Panama, Ecuador · 114 Days · 43 Moments · November 2017

Skint 's voyage in Costa Rica

11 March 2018

Cerro Llallagua estaño. Simón Patiño empire. Railways machamarca-uncía, founder of Banco Mercantil and international investor. Guano. Drops from cormoranes called guanay. Bolivian litoral and Atacama really rich in salt were a fantastic fertiliser and used on the gun powder production. Heroes del Chaco 2006 natural resources in hands of Spanish and French companies were nationalised. Extreme poverty reduced from 34% to 15%, fresh water available to 15% of the population. Country were 7 out of 10 jobs are not declared, 2 in public service and 1 in private sector. baroness del estaño. Aniceto Sanchez and Patiño along a third required the Government to invest in a new industry once the 400 km of coast were lost to Chile. The railways track helped to export estaño. Today it is still used to export silver.

31 January 2018

The city of Cuenca lays along the banks of River Tomebamba. The third of Ecuador may not be famous but it is clearly a gem awaiting to surprise the tourist. Impressive building of colonial age like the Inmaculada Conception Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church, ormainly Republican age like the Azuay bank now converted into the Council Town. Also its close location to the Cajas National Park is an attractive.

29 January 2018

Galapagos Islands. Dramatic landscapes.
Galapagos Islands. Animals. Well known.

25 January 2018

Galapagos Islands. Unforgettable moments.

19 January 2018

Rumichaca Border Control between Colombia and Ecuador. 5 hours delays. Hundreds and hundreds of Venezolans are awaiting to cross the border. Latest figures from the Colombian Government estimate 550000 people have already fled to Colombia. Rivers of people aim to cross Ecuador towards Perú and Chile. People leaving as a result of a gallopant inflation, insecurity and basic products shortages. Reports of the day to day life in Venezuela are scary. Trucks with livestock on their way to the slaughterhouse assaulted to get some food, killings to rob somebody's mobile, savings vanished as the Bolivar is worthless, and a rampant corruption. The Government is the worst ever had but the opposition is not much better, divided, weak and sometimes with obscure interests. Nevermind, change is wanted but few think this will come via elections as these are rigged and the State controls every single area of life. An armed struggle is now a real concern.

15 January 2018

Bogotá. La Candelaria is the old colonial neighbourhood in the capital. Today is a vibrant spot during the day with many Public institutions housed here, as well as Universities and museums. Plenty of graffitis brighten the walls and there is a backpacker industry with hostels, guest houses and restaurants very buoyant. But no sooner the sun has dropped, a different face surfaces: Homeless people take the streets, drogadicts and dealers take positions and prostitutes look for business. Until recently there were even ghettos where the enforcement bodies would stay away.

11 January 2018

Salento on the coffee valley is the gate to the Cocora Valley with its famous wax palms, Colombia National Tree, as well as to Los Nevados National Park. The town though small is colourful. Located on a main route of commerce during colonial times, it was only founded after the Independence. Today, the town is thriving with coffee haciendas and tourism.

7 January 2018

La Cathedral de Sal in Zipaquirá. Known as the First Wonder of Colombia but that is clearly an overstatement, or a marketing hook. While the salt mines have been working for over 500 years, the wonder is a modern church built inside the mountain. The impressive artwork is smartly lightened to ensure the right buttons are triggered and emotions flouris to the surface. Never mind what the ColombianTourism Board states: Despite being worth of a visit, Colombia has other more impressive wonders.

6 January 2018

Laguna de Guatavita or El Dorado myth. Or at least one of the many you can find around South America. After more than 2 decades of training the future Muisca Cacique would be crowned on a ceremony full of mystery. He would be on a boat in the centre of the lagoon. His body would be fully covered in dust gold and adorned with all kind of golden ornaments. When the first ray of sun touched his golden crown, he would deposit it on the water, remove all his jewels (mainly emeralds, quartz and gold) and leave them at the lagoon just before to swim back. On arrival to the banks a wife would be waiting for him, he would be given a baton and the whole tribe would leave all kind of gold ornaments in the lagoon waters too. As you can imagine, this enigmatic story attracted Spanish conquerors avid of gold and riches. Then treasure hunters arrived to this lagoon only to fail on their attempts to recover the gold. Today tourists arrive in masses willing to hear the El Dorado story once more.

5 January 2018

Paramo de Ocetá The landscape of Paramo appears only in 4 countries: Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador y Venezuela. Between 3100 and 4000 metres over the sea level this landscape happens. In other countries at this high snow is present but on these countries due to their locations in tropical areas the snow only appears at higher altitudes. The area is an important resource of water but in Colombia the lands will be private and will be the only mean of subsistence for some communities which brings along a big problem between the private and the national interest. The frailejon is a typical plant of this terrain. It will only grow at a pace of 1 cm per year but can live several decades.

4 January 2018

Mongui. Little town of colonial origin which has managed to keep its charm. Today is the entrance to the parámo of Ocetá and famous for its production of different type of balls. From volleyball to football balls.

3 January 2018

Villa de Leyva is another colonial city in Colombia forgotten by many during centuries. It displays the biggest Plaza de Armas in Colombia and one the most impressive in South America. Today the town is favoured by the wealthy fortunes in Bogotá where they have set up a second house. Being a national hotspot for Colombians, prices are above the average and masses can be quite annoying on the high season too. Located on hot land be ready to sweat. The town is another colonial city.

31 December 2017

Barichara. The most beautiful village in Colombia. Former President of Colombia, Belisario Betancur, stated such statement and the town, which had slipped from everybody memory, experienced a new youth. Using his influenece the President improved the town, and the church lightning. Bogotanos started to buy lands and properties around the area. The price of the land rapidly increased and the traditional lack of water became a most acute problem. Nowadays fresh water sumministre is cut off at peaks times. International Tourism also present in the town does not help either to solve the increasing pressure over the resources.

29 December 2017

San Juan de Girón. White-washed walls, cobble stone streets and red clay roofs in the whole city centre give the town a very unique Castillian flavour. The main square still keeps the traditional buildings of control: The cabildo (town council), the church (religious control) and the inquisition. The street lay out follow the instructions from the Spanish Crown. From the main square parallel streets will come out. The settlement will be close the River. Originally the area grew as a consequence of gold deposits in the River Oro. Girón was favoured from the Crown over Bucaramanga. With the Independence of Colombia the situation turned around and the former lost its influence.

28 December 2017

Sta Cruz de Mompox. The city hanging on the time. Spanish Conquistadores founded the city at the banks of one arm of the Magdalena River. Riches from Nueva Granada would go downstream towards Cartagena to be shipped in Galleons to Spain and goods from Europe were brought upstream. Trading flourished and the city became and important fluvial port for the Spanish Crown. Several religious orders settled down and left their footprints. Unfortunately sand deposits on the bed of the River Magdalena closed the fluvial route to some ships and the city lost its alure. Soon became forgotten and despite few attempts to recover the lost glory. (Such as being the first city to declare its independence from the Spanish Crown -libertad o muerte- or supporting Simon Bolivar to free Caracas -A Caracas le debo la vida y a Mompox la Gloria- )this never returned. The forgetfulness preserved great deal of its extraordinary stock of colonial architecture and charm. Today it is UNESCO World Heritage site

24 December 2017

In Sierra de Santa Marta currently live 4 tribes heirs from the now extinct Tayrona Indians. They see themselves as the older brothers and guardians of the Motherland. They will pray for the little brothers (the rest of humans) who keep damaging the planet with our insatiable appetite for resources and the Mamos, or tribe leaders will offer sacrifices to the Motherland asking for forgivinnes. Human hair is sacred because represents the Earth arms or lianas hanging from threes. Also women do not wear shoes so they can be more fertile being in contact with the soil. Fertile they are indeed, having at least 5 or 6 kids each. Kids will wear white tunics like their eldest and only boys a bag around their body. Although shy, they know the trade: sweet for pics. Some of them can make a sweet fortune in no time. But will probably lose their teeth as quick too. The practice although innocent has deep consequences first for the kids teeth, secondly for the individue as it promotes begging.

23 December 2017

The lost city track. Ranked as one of the best hiking walks in the world. 20.000 tourist take their chance every year but in September when the track is closed. Although popular now, the trek has been open for business since the 80s. Then, tents and supplies were taken on one's back. Now an improved path, campsites, water stations and a mule service makes the experience much smoother. Sierra de Santa Marta traditionally grew marijuana for the Indians in La Guajira. In the 70s the product was shipped in vast quantities to the States. Branded as Golden Santa Marta was famous for its quality. Later came cocaine. With 5 harvests of coca leaf a year, little investement to plant and grow it and constant international prices, is a no brainer for the villagers living on the bread line. The area was occupied not so long ago by the Autodefensas del Tayrona fighting the FARC. The guerrilla even launched and attack onto the Lost City and kidnapped several tourists in early 2000s.

21 December 2017

Tayrona National Park. Where the mountain meets the sea. Beautiful track going over rocky, clay and sandy soils.

20 December 2017

Taganga. A small fishing village on the outskirts of Santa Marta. No many roads are paved nor there is drinking water. Actually many houses don't have tap water. However, the beaches of Taganga and Playa Blanca are delicious spots to lay in and see the sunset.

16 December 2017

Cartagena de Indias importance comes from its strategically position in the Caribbean. Its location close to the Magdalena River, from where many of the riches from the Viceroyalties of Nueva España and Peru were transported, and his safe bay, were ideal for the Spanish Galleons to harbour after arriving from Spain or setting voyage to Havanna where they will meet the remaining Galleons and return to the Motherland. From the beginning was a sweet post to attack by pirates, buchaneers and privateers, regardless of their nationality.
Cartagena de Indias. Founded by the Spanish conquerors, today is UNESCO World Heritage. Although today is a thriving city thanks to the International Tourism, cartageneros today are known in Colombia as pirates. I wonder why. From the taxi driver, to the waiter, and the tour operator, everybody aims to rip the tourist off. Never mind your nationality, when in Cartagena do not hesitate to haggle the price beforehand.
The fortress of Bocachica. The city's history is marked by the attack of English Aldmirant Edward Vernon. On 1762 one of the greatest navies ever seen arrived to Cartagena demanding the city to surrender. The Spanish authorities even in clear disadvantage stood up and the attack started. English and Spanish traded fire at Bocachica for 16 days before San Carlos was taken. The Spaniards lost 4 out of the 6 vessels they had to defend the city and Blas de Lezo, probably the greatest naval officer the Spanish navy has ever produced was injured. The English sent news to London advising Cartagena had been taken. However, English troops were already demoralised and the tropical diseases were taking their toll. When the infantry launched the attack on San Felipe fortress, the latest defensive point, the Spaniards had dug the moats deeper and the ladders used for the assault were not high enough. The result was a bloodshed. The English had to withdraw with heavy losses not to try ever again

11 December 2017

Salzurro first Colombian village coming from Panamá by sea. Stricklingy colourful and happy.

10 December 2017

Caledonian was originally a Scottish settlement but Spanish, English and mosquitoes ended up with the expedition. The village is a vibrant place full of kids eager to play and see your mobile. They love taking pics and see them on the screen.
San Blas Archipielage or Kuna Yala as the Indians call it overview. If a picture is worth more than 100 words, the next 10 pics need no explanation.

9 December 2017

San Blas Archipielage comprises over 300 small islands and is home of the Kuna Indians. The islands live of the sea food caught on the local waters, coconuts harvests and for the last 20 years tourism. However due to their isolation mass tourism is yet to be seen.

8 December 2017

Carti is the panamenian gate to San Blas Archipielage. Early morning every day a parade of 4x4 will arrive from Panamá City with goods, foodstuff and tourists. All of these will be transeferred onto ships and directed to the islands.

7 December 2017

Panamá Old Town. A place full of charm and magic. UNESCO world heritage. Home of colonial style houses, finely rehabilitated and buildings still awaiting for funds to undertake a well needed redevelopment. Crossroad between a city where gentrification has set a foot up. On the one hand posh boutiques, restaurants and bars have sprung up. On the other hand popular supermarkets, food joints and barbers still survive giving service to the popular masses.

6 December 2017

Old Panamá. Wandering through the original city of Panamá one felt like being a Conquistador just before the attack of English pirate Henry Morgan. The city had no strong defenses to face the attack. The military strategy chose to defend the city proved to be the worst possible.

4 December 2017

Paso Canoas. Border Control between Costa Rica and Panamá. A clean and quick crossing with no hassle. It seems Monday mornings the crossing is pretty dead. A complete different story is later in the week or weekends

2 December 2017

Corcovado National Park is isolated and sees only few tourists per day. We were lucky enough to get a ticket. Unfortunately, only visitors with guides are allowed so it is impossible to discover the park on your own. From Agujitas de Drake a boat will pick you up at 6am and drop you at La Serena entry 2 hours late. During the wet season the park can close for visitors, and if open, expect plenty of mud. On the dry season, high temperatures are expected so remember to drink water and keep your head cool.

1 December 2017

Bahia Drake. One of the most remotes areas in Costa Rica. Had to take 2 buses and a boat down the river Sierpe and sail on the ocean to get here. However, the experience was worthwhile. Warning: The river Sierpe is infected with cocodriles so refrain yourself of swimming.

30 November 2017

Manuel Antonio National Park. A piece of paradise on Earth: Exuberant vegetation, wild animals and crystal clear waters meeting white sandy beaches. A very recommended visit. Warning: cheeky monkeys around.

29 November 2017

Quepos. The gate to Manuel Antonio is a little village, which is seeing plenty of money thrown at. With a new marina and a Marriot Hotel aims to leave behind the tradititional backpackers tourism for a more profitable one. The promenade along the beach sees locals meeting to socialise at sunset. At the same time, all kind of birds will flock together making some noise. Warning: Humid heat will make you sweat regardless the level of activity

28 November 2017

After a phisycally and mentally demanding return from Los Crestones Base camp in the International Park La Amistad, we managed to complete the way back in 6 hours and 10 minutes. Not bad if we think the record is 3h and 15 minutes... Way up and down!
Cloud forest on the hiking path to Cerro Chirripo is a magic place full of mystique. Cloud forest around the planet are endangered by agriculture.
The return from Cerro Chirripó left us with impressive sceneries: From glacial valleys singular to this latitude to cloud forests.
At 3820 metres over the sea level, Cerro Chirripó is the highest peak in Costa Rica. Although the hiking path is perfectly marked, expect at least 7 hours of demanding walking. It was surprising the amount of services offered: benches, drink stations, and even porters taking your luggage from San Gerardo to Crestones base camp. Started on Sunday, the summit was conquered on Monday at 5am after 2 hours walking on the most absolute darkness only with the help of head lamps. Also the last 300 metres involved some scrambling. Conditions were far from desirable. Cold and wind made us to start the return very quickly. No time to admire the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea supposedly on sight on clear days.

27 November 2017

The hike to the Crestones Camp was exhausting but beautiful. However, the night at the camp, or the Ice Box as it is known among the International hikers, was cold with temperatures around zero degrees inside the building!

25 November 2017

Charming Ulrike at Encantada waterfall in La Paz Waterfall Gardens. The complex encloses a series of magic waterfalls (Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida and La Paz) and a display of typical birds, butterflies and mammals found in Costa Rica. Private projects like this one aim to protect patches of land while making them self sufficient.

23 November 2017

22 November 2017

Day zero. 22.11.17. The moment I start this adventure which will take me through 10 countries. From Costa Rica to Argentina in 4 months and few days. On the background cloudy Manchester.

17 November 2017

Friday 17.11.17. 5 days to go. All stuff packed (sort of) and tomorrow we start moving things out.