Day 8 [goodbye medellin]
Sleep in. Potatoe and pork wrapped in huge leaf for breakfast. Fold laundry hanging on back patio before it rains. Talk to mother for first time. Wonderful to hear her voice. Bakery for last time. Wilson [works at bakery] tells us he’ll make us a huge meal at his house if we come back in December. Pack our bags. Drive to bus terminal. Say goodbye to Jon, Martha, and Serena. Gamble on the slot machines with Saul. Each loose 50 cents. Totally worth it. Gatorades and crackers for the bus ride. Driver says its gonna be a 16 hour drive to border of Columbia/Ecuador. Perfect. Most winding and bumpy roads I´ve ever riden on. Close my eyes in attempt to sleep through it. Stop at 11pm for hot meal on the street. A lot of road still ahead of us. Back to sleep. Rest of crew plays BS. Someone in back of bus tells them to be quiet. Driving through the night. Another long day of traveling tomorrow.
Day 9 [on the road]
Its 4am. The bus is stopped. Look outside to see dozens of men with guns. Painted on white wall reads “Danger Military”. Comforting. Everyone gets off bus to stretch. Driver tells us [the americans] to stay in our seats. I put my hat on and try to go back to sleep. Matt develops a plan in case he gets attacked. Everything works out. Bus moves on. After 19.5 hours of being on the bus, we arrive at the border. Get in line for our departure stamp. They won´t let Luisa through. Needs some special stamp because she was born in Columbia. Wait 2 hours for Luisa to get things straightened out. Saul looses his iphone. Everyone is hungry. All make walk across border into Ecuador. Get passports stamped. Find food. Jump on bus to Quito for $4.50. 8 hour drive. Crappy roads. No air condition. Frequent stops. Arrive in Quito at 1130pm. We´ve been traveling for 30 hours. Taxi to hotel. Don´t bother changing clothes. Everyone´s body is a little out of wack. Am i tired? Am I hungry? Do I want to sit down or stand up? Just glad to be in Quito.
Day 10 [first day in quito]
Downstairs early for continental breakfast. Crawl back into bed for a little more sleep. Hot shower. Journal about the 30 hour trek. Check-out. Off to Los Alpes Hostal [where we will be staying for next 3 nights]. Does anyone know where it is? 6 taxis later we decide to look up the address online. Quest for internet cafe. Walk for an hour. Doaa struggles with her suitcase. People walking by laugh at her. Finally get address. Pile into taxi [Doaa sits on our laps]. Los Alpes is legit. Accomodations are amazing. Hand-knit roses attached to room key. Lounge around for most of the day as we wait for the rest of the crew [11 other caldwells]. Bank to exchange our higher bills [lots of places in Ecuador dont accept $20 bills]. Matt gets 30 dollars in golden coins. Saul [hispanic] receives one dollar bills. Matt is ticked. He has heavy pockets. Reflection on back patio with crew. First group arrives. Good to see familiar faces. Money train with spanish subtitles. Final group arrives. Warm, refreshing reunion. Good to have everyone together. Off to bed.
Day 11 [the equator 0º,0º,0º]
Wake up call at 7am. Breakfast downstairs. Everyone seems to be sleep-walking. 15-passenger van gets here at 8. Off to the heart of the city to see the churches and presidential palace [equivalent to whitehouse]. Churches were loaded 2-tons of gold. Some were built more than 400 years ago. [Older than United States as a country]. Guided tour of the palace. Group picture. Back into the van. Drive to the Equator [0º, 0º, 0º]. Everyone is stoked. Do toilets really flush opposite ways in different hemispheres? Maybe we´ll find out. Do some science experiments at the 0º, 0º, 0º line. Turns out water does spin opposite ways on either side of the line. Balance an egg on a nail. Saul can´t do it. The group is pretty exhausted. Decide to head back to the hotel for naps. Dinner. Reflection. Journaling. Writing. Shower time. Miguel [our guide for the trip] talks about what we will be doing in the rainforest. So stoked. Goodnight.
Day 12 [ecuadorian craft and culture]
Someone knocks on the door at 7am. We decide to ignore it. Quick breakfast. Miguel dumps truckload of salt onto his eggs. Nice. 2-hour van ride to small village located in Andes mountain range. The Pinchincha Volcanoe [4800 meters] stands tall on the horizon with its gorgeous snow-capped peak. South America definitly has some mountains. Traditional woman shows us her embroidery techniques. Beautiful hand-stiched patterns take weeks to finish. Process is facinating. Shelly doesn´t stop smiling. Standard of living is humbling. Back into the van to visit some local weavers. Stunning hand-woven tapestries drain everyone´s wallets. Real fun time. Last stop: the market. Hundreds of vendors. Lots of the same thing over and over. Overwhelming. Addictive. A once in the lifetime experience. Everyone uses their purchases as pillows on ride back. Pack bags. Leave for rainforest at 530am. Jungle for 10 days. Not sure what the internet accessibility is gonna be like. Peace and love!
Day 5 [a time of reflection]
Late start. Breakfast at the bakery. No set plans for today. Perfect. Lots of writing. Gather thoughts for blog update. Call mom. No answer. Call dad. 6 minute conversation. Call mom again. Guess she doesn’t want to talk. Chicken for lunch courtesy of Jon. Conversation/Reflection in living room. Walk around the neighborhood. Special BBQ for dinner. Matt is grillmaster. “Your daddy drives a taxi and my daddy drives a tractor!” Walk to store for beers. Can’t believe it is our 5th night in Columbia.
Day 6 [parque arvy]
Cold shower. Morning devotion. Jon woke/shook Matt up. He didn’t like that. Bakery for breakfast. Workers are getting to know us. People greet each other in the street. Man helps older lady into a taxi. Kids play futbol in the streets. Where am I? Off to Parque Arvy (a park outside the city). Metro. Cable-cars. 6 mile hike. Mud. Saul is wearing flip-flops. Finally here. Sketchy zip-line with hand brake. Thunderstorm. Hide under umbrella. Military man with grenade launcher hangs on side of our bus. Long trek back to house. Jon shakes water from tree with Matt standing under it. I jump on a branch to do the same. The branch breaks. Land on my back. Hard. 2 pain meds. Good one austin. Unauthentic chinese for dinner. Medellin night life here we come. Crazy night. Go to sleep sweaty.
Day 7 [the day of rest]
Girls get 6 dollar manicures and pedicures on back patio. Coco-crispies for breakfast. No itinerary for today. Martha points to the broom. I sweep the house. Jon makes fun of me. Ice cream shop. Doaa is kinda excited. Metro to downtown. Stop at ATM. Get excited for a second because i think i have a lot of money in my account. Then i realized the remaining balance left is in pesos (1880 pesos = 1 USD). See ducks in the park. Dance in the city to live band. Long trek home. Getting used to transportation systems. Medellin futbol game at the bar. Dinner in the streets. Doaa and Matt play rock, paper, scissors. Luisa stays the night in the hospital with grandfather. Boy in striped pajamas with spanish subtitles. Say good-bye to Sara (she will be off to work before we leave for Quito). We all go to sleep. Saul doesn’t. Leave for our 24 hour journey to Quito tommorow. Leaving late in the afternoon to arrive at sketchy border early in the morning. Should be quite the experience.
Day 1 [the trip to medellin]
Early Departure. 3 Flights. 1 Box of goldfish. 16-year-old drinking beer on flight to Medellin. This is weird. Flowers and kisses from Luisa´s family (Martha, Jon, Felipe, and Sara). Does anyone understand me? Men dressed in green with guns. 45 minute ride from airport. Miles and miles of lights from city of 4 million people. Greeted by hired musicians at the house. Dancing with Martha is unavoidable. So much energy. Trying to take it all in. Lets sleep.
Day 2 [the eternal city]
Rise and shine. Special breakfast from maid (Perci). Fresh Fruit. Colubian coffee. Conversation on back patio. Beautiful day. Grandparents (Anita and Chucho) house for full course meal. Shy dog. Cigarettes with grandma. Grandpa full of life even though hooked to an oxygen tank. Crazy traffic. Lots of bikes. Matt told Jon that he didnt wear a seatbelt in the states but here he would. 1550 pesos for Metro ride (1880 pesos = 1 USD). Cable-cars (ski-lifts) took us over the slums. Red bricks. Tin roofs. Low standard of living. No americans. Sara studies for english test with Luisa and Doaa. Matt lies in the hammock. Saul is still not here. Medellin is beautiful.
Day 3 [Peñon de Guatape]
Alarm Clock rings. Early start. Pile into 2 cars. 2.5 hour trip to Peñon de Guatape (huge rock). Winding roads. Farming on cliffs. Painted cinderblock. Small colorful towns. Waterfall in park off of road. Breathtaking views. Shots of burning water. 635 steps. Top of the world. Time to go down. Contageous laughing. Another shot. Big meal. Drive over bridge. Jon asks if i want to jump. “Sure”. 75 feet of pure adrenaline rush. Jon said im a crazy white man. Crash in backseat with Saul and Matt. Beers in the street. Walk home in the rain. First shower of the trip. Best day yet.
Day 4 [La Casa de Elena y Juan]
No need for an alarm (Martha yelling on the phone). Perci (the maid) makes us paninis and eggs. Fresh squeezed juice. Took Metro into city to see the market. Lots of street vendors. Futbol jerseys for 6000 pesos (around 4 dollars). No high rise buildings. Mountains in the distance. Cant find coffee place for Doaa. Rush home for lunch. Arrive at La Casa de Elena y Juan (an orphanage for 148 children that are either orphans, lack parental care during the week, or may be at risk of domestic violence in the home). Kids swarm around us as we get out of the car. Crazy energy. Want me to speak english. Dont understand me but think it is the funniest thing they have ever heard. Wrestling with the little kids. Futbol with the boys. Everyone wants their picture taken. Little buddy yanked my earrings out. Always smiling. Always sharing. Always laughing. Always thankful. They have nothing, yet they love everything about life. Heartbreaking and exciting. Convicting and Refreshing. It was a highlight of the trip thus far. I continue to fall in love with Medellin.