Richard Watts

Janner gone Westerer!
Living in: Plymouth, United Kingdom
  • Day156

    The boarder!

    September 27, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    It took me and Kirsty 6 hours to cross the boarder. Absolute nightmare! By a weird twist, Malvin had left his hard drive in the hostel in San Agustin and he had to go back for it. The up shot for him was he ended up on the night bus across the Trampoline, got to the boarder super early, bribes is way to the front of the queue and ended up in the hostel 12 hours before us. We had to get a shite hostel close to the bus station, to get going early the next day. Another reason for hanging around was to go and see the church at Ipiales. It’s something to behold!
    We got to Ipiales terminal, ditched our bags, and headed in a collectivo taxi to the church. Luckily it’s 15 minutes away, so an easy thing to do, and worth it. The only drawback was that it put us into primed queuing time at the boarder.
    With all boarders you need to check out of one country, then into another, standard right? This was not really different. The only thing was, here, there were 3 queues, one for families, one for people with passports and then a huuuuuge queue for Venezuelan nationals traveling on ID cards. These queues then went into the building to 4 windows, crazy! Later, once we got inside the building after 4 hours of queuing, that there were also people checking into the country too. This queue was tiny, but they held everyone outside. People were queuing for hours when they could have just walked in. Bah!
    We got within touching distance of the front of the line, literally 4 people in front of us, then the window shut and he guy disappeared. I’d say there were about 500 people queuing for the window that was now shut. Great! The Venezuelan line was close to 1200 people outside, it was crazy!
    We cleared out, finally, and headed over to the Panama side. The plan was to get to Quito before it got dark. The sun had already gone down before we crossed the bridge.
    It took us 5 minutes to check in and find a bus to Tulcán. We then lucked out and found a bus to Quito, it was going to be another late check in! Finally got to bed at 1:30am, that was a long travel day. Good job we were in the Masaya hostel with awesome beds, the same people who had the awesome place in San Agustin, good planning!
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  • Day155

    Trampoline of Death

    September 26, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    It’s 5 to 7 and we’ve just stopped to let a load of air out of the tyres. I think we are close!
    It’s 7pm, the police have just stopped us to say hello. Think it’s a good idea considering the drivers you get on the normal roads here!
    The tarmac has now disappeared, along with the second lane: its pitch black which is probably a good thing knowing that there are shear drops on both sides.
    Not know that we would be travelling such an infamous route was only decide his morning. We only found out two days ago that it has a name. Never the less, it’s all about the journey!
    The driver is not slowing down much right now and the mini van is bouncing! Not much surprise there!
    We had dropped down to about 900m to Mocoa, but we are climbing quite quickly. Luckily, for now, the larger trucks are stopping to let us pass in sensible places, for one! 😬
    Just stopped to let our baby passenger eat and be changed. Had a quick pigeon Spanish chat with the driver, he thinks I should ride my bike along here. I think he’s on to something! An ambulance just went passed too, hmmmm. I feel like Hunter S Thompson right now, right in the thick of it!
    5 more hours on the trampoline, mYbe.
    We’ve now crossed two rivers across the road and just had to reverse along the sketchyest section yet. It’s BUMPY!!! Just turned 8pm.
    There are barriers along most of he road so far, but a lot of them are bent, the parts where the barriers have fallen away, there is yellow caution tape.
    Another river. Good job it’s not raining, theres still time! Ha!
    I just had a look at the map, not a good idea, it just saw how wiggly it’s going to get.
    It’s now 8:40 and we’re going down a bit. We hit 2100m, I dunno what is to come, but I think I might have a nap.
    9pm and we’ve stopped again, probably not a bad thing considering the drive. We’ve had a hot chocolate and ‘pan con queso’ which was exactly like airplane food.
    10pm, still alive, we’ve stopped again to help some dude fix the suspension on his Toyota Hilux twin cab. We just so happen to be on the edge of a cliff. There’s a surprise! We are supposed to arrive at 10:30, but we are on a 1/4 of the way there. 88km to go. Yaaaawn.
    Tarmac! I’m not sure for how long, but it’ll do for now. 10:45 and we have civilisation, hopefully we’re off the tra mamp aline!
    Annnnnnd we’ve stopped again, but this time to pimp the tyres back up. This is a good sign! Maybe we’ll be able to find somewhere to sleep before 1am. Hopefully.
    00:45. Here!
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  • Day155

    San Agustin

    September 26, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Last night we stayed in paradise! A 6 bed door for 3 of us, in a massive posh hut. Awesome! Unfortunate though, we all wanted to stay in bed all day, but we had to get up to go to be sculpture park, which was closed yesterday. Boooo!
    In San Agustin remains of an ancient people were found, dating back 6000 years, and very little is known about them. This pre dates all the know people in the America’s by a while! The main thing left behind were many sculpture and burial mounds. Sadly, as always, loads of gold was taken from the site, but most of the sculptures remain. They spread over a few national parks, so take a day and a lot of walk-in and 4x4 roses to see it all. We went to he main site and museum before getting a van to the near by town to then make moves towards he boarder.
    3 became 2 when Malvin realised he had left his hard drive at the mega hostel, he he’s coming later as he had to go back. This leaves Kirsty and myself, in a small minibus, to cross the ‘Trampoline of Death’ road, mostly at night. This road is supposed to rival Death Road in Bolivia, we’ll wait and see! We are 15 mins in, 3 hours till things get hairy !

    Getting here wasn’t the most comfortable either. We left Popayán knowing that here would be a bit of a rough road, but it ended up being a bit of a fire road. The type of thing I normally encounter on my mountain bike. It was okay though, but the standard 2 hour extra journey. So about 7 instead of 4, but hey, that’s what it was.
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  • Day150

    Popyan

    September 21, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We got into town, checked into a weird hostel/bar and bumped into two guys from Cali! A French guy and a guy from Indonisia, who we’d end up travelling with, called Malvin.
    Popayán was not what we expected. We thought it would be a small colonial town with not much going on. It’s pretty damn big! It was the second established town after Santa Marta and it’s very colonial, another place that could be Spain.
    We hung out for a couple of days, saw he sights, ate some food and watched the sun set. All nice and chilled. The next morning, we headed to the bus station, said good bye to Fransoire, and the 3 of us waited for the bus to San Agustin.
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  • Day147

    Cali, Salsa capital of the world

    September 18, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    It was always on the cards to head here as good old Quantic lives here. I say lives as he moved to New York just before I left on my travels, never mind eh?!
    Cali is the centre of the universe for Salsa and the city is very much alive with it! Good job for me, I found a couple of dutchies in Salento who were going my way, so we all went together. Then, just as we got off the bus, I bumped into Syarda for like the 6th time. I thought she’d gone home to Holland, but no, so we scooped her up too and jumped in a taxi, 4 big bags strapped to the roof of a tiny Hyundai.
    Once in the hostel, I bumped into a few more people and before you know it, there were about 10 of us having a drink. Then we hit the town to see what this Salsa lark was all about, it was crazy! So much fun!
    The next day, the plan was to do a walking tour and then go out dancing again, after a group lesson this time, and that’s what we did! I bumped i to another couple I knew and they joined us for the lesson. We all headed out and got to the club, but first, we discovered that the off-licence across the street served booze, just like a bar. Good job too, as we found out that the couple were on a big honeymoon trip, so there was a round of 16 very large tequilas went down. Boom! Not much happened the next day, apart from food, but we did plan a little day trip to San Sipreano, which is not heard of.
    We got up quite early and headed to the bus terminal, found a shuttle and jumped on.
    The bus dropped us at the side of the highway where we were shown to a shed to by tickets. Not really knowing what was going, we bought the tickets and crossed an Indiana Jones-like bridge across a deep ravine. Once on the other side we found a railway track, and what can only be described as a shipping palette fixed to a motor bike! There were 9 of us in the end, crammed on a wooden bench, motor bike with the front wheel up, back wheel on one of the tracks, and off we went. A crazy ride for 6km down a semi-disused railway track at 40kph, soooo much fun!! And no one died.
    The next adventure was to walk to 3 waterfalls, with inflated innertube around neck, and we set off into the jungle. We had a guide, so he showed us the way, ditched the tubes after crossin the river, then headed up hill. The waterfalls were fun, getting there was very muddy and humid, but we got a swim in each, then a couple hours later, found ourselves back at our tubes. We then all hoped into the river and slowly made our way back to where we started, down some gentle waterfalls. Nice.
    Once back and dried off, we sort about getting our turbo trolly-bike pallet-bench, a further 6km down the track to the next town. It was getting dark, and raining, so this added a whole new level to the danger, we were all tired, but smiling!! After a bit of faff, we found our way back to Cali, a few hours up the road, home late, but a great day out.
    Knowing that everyone would be trashed, I sought out a swimming pool on the Wednesday. Once I’d found one, it was awesome, the only problem being that it was for members and lessons only during the day. My Spanish is no where near the level need med to sweet talk an old guy on the security desk, but 10 minutes later, I was in the managers office, with a swimming coach, who could speak some English, and it was agreed I could have an hour in the pool. Bangin’!! Oh, and I was the only one in there, what luck!!
    As I was getting out of the pool, I saw someone else doing lengths. I walked past his lane and called me over. He was a local student paramedic and wondered what I was doing there. I told him and he offered to show me round a little, perfect! We headed to a market and got some food, he showed me a few salsa spots, then we ended up and his friends drumming studio, near my hostel, where I got a short lesson on traditional Pacific drumming. This is what happens when you head off by yourself!
    I got back to the hostel and told the guys, who’d done nothing, so I felt a little bit lucky. We then got on the beers in readiness for another night out, and Syarda‘ slays one before heading home.
    Heading out to the same club, I found that there was a jazz club tow doors down, which was free. I paid into the salsa club, drank a beer and headed next door by myself. What I found was an 18 piece jazz big band about to start, I couldn’t believe my luck, the club only sat about 80 people and I stood at the back. They were unbeliveable! The type of thing you’d pay £40 for in Ronnie Scott’s. I sent the rest of the night between dancing and watching the band. The next day was a bit of a right off, but made plans to head south with one of the crew, a kiwi girl called Kirsty, to a town called Popayán, half way to the boarder.
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  • Day144

    Salento

    September 15, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

    A lovely little mountain town which has the biggest palm trees in the world!
    I stayed a nice boutique hostel built in an old farm house, met some lovely people!
    Yesterday we went and did the main little walk around the area which has the big ol palm trees. You get jeeps most places, this wasn’t any different. A lot of them here are Willys Jeeps, so you are driven around, effectively, in classic cars. On the way back, we got in a small one, two in front, four in back, but in true Latin fashion, there ended up be 11 of us, 4 riding in the back.
    The day before was nice and chilled. Three of us went and did a small coffee tour where we picked he cherries, skinned them, and saw the rest of the process. The tour, of course, finished with a tasting.
    The other highlight of this town was the game of Tejo. Which is basically throwing metal puck like things, called Tejo, at a mound of clay, which has a metal ring in the middle, which has gunpowder on it. Naturally, making things go bang, I was pretty good at it!
    One more highlight was a place called Brunch, which had really good food, in massive portions!!
    Tonnes of dogs knocking around too!
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  • Day140

    Medellín

    September 11, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Well, what an I say about this place?!
    The most surprising place I’ve been too. Lots of really modern infrastructure of a metro train and cable cars everywhere, mixed with a very, very dark past and poor areas, and a such a friendly native population.
    I did so much here, highlights being a good couple of nights out and some really good walking tours.
    The history and what the city is know for, does not reflect on what you find. It’s too much to put in a post like this, but go check the history!
    They do not have much respect for the person synonymous with the city, a tour guide would only refer to him and the ‘Infamous local celebrity’ because she’d get in trouble for speaking his name to tourists, more because they wouldn’t understand the context.
    We also did a tour of Communa 13, google it, which is home to a lot of politically angled graffiti.
    They have an awesome swimming complex here, the best I’ve seen, I counted 10 pools including two 50m, three 25m, a diving pool and a dedicated synchronised swimming pool. In the same complex is the football stadium, which we went and saw Independiente Medellín play. A great experience, but a bit bonkers, the fans in the home end don’t really seem to watch it react to the game, they just jump up and down to a samba band the who game.
    Defiantly my most favourite big city so far!
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  • Day136

    Guatapé

    September 7, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    A nice little mountain town which sits on the side of a lake. The lake is about 40 years old and was made for hydro electricity. There’s a massive granite rock which has stairs up it, great view from the top
    I was here having a chill out, which is exactly what it’s good for. There lots of water sports on the lake and tours of one of Pablos mansions. Found some live music on Saturday night, was good, great vibe in the town, very cool.
    The town now has a tradition of decorating the outside of their buildings with kind of sculptures of things relevant to who lives inside. Dogs, 4x4’s, sheep, symbolism etc. and it’s know for being the most colourful town in Colombia. Nice place!
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  • Day129

    Road to Medellín

    August 31, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    The bus should take 16 hours, but it’s taken 17 already and there’s loads more to go.
    The up shot is that I’ve got to see some of the rolling hills in the morning sun and the views are stunning! Definitely somewhere to go mountain biking, it’s like Wales on steroids!
    It took 20 hours.

  • Day126

    The Lost City

    August 28, 2018 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    I didn’t know much about this place until I was on the San Blas crossing. Rich seemed very much the one driving everyone else to go, and it turned out to be an awesome trek.
    We signed up for it whilst staying in Taganga with the same company we went diving with and then spent the next day wondering what we should be taking. We’d be leaving our bags at the hostel and only taking what we need. Luckily, I knew some people who had done it a couple of weeks before, and I had just about the right kit. Happy days. One other reason for doing the trek pretty much right after the sea crossing was that the route closes in September so that the local tribes can have their yearly festivals.
    So, we all got our stuff together, Rich got his yellow fever jab which was a drama; and we piled in a van to Santa Marta to the main office. There we found a fair few other people we’d be on the trek with. We paid, loaded into a 4x4 and headed off.
    When we arrived at the start of the trek, we had lunch and a small briefing and then set off up a hill, it was hot and sweaty, but something that would continue. I was told by some friends to take a set of close to walk in and wash each night as nothing would dry, they were not wrong!
    After walking for about 4 hours, we got to our first camp just in time to join a big queue for the cold showers, which was over looked by a very large spider on the wall. Rich was to wake up with a scorpion in his bed, lucky that wasn’t me! The accommodation was bunk beds with nets, all under a roof. There was about four different companies trekking at the same time, so around 100 people all in. Once everyone was sorted, we sat down to eat and a good chance to meet everyone. The food was really good and there was no need for seconds. Each group had their own cooks, so it’s quite a frantic thing, but a very practiced process! There were also two macaws living in the dining area, which no one noticed until the next morning.
    After dinner our guide, though a translator, told us about what we’d see over the next few days. She told us about the 4 indigenous tribes and their customs, wildlife and the terrain. The walk goes up and down a lot, so there were some big hills to contend with.
    Next morning, we were up at 4:30am for breakfast and walking by first light at 5:30am. Wet close on and heading into the jungle. The track was pretty much all dried mud, so really glad it wasn’t raining, and had a river crossing thrown in. Constantly walking gave us a chance to chat shite about whatever we liked. There were 5 Dutch guys in the group who all walked quite quickly, so I mainly hung with them as the group was quite quick, but we were faster. We had a good laugh! We reached the lunch stop around 12pm and had a chance to swim in a river, a very nice thing as it was straight off the mountain and pretty cold. Fast flowing and nice to mess around in, it had a waterfall in a cave too! Lunch was ready for 1pm, too much food to be walking on and that afternoon would be a challenge for a while on a full belly!
    We ready the next nights camp as the sun was going down, a similar set up, but spread over a few bunk sheds. Some had to sleep in hammocks and the mozzies had a bit of a party! I think I drank some not so great water and the worst thing happened, there’s not much you can do, but get on the Imodium and get on with it! Good food again that night and a couple of beers. Early nights all round as we’d be heading to the Lost City early the next morning. The idea would be to get there as the sun was coming up, have a few hours there, then head to the final camp. The last day would be the longest day at 16km.
    We all got up at 4:15am for brekkie and a sit on the toilet and off walking by 5am. We headed off along the river this time, there was a rope bridge crossing and two river crossings before we would get to the bottom of the climb up to the Lost City. There’s 1200 steps up to the start of the city and when I say steps, it was almost climbing in some parts. Quite a task for someone with vertigo and the thought of the climb down was at the back of my mind! When we got to the top, it was mozzie Armageddon! We had to wear our rain jackets and cover everything they could bite. There, we were given a history of the place for about an hour, then we were free to walk around and have a good look. The sun was up and it was a lovely day! I had tonnes of pictures of the whole trek, but I’m only limited to 6 here. The place is really fascinating and basically only really exists because of the local tribes trying to get away from the Spanish. They got to them and their gold in the end, and the place had been lost, found and looted obese the next 400 years. The four local tribes are thought to be direct decedents of the Lost City tribe and there is a definite distinct genetic look to them and the way they live.
    We descended back to the river and headed back to the camp at the river for our last night. Another swim in the river was very much welcomed! We had a good last night, but everyone was quite tired, so it was a good night, but quite an early one.
    The next morning we headed off early for the final 16km back to the start for some more food! There were some big hills to go up! One of 25 minutes and one of 45 minutes, killer in the heat!
    There were about 6 of us who decided to run a lot of the last 8km back, which reduced to 4 and the row of the Dutch guys got ahead of me and Rebekah. We got back to the restaraunt over an hour before he last people, so quite happy with that! We had a celebratory beer and had a well earned sit down. As we were getting ready to leave, the heavens open and the rain was biblical! We saw two groups heading off and really felt for them as we were so lucky with the weather. We loaded into our 4x4 just in time to watch lightening strike the lamp post 15m from us! It hit a transformer and sparks flew everywhere! Good fun! Everyone had an awesome time and we’re glad to be heading back to Taganga for a warm shower and a beer! We dropped Rich off at the hospital to get his arm looked at as he’d been bitten and it was possibly a Botfly, it wasn’t in the end, but he was teased for quite a while, especially as he was heading back to the UK two weeks later.
    This is a more than brief account of the trek, but I hope you got the idea!
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