Archive for the ‘Expedition/Travel’ Category


When we first entered town, heading straight for the zocalo, I was immediately distracted. I thought I saw a monkey just run past me, snatch a soda from a kid, open the bottle and  attempt to drink the contents. I say attempt, because figuring out how to hold the bottle of soda right and not splash it all over the ground the monkey had not figured out yet. It was funny and sad at the same time as the kid, clearly traumatized, looked on. Did we laugh, you betcha, not the kid though.

So what do you expect when the main statue in the city park is Monkeys? A zoo without walls is what I’d call it. Going into stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and probably someone’s home if you’re’ not vigilant keeping your place monkey proof, these monkeys run the town.

 

Misahualli, the passageway to Coca, by canoe down the Napo River is the gateway to Ecuador’s Amazonian jungle. There is much to do here. Whitewater rafting, hiking, visit a butterfly farm. You can see some of the many butterfly species found in the jungle including the beautiful blue morpho butterfly. Our main reason for visiting was to experience the jungle, taking a canoe down river to visit an authentic village.

We found what we were looking for, taking a long skinny canoe just inches above the rushing Napo river to a Kichwa community. At the Kichwa community there were dances, a  food making demonstration, shaman services, a small zoo and a gift shop. After exploring the community we took the boat back to Misahualli for lunch.

Overall a great experience and introduction to the Amazon, less the monkey business.

 

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Lets not talk about it. It so sad, actually it’s laziness! That’s what I’ll call it.  I said it out loud, just pointed the finger at myself.  Here’s why my spanish is still horribly wrong after driving through Mexico, Central and now South America, about six months.

Here’s a scenario, other than saying to the gas attendant  “llenar por favor” (fill up) I got nothing else. I mean now here’s one guy I should be chatting it up with right, “mucho practicar, si!”. We’ve got time, just standing there watching the gas pump run. But nope, can’t even talk about the weather. Yeap, sad like I said. However as we stand there, inevitably he’ll ask where I’m from “de donde eres”?  Then it takes me an actual minute to figure out what he said in spanish, translate what he said  into english, then translate the english response to spanish  without getting any German words mixed in. I was stationed in Germany for many years and speak German, but that’s another story. See it’s even difficult to explain. I’m sure hoping that I’m not the only person that has this problem.

I know my Spanish is bad, it’s the most horrible choked up Spanish that you’ll ever hear, I promise. Honestly, I think native Spanish speakers feel so sorry for me, so they try their English on me and then it all becomes Spanglish or Esperanto to whoever is listening nearby.

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Now here’s the hard part, once they start speaking to me in broken english we continue the conversation and never revert back to to spanish, thus my english is getting worse.

But, I digress, there is a little light on at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train. I’ve decided to learn Latin now. That should help right? Latin is the root of all the romance languages and Spanish is 90%  Latin, I think. Either way I’ll keep you posted.

Felizmente bien!

Bernard

 


These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and exploring Ecuador. From the Pacific coast, the Andes and down into the jungles of the Amazon, we’ve been smitten with this country. Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcanoes, Banos volunteering, the Galapagos Islands, we’ve covered a lot of ground.

It’s hard to say what’s been the most exciting or unique thing we’ve done. It seems everyday I go to bed thinking what an amazing day, and the next day is just as spectacular as the one before. Viva Ecuador!

 


I don’t want to bore you with a long story for now. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Of course I’ll follow up with a story you’ll not want to miss about our trek from the Amazon,  climbing Chimboroza and taking the “Nariz de Diablo” all in a few days. This Ecuadorian Life!


 

In this post ( Saturday 25th ) see details below. I will discuss why Ibarra Ecuador makes a great base camp for Northern Ecuador. Many of which are not in guide books. Lets face it guide books always have the same old top ten! In this forum I will openly discuss, untouristy but unique finds. Some other topics will include :

  1. Vegetarian dining.
  2. Pet friendly accomdations
  3. Excursions
  4. Weather
  5. Meet the locals

Please have your question ready. Saturday 25, I will have an open forum and invite your comments and questions. Until then, thanks for following.

 

Colombia, we’ll be back!

Posted: November 19, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

Who knew, after all the negativity, the unknown and the fear, we’d become Colombia’s biggest fans! That’s right folks, the word is out. Colombia is beautiful, full of wonder, adventure, fantastic people, food , music and history. We’ll be posting more stories, videos and pictures soon. Meanwhile enjoy this teaser.


Hola, Friends! We crossed our first land border in South America yesterday. As many of you know from our past postings about our experience with border crossings, it’s not a fond memory. However, practice makes perfect. So in order to ease our stress level crossing borders, we’ve come up with five easy steps to make your overlanding border crossing more tolerable.

Yesterday crossing from Colombia to Ecuador was really easy. The first thing we noticed was the lack of helpers. Helpers are people who will guide you through the border crossing steps, sometime they take all your documents and get everything stamped and approved while you wait for a fee. We also saw a lot of money exchangers. Money exchangers do what the title indicates. They exchange currencies for a fee, because normally there are no banks at many border crossings. Usually you get just enough money exchanged to get you into the new country.

So lets follow the steps:

  1. Have original docs and extra copies, a minimum of 3 each: Title, registration, exit stamp from the country you are leaving, drivers license.
  2. Read others blog experience of the border crossing you’re about to cross. A good resource is ioverland.
  3. Get there early, before 10 am.
  4. Anyone of the agents that speak english, get as much information as possible on the location of the various offices.
  5. Have patience, smile, laugh and enjoy the experience.

Our entry into Ecuador from Colombia went relatively smooth and non eventful. After clearing the Colombian border, we rolled up to the Ecuadorian border just across a bridge.  First, we went to get ourselves stamped in. Afterwards it was pretty straight forward going to get the temporary vehicle import docs. Ecuador was pretty easy. Taking a photocopy with his (customs officer) cell phone, then uploading all the info into a file in his computer , we were done in 15 minutes each. No vehicle inspection! All in all an easy border crossing. Ecuador to Peru will be coming soon. Stay tuned.


Walking the streets of Salento. We’ve fell in love with you. Look at these pictures, wouldn’t you agree. thanks for following the journey.

Medellin’s combat zone turns a corner.

Posted: November 6, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

As we walked around Comuna 13, we began to notice the playfulness and joy in the children we’d meet. Affected by heartbreaking accounts of violence and strife, especially in Comuna 13 it was a welcomed distraction.  However, in the last few years, it has transformed into a place of optimism becoming a livable, vibrant, and growing neighborhood.

Comuna 13, also known as the San Javier, has the most tumultuous history of the city, once labeled the most dangerous community due to homicide rates and forced displacement of thousands of residents.  It’s an over-populated and low socio-economic zone that crawls up along the west hills of the city with thousands of red brick, wooden, cement and corrugated roofing materials type homes. It was a pivotal center for paramilitary, guerrilla, and gang activity. Its location is ideal for crime, as it leads directly to the main highway (San Juan Highway), providing easy transportation of guns, drugs, and money.

From the 1980s-’90’s, Comuna 13 was controlled by groups loyal to Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord who lived in Medellín. Illegal activities remained rampant after his death in 1993, as drug cartels sought control of the area.

In October, 2002, The City fed up, launched Operation Orion. You’ll notice in some of these pictures there are hummingbirds flying over the city, while machine guns are aimed down, attached to the hummingbirds backs. One of the most pivotal events was on Oct. 16, 2002, when the Colombian military carried out this controversial Operation. A sure footed blow, a strike to overthrow all rebel groups in Comuna 13. Over 1,000 policemen, soldiers, and aircrew in helicopters attacked the area (comprising of roughly 100,000 inhabitants). Nine people were killed (three children), and hundreds were wounded. The siege made it impossible to seek medical attention for the wounded, and the community took to the streets in solidarity flying white rags. With that action, the fighting stopped.


Now Comuna 13 neighbors voice their discontent and anger with the violence that occurred in 2002 through art and community events. Graffiti art around the neighborhood depicts scenes with the white rags raised for peace and solidarity.

There’s a lot more than what meets the eye going on in Comuna 13. But for now we’ll leave you this pictures and hope in our hearts that this community continues to rise.

Today as we walked Comuna 13,  no longer are people afraid to leave their homes and their quality of life has changed positively. We deliberately walked through some tough looking narrow alleys, kids were playing soccer, vendors were selling fruit, empanadas, and souvenirs, we felt that comfortable. However, slow and gradual, possibly spanning decades, there’s still work to be done.

 

 

Guatape, a nice little surprise

Posted: November 3, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel
Tags: , ,

Having only wanting to find a place to the park the trucks for the night, catch up on some sleep, and get up early the next morning to hike the stairs to the top of  The Rock, we stumbled upon Guatape.

Wow, what a surprise! This small village amazed us with its beautiful and ornate homes. Such a small village of only 6,000 inhabitants, a square  (zocola) with a church, plenty of authentic restaurants, bars, stores and merchants, we wandered aimlessly for hours just admiring. Take a look at this pictures, can’t you see why ? Stay tuned, we’ll post our stair climbing story next.

Oh, it was halloween. So if you see any people here in costume, you know why.