A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Oreo

Ecuador

sunny 28 °C

Ecuador is full off sweet, sweet fruit! And you get these fruits in all sorts of versions…from smoothies to big delicious fruit salads. And best of all: Its sooo cheap. I will for sure miss stepping out on the street and get fresh mango juice for 3 kr. (50 cent)

Our first stop was in Montanita, a charming little beach town. If you are a single male you should get your ass here as soon as possible. This little place is packed with young, beautiful women. I have been in plenty of beach towns before but I have never seen so many gorgeous people in one spot as I did in Montanita. Here women are tanned, toned and exotic. So book a ticket guys! Except from looking at beautiful women (I couldn’t help it…u would too) we didn’t do much else then tan, drink fruit drinks (most of them with vodka) and tan. Perfect  If u read this and think to yourself: oh how I miss sun and warmth…well, then I can inform u that with sun and warmth also comes cockroachs (kakkelakk), and one of the nights before going to bed we (James) had to kill 8 of these disgusting little creatures that suddenly appeared from under the bed. These things make sleeping pretty god damn hard. So there you go.

Montanita, where the drinks are pretty and the girls are cheap...oops I meant the other way around.
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Sunset:
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Ecuador is dirty…garbage is floating around everywhere. Not just in the streets but u can drive by big fields full of junk. It’s pretty sad that the Ecuadorians don’t have more respect for their own country. On the buses u see grown men throwing garbage straight out of the window. It is such a shame because the country loses a lot of its beauty when there is rubbish everywhere. For some reason only a little percentage of houses in Ecuador is actually completed which make the country in some places look half finished.

Trying out my driving skills....
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Quito – which is translated “the middle of the earth”. If u travel 30 minutes outside Quito city you get to the Equator line where u can literally stand with one foot on each side of the equator. To prove that we actually stood on the equator line our guide demonstrated by pouring water in to a sink on the south side, north side and in the middle. On the south side the water went down the drain anti clock wise, on the north side it was the opposite and in the middle it just went straight down. Crazy!!!

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On opposite sides of the world:
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We also visited Bano, where we did a 2 day jungle trip. Unfortunately for the residents of Banos they’re town is translated in Spanish as toilet. Our jungle trip was pretty busy with plenty to see and do. We went caiman “hunting”, cruised down the river in a wooden canoe (If we had followed the river we would have ended up in manu in Brazil!!!), swam in a lagoon/ waterfall in the middle of the rain forest (which we probably shared with a couple of caimans), we hiked and learned heaps about natural medicine and ate a lot of insects and trees. Fun, fun, fun…except when a rat came in to our little wooden hut in the middle of the night…

Cruising down the river:
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A tiny, little piece of a very big rain forest
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Australian tarzan
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Not the worst place to be chillin
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James getting his make up done..
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5 star jungle accomodation
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James making great connection with the monkey
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Me: not so much
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Practising my warrior skills...
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South America has been an incredible experience, both good and bad. Travelling through such a poor continent really makes u put life in perspective. I feel so, so lucky. Being born in Norway you get so much for free…we are so safe. We have rights and strong laws. We have police that we don’t have to be scared off. We have politicians that don’t take our money to buy them self holidays, cars, houses etc. The drug lords don’t own the media. We can speak up. We can marry who we want. We can get sick and still not have to sell our house. We can get free education. We can be home with our baby for 1 whole year (payed), even more if we want and still have our job to go back to. (I meet a woman from Alaska and she got 6 weeks!!) We have such a good system and still the ones that don’t have any of it can seem more grateful & happy than the ones that have everything.

South America is a beautiful, colourful and a very, very poor continent. Don’t get me wrong, there is also a lot of rich people around this continent….though most of them have earned their money in a fair way I also believe a high percentage of the rich south American’s have done some short cuts along the way.
Travelling through this continent have learned me so much and have made me face challenges that I sometimes thought I couldn’t handle..but I did. It makes you see the world differently and you realise that there is not only one way of living life.

This is my last blog entry from South America. It has been a dream come true.

Hasta luega amigos,
Tonje

Posted by Oreo 19:08 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Machu Picchu

- will rock you. Get it?????

rain 10 °C

Time to tell u about Peru…So far we have been to Arequipa, Cusco & Lima, and after over a month up in high altitude we are now in Mancora which is up at the north coast of Peru. I am pretty happy to have the high altitude over and done with and to now be down at the ocean again….it’s so beautiful here

But I won’t talk about Mancora now cause first I have to tell u all about Machu Picchu, which is so far in my life the most wonderful human created thing I have ever seen. Not sure if thing is the right word to use when describing this wonder…but anywho. Machu Picchu is located about 100 km from Cusco and you have to take a train far far in through massive mountains before u have to continue by bus far far up to the top of one of these mountains…and there u have it, Machu Picchu, the lost Inca village. How these tiny Inca people were able to build this beautiful stone village so far and high up in the middle of the jungle makes it even more beautiful. Its 2200 meter above sea level…it makes me wonder how the heck they got all that stone up the hill???!!!

IM ON TOP OF MACHU PICCHU!!!!!!
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Machu Picchu was built around 1440 and was only used for about 100 years by the Incas. You might think this was a shame since it obviously was A LOT of work to build something like Machu Picchu but it defenitly didnt go to waste.
To visit Machu Picchu it cost you 1000 kr ($US 200) and each day year around it is at least 1000 visitors per day…so in one year Peru earn about 365 million kr ($US 62 millions) on Machu Picchu!!!

The guard:
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Walking around the village looking at the work made by bare human hands makes me just more fascinated by this wonder. The stones perfectly fit each other and in most spots not even paper can get through the gaps. How small, tiny people build this without tools makes my wondering mind think that maybe someone just flew it up with a helicopter in newer age…after all it does make 365 million a year. But then you have the pyramids and the colosseum and so many other amazing buildings. So I might settle with the thought that human beings actually built Machu Picchu the old fashion way.

Perfection:
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Over Christmas we stayed in Cusco. Cusco is beautiful and if you like art and craft this is heaven. You find alpaca scarfs and sweaters for 1/5 of the price you pay in Norway. Paintings, silver, socks, fabrics ..you name it. At one stage it was nearly painful to walk around because I knew I could only look and not touch, or buy. But my love for scarfs I couldn’t ignore so 3 soft alpaca scarfs is now pushed into my backpack…and a couple of earrings…and maybe a painting or two…

A couple of photos from Cusco:

Local women walking theyre lama:
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One of the many church doors in Cusco. She knocked on the door but God wasnt home:
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A young gentleman helping his grandma up the hill: (I know a couple of men out there that could learn a thing or two from this little fella)
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Local girls doing great business selling photos for 1 Soles per picture:
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One of many run down houses in Cusco. Bano = toilet...so the toilet is that tiny box in the backyard. Maybe we should think twice next time we go crazy over the telly not working.
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The view from our hostel...if only I won millions one day....
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I have so much more to tell u about Peru but Mancora is just to sunny, so my time is spent on the beach these days. The rest of the Peru stories will have to wait untill we share a beer in Norway:) Peru is truely beautiful and it is really as colourful as I imagined it to be.

Hasta luega.

-Tonje..that looooves the mangos here in Mancora. Oh, so sweet -

Posted by Oreo 17:33 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

San pedro prison

-the shortest sentence in history

rain 11 °C

No matter where you are in this wonderful world of ours there is one common dominator. Money Talks…it speaks all languages, in this case fluent Spanish. Being in La Paz it shines out even more so, because it’s such a poor area of the world money can really mean the difference between eating and not. Being able to buy yourself in or out of any situation has never been so apparent than the day we decided to get ourselves into San Pedro prison.

A quick rundown for you guys who have never read the famous travellers book Marching Powder or who is unfamiliar with San Pedro Prison.
- It’s a prison that is 100% run by prisoners
- It has a president and 7 delegates who are in charge of their areas (all of whom are long term prisoners)
- If you want a cell when u arrive for your sentence you need to pay for it.
- If you don’t have money then you have to rent one. If you don’t have enough for rent you have to work at the prison and if you can’t get work in the prison then you sleep outside.
- Prison cells range from $150-$2000US per cell, depending on what area of the prison and what the cell includes….pay tv, good beds, size of room etc,…
- Cell mates run restaurants, gyms and conduct tours to earn money but there biggest trade is cocaine (supposedly the purest cocaine in the world is made inside the prison walls)
- Delegates are in charge of penalties for misbehaving prisoners. Which they have a system for of 3 strikes and you are out. Being removed from this prison means you go to a much tougher prison and is feared by all in San Pedro inmates.
- The richer prisoners are allowed to have their families live inside the prison with them.
- The prison has a kinder garden for children and child and mothers are allowed to leave the prison when they feel necessary
- It has a small swimming pool which the kids use during the days but can also be a form of punishment for prisoners who don’t behave.
Due to the cold conditions being sent into the pool for the 12 hours of night can be very dangerous causing serious health conditions or even resulting in death.

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So anyways you probably understand the sort of jail this is. Money is king and is the difference between an easy sentence and death. The more money you have inside those prison walls the better your quality of life. The kitchen is run by inmates but only 3 times a week the meals are eatable. These three meals are the only ones in the week that contain meat. To live inside the walls of the jail you must use the restaurants. To use the restaurants you need money…it really is a tuff life for those who have nothing. The people inside the jail walls without money are visible as soon as you walk in; they are frail, lifeless and very close to death. The other meals during the week is a watery soup that most say is uneatable.

Getting into the jail was a lot easier than I expected but also a little daunting. I managed to get two other travellers to come with me as I thought bringing in my blonde haired Norwegian girlfriend into a high maximum prison probably wouldn’t be the best idea. Plus knowing her aunty and grandma well I thought if I ever wanted to see them again and not be strangled to death I better leave Tonje at home. So within minutes of arriving at the San Pedro Prison front gate we were soon in the prison guard office paying our fee (bribe) to get in a literally signing our lives away. Some official comes up to us and writes a number in texta on each of our arms and within seconds we were directed into the main courtyard of the prison. Once getting in there, we arrange for a guide and a protector, both of who you must “tip” afterwoods. Both were lifelong criminals, one (the talkative one) had been in prison in L.A and was a great story teller and very informative. His first story about the first time he arrived at San Pedro prison made all my hairs on my back stand. His first purchase was a massive machete and to prove his strength his was going to kill the first person who attacked him. Thankfully for him, or his attacker the jail was good to him from day 1 and his murder plan never had to be used. The other guy was reserved, quiet, scary and very powerful within the jail walls…a little nod from this guy and people got out of our way.

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Although the prison had a few western inmates I have to admit I didn’t really pick the people I went in there with well. Me with my curly brown hair and big nose could have slotted straight into the prison without too many head turns, but the Norwegian guy with his two foot red afro and the 6 and a half foot English fela made it a little harder to blend in.

For people looking into doing this tour and fear the situation will be rewarded at the end, it’s one of the most informative tours I have ever been on, they answer all questions and really do give an insight into life behind prison walls. The start of the tour is a little uncomfortable but after 20minutes you do feel quite safe. The area you visit first is the worst, where the smell of the toilet is very strong and the people quite twisted and spooky. Your protector is respected and tourists are a means of money so you are looked after as much as humanly possible. There have been instances of riots and other bad behaviour but they do keep that pretty quiet to get tourist coming back. The tour showed as all parts of the jail, nowhere was spared. It really was worth the non-negotiable price of 400bolivianos….i think about $50. This doesn’t include the tip to the prisoners. After the 1 hour or so tour the guide and the scary protector take you into a small little basement type room, its small ceiling, darkness and one exit makes it quite scary, they then ask if we would like to participate in anything. Fearing for the worst I made sure my belt was tightly fastened and I gripped onto my jeans holding them up with all my mite, promising myself not to let go no matter what the circumstance.
What i wasn’t really expecting was for them to offer us cocaine. Not just any cocaine supposedly the best in the world. Even Paris Hilton hasn’t sampled this sort of quality. Since smuggling cocaine out of an extremely corrupt and dangerous prison wasn’t really high on my “to do list” I shook my head side to side and said my no thankyous and handed over my $10 tip for the tour. Thinking we all would do the same I was surprised that my English friend decided this was too good of an offer to refuse and started filling his shoe up with the stuff before we left. The Norwegian guy skin turned a colour I had never seen before and before we knew it we were on our way out of the prison…………
I must say I think the English guy was sweating a lot on the way out (must have been the altitude). Getting through the guards and out back to normal civilization was a treat and finally again my English friend could breathe easy again. Even though he still had to limp around until he made it to the nearest café.

It was an amazing experience and something I am so happy I did. I recommend the tour to anyone willing to sign there life away for a few hours. I also recommend the book marching powder to anyone who is travelling as it is the topic of many backpackers’ stories.

Rumour has it that it may be turned into a big movie within the next few years. Brad Pitt name has been linked to it, which will bring a lot of unwanted attention to the prison and may cause the end to tours in the future.

James

Posted by Oreo 09:32 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia

So rich in cultur and traditions, but still so poor...

overcast 4 °C

Well, what can I say about Bolivia…Bolivia is dusty, cold and full of colourful people. I definitely have never felt further away from Norway than I did the 16 days I spent in Bolivia. Bolivia is such an underdeveloped country when it comes to hot water, roads, electricity etc. But I get the impression that the lack of these basic things isn’t Bolivia’s biggest problem. It’s not unknown that Bolivia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Not only the politicians, but also the police seems to care more about the money THEY can earn then keep the country safe and “fair”.(Or is it the money they don’t earn that drives them to this corruption???!) I asked a Bolivian man I meet “But what about the police that want to make a change? The good ones?? Isn’t it hard for them to “survive” in this place?” The answer I got was a big laugh and “the good police???!!!!”
There is so much more to Bolivia...First: It has amazing nature. Our first 4 days in Bolivia we spent up in the mountains (5000 meter abow sea level at one stage!) where we saw everything from lamas to volcanos……ending at the salt flats.

Lunch time: James & Caitlyn…and a very curious lama :O)
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Playing soccer with some of the kids in a village far, far up in the mountain where we spent the night. These kids really live a life so different from any Norwegian child…they only have the basic things to survive! It was minus degrees & windy and they were covered in sand, they’re hands and face was obviously damaged by the cold. But still they were such happy kids…..I think so far through all my travels this night in this little remote village will always be remembered as very special.
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A shy, little boy:
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Dinner time. Michell, Caitlyn & me.
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Not exactly 5 star!!!
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Oh, so cold!!!!!
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Our car for the 4 days.
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Volcano….that u apparently aren’t supposed to walk on and can be pretty dangerous. But our guide didn’t seem to care too much about that…
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A rock from one of the near by volcano, that James ofcourse had to climb:
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Sunset over the salt flats….
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Salt as far as u can see….
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Michelle, Caitlyn & me..
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The end of 4 days in the Bolivian mountains…
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Bolivian women having theyre morning snack:
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After our 4 day tour from Tupizia to Uyuni we spent 2 days in Sucre. The buses in Bolivia don’t always have toilets…so on the bus from Uyuni to Sucre I found out how they solve this little problem in Bolivia. After about 3 hours driving the bus stops in the middle of nowhere (only desert) and yells out “BANO!!!! (=toilet)…in one second everyone around me is outside. Man and women, old and young. I look around and I don’t really understand where the toilet is…until I see everyone from the bus start pulling down they’re pants and literally are going to ”the toilet” right in front of me! Because it took me a while to understand that there weren’t any actual toilet around, just nature, I of course where the last one to find a “toilet” spot…which meant everyone were back in the bus by the time my pants were down, so I had a pretty big audience!!!!:)

After Sucre we went to La Paz. In La Paz I meet up with Morten, my friend from Norway. Together with Morten, James & Henry I went down the world’s most dangerous road!! (Most deaths pr km)…I think there are about 30.000 registered deaths …mostly in cars/buses!! But still it was pretty scary….but such a beautiful spot :)

READY!!!
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Pretty cool!!!!
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DONE!
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At the moment I’m in Peru (Cusco) where I will celebrate Christmas this year, I have to admit I will miss the warm, cosy Norwegian Christmas but at the same time excited to experience a totally different Christmas.

So wherever u are this Christmas: FELIZ NAVIDAD ;)

-Tonje, som sitt på ein terasse I Peru og høyrer på Kurt Nilsen sitt jule album-

Posted by Oreo 09:33 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Cafayate & Salta

Wine, nature & spanish....

sunny 31 °C

I have found my favourite spot in Argentina! I am so happy that we randomly picked this little town for a stopover on our way to Salta…so far it’s the most charming town we have visited in Argentina!

Cafayate is a small town that pretty much is placed in the middle of vineyards, and these vineyards is protected by massive mountains...which means it’s also pretty hot! (=sweet, sweet white wine. Also called torrentes)
Our first day we did a day tour to QUEBRADA DE CAFAYATE, which is beautiful landscape made out of big, red mountains shaped by wind & sand:
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Of course we had to visit one of the many vineyards…so our choice for the day was ETCHART BODEGA, which is the oldest vineyard in Cafayate:

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I never thought I would ever eat wine….but now that’s another thing I can tick off on the list of things I have done. They actually have an ice cream shop in Cafayate where u can buy ice cream made out of red & white wine…it’s nice to have tried, but ill definitely stick with the baileys ice cream;)

Last week we spent in Salta where we did a 1 week Spanish course. I thought I only had to put an o at the end of every word(perfecto, fantastico etc) but unfortunately it’s a tiny little bit more complicated than that…but we are getting there..

Back to school:
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Salta is one of the northerners city in Argentina…you don’t have to check the map to know that Bolivia is next door. Bolivian/Peruvian art & craft is everywhere and the people here have a lot more Bolivian in them (a foot smaller & a shade darker).
In Salta u get a chance to get a proper history lesson at the MAAM museum! I don’t know what I should call this museum experience, but maybe unique would be the best word. In the 15th century, when the Inca people ruled south America (with Cusco as a centre) they believed the mountains where the most sacred place on earth (maybe closer to God?). The Inca people’s traditions often included religious rituals. These rituals often consisted of sacrificing animals and children. The children that got sacrificed were often the ones that were seen as the most beautiful and came from the home of a ruler. After days of other rituals these children got taken to a sacred place (often the top of a mountain)…after getting heaps of beer and clothed with the best of the best, they got left underground (with gold, silver etc) to die (the Incas didn’t believe the children actually died, but that they would watch over the whole world from the top of the mountain and give good luck). In 1999 three children belonging to the Inca culture were found on top of Llullaillaco volcano (6700 meters high). Because of the high altitude and the low temperature, along with low atmospheric pressure these children were found pretty much how they were left. Even if they probably are 400 years old they are still in the same conditions as they were when they actually died. They still have “perfect” skin and eyes, nails, hair etc. At the MAAM museum u get to see one of these children and it is for sure the craziest thing I have ever seen in a museum!

At the moment we are in Sucre in Bolivia after a 4 day tour out in the middle of nowhere. I have seen so much and even been up as high as 5000 meter above sea level...it was that high up that James vomited for an hour(sorry, James)...and slept in villages that only have electricity from 6pm-10pm...but will tell u about that later....

-Tonje, that now can say “mi nombre es Tonje…soy norwega y tengo 26(veinteseiss) anos”-

Posted by Oreo 13:31 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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