on the roads. We decided maybe this is because all the drivers have to be constantly alert as to what is going on around them. Also, in Columbia they have a large portion of their motorists who drive motorcycles. In a country that already has very loose driving laws, we could count on the motorcycles not to follow any rules at all. They would lane weave, speed, pass, and carry four people on one cycle whenever they pleased. Columbia wasn't a great country to drive through, but the mountains offered breathtaking views from above the clouds.
From Columbia we crossed the border into Ecuador. This was a relatively painless crossing, because both sides of the borders had organized buildings to pass from immigration to the aduana easily. Nobody bothered us at any time, and only gave us genuine help. When we got into Ecuador there were immediate changes in the infrastructure of the country. The roads were better kept, there wasn't as much trash on the sides of the roads and throughout cities, drivers followed the traffic laws, and there were signs nearby construction sites that said how they were improving Ecuador. The people were very friendly, and three times we had strangers tell us 'Welcome to Ecuador!' while driving down the road. It was easy to purchase things and understand the value of items, because they use the U.S. Dollar. Although they use the USD, things are still cheaper there than in the states. We took the mountain road again and saw some of the most beautiful sights, as well as many many many volcanoes! Our GPS app listed the names and heights of all of the ones over 1,000 meters tall. Although we only spent two days in Ecuador, we all decided we liked the country and would love to spend more time there.
On August 11th (the day after our anniversary!) we crossed into Peru. The crossing was a bit more confusing, because at immigration we had to to up to the only window with a worker (who was trying to enter/exit everyone) and ask for the necessary paperwork to fill out while in line, then get to the window to get our passport stamped. Once we got out of Ecuador, we had to do the same thing on the Peru side. The lines were very slow moving and it was only made worse by having the worker interrupted by others every time they needed paperwork to enter the country. Luckily, a very nice official came up and started doing our vehicle entry paperwork for us before we were finished with immigration. For some reason he let Seth skip to the head of the line! We surely weren't going to complain or ask questions... Once finished with immigration, I sat outside while Seth and Mat finished with the aduana. While I was sitting, there was a wonderful family waiting for the aduana to get into Peru as well. Although I don't speak spanish very well, and their grandmother didn't speak english, we somehow had a conversation about where we were from and where we were going-- she even asked me if I had breakfast that day and offered me food! When Seth and Mat came out of the office, she was excited to meet them and gave a round of hugs before heading out.
Once in Peru we decided to take the coastal road instead of the the mountain road. This may or may not have been a mistake. Although the roads were pretty straight, meaning we could drive faster, it was also a complete desert. The smaller cities looked like time had claimed them long ago, and only the large cities looked anything close to functioning. Plus, there are loads of rubble and garbage on the sides of the road, and whole cities of buildings abandoned in the middle of construction. It is odd to drive through knowing at one time there were people here, and now its completely abandoned. Peru was different in the fact that it was apparent there was a lot of political issues going on. There were many advertisements for people running for president or congress painted on buildings everywhere. Yes, you read correctly, painted. No billboards, no posters, no yard signs, the campaign runner name and slogan was hand painted onto the sides of buildings. Now, don't get me wrong, they were very well done and included a whole design for the nominee's 'branding', but the plans were executed very differently from what we are used to in the U.S.
Later that day, Mat and I decided to go try surfing lessons with a German couple we had gotten to know. The owner of the business, Tito, picked us up at noon and took us over to Onechako, Escuela de Surf. After somehow getting a wetsuit on (those things are so tricky!) and a half hour indoor lesson, we found ourselves with surfboards in our hands, walking down to the beach. Now let me tell you, the hardest thing of all, was paddling out. My arms were dying immediately. After getting acquainted with where we were supposed to position our feet on the board when we attempted to stand up, it was go time. Adriana (our German friend) and I were the first to paddle out, with Mat and Martin following a few minutes later. Tito and his assistant got us into place and once the right wave started coming, they pushed us off and started telling us to paddle with the wave. Once they yelled "up!" we had to do the four-step maneuver to stand up on the board. Surprise, surprise, the first time was a complete failure. Getting my left leg up in front was the single hardest part of it all. The silver lining was when I got up on my third try! And I didn't just get up, I rode it out too! Then I didn't know when to stop! The shore was coming closer! So, I just kind of flopped into the water after awhile just incase I was about to go too far. Out of the roughly 10 tries I had, I got up twice! Not bad!
|Onechako Escuela de Surf|
The next days after Frogs Hostel were a whirl-wind of finding places to camp for the night on our way to Chile.
|Frogs 'Chill House' Hostel VW bus|
Exiting Peru, and entering Chile was the easiest border crossing we have ever had. There was just a simple form the fill out to have the vehicle leave the country, a few stamps on the paper and in our passports, and bam! we were out! However, entering Chile is a bit more labor intensive. We had to park in a line of cars, go get our passport stamped, then fill out a claims form, then have our bags scanned, while Seth was getting the Jeep inspected, and then meeting him on the other side in order to get the Jeep permissions at the aduana. All in all, it took us only a half hour! It was so easy and well run, that we immediately knew Chile was a great country.
Although Chile only has one road going south throughout the country, it is very well maintained, and some parts are under construction to allow more traffic flow. There have been many signs along the side of the road saying 'Chile Mejor', declaring a better Chile. We have been camping on beaches for the most of Chile, with only stopping at two hostels along the way. At our first hostel, we went out in search of a restaurant late at night since we hadn't eaten yet. Thats when we met the Kangreburger. The best burgers we have ever had. Not simply because we were hungry, but because they were just hands down amazing. Our first impressions told us Kangreburger was just a corner store advertising cheap food, so we went for it. Little did we know we were about to eat like kings. We ordered three burgers that had a burger patty, slice of ham, tomato, lettuce, and cheese, while mat had one that added fries and egg onto it too. Then we ordered two sides of plain fries, and one that had meat, onion, and egg on top. The goodness was too much to bear. Everything was home made down the hand peeled potatoes for fries, mayo dished up from a serving bowl, and patties squished and cooked right in front of us. So many food safety violations, so worth it.
From there we have been camping our way down to Santiago where we found our current hostel. Things are pricier here, and a hostel costs about $75USD instead of the average $45, and there isn't much we can do about our necessity for restaurants, but we have found some winners among this cool city. It is very clean, just like cities in the U.S. and there are super cool complexes for shops and restaurants to group together within a city block. The weather has been similar to fall in Wisconsin (after all, this is Chilean winter time). We have some errands to run here, and then on Monday (8/22) we will be on our way south again into Argentina!
|Hand of the Desert, Chile|
|Hand of the Desert, Chile|