Video: Being (in) the centre of the world “mitad del Mundo” in Ecuador

This video is filmed at Mitad del Mundo. I think it would correct to say that Ecuador is famous for mainly two things: the stunning Galapagos islands and the fact that the country is located on the equator.

We made an excursion from Quito to Mitad del Mundo. It is situated 22 km north of the city. It’s quite touristy, but some people feel quite a sensation hopping back and forth between hemispheres.

For me being there with Thomas, who I love, was a bigger sensation, because when you love someone and they love you back you always feel like the centre of the world – and nothing beats that feeling 🙂

Podcast: Colombia to Ecuador overland

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

Join us on another travel podcast as we head south from Popayán & San Augustín’s “Valley of the Statues” in Colombia down to Ipiales on the border with Ecuador and the ‘miracle center’ of Santuario de Las Lajas.

Otavalo Market Ecuador

Following Colombia, we head to the famous indigeous artisans and livestock markets at Otavalo in the Ecuadorian Andes, listen to some indigenous bands, and finish the podcast off in Quito, the old colonial capital of Ecuador.

A few of the places mentioned in the podcast…

Quito, Ecuador Otavalo Market, Ecuador Santuario de Las Lajas, Colombia


Video: The Gran Sabana in Venezuela – the oldest landscape in the world

Venezuela may be considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world today, but it is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world and a very worthwhile place to visit. Despite its shady reputation we didn’t have any problems in Venezuela and drove all the way through the country in three weeks. On the contrary we saw some of the most amazing landscapes in South America – most notably the Gran Sabana. This video shows you the glory and beauty of the Gran Sabana.

The Gran Sabana (Great Savanna) is an immense, empty region which lies within the boundaries of Parque Nacional Canaima. The Savanna’s rolling grasslands are broken up by the unique and spectacular tepuis. Tepuis are table mountains. More than 100 of these plateau mountains can be found from the Colombian border in the west to Guyana and Brazil in the East, but most of them are found in the Gran Sabana. The most famous tepui, Roraima, extends into Brazilian and Guyanese territory. Many tour companies arrange hikes to the top of Roraima in which you can experience a lost world of unique flora and fauna.

Geologically, these sandstone table mountains are remnants of a thick layer of sediments (some two billion years old) that gradually eroded, leaving behind only the most resistant rock formations. As they were isolated from each other and from the world below for millions of years, the tops of the tepuis had its own evolution of flora and fauna. About half of the 2000 plant species found on the top of the tepuis are unique to the specific mountains.

The easiest way to access Roraima and the Gran Sabana is to go to Santa Elena de Uairen, which is the only town in the Gran Sabana, and is located close to the border with Brazil. From there you can hire a taxi to take you for a day trip to the Gran Sabana (like we did) or book a tour to climb Roraima. Both options are highly recommendable.

I hope you enjoyed the video tour to the Gran Sabana with us 🙂

Santuario de las Lajas in Colombia

The Santuario de las Lajas, 7 km southeast of Ipiales, is a neo-Gothic church built between 1926 and 1944 on a bridge over a spectacular river gorge. The church was constructed to commemorate the appearance of virgin Mary, who image, according to the legend, appeared on an enormous vertical rock 45 m above the river. The church is set up against the gorge cliff in such a way that the rock with the image forms its main altar.

Pilgrims come here from all over the world. Many leave thanksgiving plaques along the alley leading to the church. Note the number of miracles that are said to have occurred.

The video above shows you the church over the gorge.

Podcast: Amazon River boat trip, Brazil

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

We made this podcast on a 6 day boat trip upriver (East to West) from Manaus in the Amazonas region of Brazil, to Tabatinga, on the Peruvian / Brazilian border.

In the podcast we discuss how to find a boat in Manaus (Brazil), the costs of river boat travel, hammocks Vs. cabins, being a vegetarian on board (and general food options), and the risk of malaria and using anti-malarials like Larium. We also report live after our boat suffered a break down and started drifting helplessly back downstream!

Amazon River Boat Trip - Manaus to Tabatinga in Brazil

Links

More photos of Manaus and our Amazon river boat trip

COMING SOON – Video of our Amazon river boat trip

Video: Boat trip up Rio Amazonas in Brazil

Sailing up the Rio Amazonas in Brazil was a dream come true. When you board in Manaus and head for Tabatinga (on the border with Peru) you are sailing up river and the trip is longer than vice-verse. We spent 7 days on the boat.

Make sure to see the boats in Tabatinga before you buy a ticket. There are big quality differences. I would highly recommend “Fenix” which is the boat we took. The food was good (if you eat meat…which I don’t) and the captain and crew very organised.

It is not that you see a lot of the Amazonas when you sail on the river, but the fact that you are on a slow boat and can do absolutely nothing except sleeping, reading, writing articles, making love (if you are a couple…which we were not) etc. makes it extremely relaxing to be on-board. And you also get an insight into life in the small towns along the river where the boat load and unload goods.

We paid to have a cabin for 7 days. This cost us 300$ for two – so 150$ each. The cabin was small, but cosy with wooden walls, air conditioner and bathroom inside (with brown river-water…but it was a bathroom :-))

To string up your hammock on the deck for 7 days would cost around 100$, so if you are two people it is well-worth your money to pay the extra 50$ each and have the luxury and security (for your things) of a cabin.

I absolutely loved the Rio Amazonas boat trip and highly recommend it.

The video above gives you an idea what a cargo boat trip on the Rio Amazonas entails.

Podcast: Los Llanos, Venezuela

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

Los Llanos in Venezuela is an immense plain savanna of 300,000 sq km south of the Venezuelan Andes. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse regions on earth and a popular area to go on wildlife safaris. You can listen to our podcast from Los Llanos by clicking on the play button at the top of this post.

Pink river dolphin, Los Llanos, Venezuela

Los Llanos, a region famous for its abundant Anacondas – one of the reasons for its many appearances on the Discovery Channel & other nature documentaries – is one of the best areas in the world to get up close to Cayman, Anacondas, Capybara, Pink River Dolphins , Piranha fish & many hundreds of species of birds.

We picked a 3 night, 4 day tour from Merida (details below), and had an amazing time. The first day of the tour was spent driving through the Venezuelan Andes with several stop offs in small mountain towns, hot springs & national parks. With heights of up to 5000 metres, the Venezuelan Andes are proper mountains, and we experienced some truly breathtaking views of the mountains and glaciers.

The first night was spent scoffing our faces in Arassari Trek’s purpose-built camp, from where we did the tubing the next morning. It was all very tranquil and relaxing until I came close to knocking myself out playing ‘silly buggers’ whilst going down a set of rapids head first.

On the second day we made our way to San Vicente, a small riverside town in Los Llanos. We packed up the boat, and headed up river and into the Los Llanos waterways. The second night was spent in hammocks at a camp beside the river, and it was from here that we headed out by night and found Cayman and Anacondas. We were also lucky enough to have several carnivorous Piranhas jumping into the boat with us, which in the dark was somewhat disconcerting.

On the third day, the morning was spent cruising the Los Llanos waterways, spotting pink river dolphin and more Anacondas, and in the afternoon we went on a ‘safari’ through the partially flooded fields, spotting the vast array of birdlife, and Cayman (small alligators).

On the fourth and last day we got up ridiculously early in an attempt to spot giant ant-eaters. Although we unfortunately didn’t manage to find any, we did spot some Capybara, which resemble giant Guinea Pigs. We rounded off our time in Los Llanos with a spot of Piranha fishing, before the tour began the long trip back to Merida at lunch time, and I jumped off in the middle of nowhere (Mantecal) to head further into the middle of nowhere (San Fernando de Apure – Puerto Ayacucho).

Tour details

We picked the highly recommended Arassari Trek for our tour. Arassari Trek has camps in areas away from the majority of other tour companies in Merida. Our English-speaking tour guide was Alan Highton, a vastly experienced wildlife guide and photographer, and one of the pioneers of wildlife tours of Los Llanos. We would recommend him unreservedly for his knowledge and passion on the area, plus his fearless handling of Piranha, Cayman and Anacondas!

Our 3 night, 4 day tour cost $160 – which included all meals, accommodation, and transport for the duration of the tour.

Links

More photos of Los Llanos, Venezuela
Arassari Trek
Alan’s Photos on Flickr