Leticia-Tabatinga Border: Crossing from Colombia into Brazil

bogota-to-manaus

Regional flights in South America are ridiculously expensive.

Especially when compared to South East Asia, where I come from.

Thus, I had to look for an alternative way to get from Colombia to the north of Brazil, where I intend to cross the border into Venezuela.

Thankfully, I found out that Colombia and Brazil are connected by 2 neighbouring towns located in the Amazonas: Leticia and Tabatinga.

The cheaper alternative to get from Colombia to Brazil (and vice versa) is to take a domestic flight, cross the border, then fly (or cruise/ride) in Brazil. Here is a quick guide.

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Ciudad Perdida: Finding Colombia’s Lost City

lost city colombia

In my grand trip around South America, I planned to take a photo at an iconic location in every country.

Think Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil etc.

But when it came to Colombia, I couldn’t think of a single iconic location. Colombia is more known for its heart-warming people and,
tragically, drug-fuelled past, but these are not tangible monuments or places I could take a photo in.

That is, until I heard of Ciudad Perdida – the Lost City.

I saw photos of the low ring terraces atop a bright green hill and I knew instantly that would be my icon for Colombia.

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101 Things to Do In and Around Cusco: The Ultimate City Guide

things to do in cusco

When you travel long term, one question you get asked a lot is: “What is your favourite city?”

For 6 months, I never had an answer because there are so many cities worth visiting in South America.

That is, until I came to Cusco – and stayed for more than 5 weeks.

Many people will say it’s the most touristic place ever (it’s true) and shun it, but that is one of the reasons I love it there.

Touristic cities are brighter, more colourful, and usually safer. These may not seem like attractive enough reasons for you, but after being on a continent with very similar history and architecture long enough, you’ll appreciate these subtleties.

Touristic cities also have more things to do. Here are a few.

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Cocora Valley Hike: Trees Taller Than Tall

salento-cocora-valley

“I can’t fit the whole thing in!”

“You’ll figure it out. Go back further!”

That’s just one of the common exclamations I heard at the Cocora Valley, home to the 60m tall wax palm trees
.
Those guys were trying to take a photo of the national trees of Colombia and couldn’t fit them into their camera screen. Thank God for the widescreen on my Gopro.

Hundreds of giant, slender wax palm trees fill the Valle de Cocora and it’s truly a sight to behold.

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Cotopaxi Day Trip: Hiking and Cycling An Active Volcano

cotopaxi-climb

I sat at the tour office for a long time, contemplating with the staff if I should do the summit climb of the Cotopaxi volcano.

It wasn’t the physical challenge that deterred me.

Nor the altitude – Cotopaxi is the 2nd highest summit in Ecuador at 5897m.

See, Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcano and it erupted 2 years ago, after being dormant since 1942.

Even though the summit received the green light and reopened last month (after being closed for 2 years), there were still reports of sulphur emission.

I can be defeated by the toughness but not by a gas. I decided to do the day trip to the glacier line instead.

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Getting Lost With Witches & Locals at the Quilotoa Loop

quilotoa-lake

The dog barked at me.

I ignored it and continued walking.

The owner of the wooden shack came out and asked, “You understand Spanish?”

He then proceeded to tell me that I was on the wrong path. He advised me to turn back and take a small path on the right down the hill.

I walked back for almost 7 min and met at least 4 other trekkers going where I headed. This was a common occurrence on the 3-days Quilotoa Loop trek: missing the actual path and getting rescued by friendly locals.

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Gocta & Kuelap: Why You Should Visit Chachapoyas

kuelap-ruin

My tour guide Jeffery turned to me and said, “I’m gonna first explain in Spanish to the group, and then in English to you.”

“Because you’re the only non-Spanish speaker.”

I was on my way to the Kuelap ruins but that statement pretty much sums up my journey in Northern Peru – a part that is still off the typical tourist circuit.

Most visitors to Peru stay primarily in the south: around Cusco for Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, to Puno for Lake Titicaca, and to Arequipa for the Colca Canyon. They might include the Nazca Lines on their way to Lima.

It is a pity because the North of Peru has so many ‘hidden gems’ like the waterfalls and Lama castle in Tarapoto and the Kuelap ruins and Gocta Falls near Chachapoyas.

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Tarapoto: Of Waterfalls and Medieval Castles

lamas-castle

“Hi, can you take a photo?”

The Peruvian girl in her teens asked in Spanish.

“Sure,” I replied.

I stretched out my hands, ready to receive her camera but she stood next to me.

“Oh,” I realized then that she wanted to take a photo with me.

Her friends took turn to stand beside me, posing for photos.

I felt like a Korean superstar at that moment with my legion of giggling teenage fangirls surrounding me. I looked around – I was the only Asian there. Scratch that, I could be the only non-Peruvian there at the Ahuashiyacu Waterfall.

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Nevado Mateo: My First Alpine Mountaineering Experience

ice axe

I held on firmly onto the ice axe on one hand and stretched the other to pick up the metal hook my guide dropped.

Firmly wasn’t firm enough when you’re tired.

The ice axe slipped.

So did I.

It was one of those dramatic movie moments when I slid down the ice wall, panicking and fumbling. For a few meters, all I could think was: Fuck, fuck, fuck!

In an instant, I managed to lock the ice axe right into the ice wall and stopped the fall. It’s what they call self-arrest, I believe.

Phew. That was the most intense thing I’ve experienced.

This was my first mountaineering experience and it was up the 5150m Nevado Mateo in the Andean mountain ranges of Peru.

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