Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Learning to ski in Leitariegos, Leon

So after a year where I have picked every expensive hobby I could imagine, I am finishing off my year away by learning to ski.
A no better time to head to the mountains that when we are going through a wave of Siberian weather. Why do we do this? A recurrent question this year, but could not help to wonder while I was waiting for the Maria and Pablo in the street and it was -6 degrees.
On our way to the ski resort we went down a valley that was at -17 degrees!!!
As always I have struggled with this skiing thing, I am so clumpsy, but I am hoping that next weekend we will go again, and I will take another lesson and I should improve a bit.
One thing that drives me absolutely potty is to see the 4 year olds skiing better than me...then again anyone does it better than me!!!
Anyway, at least I will be topping up my tan doing this

Monday, 21 December 2009

Betanzos and its Old Town

As my friend Maria rightly says, this could easily compete with any of the churches that are shown in The Da Vinci Code. I am now back in Europe.
As I landed all Europe has been hit by cold weather, my intention initially was to declare myself as an illegal inmigrant, hoping I would get a free flight back to Colombia...but I decided that all good things must come to an end. Also, I really could not find any excuses to give my parents not to spend Xmas with them.
So now I am back in Galicia and have gone to a town called Betanzos to see close friends that live there.
One of my favourite churches on the whole trip, at night or during the day, has been there for hundreds of year, and still stunning
I am not really sure why do they have Diana, the Greek God, in the middle of Betanzos, but hey ho, who am I to comment on that
Sometimes during this year I have realized that we go very long distances, we travel the world to vist new places, and sometimes we forget the beautiful places that we have near by. I have trekked in the Himalayas, but have never gone to the Pyrenees. I may have visited lots of colonial towns in Central and South America, such as Antigua, but I have never been to some of the most beautiful old towns in Spain, such as Burgos.
Little cobbled street, just beautiful
Betanzos has a Roman bridge, Romanesce churches that can easily match the French ones, and a beautiful old town to visit, yet I had never appreciated how beautiful this town is.
The perfect place to have a wee coffee
It is funny that this trip has made me see this, I lived 10 km away from it for 16 year, and only now I have come to realized.
I guess it is also the fact that I now love taking pictures, and I seem to be looking at things differently.
My friend Pablo has lent me his camera, after mine was stolen, so I have been walking around and looking for those pics. Sadly, and Pablo does agree with me on this, Betanzos is beautiful, but a complete bi*ch to photograph. He has explained something about light, narrow streets, etc...
It also shows some of what in Galicia is called Feismo, Uglysm...a complete disrespect for town planning...and there are plenty of buildings that are just falling apart...

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Art of Bus Travelling in South America

Is this really a bus, or some 70's SF toy?
Travelling by bus in South America seems to be a lot harder than it has been anywhere, probably excluding the mad bus runs in Nepal.
It is very different than in Central America, as here there is no set prices, and you need to huggle the price down. On top of that, every bus tells you they are about to leave. A couple of times I made the mistake of paying in advance...and had to argue for a while to get my cash back as the bus, an hour later was still not going anywhere, and others were leaving.
But nothing beats yesterday, it will be one of those bus journeys to remember.
Having crossed from Ecuador back to Colombia I was trying to get half way through the South of Colombia, an 8 hour bus journey.
I was not too surprised when we got stopped by the police, and asked to come down. We were thoroughly searched, though I did wonder what could I hide under a pair shorts and a vest. While all of this is going on 4 young indigenous women try to make a run. Clearly, the poor women, and baby, were illegals trying to get into Colombia.
I was feeling really sorry for them, though I must the police handeling them politely, when I get called by another policeman back into the bus.
I was absolutely shocked to find the policeman pointing at a suspicious package that had been left on my seat.
But this time I was probably shaking so badly which probably made me look guilty.
I did manage to explain to the police that the girls had been seating next to me, that they had not come down with all of us. Anyway, I also brought to his attention that it was a woman's top...how dare him to think I would wear something on that level of green?
After a long while the bus is allowed to carry on leaving behind the women, the baby and the package.
I am minding my own business when a poor senile old man starts puking over himself, first a dribble that ends up on projectile vomit over the two passengers in front of him.
By this time I decide I have had enough of buses, and my last 9 hours bus to Bogota have been replaced by an hour flight....
Tomorrow I will be flying back to Europe, no more buses falling apart, policemen touching me up, or strange packages left on my seat.....God I am going to miss it all!!!!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Quito, the Old Town and its Dangers

I have been in Quito for a few days now.
The Old Town has been declared a World Heritage Site, and rightly so. It is a beautiful part of the city with some great squares and some great churches.
Sadly it is also a place filled with pickpocketers and petty thieves.
While I was in a bus with my friend Eva my camera was taking from my pocket.
To be honest I should have not been so careless, I should have taken my rucksack.
There is not much I can do now about it, but replace it once I get back to the UK, and try to get the insurance to pay for it.
Sadly it has put a sour note on my visit to this town.
La Compania Church

Of all the churches that we visit one really caught our attention, La Compania, is an extravangaza of gold leaf, decorations...it almost looks like big camp Christmas decoration, it is like what a gay club would look if it was a church.
Quito is currently celebrating 200 years of the call for Independence, big band playing in the Main Sqaure

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sanctuary of Lajas

Sanctuary of Lajas
I have just visited the Sanctuary of Lajas, near the border of Colombia and Ecuador.
The santuary is the fourth that stands were the Virgin appeared to an Indian and her little daughter, and she is meant to be very powerful.
Legends says that the mute little Indian girl spoke for the first time and said ¨ La Mestiza me ha hablado mami¨ that could be translated as ¨ Mum, the mixed raced one has spoken to me¨
The place has a Harry Potter look to it, the neogothic church has been built in an amazing gorge, surrounded by mountains with a river running underneath.
Legend says that the main image of the Virgin was not painted, it just appeared in the 18th century and has maintained its colour despite the elements, it was in the open for a while, and the candles constantly burning.
Along the path are plaques from people thanking the Virgin for numerous miracles.
You can´t help but feel a sense of awe, and to be touched by the devotion of these people.

My experience was a bit strange, as I walked away from the church to get a better view, I came across a snake. To be honest I looked at it, and for once, I only saw a rope. Normally I see snakes when they are only ropes. However, when it lifted its head and moved, my heart skipped a beat....was I trying to be good and say a prayer, and the serpent showed itself to me?

I am now in Ecuador, the last country I will visit before heading back to Europe