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Since February 11, 2011 – My Journey So Far

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I need to pick up the pace 🙂

Since I started this trip in February, this is the ground I’ve so far covered. It may not seem like much to you, but if you stretch out that line that shows the path – from Colombia, where I started – It would place me somewhere in Chile. I took a sort of roundabout trek through Colombia, heading north from Bogota, then south again from Cartagena. It was always my plan to spend up to two months in Colombia because the country is so incredibly fantastic.

I spent weeks in some places I really liked. In fact, it felt like I was a resident of those places and that’s been the general idea all along: to spend a good deal of time in places where I found some connection to the people and the place. And it’s been terrific.

I have said from the start this is not a sprint. It’s more of a stroll around the world. But I am conscious that I have to keep moving forward in some timely fashion. After all, it makes sense to reach certain places at certain times and for certain events (carnaval in Barranquilla, Colombia, for instance).

On Sunday, I leave Cuenca for Peru. Peru is one of those countries I’ve always wanted to visit mainly to achieve that age-old  rite of passage: Machu Picchu!

So Cuzco here I come. Lima and your purported best food in the world, I will be there soon to sample. Peru! Wow. I can hardly wait to see this magical place – the land of the Incas.

But first another border crossing – Ecuador to Peru – and this one by all accounts is an obstacle course of con-artists, thieves, corrupt border officials, tricky taxis, and all sorts of characters waiting to ripoff travelers passing through. I’ve heard and read the horror stories. I just have to pray it all goes well. I’m dumping clothing, toiletries and other items to lessen the weight of my backpack. I have to be able to move as quickly as possible through this region fellow travelers refer to as “the kill zone”.

The tricks the crooks use at this border are similar to the ones I witnessed at  the Colombia-Ecuador border crossing – money exchangers with fixed calculators; people offering to help you fill out customs forms to get their hands on your passport; counterfeit dollars; robbers pretending to be taxis; on and on.

I managed to make my way through that minefield on the Colombia-Ecuador frontier unscathed, unlike some other travelers who crossed at the same time I did. They fell for the rigged calculator tricks and lost a lot of money during money exchanges. Information, my friends, is power, and knowing what to expect and what to do before you get to the border is crucial to avoiding becoming a victim. Also, do not be afraid to be rude. Say “NO” forcefully and ignore people calling out to you, unless they are a police officer or customs official and can prove it with an official ID. Don’t allow people to grab you in a “friendly” manner. Tell them to let go and back off. In short, trust no one. If you keep your guard up through the border you will survive to enjoy the rest of your trip.

So let the journey to my next border crossing begin. A bus awaits.

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Categories: asides, travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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