Location: Tena, Ecuador
So things are getting kind of shakey around here.Making our way back to Tena from Quito after the football(Ecuador v Peru 5-1!!!) there was some earthquakiness happening and a huge landslide came down all over the main road.When ´I´ say huge, apparently its not the worst that has happened around here, but Ive never seen one before like that so for me its something new and everything new is always bigger than it really is.In fact there were two.One small one we firstly encountered with our first rate banger of a bus, which we walked across easily after many 4x4s had led the way, and had to sadly leave our bus behind.Boo hoo banger blues.Then a local on the way to Tena offered us a lift in his landrover which was great, but included half of Tena as well...my face hasnt willingly been that friendly with car windows for a long time.Anyway, moving along, Ecuadorian style, who always manage to turn bad situations into humourous ones, and then we come across the second landslide which completely blocked the entire road half a km long and 20 or 30ft high.This is 11pm at night in the middle of the winding roads and mountains with dangerous animals (ok theyre only jumping spiders), pitch dark except for the moon, the rubble is 6 hours from clearance and Tena is 2 hours away... and Im knackered.So what do Ecuadorians do in this situation?Get out of the car, stand in a circle and break out the bottle of rum to do the rounds while we wait!!How can you not love that??I think in fact it was one of the best nights I´ve had here, standing in the middle of the road with truckies, police and other locals with the moon illuminating the misty andes all around us.Fantastic.Situations like that are really interesting for me as Ecuadorians are great storytellers and you gain great insight into a segment of the population´s thinking about their country and the countries surrounding them, particularly Colombia and Venezuela which we could appreciate as we had just returned from both.So there was a guy who worked high up in the petroleum industry in Ecuador and travels widely for his work,a couple who were getting married the next day,truckies who like to live it up in Cartegena where the women make them weak at the knees, a kid who high on sugar aftere a birthday party in Quito, my travelling partner who strangely met his godfather who he hasnt seen in 4 years ...and me.Great discussions and arguments and jokes about life, love, people and politics.I was dying to get off the bus and take a look at those mountains for real anyway.So the moral of their stories is Hugo Chavez(Venezuelan president) is crazy and is trying to take over the world, Colombians have to queue seperately to all other South Americans in Houston airport,dont eat chocolates from hotels in Cartegena,Colombia as that will cost you 50 dollars for 3 little pleasures,Rafael Correa is crazy and is trying to take over the world(Ecuadorian president) and rum mixed with 12 or 13 Ecuadorians makes for good conversation.
Anyway after it started to rain we all squashed back into the landrover.An army truck came and said they were going to try and find a digger to remove all the land that fell down and an hour later they started working on the mesh of trees and huge rocks and fresh soil.So we all fell asleep for a bit until there was another tremor about 130am and more land fell down.At 430am the digger wasnt even half way through clearing the road, so we got our things and walked across the landslide to the other side,which is difficult with a rucksack on your back !!.So alot of the traffic on the other side were just arriving to find their early morning surprise and often joy that they couldnt go to work just yet.But one of the buses was turning back to return to Tena so we grabbed a lift and we were finally on our way.7am we reach Tena, when we left Quito at 5pm the day before!!Usually Quito to Tena is only 5 hours, but I really was happy I was there that night.You appreciate what people have to do when they are in these situations such as landslides, something I have never experienced.. the waiting, the walking, the isolation and and the jovial sense of community when things go wrong in ths country.As they will go wrong.In Ecuador if you think you might fall in that hole men at work have left poorly covered for pedestrians , you will.The people here will laugh themselves silly if you start taking about the company at work or a local council´s ´responsibility`.The electricity will get cut off for no apparent reason.The water is sometimes brown, just because.All you can do is wait... and wait for that apparent reason to manifest itself, as apparent.Its frustrating but I really like this country despite its unfairness, injustice and kiddish electrical temperment.I think its the calm attitude of most people in those situations here,that usually Europeans freak out at and whine ´but thats not fair...´ That makes me laugh, but I also appreciate it , as they have helped me relax alot and not worry so much about things you cant do anything about.Well so we made it to Tena, and the heat here is sticky city.We´re expecting another set of tremors soon, but hopefully it wont be too bad, not like the poor people in Chile and Peru who have had 6.7 and higher tremors and aftershocks and alot have died.Well.Talk soon.
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Whoahoo!!One of my photos made it to the planetranger homepage!!
Location: Popayan, Colombia
Well.I think that I have gotten a little ahead of myself and bypassed huge chunks of this story, while I was busy living it.
I was supposed to head to Central America after Ecuador, but then extreme weather such as hurricanes, floods and mass destruction of homes and means of travel in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador saw our tickets being cancelled.We had to make a decision.Leave it till later and have only 3 weeks in all those places, if, the situation gets better.So we decided to stay in Ecuador and work on our project with the indigenous in Shiwa Yaca.We managed to contact our NGO in Nicaragua and they were really understanding and apparently we werent the first to have problems, which is a shame.There wasnt so much damage caused with them at least,but the means to access the different schools and the town itself became difficult and dangerous, so maybe it was for the best.But in retrospect, the money we raised for them was able to help build an extra building which they badly need for the numbers they have at present in the school so thats always good to hear.So.Ive been working on the project in Shiwa Yacu but also taking time out in between to travel and see a little of the indigenous in other areas such as Colombia and Venezuela.I did it all by bus, which was a challenge, but worth it to see the gradual changes in terrain, population and weather.The indiginous concentrations while sometimes obvious,are often hidden within more secret forests away from the main towns and cities and requires a bit of searching in the right places.
Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.Its hard to take the fruits of new experience and pummel them into words.Nothing I say will really express the beauty, kindness or the type of air these countries breathe.The coastal waters of Ecuador are warm like a winter fire in Ireland,the Colombian people are similar in their way and the coffee in Venezuela gives this familiar aroma with its dark heat.Well.Again Ill have to run and finish this page later... but a communal hello to everyone again!!!
Well. I think that there are many reasons why I love travelling so much but there is one that dominates them all.As I come to the near end of my journey here in South America, it has been wangling its way to the fore with a fear that such impressions on my thinking may fade and blend into the casual camoflage of some average daily musings.I love the way travelling writes those next few pages in your mind´s book of general knowledge, reanalyising all that has been written before.There are things I thought I would never see,sparks of new conversations within walls I never thought Id be privy to.Its so refreshing to see the different ways people interpret the world and in turn the thinking process that gets started about your own methods and approach towards other humanoids.I love South America,but it has also made me love things about my own country.We have such freedom to move around and we have so much protection dorn upon our dainty selves, in terms of rights to life, rights to education, rights to earn a decent living,rights to more freely about the world without question or a suspicious brow.Its chance and luck that I have been born in Europe and I wonder how things would be if my luck was born of the beauty that rests in the Andes or the Amazon.I feel a little like a cheat as I did absolutely nothing to earn such apparent freedom,whereas here,, for example, in Venezuela every time you buy something you have to produce your identity card, police speedily chase your (my!) taxi on motorbikes to stop you and ask seriously for your ´cedula´ or id., you need a visa to travel to most places in the world, for fear that your holiday will turn to contaminate the working population of that country. Its a hard life when police for example in Colombia are opening your bag at every opportunity and you can buy there silence or administration services just name your price(they are willing to negotiate).Corruption is rife as they are paid next to nothing for their efforts.Even small things like in Ecuador, a guarantee with a mobile, it doesnt seem to apply, and its almost like once you have lumbered yourself with a purchase,its, dont look at me, honey.
But there is something so intriguing about the evolution of this place, its so raw and open and still in the process of forming its freedom.... I just cant say no.Well Im back in Colombia after a short stint in Venezuela and making my way back to Ecuador.There are freak tornados and snow storms in Bogota at the moment.. my next destination.Well.Why not.
Its the rainy season here on the North coast of Colombia,just enough to wash away all those grey preconceptions about this country.The coast is more of a Carribean haven than a military zone, full of national parks and accessible, yet remote indigenous communities.So I´ve been sleeping in hammocks and tents in Tayrona National Park, a park teeming with one of the most diverse ecosystems I´ve ever seen.Yes, you actually do manange to see some animals, snakes and all sorts of weird insects, some id rather not, see me!
This is not Iraq.Indeed the people have chat shows, botox, washing powder adverts,parties,intense conversations on the street, laughter,curiousity,middle class houses and jobs they go to everyday.Despite the normality of most of the country at the moment, down South in the Department of Putumayo there are severe problems which mainly affect the indigenous in the region who are fleeing to the nearby Province of Succiumbios in Ecuador.But the military presence is still noticible throughout.Mainly because they haven´t much to do at the moment and all the army have been designated to road patrols. You know that your approaching the ´Policia de Carretera´ when youre greeted with a big thick rope accross the road which has the same effect as traffic calming I guess, without the calm.I have been closing my eyes alot while in taxis and buses as the fast and the furious is very fashionable here.... 2 seconds head to head with another car until you pull over to the right side of the road.In retrospect,most drive on the wrong side of the road which is the right side of the road for me!The ideals of transport here are actually bizarre.The Minister for Transport has introduced a law that all vehicles outside the city need to have their headlights on 24 hours, because he read somewhere thats the way they do it in Europe.This guy must have some poor advisors but some new technology he´s not sharing, because everyone else seems to have a poor exhausted battery as a result.But the people here are really firendly and so chatty and willing to help.Its a nice surprise and so different than I imagined.Have to go....... but will finish this later!!!Hello to everyone once again!!