Hello. Did you have a nice Christmas? Happy New Year. What resolutions did you make?
Ok, enough of that. Month five, woah! Not too shabby considering I only saved enough to travel for three months (living on bread and eggs really extends the budget, it turns out).
When we last spoke I was in Lima having a nice time. Once I was done with that I got on yet another night bus and headed north up the coast to Mancora. Mancora is a super nice beach town known for its parties and its surf. I only dabbled in the former, and can report that it is indeed a very fun town. There’s not really much to say on Mancora other than that, so I’ll move on to Ecuador: the eighth country of my little trip.
First stop: Guayaquil. Guayaquil is a place that everyone skips, but having read a blog claiming that it is one of Ecuador’s best kept secrets, I decided to give it a chance and spend a night there. Chaps, don’t believe a bloody word you read on travel blogs, it’s all complete codswallop. Guayaquil has non-highlights such as a lifeless promenade along a dirty river, 444 steps up to a viewpoint that’s completely pointless due to the smog that hangs heavy over the city, and a ‘regenerated’ neighbourhood that, frankly, they shouldn’t have bothered with. Add to this the most oppressive humidity I’m yet to experience in South America, and it’s safe to say that I had a pretty shit time.
Once my boring and sweaty night was over, I practically ran to the bus terminal (well, I called an Uber) to get the hell out of, well, hell.
Next stop: Montañita. Montañita is Ecuador’s answer to Peru’s Mancora, but you can never have too much beach so I decided it was worth the trip. On my first day there I met a super brilliant Canadian gal in my dorm room, and that was the beginning of four wonderful days together going on little adventures in our temporary beach home. On one of our excursions I finally surfed, and it was bloody brilliant. I fell off my board A LOT and swallowed what I’m sure had the potential to be a fatal amount of seawater, but I stood up three entire times and nobody can ever take that away from me. We also went to a bizarre celebration one night (I don’t know what was being celebrated, but I think it was something to do with religion), and witnessed the most dangerous firework display ever. At one point, a man wearing a metal contraption shaped like a cow and covered in fireworks set himself alight and ran into the crowd. There’s nothing like feeling your back go a little bit on fire because of a flaming cow.
After reluctantly saying farewell to the beach and my buddy, I endured two more buses to make it to Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Due to more shameful neglect of my work, I spent the first couple of days in the city locked away in an Airbnb with an awesome American/Ecuadorean couple. They gave me illegal booze from the jungle and I will forever love them for that. Next, I headed to a hostel for a few days and did some touristy Quito stuff, including going to the equator to balance an egg on a nail (yep, you read that right).
I met a couple of cool pals in my hostel and we decided to head to Colombia together, as the border crossing is kind of tricky (25 hours of multiple buses and taxis). The journey went smoothly enough and we arrived in Cali feeling semi fresh. First thing on our agenda? Getting our hair cut. This turned out to be a not smart decision, due to the fact that I’ve made absolutely no effort to learn Spanish. My ‘stylist’ was a super flamboyant Venezuelan man who mistook me miming “just a trim please”, for “sir, would you kindly chop it all off”. Now I’ve got a bloody bob again, after growing my hair for four bloody months. Argh.
Cali itself was a bit rubbish, and the weather was proper rainy (Colombia is super wet, it turns out), but we stayed there for Christmas and had an ok time. Well, to be fair, some bits were a lot of fun – Christmas eve is a blur of salsa dancing and booze swigging – but after spending my second Christmas abroad I can confirm that it just ain’t for me. If you want to hear me complain more on this subject, read the festive edition of my blog here.
After our escape from Cali we made it to Salento. Known for its coffee and its proximity to Cocora Valley (home of the 60m palm trees), I was pretty excited about this place and it didn’t disappoint. Sure, it rained every single day, but we battled on regardless and saw some gorgeous sights. My number one highlight was our night playing tejo: a game where you throw iron pucks at paper triangles filled with gunpowder. Basically, the more explosions, the better. It’s also cheaper to play if you drink, so we got hammered during our match. Best Friday night ever.
I really didn’t want to leave Salento, but we needed to get to Medellín for New Year, so that we did. We arrived on the night of the 30th and spent the final day of 2017 on a Pablo Escobar tour visiting his home/prison/gravestone (Medellín is his old stomping ground).
The evening was spent exactly how you’d imagine it would be, and there were some very sore heads the day after. It was a night I’ll never forget, or it would be if I could actually remember any of it.
I’m writing this five days after New Year, and it’s just dawned on me that I haven’t made any resolutions for the first time in as far back as I can remember. That’s surely got to be a good sign, right? I’ve forgotten about my belly that I annually aspire to shrink, and I haven’t paused to promise myself that this is the year that I finally sort my jiggly thighs out. I don’t feel the need to bargain with myself to read more, or to commit to being more creative, or to work out what it is that I actually want to do with my life. Because honestly, who cares about being a bit fat and directionless when you’re being a bit fat and directionless surrounded by excellent pals in some of the best places on earth.