Ceviche, Lima, Perú, April 20, 2018

I am staying in the Miraflores neighborhood in Lima. While things are well organized and fancy, it was hard to find a restaurant specializing in Ceviche(cevicheria) with a local vibe and more generous portions.

When I found myself in a less fancy neighborhood while installing a security film on the windshield, I took a break and visited a nearby Cevicheria. This was my second day of trying to have ceviche everyday in Peru.

You can choose the spiciness of the ceviche itself, but the accompanying red salsa (haven’t figured out what that is yet) is quite spicy. The other plate is fried corn. (Ceviche mixto, 20 soles)

@ Cevicheria El Tiburon, Lima, Peru, April 20, 2018

unnamed valley, Ecuador, April 13, 2018

I do not know the name of this valley. I don’t even know whether it has a name. I just stopped to pee while headed for Cuenca from Riobamba, Ecuador.The drive was not easy – not only because it was curvy and hilly, but because it was so scenic that I wanted to pull over twice an hour. “You are a lucky country, Ecuador,” I repeated in my head.

Overlanding can be tiring because you are driving 100% of the distance, but having to experience the entire route can be satisfying, and being able to stop anytime and appreciate an unnamed scenery is special.

@no exact location but close to Llagos, Ecuador, April 13, 2018

Emotional sauna, Quito, Ecuador, April 6, 2018

Today is my 4th day in Quito, but I haven’t explored the city much, well, at least in the touristy sense. The day I crossed the 4,000 meter-high mountain range to arrive in Quito, I saw my car struggling to go uphill – the speed was comparable to the human walking speed. Although I knew that there were only about 60% of oxygen at that altitude compared to the sea level, I thought something was definitely not correct. So I meant to thoroughly review the exhaust gas recirculation in Quito before heading for Peru, where the altitude goes up to 4,700 meters.

For some reason, reviewing the exhaust system was not a common practice in Quito – it took me 3 days to find a repair shop where they were willing to review the system. In the meantime, I was looking to buy a gas pressure gauge so that I can just check the exhaust pressure myself; however, all car part stores (I’ve contacted 9) said they didn’t have any type of gas pressure gauge. It was surprising because I believe it’s one of the basic tools.

After days of calling and visiting numerous shops, I realized that I was exhausted and slightly frustrated. Then my friend Gabriel offered to show me around the city after his work hours. He’s my old colleague in D.C. and he has been hosting me in Quito. I know that there’s not too much time left just to rest and relax after a day’s work, so I appreciate his kindness. Every once in a while, I meet hosts/friends with natural hospitality, whose energy wraps around my body and gives a sweet emotional sauna!

On another note, spending days in a city while fixing a car has not been particularly less enjoyable experiences. Sure, I get to sightsee less, but I talk with many local people who do businesses, either in person or on the phone. And I get to visit neighborhoods where the people just work hard and live and there’s usually no hint of foreigners.

*3rd photo – Ecuadorian ceviche. Seafood is cooked and then mixed with sauce, instead of being fermented as raw

*4th photo – Basilica del Voto Nacional

*5th photo – Plaza Grande

Cerro Morro, Popayán, Colombia,  march 31, 2018

 

I knew I was going to get to Popayan one day, because it is on the road to Ecuador. Over the past weeks though, my interest level went up, after hearing about what it was like to grow up in the town from my new Colombian friend in Medellin. Also, I read that Popayan is one of the most underestimated towns in Colombia where tourism is expected to grow.

The colonial-era style city planning and architecture definitely had its charm – it reminded me of Antigua, Nicaragua a little bit. And the numerous buildings painted white probably gave the city a catchy nickname, white city or ciudad blanca.

The city is also known for its gastronomy – about a decade ago, the UNESCO named it the Gastronomy Capital. Unlucky for me, restaurants were all closed when I was there, being a Sunday. So I had to go to a Chinese instead, which was pretty good actually.

According to my friend, the rumor has it that the hill (4th picture) is artificial – many years ago, the oppressed indigenous people hid lots of treasure at the bottom of the hill. I was slightly tempted.

The last picture of the couple was taken at the top of the Cerro Morra. They gave me the permission but they looked both pleased and annoyed after checking out themselves.

@Cerro Morro, Popayán, Colombia, March 31, 2018

Small reminders, San Agustin, Colombia, April 2nd, 2018

You upload the highlight of your day on your SNS, and travelers do the same. In fact, travelers are constantly presented with beautiful and exciting scenes, and this makes it even less likely to get to know about their ‘housekeeping’ efforts to do make the traveling going day after day.

In south of Colombia, the closest and the most frequented border is in Ipiales. Having heard about long delays of up to 10 hours due to Venezuelan refugees there, I finally decided to go to a different border in La Hormiga. This was not an easy decision, since the consequence of the change was 5 additional hours of driving in mountains where the roads are not paved!

For the last couple days, I felt like a traveling machine – driving 7+ hours a day and making sure to rest well at night so that I can repeat it the next day. While on the road, lots of thoughts occupy my brain:
-At this speed, will I be able to make it to my friends in Quito and Lima without delay?
-Does the hostal for tonight have a safe parking space?
-What if the car fails now? There’s no cell signal and it’s one hour before getting dark. … The list goes on.

In the midst of all these, sometimes I get to ‘see’ outside and realize where I am. I realize that I am surrounded by beautiful nature which I had not been listening to for hours; I realize how amazing it is to be the sole owner of my time right here right now. The video is just a small piece of the many reminders I had that day.

@San Agustin, Colombia, April 2nd, 2018

Salsa-singing woman, Centro, Bogotá, Colombia, March 26, 2018

It was an ordinary Monday in the Centro in Bogotá, Colombia. The sound of a salsa song was getting louder in the direction I was walking. With curiosity, I was expecting a local live band but it turned out to be a street-karaoke while the singer was promoting her albums!

I could not help but think of Celia Cruz. The street singer was the closest person alive to Celia Cruz at that moment. Another small observation was the reaction of people next to her; they looked like no big deal was happening. Farther away around the corner, was there actually another singer. She was singing a different type of music but both of them were taking turns in a friendly manner.

As a Salsa aficionado, Colombia’s Salsa scene has been interesting to observe the past three weeks. I do not plan to treat this subject too much here, but briefly speaking, I think the country is a king of romantic salsa music – not too much of Salsa Romántica, but literally romantic salsa music with pretty melodies and lyrics.

@Centro, Bogotá, Colombia, March 26, 2018

Pueblito Paisa, Medellín, Colombia, March 20, 2018

Pueblito Paisa is a small mock village which provides a peek into a typical Antioquia town. Itself is a small and cute village but the outlook nearby offers a clear view of Medellin.

It is funny – there is nothing special about having a bird’s eye view of a city because they tend to end up looking similar, but having done so makes me feel I know the place better.

Medellin is surrounded by mountains and it had been cloudy or rainy the whole week when I was there. After I got a picture of myself, a shower started so I had to run and catch an uber!

@Pueblito Paisa, Medellín, Colombia, March 20, 2018

Works of Botero, parque Botero, Medellin, Colombia, march 19, 2018

I’ve stayed in Medellín for two weeks. It has not been common to stay at one place for as long as two weeks. This time I wanted to finish the whole car repair, relax emotionally after the car accident (I’ll post separately on this), and revisit salsa socials and personal practice routines and enjoy the city’s ‘eternal spring’ weather.

Although I didn’t do much sightseeing, time flew. But one thing I did not want to miss before leaving the city was the works of Fernando Botero. I remember having seen pictures of his sculptures in high school, which convinced me to check it out.

I was curious to find out where his unique style originated from. The Museum of Antioquia wrote, “he does not paint fat people. He explores volume and sensuality of form”. Upon a closer look, it becomes clearer that the people are not fat, however, the sensuality of form still remains elusive to me.

The Botero Square (picture 1), as a public open space, was a fun place to be. It was nice seeing friends and families spending an afternoon while taking pictures with funny poses. I related with one sculpture named “thoughts” or “pensamientos” (picture 3) – it seemed to reflect myself when I think a lot. The mural (picture 4) is what I found when I visited the Square the second time. And the final one is from the “Botero mirror” at the Antioquia Museum, which wasn’t too cruel!

@parque Botero, Medellin, Colombia, march 19, 2018

De uniforme y de civil, museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia, marcha 19, 2018

“De uniformes y de civil”

On the ground floor of the Antioquia museum, there was an exhibition on giving back personalities to some of the members of armed groups in Colombia. Notice the powerful contrast. I remember seeing similar looking people in the right column from streets in Colombia.

@museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia, marcha 19, 2018

Bandeja paisa, Medellin, Colombia, March 17, 2018

Bandeja Paisa is one of the most typical dishes in the Paisa region in Antioquia, Colombia.

As a friend once said, it’s basically three portions in one dish. If you know me, you know that I’m easy to please taste-wise, but not so much amount-wise.

I don’t know whether the one I got was a modern-interpretation, but it was not as big as I had imagined. Still, it was heavy and cost-effective. The long, dark yellow one on the top is fried plantain. Others include fried potato, grilled pork, salted white rice, a quarter avocado, red beans and their juice. 15,000 pesos (5.25 USD)

@Restaurante Jhojan, Medellin, Colombia, March 17, 2018