South America: Free like an eagle!

I'm finally free. After two months and sixteen days, I'm leaving Camp Towanda. It's been a great summer and it's gone very quickly. It seems to me like I arrived a week ago. But there is no time to keep looking back, the big South American adventure is ahead.

Packing is usually a very annoying activity and many people take too long until they finish it. I don't understand it. It's just about taking your stuff and putting it in your luggage, especially when you are coming back from somewhere and have just a limited number of things. I was collecting all special stuff I need for the trip for two weeks, so it was really about: This goes to the backpack and that goes to the suitcase that is going to stay in New York. I was finished in one hour.

The list of things I'm taking to South America can't be too long. I'm going to have just a bigger backpack and a small packpack for one-day trips. I took one pair of shorts, and three old T-shirts. I was not going to take any shirt and jeans, but I took them in the end because I read that people in South America dressed really nicely and wearing just a T-shirt and shorts could be considered strange. So I'm going to have one pair of jeans and one shirt, hoping I will fit in better. I take three kinds of footware – hiking boots, Keen sandals, and flip flops. I don't know what to expect regarding temperatures in mountains. It's closed to the equatorial line, but average altitude is over 3000 m. I guess temperatures will drop down to zero in nights and in bad weather, so I took a woolen sweater, and special warm underwear. I bought a Swiss Army knife especially for this trip, a first aid kit might be (I hope not) useful, too. I've read a lot of advice about safety and thefts and I must say it's the thing I worry about the most. Some things sound really hard core. That's why I bought a money belt in which I will keep money and my passport that I will watch more carefully than anything else. Losing a passport would mean no way to get back to the States, buying a new flight ticket directly to Europe, and getting my suitcase somehow from New York to home.

One example of safety advice:

One common scam involves a thief impersonating bus staff (this can be easy because those of many companies don't have uniforms) who will direct you to a seat and finding some excuse to ask you to put your bag in the overhead compartment or directly under your own seat where you can't see it; an accomplice seated directly behind you will then slash open your bag and steal the belongings. Having the bag between your legs is not safe either as children are commonly used to climb down under the seat (from behind you), slash the bag, and remove belongings without you ever feeling a thing. Always have your bag on your lap.

BTW I've already planned my first steps after Quito. I'm going to go to Latacunga which is a city near Cotopaxi NP. There are several trips offered. Climbing Cotopaxi is $170 which is not much. But 5800 m is too much after four-day acclimatization. So I will probably pick a hike on the north face of Cotopaxi which goes up to 4800 m. That's altitude I may handle.
The next blogpost will hopefully be from Quito, Ecuador.

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