My 2,500-Mile Hike through History

25 06 2017


It’s been a while. Five years in fact.

Since my time in a world of contradictions: freezing cold weather in Bolivia; sweltering heat in Columbia; poverty in La Paz; drug wealth in Medellin; and now my new journey has started. But one far closer to my heart.

After having gallivanted far and wide, it’s about time I saw the amazing country called home. And what better way to do that than by hiking.

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Guatape – Painting the Town Red (and Blue and Green)

8 12 2011


Guatape, near Medellin, central Colombia

Guatape’s animated streets are adorable: a labyrinth of dynamic scenes that adorn house facades and flow into the town’s plaza. Café-goers spill out onto the table-strewn roadsides clutching their café tintos y pan (black coffee and bread) while a few blocks away lies an islet-woven lake, Guatape’s main draw with national tourists.

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But the mystery of Guatape is this: despite its undeniable charm and phenomenal views, only a handful of foreign visitors wind up here. Which makes it a perfect getaway destination to spend a few days, but be warned, you may linger longer than expected.

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Cocora Valley: Tall Trees and Fluttering Wings

30 11 2011


Cocora Valley, the coffee zone, central Colombia

Only 11 kilometres from the cappuccino-sipping town of Salento lies another world completely. In Cocora Valley the menu is simple: a dose of tranquility, eye-boggling scenery, a side helping of cowboys and a sprinkling of the world’s tallest palm trees.

Available to devour in one or two days.

Wax plam trees in Cocora Valley, the tallest palms in the world. I’m in the bottom left-hand corner, for scale.

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Grassy hills of Tatacoa Desert

20 07 2011


Tatacoa Desert (El Desierto de la Tatacoa), southwest Colombia

Tucked away between verdant hills lies Colombia’s second largest desert. Tree-lined roads lead to the parched dust bowl of Tatacoa where rust and white sand dunes reach out across the bizarre landscape.

A cactus at twilight in Tatacoa Desert

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Latitude Zero – Straddling the Equator in Ecuador

13 07 2011


Quito – standing on the equator at Inti-Ñan 

I gasped in amazement at the best news I’d heard since eating my greasy breakfast; I’d magically lost over two pounds in weight by simply shifting my location.

A group of six of us were standing in the southern hemisphere in Quito, Ecuador. Several metres away and we’d be in the northern hemisphere.

“Move onto the yellow line,” Nataly, a guide at Inti-Ñan museum told us. We did so dutifully.
“You’re all 2.2 pounds lighter than a few seconds ago.”
Puzzled faces stared back at her waiting for some logical explanation.
“If you look down you’ll see that now you’re all standing on the equator line. Due to less gravitational pull here you weigh less.”

I beamed triumphantly. Weight reduction in South America is about as common as a subtle Latino man – it simply doesn’t exist. In a continent that consumes fried food on a daily basis, any amount of weight shiftage, whether momentary or not, deserves a grin.

Nataly smiled back, proud to show us that we were actually standing on latitude zero. “Follow me,” she said. I did. Maybe I’d lose another few pounds…

Just north of Quito in Ecuador runs the equator line

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The Quilotoa Loop

29 06 2011


The Quilotoa Loop – for quick facts about the route, scroll to the bottom of the page.

I skidded down the sand path, desperately grasping at tree roots to break my fall. To my left was a 200-metre drop down a rocky outcrop to Quilotoa’s vast crater lake.

“Nothing lives in there except algae, the alkaline water kills all life,” an American had told me the previous evening. His words resonated round my head now, drowned out only by my thumping heart and skidding feet. I lashed out again and caught a clump of grass; I was determined this lake wasn’t going to claim my life.

The evening sun reflects down on Lake Quilotoa

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Nariz del Diablo – A Journey Down the Devil’s Nose

24 06 2011


Nariz del Diablo – The most difficult train journey in the world

The sleepy town of Alausi was waking up to Sunday market madness. An elderly couple donned in Ecuadorian Andean attire was pulling a herd of reluctant sheep. The livestock had spotted an opportunity to stall their impending sale by munching away on a trail of vegetables, spilt from a vendor’s bag.

Behind them, low-pitch shouts bounced off the colonial buildings, the cream and white exteriors slowly being immersed in the morning light. The humming cacophony was gradually buzzing around the town but that was nothing compared to chaos erupting inside Alausi’s train station.

Nariz del Diablo, the Devil’s Nose, was billed as ‘the most difficult train journey in the world’ and if the inability to buy tickets was anything to go by, it definitely was the most difficult, near becoming the most impossible train journey I’d encountered.

An engine on display at the train station in Alausi

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