Thursday, April 30, 2015

Back in Canada

April 10th, 2015

I’ve been back in Canada for a couple of weeks now.  Reflecting back, the past 5 months in Central America were fantastic.  I’m super glad that I decided to continue my travelling after my whole India saga (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this post).  I didn’t want that episode to steal the entire second half of my around the world trip I had planned.  But now it’s back to “reality”.  That actually seems a bit ass backwards as if you have ever done some backpacking, you know that that is real living.  Getting out there, exploring new places, meeting new people, trying new things and venturing outside of your comfort zone.  It’s not all fun and games, there will be ups and downs that’s for sure.  And it does require effort, figuring out transportation and accommodation, learning some of the local language, keeping your spidey senses tuned into the location of your passport and money, haggling to make sure you’re not getting the “super gringo” rip off price, relinquishing your privacy and sleeping in continually changing environments.  But the rewards definitely make it worthwhile.  When I used to have my 9-5 IT job, after a while the only way I could discern one year from another year was to try and remember what holiday I took.  That’s not cool.  Life is about more than simply sitting behind a desk performing routine functions as days, weeks and months meld into each other.

However, one has to pay the piper at some point so I’m back in Canada with the hopes to begin a small tandem paragliding business and perhaps start some online computer freelance work.  It’s definitely daunting to try and become my own boss and it’s crazy to think that it’s been 5 years since I’ve really made money but I’m sure I’ll figure it out, one step at a time.

But before I move on to that, one last reminiscence of this trip.  Let’s see. 

The countries I visited:
  •  US
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Colombia

Activities I did:
  •           Attended a NASCAR race
  •           Snorkelled
  •           Climbed ancient pyramids
  •           Watched a bullfight
  •           Rode a boat through a 1000 meter high canyon
  •           Hiked up four volcanoes
  •           Tobogganed or “Volcano Boarded” down one of them
  •           Spelunked
  •           Yoga
  •           Learned to kite surf
  •           Rode a horse
  •           Zip lined
  •           Extreme water sliding
  •           Fed a sloth
  •           Surfed
  •           Visited countless waterfalls
  •           Climbed a 20+ meter tree
  •           Hiked in a rainforest
  •           White water rafted
  •           Scuba dived with whale sharks
  •           Tubed down a river
  •           Watched a football match in Colombia
  •           Rode a gondola
  •           First time trying Hydrospeeding
  •           Learned to roll a kayak

What a ride!  Speaking of which, now I have a new ride, and a new home.  A few weeks have passed since I wrote the above and I’ve been putting together pieces of the puzzle that is this upcoming summer and my attempt to venture into the tandem paragliding business in Canada.  I have been spending money like it’s going out of style but they feel like necessary expenditures as I do require some essentials, like a four wheel drive vehicle capable of taking 5-6 adults and their paragliding equipment up a mountain.  I never thought I would ever own one, but I bought a truck, yup, a pickup truck!

My new rig, bit of a change from my 40 litre backpack!

So in a few days I will set off for a new adventure.  I’d like to give a big thanks to some of my friends in Victoria who have been very supportive, letting me stay at their places, helping me fix things, giving me ideas, feeding me and also entertaining me!  Thanks Adri, Tony, Sean, Sika, Sheryl and Steve.  See you guys in the fall!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Boring Bogota

March 23rd-25th, 2015

My final stop on my travels through Central America was Bogota, the capital of Colombia and the home of over 6 million people.  It is also the third highest capital in the world after Quito (Ecuador) and La Paz (Bolivia) sitting at 2700 meters above sea level.  I opted to take a daytime bus from San Gil to Bogota as I wanted to see some of the countryside.  I arrived at 4pm and took a taxi, with a delightfully friendly driver, to the Cranky Croc Hostel in the Candeleria area of town, popular with backpackers.  It was definitely chillier in the capital due to the increased altitude.  In my dorm room half of the people were under their covers in bed on their smartphones or laptops even though it was only 6pm.

The scenery on the way:

On my first full day I thought I would visit the National Museum, the city’s main library and the Police Museum.  I walked down Carrera 7, a long pedestrian only street that was filled with buskers and vendors.  It was a holiday (don’t know what holiday) so most of the shops were closed and I would soon find out that the museums and the libraries were closed too.  I finally found one museum open, the Botero Museum dedicated to the artwork of Fernando Botero, whose statues I had seen in Medellin.  His disproportioned figures in both his paintings and his statues are entertaining to look at, with my favorite being his version of the Mona Lisa.  There was also a modern art section which I have to admit, I just don’t understand.

This is an ugly view from out of my hostel:

Another doggie in a I saw in Guatape:

Some streets are quite colourful:

But there was a definite "60's" feel to the place:

Or maybe 70's but still felt a bit retro:

Just like in Medellin, they had gerbil gambling, but with four rodents not just one!

An interesting collection...not sure if the Virgin Mary would agree:

These guys were pretty entertaining...nothing like some Judas Priest on a Monday afternoon:

Although the pole on the left takes a bit away from this optical illusion, you can see that the guy is actually only supported by the yellow pole on the right.

Some snazzy looking church:

A "fruit car", if you look closely you'll see a steering wheel just behind the plastic bag of limes, even though it is a pedal bike:

Bogota has lots of graffiti:

He looks pretty comfy...for the dog on the go.

What a bike!  Unfortunately it's used for political rantings that make you feel like you're in Berlin in 1940:

See what I mean?

This is the National Capitol in Bolivar Square:

You can't see it well but the poster on the bottom left shows two guys paragliding!

The Cathedral of Bogota:

I think a seven year old could have done this one:

How long do you think it took the artist to punch this one out?  I'd say 10 minutes.

The center courtyard was nice:

Classic Botero:

I love his take on the Mona Lisa:

This is a small version of the bird statue that was bombed in Medellin:

In the museum:

Okay, no, you're not looking at a chalkboard, but a painting of a chalkboard...and this is art?!?

I think I could have knocked this one off:

And what is this?  It's hard to tell size here but these bundles of fabric are about 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

Changing art:

The next day I took a cable car up the nearby Montserrate to get a bird’s eye view of the city, as it’s at 3152 meters above sea level and about 450 meters above the city, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating as it was hazy, overcast and threatening to rain but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Some colorful graffiti:

The cable cars up to the top:

On the weekend you can take the funicular instead if you want: 

Jesus was on the next hill over:

Flat Stanley saying hello from Bogota:

As am I:

It was a nice area to walk around on top, although a few to many religious things: a church and a dozen or so statues of Christ's crucifixion:

Starting to really threaten rain:

Still a nice place for a beer (okay, let's be honest, there aren't many that aren't):

Afterwards I returned to the Police Museum which was now open.  It was a pretty impressive building and although everything was in Spanish, one of the many police officers around were happy to explain things to me in English.  The coolest part was seeing some of the artifacts from the Pablo Escobar era, guns, old massive cell phones and video cameras and some other paraphernalia.

I saw some more interesting graffiti on my way to the Police Museum:

Inside the Police Museum:

Guns used by Pablo Escobar's cartel:

A super police dog...he must have made many drug busts:

Back out on the streets on my last afternoon in Bogota:

Only Medellin has a metro in Colombia, so Bogota has these massive triple buses on dedicated roads to cope with their transportation issues:

I’m sure there’s more to Bogota than what I saw and perhaps it was because my head was already focusing on the trip back to Canada but I generally found the city pretty boring and just not my cup of tea.  Oh well, you can’t win them all.  I was surprised at how nice and modern the airport was and at how quickly I was through check-in and security.  I had read some websites detailing numerous friskings and x-ray checks and other hassles like obtaining a tax exemption form but these must be things from the past.

I flew from Bogota to Dallas, then on to Los Angeles and finally Vancouver.  It was pissing down in Vancouver and I thought to myself that I had come back too soon, spring and not yet sprung but as I got to the BC Ferries terminal I could see a break in the clouds over Vancouver Island, where I was headed, and that looked better.  Home sweet home.