Monthly Archives: February 2013

Back in action

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

We are enjoying ourselves here in Colombia. After the long shipping process we were anxious to get on the road. The morning we were due to just pop in to pick up Ginger at the Port actually took all day!

The vehicles unloaded and ready for inspection

The vehicles unloaded and ready for inspection

More paperwork - of course!

More paperwork – of course!

It wasn’t just a simple thing but a whole procedure of inspections and more paperwork followed by the search for mandatory car insurance. We did have our fellow shippers to help get this all done and then we were off!

Ginger freed from jail and ready to go!

Ginger freed from jail and ready to go!

We didn’t make it that far though. Couple of hours and we stopped at an odd but kind of cool mud volcano that you can get into. El Totumo volcano is a 15m high mud pile that slowly oozes fresh mud from the top.

The mud volcano

The mud volcano

It’s reportedly 3000-6000 ft deep but you don’t sink and it’s really difficult to move around in it. Christine wasn’t a fan of the sensation, or the mess of it but Dave faffed around in it no problem.

The mud pool in the cone of the volcano

The mud pool in the cone of the volcano

Dave wallowing

Dave wallowing

The weirdest was the ‘mud remover’ guy who’s job was to rub down everyone exiting the bath. But it was a cool, cheap experience and we got to camp right on site. Pretty quiet once everyone goes home!

Luckily there was a lake to wash off in nearby

Luckily there was a lake to wash off in nearby

The next day we actually made some distance and arrived at our destination: Tayrona National Park. We paid the unreasonably high foreigner entrance and car fees and then set up at a Castilletes restaurant camping resort area. We couldn’t make it in on the rough road to the national park camping area.

Our camp in Tayrona National Park

Our camp in Tayrona National Park

We set out the next morning for El Pueblito, which is an archeological site of an old village located high in the middle of the Colombian jungle. Similar but on a much smaller scale than Ciudad Perdida which requires 6 days of trekking to visit. We sweated and climbed up into the jungle and did manage to see some small ruins but it was more about getting out in the jungle and doing the hike.

The hike starts with a couple of hours along the coast

The hike starts with a couple of hours along the coast

Tayronas beaches

Tayronas beaches

Walk-in camp sites along the coast

Walk-in camp sites along the coast

Climbing the jungle trail

Climbing the jungle trail

Dave happy to be at the top (Note Daves shiny new hiking shoes - all of $25 there!)

Dave happy to be at the top (Note Daves shiny new hiking shoes – all of $25 there!)

We were rewarded by a nice swim at the bottom in the Carribean Sea.

Swimming at the beach after our jungle hike

Swimming at the beach after our jungle hike. Spot Dave?

Colombia is our first big country in a while and we are noticing the distances. Also doesn’t help that the roads are only single lane, if that, with the most crazy and aggressive drivers to date.

There are also a lot of heavy vehicles on the highways which make for slow going

There are also a lot of heavy vehicles on the highways which make for slow going

Climbing the roads into the Colombian highlands

Climbing the roads into the Colombian highlands

And the tolls are never ending with at least a few dollars paid at each one, and for some crap roads too.

One days toll receipts

One days toll receipts

Collpased roads seem to be a common occurence here

Collpased roads seem to be a common occurence here

The gas here is also not cheap but similar to home prices. Colombia’s neighbours, Venezuela and Equador, have much cheaper gas so the border areas have contraband gas that they sell on the streets. Not legal but a booming business!

Illegaly imported gasoline for sale

Illegaly imported gasoline for sale

We had two big long 8+ hour driving days in a row to get to our next destination: Villa de Leyva. It’s a cool old colonial town up in the mountains, complete with cobblestone streets. It’s supposed to have the largest square in Colombia but we were a bit disappointed by how barren and empty it was. Maybe it gets filled on the weekends??

The beautiful colonial steets in Villa de Leyva

The beautiful colonial steets in Villa de Leyva

The plaza here is huge - but empty...

The plaza here is huge – but empty…

We’ve been hanging out here in the cooler weather at the Renacer Hostal where they have great facilities and a nice camping area. We explored the town, sampled some food plus hiked up to the Sagrado Corazon which is overlooking the town.

The view over town

The view over town

Dave doing.....? Who knows?

Dave doing…..? Who knows?

But mostly we’ve been gearing up for our big hike next week, which is a 6 day hike in El Cocuy National Park, all around 4,000m altitude! We’re leaving the van here and taking a bus east to the National Park. Should be good !

 

This weeks banner - army ants in the jungle

This weeks banner – army ants in the jungle

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Colombia, Here We Come!

Our travels this week (we flew)

Our travels this week (we flew)

Gingers route across the stormy Southern seas!

Gingers route across the stormy Southern seas!

We can’t believe we are here in Colombia and about to be reunited with our beloved van!!! It’s been a bit of a challenge but we are happy to say we have completed the paperwork process unscathed. Well except for having to part with a fair bit of money for the customs fees, insurance and a ton of port fees and a few days of our lives. Feels good to be on the other side! We have been told that we can pick Ginger up at 8am tomorrow – so hopefully everything goes smoothly and as planned!

This is required for about 95% of the vehicle unloading procedure

This is required for about 95% of the vehicle unloading procedure

After packing Ginger into the container last week we had a couple of days to explore Panama City. It was just about to start Carnivale there and things were starting to get busy. We wandered the waterfront and explored the streets of the old town area – trying to avoid the dirt and grime of the big city. Gotta say not our favourite city.

Daves favourite building! In Panama city

Dave’s favourite building! In Panama city

Panama city skyline - very reminiscent of Singapore

Panama City skyline – very reminiscent of Singapore

It looked to have a very modern business district, though the area we were in was pretty dodgy. We didn’t stray too far from our hotel after dark.

From Panama we flew to Cartagena, which is on the Caribbean Coast of Northern Colombia. Now this place is on our list of favourite cities in the world! The wall enclosed Old Colonial City is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is stunning and beautiful, with all it’s restored buildings and churches.

Exploring the old town of Cartagena

Exploring the old town of Cartagena

On the old city walls

On the old city walls

San Felipe fort in the background

San Felipe fort in the background

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Of course there are lots of restaurant and bars with great patios and terraces to do some people watching. It is also the expensive part of town so we stayed just outside the walls in the cool neighbourhood of Getsemani. Here there are a ton of hostels and cheaper hotels plus restaurants within our budget and some fantastic street eats.

Enjoying the street foods around Trinidad Square

Enjoying the street foods around Trinidad Square

Dave breaking up some trouble with the local community

Dave breaking up some trouble with the ‘home community’

Beautiful streets of the old town

Beautiful streets of the old town

Besides an abundance of eating and drinking we took advantage of the good internet connection and used our time out to do some planning for the weeks to come.

Chiquita fruit ladies - a bit camera shy

Chiquita fruit ladies – a bit camera shy

Colourful old homes

Colourful old homes

Enjoying a couple of drinks by the old town wall

Enjoying a couple of drinks by the old town wall

Colombia was one of the countries we had most looked forward to and we don’t think it’s going to disappoint us!

We did start to get itchy feet and by Tuesday we were ready to get going on the process of importing the van. However, Ginger never arrived into port here in Cartagena until Wednesday morning and her container wasn’t unloaded until well into the night. We got everything we could get done done (customs fees paid at the bank, photocopies made and all the paperwork into the officials) but then we just had to sit back and wait.

Today we started at the port at 8am, and didn’t leave there until nearly 7pm. The day was spent hopping between customs, shipping agents and port offices… all requiring a taxi between them. Finally this afternoon Ginger was freed and unloaded from her confines of the container and we were happy to hear (from the one person from our shipping group who was allowed in!) that she had survived her sea voyage successfully. We didn’t actually get to see her, as we never entered the port, but will do this first thing in the morning.

The closest we got to seeing Ginger - apparently shes parked behind the blue building on the right

This security check was the closest we got to seeing Ginger – apparently she’s parked behind the blue building on the right

Now we’re going to spend one last night in Cartagena before hitting the road!

We hope to spend a couple of days hiking and exploring around the beaches of Tayrona National Park before heading up into the mountains of Colombia to recover from our shipping ordeal. We are considering a 6 day mountain hike as well, but there are some logistical issues for us to sort out first (250 km of unpaved roads…). Fingers crossed!

Street vendors around Trinidad Square - the oldest part of town

This weeks banner – Street vendors around Trinidad Square – the oldest part of town

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A quick change of plans

We are on our way to South America! Well for the most part. The most part being the van in a container waiting at the shipyard for the boat that leaves on Sunday. It was just a couple of days ago we were hanging out on a beach in Costa Rica and got an email saying that there was a fellow traveler in need of a container share. For this week! We either had to make a beeline to Panama City or risk not having a container to share for a couple of weeks. It was unanimous and we packed up and made it from the town of Puerto Jimenez, on the Osa Peninsula to Panama City in just 2 days.

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

The last 2 days were pretty much non existent. They were filled with police checks, customs lineups and of course making dozens of photocopies! It was not at all difficult or taxing on the brain but there was a ton of waiting and driving to different offices, and of course sweating in the sun and waiting.

Waiting for the police vehicle inspection

Waiting for the police vehicle inspection

We went with an agency that assisted us with the whole process along with 3 other foreign vehicles doing the same.

Ginger packed up and ready to head to the port in Colon

Ginger packed up and ready to head to the port in Colon

We locked it up this afternoon at the port of Colon and then headed back to Panama City.

A very tight squeeze into the container

A very tight squeeze into the container

Hopefully Ginger will travel safely

Hopefully Ginger will travel safely

The girls celebrating the end of two long days preparing for the shipping

The girls celebrating the end of two long days preparing for the shipping

The next time we will see Ginger will be in Colombia at the port in Cartagena. We will fly in the next couple of days but with Carnivale happening for the next 4 days flights are busy. And we don’t have to rush there because the shipment won’t be ready to unload until Wednesday at the earliest. So we are enjoying our time without the van and will check out Panama and Cartagena as traditional backpackers.

We did have a good week before all this shipping stuff got going. We got the van back from the mechanic on Monday afternoon and were really pleased at the work that was done. So confident in the brake work that we decided to head up to Arenal Volcano. Of course the next day when we went to the National Park and hiked as close to it as possible it was all fogged in. Second volcano where we never got to see anything!

We were told that the volcano is back there

We were told that the volcano is back there

Unfortunately the volcano stopped its eruptions and nightly shows in 2010

Unfortunately the volcano stopped its eruptions and nightly shows in 2010

Walking in the forests around the volcano

Walking in the forests around the volcano

After the little hike we found some hot springs to relax in. There are a ton of different swanky hot spring spas and resorts but we hit on the Termales Los Laureles hot springs. A bit more local and much more budget friendly. We stayed here all afternoon before boondocking in the town of Fortuna.

The thermal pools in Arenal

The thermal pools in Arenal

Unfortunately the rules didn't allow for much fun...

Unfortunately the rules didn’t allow for much fun…

As we headed south again we stopped in the mountains at a trout farm that also has a stocked pond for fishing with a little camping area. It was beautiful and cool up here and very serene.

Our great campsite in the mountains

Our great campsite in the mountains

They also have a 45 minute hike through the jungle to a number of waterfalls and look outs. The night was so cool and lovely that we had to get the duvet down!

Hiking in the cloud forests

Hiking in the cloud forests

Christine in the cloud forests

Christine in the cloud forests

Dave at the falls

Dave at the falls

Ginger in the cloud forests, and at a new high of 3300m

Ginger in the cloud forests, and at a new high of 3300m

We then headed back to the beach and a town called Dominical. Here we had some great free beachside camping. It’s a big surfing beach and every morning and evening the beach and parking lot would be filled with all the local expat surfers.

Our beachside campsite in Dominical

Our beachside campsite in Dominical

Amazing sunsets from our camp

Amazing sunsets from our camp

We didn’t want to move on but were anxious to get to Corcodova National Park which is supposed to be the real gem of Costa Rica.

An airplane in the middle of the forests. Not sure how it got here, but apparently its becoming a restaurant..... very bizzare!

An airplane in the middle of the forests. Not sure how it got here, but apparently its becoming a restaurant….. very bizzare!

From all our reading about it, never did we read that reservations were required. However, when we got to the Park Office there was no availability for camping in the park until Wednesday, which was still 4 days away.

The owner of our campsite feeding the local caymans and american crocodiles

The owner of our campsite in Puerto Jiminez feeding the local caymans and American crocodiles

We debated waiting it out and exploring around the Osa Peninsula but when we got the email regarding the shipping we forgot about the whole thing. The biggest pain in the butt about this trans America trip was shipping across the Darien Gap to Colombia and we figured we better jump at this opportunity. And now we’re on our way!

 

This weeks banner - containers stacked at the Colon Port

This weeks banner – containers stacked at the Colon Port

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