lunes, 22 de octubre de 2012

New Year, New Start

New Year's Eve 2009, I was in a small Ecuadorian town while doing a stint of volunteering.  It was a purely local affair, being in the country, apart from the six foreign girls.  The locals there have a tradition of making these life size dolls, stuffing them with old clothes.  Normally one doll is made per household.  The dolls represent the old year and are ceremoniously burnt, stacked in a pile at midnight.  Don José, the owner of the local store, pours more petrol over the pile of burning dolls.

sábado, 13 de octubre de 2012

Casa De Los Lagartos

I was staying in the rural town of Remedios, Cuba, on my way to los cayos - the small islands with paradise-like beaches.  In Remedios it really did feel like maybe you had just stepped back in time... the place has a dusty feel to it.  There was no internet in the town, it was only accessible by taxi, colectivo or the local overfull 'buses', which were more commonly old trucks, and people just seemed to hang around or go casually about their business.

In Cuba there are no hostels: there are hotels and then there are casas particulares - family homes in which (normally one or two) rooms are rented.  They are cheaper, and much cooler than hotels, and you never know exactly what you are going to find in one.  This one in Remedios was probably my favourite, having little distinction between the inside and the outside.

The lounge room/dining room, while completely enclosed at the front and sides, at the back opened to a courtyard (filled with a garden, palm trees and a fountain) that lead down to the owners rooms, the kitchen and the guest rooms.  This photo was taken through my bedroom's window - no glass, just bars, the lizard climbing in.  In the background, on the back wall you can see the brightly coloured male.  The courtyard had a number of these fellas wandering around, but they were normally too quick to catch.

martes, 9 de octubre de 2012

River Shanty

The Belén is a district of the Amazonian city Iquítos, Peru; the city being accessible only by boat or plane.  There, everything is built to float.  I visited in the southern hemisphere summer, when the rivers were low.  When the waters run high, the banks extend a few hundred metres up to a market.  The market was undoubtably the worst smelling place I have ever been, which gave me very little confidence to try the food.  But it was strangely fascinating, chickens were cut open in strange ways and left so that you could see eggs forming inside of them.  All kinds of meat were available: fish (also cut strangely), caiman, turtles and some that I either didn't know or couldn't recognise.  My favourite was the natural therapies/magic section .

When the river levels are up, everything is afloat, even the market, all of the Belén is on the river, and the only way to get around for the shanty town's thousands of occupants is in boats.

sábado, 6 de octubre de 2012

Cactus View

Earlier in the year I was visiting the sleepy and colourful city of Guanajuato with a group of fellow exchange students.  I had never travelled with a group before, I mean, I had done a couple of roadtrips with friends, but that doesn't really count.  So, I learnt the hard (the only) way: group travel is not for me.  Two of the girls (Dutch and identical twins) were always rushing everyone along when we paused to look at something, but would then stop in every shoe store we came across... a bit frustrating, along with any attempt at making group decisions...  The worst one had to be when we had just stepped out onto the street after getting our accomodation and everyone started taking pictures of this same view, without realising that a funeral procession was passing in front of them...

Having said that, Guanajuato was a really pretty city: the brightly coloured, old buildings, the underground network of tunnels that disorientates when you see sunlight coming through a hole in the roof, where the stairs lead down to the tunnels, and of course the mummies were the obvious attraction.  The whole centre gives of a calm vibe.

The photo itself was taken on the walk up to a look-out.  To me it summarises the Mexican landscape (and the sterotypes) quite neatly: a cactus in front of a town filled with brightly coloured buildings while dusty hills stand in the background, under the blanket of a bright blue, cloudless sky.

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

Sleep Walking The Streets

After having been kindly woken up from having fallen asleep, hugging my backpack on the bus, I was told that I had arrived in Baños, Ecuador.  I hadn't been keen on arriving so late (midnight), but the only other bus that ran that journey would get in a couple hours later still.  Already I had decided where I was going to stay that night, after consulting my guidebook, and a man had also given me directions at the bus station, which seemed easy enough to follow: five blocks straight, two blocks left.  

So, I set off from the bus station, which was really no distance at all from the centre of town, lugging my large backpack and the smaller one on front.  It only took a few minutes for me to realise that I was probably not on path at all, it was hard to count the blocks when all the roads were running at funny angles and their length was really variable.  The streets were deserted; it was eerily quiet. I pulled my guidebook out of the bag hanging on my chest, flicking through to find the town map.  Having worked out where I needed to go, I continued on.  It started to spit lightly.  A car drove past.  I checked the map again.  A drunken shout sounded from a bar.  I turned the corner and stumpled upon this.
I've always been a fan of old cars, and this one, a little worse for wear, looked pretty none-the-less against the brick wall and the old signs.  After snapping this, and checking the map again, I managed to find the hostel, which thankfully had a spare bed.  I passed back this way the next day, but someone had already driven him away.