Friday, May 30, 2008

Welcome to Panama

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part Six

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part Five

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part Four

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part Three

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part Two

A Slow Boat to Panama - Part One

As much as Eric and I didn´t want to think about it, we knew that eventually we would have to come up with an exit plan for getting out of South America and make our way back home. It is an unsettling feeling to think that the adventure must end at some point and that the tugs of reality (i.e. money, energy, time, etc.) would snap you out of your invincable mindset. Still with the ever approaching departure date growing nearer, we weren´t about to cave in that easily. Early on in our trip, listening into the backpacker grapevine, we heard of a unique way of travel.

The small scrape of land connecting central America to South (connecting Panama to Columbia) is called the Darien Gap. On a map it is considered part of the Trans-American Highway but that is a common misconception amongst travelers. That ¨landbridge¨ is considered by most as one of the most dangerous passageways in the world. It is a major drug trafficking route and it is occupied by the Columbian Guerilla Army force called FARC. We heard many things about the crossing but what stood out to us was the statistic saying that you have a 50% chance of being kidnapped or killed if you try to venture through there. I am not asshamed to admitt that we weren´t feeling lucky on those odds. We would have to find another route.

For most travelers, the only other option is to catch a flight from Cartagena to Panama City. We didn´t have that kind of money. We discovered a means of travel that lent itself to becoming a true adventure for us. Traveling via sailboat.

Immediately, one would hear that word and dismiss it as too expensive, but we found that traveling by boat offered a unique way of leaving in style, surprisingly gentle on the bank account and an opportunity to live like pirates for a week.

Upon our arrival in Cartegena, one of the northern most cities in Columbia, we were determined to find a captain that could accomidate us. Finding a boat for passage isn´t as easy as you may think. At every hostel dozens of captains post offers but between sorting out the drunks ones, hearing the horror stories from other backpackers, and getting limited info on others, it forces you to be very picky. Five days out in the open ocean is a long time with a captain that you are essentially putting your safety in his hands. After a day or two of inquiring, we joined up with some new found friends Joslyn, Catherine and Ally we met and hired Captain Tom and the ¨Papillon¨ his stout 31 ft sailboat for the journey.

Rummy Score Update

Well after holding the lead against Eric in our on going game of Rummy, he has made a valant comeback. I have discovered that rum and orange Fanta does not go in your favor when playing. No excuses here. Just have to turn up the heat again. With only four days left in our trip, the tension will be on and every hand dealt will be crucial in deciding the final outcome. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Battle of the Bull - Part Two

Friday night in Quito, an old friend of mine I met back in the states, Valen, invited Eric and I out to a famous Equadorian tradition. Bull fighting. I knew going into the fights, that they have been a subject of public scrutiny due the gory (possibly inhuman) death that occurred to the animals. I knew I was going to witness the slow death of a bull on display for public showing. But like many things in my life I feel it is important to experience something before I start judging it. This way I can give it the benefit of the doubt.

And it was exactly what one might imagine what it would be like. But so much more. The music and cultural tradition is intertwined with it. I don´t regret it for a second. So much of the fight and the events around it are based in superstitions. The way the madadors hat falls on the ground, the way the bull fights, how the bull is worn down by spears in his back. It may not sit right in my culture but it was very interesting to witness.

Battle of the Bull - Part One

Bull fights in Quito, Ecuador.

Quito, Ecuador

A visit to the second largest city in Ecuador allowed us the opportunity to go to the equator, actually both of them. Just north of town we took a series of city buses to the equator monument marking what we thought was the actual equator. The city built a huge tourism trap all around the big, red line that marks the center of the Earth. A funny thing though. As we were taking photos of it, a couple other tourists informed us that the actual equator (GPS accurate) was about 200 meters to the north of us behind the gates of another entrance fee. Once again businesses fighting over something as stupid. Not quite sure who to believe, we visited the second one anyway. Hopefully trudging back and forth between the two we crossed the equator.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Amazon ¨Officially¨ - Part Five

Well the early morning of our departure we made a sadly brief boat ride looking for wildlife and fishing for pirahnas. The weather had been (as one could expect in a rain forest) rainy, which tends to put the animals into hiding. We did see a sloth pictured here at a distance and some monkeys. The pirahnas catch was a whooping one caught by me but it was about the size of a silver dollar. In all a bit disapointing but for our time and money crunch it was better than nothing. We headed back to Iquitos and boarded a plane. Equador was the next stop.