Travel Snippets

Frenetic travels covering hundreds of kilometres. No more than a couple of days at each venue; often one. Each sunrise brings a new adventure, replete with stories about people, places, animals, history, geographical wonders, altitude, attitude, and more.



This instalment is coming at you from the Amazon Basin. Torrential rain the past day has engorged the rivers. The drive here commenced at 3,000 metres and we are now at 600. Morning temps were 8 degrees. Now 23. Six hours of harrowing hairpins, roads that would love to have been upgraded to gravel, waterfalls and rivulets crossing the roads at regular, or irregular intervals, Guard rails bent out of shape heading ninety degrees out and ninety degrees down, the results of previous avalanches and mudslides.

We are safe and sound on the banks of a river, comfortably ensconced in a little eco-lodge. We are atop a mountain (for now, barring mudslide) in a three walled cabin overlooking the river. Roughing it, sort of. Refrigerator in the room, delicious hot coffee brewing,




 and what is required in every jungle retreat- yes folks – a jacuzzi.


So much to report on. So many topics to bore you with. In recognition of said fact this post will be limited to brief recounting of some of the high points of an adventure that could fill several volumes of Britannica. That was an encyclopaedia for you young folks following along. An encyclopaedia was where we went for information before there was Google and Wikipedia.


This town was one of many conquered by the Spanish. The name refers to the fact that the Pijao tribe wore next to nothing. It means ‘naked’. I think that the current population should wear pijaos to sleep in.  
Below is a picture of the cable car platform located in Pijao, along with the yellow cable car. It is in mint condition.
The next photo shows the cables associated with the cable car, hence the name. Also in perfect condition. Apparently the motor designed to power the system was undersized. As a result the system has remained inert since installation several years ago. If you look carefully, you can see the guard. There is one on site 24/7 to prevent I’m not sure what. Stealing an undersized motor? The cable car? Future stupidity and inescapable graft?




A visit to the Botanical Gardens and insectarium. 
 Note the clever butterfly shaped Butterflytarium


Butterflies playing tag




Not an invasion of headless aliens. Rhizomes (or something like) that of bamboo plants.



A major town in the south of Colombia. Our hotel was a former convent. There is a warning posted in the lobby to anybody else who thinks that they can skip out without paying.


Other than a decent Lebanese meal for a change, the place was a bit seedy; didn’t have much to offer.


Early morning high altitude wake up wasn’t Lori’s best combo. She gutted it out (not literally) and we were treated to one of the many amazing incredible sights of nature I’ve had the privilege to see. Lori had seen condors before. I hadn’t; and watching the guide heap holy chicken guts offerings onto the boulder we stood and held our breath after losing it climbing to see Holy Rock; in the cloud which we shared with some form of rain or other type of precipitation. Whatever was dew. Collectively holding our breaths at over 3,000 meters in the cold and damp, for about 45 minutes. I got to see the condor.


The local national park offered up unique views and vistas. The light rain was not a major deterrant and the subsequent hike was water cooled. Sulphur springs, hot and bubbling out of the ground created yellow rivers. Not to be confused between it and the Chinese river of the same name, nor the song by Christie.
The moss is also affected by the chemical causing surrealistic colours.  
And if that’s not enough to fluff your pillow, check out the volcanic rocks. Pitted by gas bubbles escaping from the molten lava of which they consist, the boulders had been flung several kilometres skyward by what was likely an angry Earth God somewhere back in time. 
And once nature gets going, she loves to show off. Here’s something a bit different for you all. Have you ever looked down at a rainbow? This picture is not altered or photoshopped in any way. Notice the waterfall in the background while your gawking.



Situated at the southern end of Colombia, this place does not receive nearly enough  tourist attention, from both international tourists and Colombians. BTW, Colombians have represented probably 85% of the tourists trade that we have run into here to date. Pasto is called The Surprise City, and with good reason. We only spent one night there which precluded me from chasing down my pre-arrival obsession. I was hoping for pasta with pesto in Pasto. Never happened. What did occur was a lovely tour conducted by a lovely tour guide. Pasto is known for it’s annual Carnival de Negros y Blancas, held on January 6th. This date is the commemoration of the 3 Kings (Frank, Murray, and Golda) and the gifts they bought. Funny writing about gifts while in the Amazon Basin. Were Amazon a force back then, the gifts would have been delivered on December 26th and the Magi would not have done their Magic. The festival is celebrated with floats and music. And when I say float, this is no ordinary Brown Cow. For purpose of scale, check out Lori at the end of the corridor.





Two last things about Pasto and I will let you go –

1. So Simon Bolivar is the ubiquitous hero of South America, right? Not so fast my anti-conquistador friends. Pasto was the sight of Colombia’s equivalent to Sunday, Bloody Sunday. The natives were quite happy with most of the interplay between themselves and the Spaniards. Of course, not everything was hunky-dory all the time. Something about ransacking the gold, some slaughtering here and there, but for the most part it was usually live and (let most of them) live. Simon was getting no traction so as a Christmas present to the locals, on December 28, 1822, as his forces entered the city, the locals took refuge in the two main churches. Bolivar and his men, on horseback, rode into the churches and massacred about 500 men, women and children. Today the event is commemorated with artists taking to the streets and creating chalk drawings on the streets that ran red with the blood of the natives.

2. Church stuff. Beautiful here as in most places where the Catholics ruled. Check out my attempt to blend into the scenery.



But here’s the winner –



Situated deep in the valley of San Juan de Pasto, a church was constructed to celebrate a local miracle. Sort of the typical miracle at that. Young deaf-mute girl being carried on her mother’s back starts to speak to Mom, something about seeing two mestizos walking around with them. Nobody else sees them. Girl gets sick and dies; mother carries her to a rock, prays to the two mestizos, girl springs to life, a church is born. 


But this church is an incredible Gothic structure, supported by an arched bridge built 30 meters over a river, which acts as a buttress. 

Thousands of plaques giving thanks for mercies rendered




More to follow


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