Hiatus

I think most of you could have figured that I have been on hiatus without this post. I have been busy working on other parts of my life, so much so, that I have neglected this blog and forgot a bit why I started it in the first place. Not just for the readers… if there are any… but because I wanted to document my travels and have a point of reference many years from now when I’m dreaming about where to return to and where I have been.

I promise I will be back. Just hold on a little bit longer while my next adventure falls into place. It will be here before I know it.

Until then, a picture from my last adventure in Amsterdam. Maybe when I finally get around to posting I’ll let you know my secret for getting the famous iamsterdam sign all to myself!

img_2472

Advertisements

Colombia…you had me at first flight.

It wasn’t even on my radar. I had fallen into the trap of thinking what other people thought. “Colombia is dangerous” and “You cannot travel alone in Colombia without something bad happening”. But then I met other travelers who had started in Colombia.
They were in love with it. They had nothing but good things to say. Okay, if one person said it, I would skip but this was literally almost every other person I met had said Colombia was their favorite.

It was decided, I’d fly from Lima to Bogota to save time.

I landed in Bogota mid-day. Thankfully, by this point in the journey, my Spanish was understandable. I was able to have conversations with almost anyone and the words seemed a bit clearer. I got a cab and headed into town. I chose a brand new hostel and I was literally the only one staying there. It was wonderful and recently opened by a couple from Switzerland. The hostel had a chalet theme and it was by far the best money I spent on a hostel the entire trip. Check out the Arche Noah Guesthouse if you want a great place to stay at a good price.

Bogota is a dynamic city. The damage from the drug cartels in the late 80s and early 90s is very evident and it appears to be a city still recovering. I was naiive of the events when I first arrived and just assumed it was like most developing countries.

Even though the city doesn’t scream “new” & “cosmopolitan”, it is a wonderful city with much to explore. The first stop when you arrive or shortly after should be Monserrate, a mountain in the middle of Bogota.

IMG_3159

You can chose to climb the mountain or to take the funicular up. I chose the funicular up and the stairs down. The view from the top is worth it and a great introduction to the city, sprawling across the landscape.

IMG_3163

View from the top of Montserrate, Bogota.

The walk down is something to behold. Lots of little shops set up along the way as you pass hundreds of people going up and down. Now, don’t let me fool you. Going down is not easy. Your legs will be fatigued by the bottom. Just think of it as a great way to get in your daily workout.

Once you have taken the city in via nature, your next stop should be the Botero museum in downtown Bogota. If you haven’t heard of the artist Botero, you will shortly after your arrival in Colombia. His influence and works of art can be seen across the country. He also has a very obvious style that once you see, you can almost always recognize.

Version 2

The Botero entrance greets you with a “hello”.

I won’t even bother sharing the works of art so you have more of a reason to stop in. The architecture alone is enough to make one want to stop in. And did I mention the best part? It is free.

IMG_3176

I cannot be the only one who loves a beautiful hallway. 

What are you waiting for? Did you book your ticket to Colombia yet?

IMG_3183

Just wandering around Bogota is an adventure. 

Trek to Macchu Picchu

We were dropped off in the middle of some mountains after 6 hours on minibuses that seemed capable of falling off the side of the cliff.

IMG_2073

On the way to Aguas Calientes

Hydroelectrica.  A required stop for anyone trekking to Aguascalientes. We walked across a make-shift bridge that would never fly in the U.S. We then headed into town where the smart people could take a 30 minute train ride into the little town. Ricardo and I decided to hike. After a quick stop at a restroom, we hit the trails. It was only supposed to take around two hours, it probably took us closer to three.

You would pass people along the way and ask how far. At a certain point, it just became depressing so we just smiled and walked past. We saw some animals along the way including guinea pigs. Intriguing to see since we knew, by that point, what guinea pig tastes like.

It started to get dark and there still wasn’t much sign of the city. There was also a train tunnel that said to not walk through. We didn’t see any other way around though, so we proceeded. It then started to rain and we wondered if we were ever going to make it to the town. We found some other lost souls along the way who didn’t know where to go either.

Eventually, we found the city and we made our way into town. Now, at this point, I had gone on a few hikes throughout South America and I had also been more active than I had been in years. What had happened? Why was I so exhausted from a 2 and a half hour hike? Thank goodness we were taking the bus up the mountain tomorrow.

We waited for our guide to take us to our hotel for the night. We walked past all the nice hotels to possibly the worst hotel I have ever stayed in. I’m not even sure you can call it a hotel. There was no real water, and of what was there, it was freezing. This was even worse than the hotels we stayed at on the salt flats of Bolivia, at least those felt semi-clean. We only had to be there for a few hours though so we sucked it up and called it a night. All for the sake of adventure. In the morning, Macchu Picchu.

Rough Start

I knew when I started this journey it would not be all fun and games. I knew I would run into some issues at some point. You try to think of what might happen in order to be prepared. I guess I just didn’t expect to run into the issues before I even left.

I should be on my flight right now, on my way to my first stop, Italy. Instead, I’m on a bus, to Chicago to pick up my Brazilian visa which apparently could not be ready a day earlier. Now, my flight is on Monday,[Edit: This got changed to Wednesday due to the blizzard on the East Coast] and I am a few hundred dollars poorer. If you have spent just about any length of time with me over the past year, you will know that I acquired a new hobby over the past year or so. That hobby is flight finding. I am obsessed with finding the best deals on flights. October 2013 I bought my family tickets from Detroit to Ireland roundtrip for $300. In May 2014 I bought myself and Ricardo tickets to Vienna from Chicago for $360 RT. Most recently I bought flights from Chicago to Dubai for $200. As you may be able to tell from these facts, I have a habit of booking cheap flights. My flight for this trip was no different. I booked an open jaw flight from EWR to MXP and BCN to GRU for $500. I thought two continents for $500 was pretty good, especially considering a one way to South America from North America was easily north of $500.

As a way to commit myself to making the plunge and convincing all the naysayers that I was serious about quitting my job and traveling, I bought the ticket back in October. I also wanted to make sure I locked in that price. I thought 21 days was plenty of time to get a Brazilian Visa after the holidays and sort everything out. I thought wrong.

So here I am, on my way to Chicago, to get that Visa, and the past week was probably just as stressful  as it would have been if I was working busy season hours. Fortunately, the $500 ticket was still available but ironically enough, I changed my flight to have more days in Europe and a whole 12 hours in Brazil. I am getting a Brazilian visa for 12 hours. Lesson #1: Sometimes it is worth it to fork out the extra money to make things easier on yourself.

What I mean by this is, I could have initially booked my flight directly to Buenos Aires for about $200 more. I, being the avid traveler that I am, thought I would rather pay for a Brazilian visa than just spend more on a flight. I also thought that by having a few days in Brazil I could knock another country off my list. It ended up costing me a lot more than $200 and I’m pretty sure it knocked a few months off of my life in stress.

So, not surprisingly, this journey hasn’t started the way I planned. I do get an extra few days with family and friends for which I am grateful.  I did not realize how quickly a month would go by. If a month at home went by this quickly, I can only imagine how fast time will pass when everything is new. In order to not forget, and make the most of this trip, I will be documenting my thoughts and feelings here. Join me on this journey as I won’t just share the grand adventures, but also the hard times that help me realize why this style of travel isn’t desired by everyone. As a good friend recently shared, if you are looking for adventure, leave the map at home.

This is Atlas by Angela. Building my own map, one trip at a time.