Archives for category: Cities

Colombia

Popayan, Colombia

At the bus station in Otavalo, Ecuador I met two friendly German women who were heading in the same direction and our first stop a couple hours from the border was the well-preserved colonial city, Popayan, known as Cuidad Blanca (White City). The City reminded me of another Ciudad Blanca I had known five years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Sucre.

Leaving Ecuador for Colombia was exciting due to the great unknown that lay ahead. When I began my travels to South America never did I guess that Colombia would be my last stop, let alone a highlight! Why a highlight you might ask? Three words: architecture, coffee and nature. Popayan satisfied the first and second categories.

My Traveling Real pic is the cafe. Those coffee makers are the norm there- coffee pours out of one side and hot milk out the other. There was nothing quite like immersing myself in a crowded Colombian cafe that first morning in order to Really Know I’m actually in Colombia.

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Otavalo, Ecuador

Traveling Real doesn’t get much more real when you find yourself in any indigenous town, but especially in Otavalo. Surrounded by incredible scenery, it’s famous for its Saturday market where travelers can buy a bunch of colorful artesanía ( goods made by hand ) and enjoy local-watching ( people come from nearby towns, like Cotacachi, to sell their goods ) because many of the area’s inhabitants dress and wear their hair in a distinct way. Fortunately I traveled to Otavalo during a holiday so there was an air of festivity in the air.

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Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador has a wonderful historic center, Bro. There’s just so much history, Man. It’s like getting into a plutonium-powered DeLorian and ending up in 1500’s Ecuador, Dude. I was fortunate enough to be there during some kind of cultural weekend because there was lots of live music and free admission to museums and stuff. I also hung out with my friend again who lives in Tena and we had a pretty decent Thai meal in Quito’s hip neighborhood. She also shopped around this artesania market and it was there I first became aware of the Spanish phrase, “A la orden.” It loosely translates to, “Will you marry me?” Why the locals trying to sell me their beautiful handicrafts continuously propose?? Beats the heck out of me –but hey that’s why we travel! “And that’s all I got to say about Quito” ( Forrest Gump accent).

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P.S. “A la orden” actually means more like “at your service.” 🙂

P.P.S. I take back the Back To The Future reference because really Quito didn’t exactly metaphorically transport me to a different time and place. I realize this even more clearly because I happen to be in Cartagena, Colombia (my final stop on this trip) and parts of that city truly transport the traveler to a different era! But historic Quito is still an incredible place to visit nonetheless.

Baños, Ecuador

Baños is a cool town. It’s surrounded by incredible mountain scenery and an active volcano nearby. I became friendly with some people working at a popular restaurant. One of them is a tour guide (he’s in the pic making an espresso drink) and coincidentally I ran into him in the next town I visited, Tena, with a group of travelers, which I will talk about in the next post.

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Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador, like cities I visited in Peru, feels like a living museum. Just wandering its streets one can feel the past in all it’s grandeur.

My traveling real moment occurred one evening while I was looking for a place to eat. A crowd of people walked into a theater where there was to be a performance. I followed the crowd and found a seat. It turned out to be a musical performance by kids who sang (what I imagined to be Ecuadorian songs), and played instruments beautifully. Watching the performance, likely the only foreigner in the theater, I realized again how these unique moments really make traveling memorable.

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This mountain range contains spectacular beauty. Arriving in Huaraz, a gateway city to this area, is underwhelming. But that “underwhelmingness” added to the overwhelming awesomeness once I began my hike to Laguna 69, and camped overnight in Huascaran National Park. The plaza pics are the town of Caraz, a picturesque village I stayed in for a couple of nights. And the two minuscule figures by the lake are a couple I met along the way.

A Traveling Real story to this post is that I never meant to camp over night; my day hike turned into a bigger event because unbeknownst to me at the time, there was no transportation out of the park at the end of my hike around 5pm. If not for a friendly park ranger offering me a little food, and a mattress and sleeping bag for the night, I might have had to ask the friendly French couple I was hiking with to share their tiny tent because it gets cold!

Cordillera Blanca

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Arequipa. Staring at El Misti volcano in the background and a small, beautiful, old bridge in the foreground; watching the pedestrians walk along the bridge; and the river below as the water crashes between the rocks.

Arequipa

Oh Arequipa, the most beautiful plaza in Peru? And your volcanic white stone architecture; so handsome.

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