The World is big enough

“Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it” (Mahatma Ghandi)


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from Canoa to La Tola

Hi there

I made it, I made it from Canoa to La Tola and I made it even further than initially planned. But in order! Leaving Riobamba on a Monday morning the adventure started right on the first bus ride to Quito as my seat and all other seats on the bus where occupied and I was seated next to the bus driver in the front and while he was telling me about his life, his two marriages and his kids and during the 3 1/2 hour ride I met his actual wife and his youngest son. The rest of the day was less exiting as I had to pass the time until the departure to Canoa close to midnight. Good thing though, that this should be my last cold and rainy day for the next weeks. It was 5 am when the ticket inspector announced the arrival in Canoa and together with one of these typical Aussie Surfer Dudes I was searching for the first accommodation on this tour. After some hours of sleep I started exploring Canoa, but there’s not much to explore so I ended up in a bar run by an american couple from Colorado having my coffee and chatting with them and some other people running businesses there. I had the impression that there’s more expats than Ecuadorians living in that place and, and that luckily accompanied me during the whole trip, almost no visitors as it was low season, which is weird in that sense that the weather this time of year is generally more sunny and warmer than in high season. Good for me though! Anyway, to cut a long story short after spending one day here I started my walk up north. I already new from my day here that north of Canoa the rocks where reaching into the ocean and therefore would have to walk the first part on the street. No sooner said than done I found myself walking up and down on the Ruta de Spondylus one kilometer after the other and was expecting to see the Pacific after every next turn. This shouldn’t happen for the rest of the day and after walking more than 30 kilometers I decided to catch one of the every 30 to 45 minutes passing busses to my todays destination,the city of Jama. In contrast, the next day I was able to walk the same distance all the time on the beach. Quickly I figured out, that most of the locals have no or just little idea of if and where and to where you can walk along the shore and more than one time I was in front of impassable rock formations or rivers that is to say that I slightly changed my plan using a bus for certain parts as well. Another thing is that between Canoa and La Tola there’s just 3 or 4 cities that have at least one ATM. Having said this I zigzagged along the coast riding the bus to certain destinations and exploring the areas from there by walking. It have been roughly estimated more than 300 kilometers of walking and countless beaches, villages and places and so many different encounters, people and adventures. Can’t tell all of them but just to mention some:

because they didn’t have change in one hostal I was offered Kokain in exchange / when coming back from a party in one of the villages the owners of the hostal left for partying and the hostal was closed so I spend several hours trying to sleep in front of the hostal with some stray dogs, cats and crabs accompanying me until the owners returned several hours later / trying to find the main square in Esmeraldas I was sent in various directions and even the police couldn’t really help but finally I found it / circling the island of Muisne I endet up in mud up to my knees with some pigs around me / one evening a security guard on the beach offered me weed / another evening in a beach bar a guy offered me his sister and his cousin –  I just took the beer he offered me though / just few minutes after I found the only accommodation in Tonchigüe I was welcomed by the mayoress and warned to not go alone to the beach/ and when walking on the beach between Same and Tonchigüe a gang of 4 young men armed with a big knife tried to threaten me and rob my stuff, but I was smarter and faster 😉 / and… and… and…

In the meantime I’m back in the Andes planning my next move. See some impressions of the trip in the video and sorry for the bad quality of the voice recordings maybe I should get one of these windbreaks microphones!

Yours

Carsten


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desde el amanecer al caer la noche – from dawn to nightfall

Hey friends and followers

I’m back in Ecuador! After leaving the country for  Colombia last October, by end of May it was again time to leave because of my expiring visa. And because I was still in the more southern part of the country, the ecuadorian border was so much closer, so I decided to head back and on a more comfortable way of traveling an international direct bus connection Cali – Quito. On my way back to Cali I visited all my former domains, so the hostel in Armenia and the hostel in Cali. Nice to see my friends again before leaving for new adventures. The first part of the journey went well, next to the fact, that these international busses are going extremely slow and the really bad entertainment program. First a Jackie Chan movie, after that a Jackie Chan movie and number three and four as well and all of them badly dubbed into spanish which is especially for these types of movies anyway just a sequence of cries, shouts, sounds of pain and hurts. Story line? Non existing! You would just need half of the time if you travel on domestic busses. Anyway, we made it at about 1 am to the Colombian border it was cold, it was raining but the exit was quick and easy. Then just a short walk crossing no man’s land and to the migration of Ecuador. I kind of expected that it might not work out smoothly but was still full of hope, that I can enter without any problems. As you might guess, that was not the case and it was not just difficult but impossible! They wouldn’t let me in and after a short talk with the shift leader I found myself at my International Jackie Chan Direct bus, to get my backpack and to go back through no man’s land to Colombian immigration. It must have been 2:30 when I finally was back on Colombian territory with the canceled leave stamp in my passport sitting in a shabby old car on my way to the center of the border city of Ipiales. And because it was Sunday early morning and because I had to get to the consulship to get a new visa, it was clear that I would have to stay at least for two nights in this not very exiting place and if that wasn’t enough, monday was a local holiday so I had to wait until tuesday to try to get a new visa. After one of the most boring days I had so far on this journey I had the visa in my passport on tuesday evening and as a reward went to one of these Pollo-Broaster places where they prepare these breaded deep fried chickens and ordered two plates. Yes after such a long time I still can eat chicken and somehow still like it, at least sometimes. The next day I left early morning to get to Quito soon and to arrange the overnight bus ticket for the very same night to get straight to the coast. And that all went super fast and without any problems. I spend about three months again in Montañita, the same place I had been exactly one year ago. And I had again a great time there and the weather was extremely good, at least the first two months and unlike the year before, I went whale watching in Puerto Lopez, visited Olón, San Pedro and other villages and even had my favorite Cocktail Bar in the famous Cocktail Alley in Montañita. This is a street with one cocktail stand next to the other, must be in total about 30 and cocktails are good and cheap and is the main attraction of this village and, I found a bakery with the so far best Elephant Ears (orejitas/Schweineohren) I found on the whole journey! Loved them and must admit I had at least one per day!

After three months it was time to leave and after having the hostel full of Germans and most of them from Munich, I made my way back into the andean highlands. I’m back in Riobamba and what was planned as a pitstop for a few days is now already a 2 weeks stay and my departure is not yet scheduled. But I will leave and I will explore places I haven’t been to on my first visit to Ecuador.

So it’s great to be back in this wonderful country but as well it was hard to leave Colombia because of the beautiful landscapes, the nicely maintained villages and cities and especially the amazing people of Colombia the country where in just 6 months I made so many friends and have families in Armenia and Cali! I will definitely come back!

So after two years of traveling I’m back in country number one and just have been in one other country. Guess to make it around the world I have to speed up a bit. But way more important, I still enjoy every day and moment of it!

I’m ready for new adventures and for sure will continue sharing some of them with you.

Yours, Carsten

The complete interview will be online shortly


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Goodbye Ecuador

A week before, I finished my job as house sitter in Riobamba. And guess what, the pets are still alive and the flowers as well, so no complains from the family. And for their welcome I prepared a typical Frankfurter Kranz (german pastry), Colada Morada (Ecuadorian Drink especially served around All Saints) and a home-made Stracciatella ice cream.

After spending a few days in my “old hometown” Baños and again being fascinated by the volcano Tungurahua which was extremely active those days, I made my way again to Quito to finally say goodbye to my friends at the school I was at more than a year ago, had my farewell beer with some friends on thursday evening and on friday after almost 14 months in Ecuador finally started my journey to the boarder and further on to Cali in Colombia. I decided to take a direct bus from Quito, a 24 hour ride and already when boarding the four hours delayed bus coming all the way from Lima/Peru I could sense a bit of the Colombian cheerfulness as most of the passengers were Colombians and immediately started talking with me before I got to my seat just right in front of the toilet which was in the contrary to the Ecuadorian busses usable. Later during the journey some were singing and dancing. So all but boring.

It all went well until border control. When leaving Ecuador, the border officer checked my data on the system and it turned out that both of my student visas haven’t been registered properly. Plain talking I overstayed my tourist visa for 11 months and was since December illegally in the country. That can be extremely expensive, but Ecuadorians are nice people, so I had to fill out a form, make some copies of my passport and the visas in a nearby shop and return all that to the officer and I could leave the country without further problems. That took quite a while not only because of the lady in the shop who needed way more time to make 5 copies than one would expect! And in the meantime I was alone there. Where was my bus, where were the other passengers? I decided to make my way to the Colombian border control and thank good after getting the stamp in my passport I found most of my fellow passengers in a nearby restaurant in no man’s land having their first Colombian meal before continuing the ride through the night. Some of them invited me to some Colombian food and a real coffee. One must know, that in Ecuador people usually drink instant coffee even in better restaurants which y anyway never visited. And finally our bus came as well and we were heading off at around 9pm to Cali. 12 hours later I arrived in this dazzling city, the capital of Salsa! Haven’t give it a try so far, but I guess, the lessons I took back home in Germany are not sufficient for the type of Sales people dance here. The first afternoon I was completely overwhelmed by this city. Big, warm, noisy and packed with people, but that was mainly because I hadn’t had much sleep on the tour.

The video is a collection of some unpublished material from my time in Ecuador. This time most of the music I made myself as I had the chance to practice again playing the piano in the house in Riobamba. The singing is not at my best, but anyway, doesn’t matter.

So I will start planning my next step these days as right now I don’t have a plan, nor an idea on where to go first. But and that’s for sure, I will find my next destination and are already looking forward to new adventures, getting to know a new culture and new people. And also I will continue bothering you with new stories and movies from here.

Yours Carsten


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Meeting San Pedro in Jipijapa – A Journey to Yourself

Hello followers

the last post was all about my work at the hostel Punto Verde where I’m still staying and working at, but after finishing the bar and several other projects it was time again to do some touristy stuff but to anticipate this it was not at all touristy. On saturday lunchtime I got on the bus to Jipijapa (watch the Video and you will know how to pronounce this) a three-hour bus ride from here.

At this point let me spend a few sentences about the name of this city. Jipijapa is, next to Cuenca another city more south in the Ecuadorian Andes, the main place for the manufacturing of the Panama Hat and this Panama Hat is in spanish also called Jipijapa. Now you might think, why is it called Panama Hat when it’s produced in Ecuador and that’s because in the earlier time the principal customer was the USA and their central customs point for goods from south america was Panama. So the hats had the customs stamp of Panama and that gave the name to the hats which was afterwards adopted into various languages.

But that was not the reason for me traveling to Jipijapa. When working at a hostel you meet many people/travelers from all over the world. And so I got to know Kelly and Alon a wonderful couple spending some days at our hostel. And they know a lot about ceremonies with Ayahuasca and San Pedro Cactus. With their help we got in touch with Abuelo Marcos who makes the Water Coya of the sacred cactus of the south american Andes -the medicine – and organizes ceremonies as well. Listening to their stories and explanations, Nienke, another guest staying at that time at the hostel and me got curious and we both met on saturday in Jipijapa to take part in such a ceremony. On the invitation we received it didn’t say much just as much as the location, that this ceremony included a Temazcal – ritual steam bath – and the time but it didn’t say when it is supposed to be finished but we thought, that starting at 7 we might surely be back at around midnight. So we organized ourselves a hostel in town which was not too easy, not because it was so busy, but because there’s almost no hostels and after being at one place that was packed and two places where nobody was on duty, we found a cheap place and having that accomplished we made our way to the location the Patio de Papi Moncho. Being there on time we quickly figured out, that it might possibly take a bit longer and until ten people were arriving at the venue. And that mainly because they were all Ecuadorians and coming from all over Ecuador and ourselves being the only “Gringos” and also the only greenhorns. But that was great, we gathered around the campfire with about 30 insiders and all of them lovely and open-hearted. To cut a long story short, we got back to our hostel at around 11, but, the next morning because the ceremony lasted the whole night. And thanks to Abuelo Marcos, Taita Merdado Pin and all participants, it was absolute unique. I must admit, that I cannot or better say don’t want to tell all details about all the experiences I made especially after drinking the medicine but suffice it to say that it was quite something!

On sunday everybody was so kind and nice beginning with Marcos a wonderful storyteller, all the sisters and brothers from the ceremony, the guy from the hostel who was a bit worried because we were not returning the night, the ticket seller at the bus station and the bus driver who waited with the departure until I had bought three Elephant ears in the nearby bakery to have something to eat on the bus and picked me up more or less right in front of that bakery, my boss who dropped me a text message that I should not hurry but take my time to get back to Montañita, Nienke who hopefully was not angry with me because I every now and then looked at my watch and could no better but tell her the time and finally Kylie and Dillon guests at the hostel who decided to cook themselves so I didn’t have to cook and was able to go to bed really early! On monday I was back to normal and dutiful continued my work at the hostel.

Watch the video to get some impressions of this very special ceremony and at this point sorry for the lower quality but most of it has been filmed in the night without light and parts of it in a state of not being fully present.

Aho, yours Carsten


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The Waltoneer (Volunteer)

Hello and welcome back

after spending three months in Riobamba I changed location and got myself to the coast. Ok, the weather is currently not perfect but there’s many days with sun and if not, it’s not as cold as in the Andean highlands, especially at night! Via a volunteering network I found a place in Montañita where I was supposed to do a two-day painting job for bed and food in exchange and now I’m already a month here. Joos, the owner of this place called Punto Verde exchanged her houseboat in Amsterdam with a piece of land three years ago and started building a house and not too long ago started to convert it into a hostel the Punto Verde. And after the first day I decided to stay longer here and help with whatever needs to be done. And that was not because of the real coffee that is served here, or at least that was not the only reason. And there is a lot to do. Not only taking care of the customers and everything which needs to be done in the hostel business, no, there’s way more to do. Currently we’re building a new kitchen-bar-lounge and everything is handmade. After brewing beer and filmmaking it’s now design and carpentry. This was missing so far in my curriculum. And I guess I’m not too bad in that! Ok one of my first projects was a shower cabin made of plastic foil and bamboo and when trying to cut the first trunk of bamboo i cut my left index finger with an ax and the cut got down to the bone and through the fingernail, but it is almost fine again and a few hours after that I continued already working on the project and finishing it the very same day. Now we’re almost professionals and in a few days the place will be ready. And we’re kind of proud of our work and especially of the result.

And because I’m not doing any tourist things right now I decided to dedicate this video on what I’m doing here at this beautiful place. The village of Montañita is a ten minute walk away from here or a few minutes with the bicycle shown in the beginning of the video. By the way, this was one of the smaller projects, the promotion sign on the bicycle. Currently it’s off-season therefore the village is usually not busy, only on weekends and then we can here the music from the outdoor bars even here on the hill but usually it’s the sound of the waves that lulls you to sleep.  So this is the perfect place to relax and from the balcony or the stairs next to the house you sometimes can even watch the whales in the ocean. And once ready with the bar I will do some relaxing as well.

So have a look at the video to get an idea of what I’m doing here and hasta luego.

Yours, Carsten


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INTI RAYMI – When Incas celebrate midsummer!

Dear all

I guess it’s time again for a little bit of culture and latin american history. For that, two weeks ago I made my way to the South Sierra of Ecuador. Ingapirca is a little city near Cuenca and is named after the Archaeological complex of Ingapirca – in english this kichwa name means “wall of the Inca”. It is the best preserved pre-Hispanic architectonic site of the country and it had long been settled by indigenous people called Cañaris before the Incas were living here. There’s ruins from both cultures and the differences in construction style can be observed  when taking a tour from the “old” to the “new” part of the site. Besides the complex and the beautiful landscape this place is surrounded by, there’s not much to do in the city of Ingapirca. Except, and that was the main reason for getting there, it’s midsummer! Then this is the place for one of the biggest INTI RAYMI celebrations of the country. Casually said it’s the Thanksgiving of the Andean culture. It’s to thank Inti (father sun) and Pachamama (mother earth) for the previous year and to ask for their support for the upcoming year. That’s about the history of this place and the event.

Thanks to the bus driver who dropped me of in the middle of nowhere and to the two ladies with their kids who accompanied me to a little community called Sisid Anejo and to Manuel who was expecting me at the place I was supposed to stay at, I reached my home for the upcoming 4 days without problem. The community of Sisid Anejo is a 45 minute walk away from the Archaeological site and was already worth the journey. Just beautiful and quiet, except for some dogs who announced every passing person loudly. Thankfully there were not many of them, meaning passing persons. And as so many times before, I was the attraction as there’s never any tourist at that place. The next morning, it was friday, I got up early to not miss anything that might happen at the festival. But after a delayed start  (about two hours later than printed in the program)  it was not at all busy and there were just few performances of music, dance and ceremonies during the day. On saturday though it was busy and after the ceremony of gratitude there were lots of presentations of traditional music and dances from the countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico all followed by big applause from the audience and the words “muy bien” from the moderator. Dear organization team, I recommend to hire someone else for next year. The presentations itself comprised everything from great, interesting and different to sometimes strange but always entertaining even including a Miss INTI RAYMI!

On sunday morning, not alike the days before, there was a group of people for breakfast all gathering around one big table while I was sitting alone at my table. When looking at my pictures from the day before on my camera I did recognize some of the faces sitting at the big table. So I asked if they had been dancing on the festival yesterday and yes, it was the delegation of Bolivia from Quito 😉 from the Centro Arte Folklórico “INKARY”. So lovely people. They invited me to join them not only for breakfast, but for the rest of the day, as Jorge, the director of the group and the bus driver offered me to take me to Riobamba as they anyway would pass through on their way back to Quito. We again went to the festival, made a tour through the Archeological site and a hike to the face of the Inca before starting our journey back north at around lunchtime. Thanks to all of you for the enjoyable day! And especially for you, this video is in spanish! On sunday evening I got back “home” with lots of impressions, many nice people I got to know, hours of videos, tons of photos and a sunburned face! Sometimes, even after this long time I’m here I underestimate the power of the sun on an altitude of 3.200 meters!

As mentioned before, this video is by way of exception in spanish and that’s why I’ve given some information I’m talking about in the video already in the text above. But don’t miss the video and especially my highlights of this event at the end of the video!

Yours, Carsten


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Riobamba o danza con Volcanos

It`s me again and I made my way back to the Andes and in the Andean highland.

Riobamba is the name of the city I arrived at on the day 4 weeks ago. It has more than 100.000 inhabitants, is on an altitude of 2.750 meter above sea level and is surrounded, and that’s the more interesting part about this place, by a number of volcanoes including the highest one, the Chimborazo. The city itself is not very beautiful and I was a little bit afraid before coming here, because lot`s of people told me when asking me, where I’m heading to and I answered Riobamba, that it is called Friobamba, because of being such a cold place.

True, the first two days here have been rainy and cold, but then I could see this place from its most beautiful and spectacular side! Sunshine, clear blue sky all day and temperatures that were, at least during daytime, quite comfortable. And on these days the view from the terrace of the house of the family I’m staying at is breathtaking.

And because I’m helping a Riobamba based Tour Operator in creating promotional Material, so Photos and especially Videos of their Tours, during the past weeks I was heading every second day out of the town and into the mountains. I made it to the Whimper Refugio on the Chimborazo twice, hiked two days among the Chimborazo and the Carihuairazo to just a few days after that climb the Carihuairazo and made a biking tour through the Parque Nacional Sangay getting from the Sierra into the Amazonia Region. So as you can read, all but boring and because of the trips, the job and the people here, Riobamba is not at all a bad place to stay at!

And guess what, it was not my first, but the first I really recognized. What? Ah, the earthquake on Friday morning! The magnitude was not very high, 3,5, but the center of it was just 18 kilometers away and therefore the vibes woke me up in the early morning while my room and my bed were shaking! It caused no damages but Tungurahua, who was rather active the last weeks and months is quiet again after that! And with my profound geological background I see the connection of these activities 😉 So no ash in the air!

And now have a look at the spectacular scenery, the mountains, the Vicuñas, Alpacas, the Highland Fox and the Caracara (a hawk species) and enjoy. This time I’m really happy with my choice of music, a mixture of back home close to the Alps and sinking and drowning in the Atlantic Ocean while Celine and Leonardo are playing the panpipe.

Stay tuned and many greetings from Riobamba.

Yours, Carsten