Smith Rock State Park

The Crooked River running through Smith Rock

It’s a good day to climb a rock


Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon’s High Desert near the communities of Redmond and Terrebonne. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels. Smith Rock is generally considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, and is host to cutting-edge climbing routes. The park contains the first U.S. climb rated 5.14 (8b+).

Just do it!

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an artificial 48-mile (77 km) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 metres (85 ft) above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end.

Panama City

One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.

The Panama Canal
Miraflores Locks
Boat Being Pulled Through the Canal

Made it through the Miraflores Locks

After visiting the canal, it is possible to board a boat on Gatun Lake and ride to the tropical rainforest that supports the functioning of the Panama Canal, and to Monkey Island. Why is it called Monkey Island? Yes, you guessed it, several varieties of monkeys live there, as well as sloths, toucans, sea turtles and various other local wildlife.


The American Society of Civil Engineers has called the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena de Indias

*Desto3 thanks guest poster, Lynne Shaw, for her travelogue content.

The city of Cartagena, Cartagena de Indias in Spanish, is a port located on the northern coast of Colombia, with a population of about a million. It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia. Economic activities include the maritime and petrochemicals industries, as well as tourism.

San Felipe Castle – 17th century

Cartagena is a lovely city. It is a combination of colonial elegance and tropical Caribbean fun. Historically, Cartagena was an important port for the slave trade, and the abundance of riches made it a perfect target for pirates. The British, French and Spanish forces were there to share in the booty, and the Spanish built lavish fortifications which still survive today. The old section of the city, the Ciudad Amurallada, is surrounded by perfectly preserved 12 foot walls that can be walked on and enjoy views of sandy beaches and blue ocean. The city itself has narrow, flower lined cobblestone streets and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nearby is La Boquilla, a small fishing village a few miles north of Cartagena.  Driving there, the inequality of the people is very apparent.  On the ocean side of the road are huge, high-rise luxurious condominium complexes, and on the other side of the road are mangroves filled with shanties.  The condominiums stopped just short of La Boquilla. Then suddenly, the paved roads turned to sand with low-rise shabby housing and outdoor fish restaurants in varying stages of disrepair with mismatched tables and chairs. In La Boquilla there was a band of well-known Columbian musicians who perform professionally, mostly at music festivals.  They play indigenous instruments, the most unusual being the “gait.”  If you’re curious as to what it sounds like, you can listen to them play on you tube: “El Leon Pardo.”

Street Art

For a price, tourists can ride a “chiva,” in Cartagena, a brightly painted psychedelic open air bus. Beer is included as well as listening to a very loud 3 piece traditional band sitting in the back of the bus. Everyone in Cartegena yells, waves at the chivas, and cheers the bus on, wanting to join the fun.

The Colombian Coffee Triangle

The Cloud Forest: Worlds tallest Wax Palm Trees

*Desto3 thanks guest poster, Lynne Shaw, for her travelogue content.

The Colombian coffee Region (Spanish: Eje Cafetero), also known as the Coffee Triangle, is a part of the Colombian Paisa region in the rural area of Colombia, famous for growing and production of a majority of Colombian coffee, considered by many to be the best coffee in the world. There are three departments in the area: Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda. The most visited cities are Manizales, Armenia and Pereira. Pereira is the largest town in the coffee region, a 35 minute flight from Medellin.

The stages of the coffee bean

Colombia is the third top producer in the world, after Brazil and Vietnam. There are several former coffee plantations that have been converted to haciendas for those who want to visit the region and learn about the coffee making process. One of the best is Hacienda Castilla, dating back to 1716.

The whole area is very lush and tropical, with many beautiful haciendas, well-preserved villages, and of course, great coffee. The area seems relatively untouched by tourism. The coffee region was spared the domestic conflicts of the past decades; no para-military, no guerrillas, just a few drug lords.

The final product – yum!

One can visit a real working plantation and hacienda nearby, owned by the family of Jesus Martin. Demonstrations are given there about the first few steps in processing the coffee. The separation of the beans inside the “cherry, and then the soaking and the drying of the beans. The rest of the steps are done in a small factory in a nearby town. I learned the difference between “good” and “bad” beans, and was given a pail and guided into the trees to pick only the good berries. I worked in a group of 4, and after 30 minutes, our group had picked 1.5 lbs of beans for a grand total of about $0.10 in salary. Our reward, however, was a delicious buffet lunch served under shade trees and wonderful Colombia Arabica coffee for dessert.

Visit to a local school “El Laural”

Where is “Juan Valdez,” the iconic personification of Colombian coffee, I wondered?  I was very disappointed to hear that the cowboy I remember from the early days of TV was not Colombian at all, but a Cuban actor. Lo and behold, a perfect facsimile of Juan was standing on a corner with two donkeys loaded down with coffee, waiting to have his picture taken with the tourists. It turned out that he was the perennial winner of the Juan Valdez look alike contest held each year.

Juan Valdez lookalike

Medellin, Colombia

Cable Car Public Transportation

*Desto3 thanks guest poster, Lynne Shaw, for her travelogue content.

Mention Medellin, Colombia to any relatively initiated world traveler, or any movie fan and they will tell you that Medellin’s claim to fame comes from its fifty year history as the virtually exclusive source of the world’s cocaine. Coca leaves are easy to grow compared to food crops so it became the crop of choice for many Colombian farmers when the demand rose in response to the extravagantly creative ways that the drug cartels could export cocaine out of the country. The conflict and violence surrounding the drug trade and drug cartels dominated Columbian life for five decades.

Santa Domingo Metro Station – Strata 1

Pablo Escobar is probably one of the most notorious drug lords of the 1980’s. During his reign, car bombs and kidnapping were an everyday occurrence in Medellin. A familiar pattern emerged that saw territory in the region commandeered by both the para-military and the cartels. Many people were displaced. In fact, one-fifth of the entire population of Colombia experienced some level of displacement during the height of the drug trade.

“Sex Workers” in Medellin

This just in: The FORMER cocaine capital of Medellin, Colombia has been rehabbed. The Wall Street Journal has declared it the third most innovative city in the world, next to NYC and Tel Aviv. Big T-Terrorism is now Big T-Tourism thanks to visionary social policies. Slums where police once feared to tread are now linked to innovative businesses and culture by cable cars, a metro train, and a series of escalators. The downtown is filled with skyscrapers, avant-garde architecture and art filled public parks. Big industries including banking, textile manufacturing and fashion have made Medellin home.

What made this all possible?  A recent “60 Minutes” episode traces the story of the rehabilitation of Medellin to a massive government sponsored campaign in the hands of Madison Avenue PR professionals. The ad men targeted the guerrillas, para-military and drug cartel members, many of whom had been recruited as young as 8 years old. Often referred to as “cradle assassins”, these players in the drug trade drama continued to live in the outlying areas with virtually no experience with “normal” life outside the drug wars. Madison Avenue simply posted flyers in the jungle where they continued to live featuring photos of family members and entreaties to come home. They also hung banners offering blanket pardons, saying “all would be forgiven, just come home”. Another incentive dropped thousands of soccer balls. Little by little the combatants in the drug wars were lured back to their communities. The government also instituted massive educational efforts to educate the general population on the importance of forgiveness and inclusion.

Now you can visit the “most dangerous commune, in the most dangerous city, in the most dangerous country in the world” by riding up a series of escalators. Today, this neighborhood is a popular tourist attraction. Stations at the top of each escalator provide narratives and contrasting photographs of what “it” was like in the past and what “it” looks like now. Where once it was completely dominated by para-military and guerrilla forces fighting it out, now it’s a peaceful place where art has helped to heal their troubled history. Beautiful murals painted onto the building walls tell the history of the community. Murals featuring the images of crying women, as well as symbols of love and elephants remind the people to never forget the past so it will not repeat.

El Peñón – a 650 foot monolithic rock

The countryside outside of Medellin is full of beautiful green hills with plentiful livestock and crops. The local population traditionally stop for “Onces” (from the word for 11), a time when all work stops and Colombians take a coffee break (kind of like the “fika” for Swedes). Continuing on past the verdant fields you come to a series of man made lakes formed by the damming of a river to provide a large area of rural Colombia with hydroelectric power. Boats tour one of the largest of the lakes in which islands have big gorgeous homes along the shore.  Some of the mansions belonged to the most notorious drug lords. Our boat cruised slowly by the home once owned by Pablo Escobar, now a bombed out shell. The legend, given in a narrative similar to one you might hear on a bus tour of movie star homes, describes the destruction of Pablo’s mansion by a bomb planted under his daughter, Manuela’s, bed by a rival cartel. (The family was not in the house at the time of the bombing.) A gazebo where Pablo once smoked marijuana to relax from a hard day of drug trafficking was visible from the passing boat. (Pablo was not known to be a user of his own product, but locals say he did like his ganja.)

Man-made lakes near Medellin
Pablo Escabar’s house was bombed

The colorful little town of Guatapé is located on the outskirts of Medellín situated on the reservoir created by the Colombian government for a hydro-electric dam, built in the late 1960s. This quaint town is the gathering place for “Las Vegas”, or the small farms of the area. It is also a growing area of recreation for citizens of Medellín, and aims to be a tourist destination for foreign travellers. New resorts, several restaurants, and rental homes along the lake are popping up for visitors. The unique tile work along the façade of the lower walls of each building in bright colors and dimensioned images are tied to the products sold by the shops, or the beliefs of the residents. Others are cultural images of the farming heritage of the community.

zócalos – crafted tiles decorating houses

Medellin is currently the most liberal city in Colombia and as such, it is known to be very gay-friendly.  It is also reported to be a major plastic surgery destination and home to the most body-enhanced women in the world – a result of “narco aesthetics”. They have a saying that claims, “There are no ugly women in Medellin, only cheap husbands.”

Bogota, Colombia

*Desto3 thanks guest poster, Lynne Shaw, for her travelogue content.

Colombia (Spanish spelling, a popular t-shirt reads ‘It’s Colombia, not Columbia’) is a country in the midst of a cultural renaissance with a very friendly and resilient population. Only 2% of Colombians are indigenous. Contrast that percentage with neighbors in Bolivia whose indigenous population is closer to 50% of the population. The capital city of Colombia is Bogata, home to 33 million inhabitants. Bogota enjoys rank of the third-highest elevation in South America (after Quito and Sucre), at an average of 2,640 metres (8,660 ft) above sea level.

Medical care and educational benefits are accorded to the population based on an elaborate caste system which assigns every citizen at birth to a number between one and six that corresponds to the strata that will determine both the cost and benefits for health services and schooling. Your assignment depends upon your address and a change of residence will automatically result in a change in your status. It is impolite to ask what stratum a person belongs to, however, the strata are far more apparent at the coast where the wealth inequality is the greatest.

In the heart of the old city is the Hotel d’ Opera, converted into a hotel from a beautiful old building that was once the opera house. This area called Candelabra is where government buildings dominate Simon Bolivar Square, and a pedestrian street features artists, singers, dancers, and jugglers. Not far from the hotel a cable car ascends 10K ft to a 17th century church which was once the destination for supplicants who got there on their knees. It’s currently forbidden to get there via knee so the faithful now load their shoes up with stones and walk to the top to provide adequate suffering. The peak offers a commanding view of the city, with a requisite “rue de la crappola” offering all manner of souvenirs, religious and otherwise. Lots of food stalls sell local delicacies and a popular adult beverage known as “aguardiente nectar” – roughly translated, “fire-water”.

Colombia is second only to Holland in exportation of flowers, sold also on the streets by the locals at Bogota’s flower market. The variety and colors were fantastic. Next to the flower market is the food mercado.  One can sample all the exotic fruits like pitaya (dragon fruit), soursop (guava/banana), feijoa (pineapple/guava), mangosteen and lulo (no translation). Also sold are yucca (manioc) bread, avena (Colombian oatmeal), and delicious lechone (pork, cut from the whole roasted pig, and mixed with rice). Very close by there is a “red light district” where the women stand on the sidewalks wearing very little.  Seems prostitution is “legal” in that there is no one to police it.

One of the most popular games in Columbia is called Teja, typically played in a huge back room of small restaurants where men drink beer while playing the game. It is very rare to see women there (the unrinals are open and in the middle of the room…a clue). The game is played by throwing a very heavy disk (kind of like the game of horseshoes) at a small circle surrounded by small packets of gun powder.  The idea is to get the disk in the middle for the most points, or, for less points, hit a packet of gunpowder to make a deafening loud gunshot sound. Heavy objects thrown around by drunk people in the vicinity of small quantities of gun powder: what could be more fun?

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca from Isla del Sol

(text is adapted from the travel journal of Lynn Shaw)

Bolivia is one hell of a country to get around in, what with the mountains, rugged terrain, and crappy roads. The 148 km (92 mile) trip from La Paz to Copacabana, on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca, takes well over four and a half hours.

En route to Copacabana one can visit indigenous people whose ancestors have lived around Lake Titicaca for millennia. They are known for their use of balsas, traditional boats handcrafted from totoro, the marsh reeds that grow in the shallow water around the shore. These crafts are used for fishing and are sometimes affixed with sails, also made from reeds. They are the same design as the Kon Tiki and Ra II, Thor Heyerdahl’s boats, when he tried to replicate the voyage from Peru to French Polynesia. In fact, the father of the man who gave a demonstration on how the reeds were woven to construct the boats had met with Thor Heyerdahl when he visited Lake Titicaca. There were many pictures on the walls documenting this meeting.

Balsa – a traditional fishing boat woven from marsh reeds (totoro)

Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America. It is often called the “highest navigable lake” in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft).

Ferry Crossing en route to Lake Titicaca

Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The town is known for its famous Basilica, home of the Virgin of Copacabana, its trout, and its quaint atmosphere. Built between Mount Calvario and Mount Niño Calvario, the town has approximately 6,000 inhabitants. Boats leave for Isla del Sol from Copacabana, where one can experience the sacred Inca island from Copacabana.

Copacabana from a boat on Lake Titicaca
The Basilica, home of the Virgin of Copacabana

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) is an island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca.  Just a short boat ride from Copacabana, one can take beautiful hikes on the island and visit the local villages. After hiking, one can dine at a local restaurant that definitely is farm to table cuisine.   Local meals include fava beans, jumbo kernel corn, white, black, and dehydrated potatoes. There are as many as 1000 varieties of potatoes, and of course, the delicious pink trout the Lake Titicaca is famous for.

Village on the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)

Geographically, the terrain is harsh; it is a rocky, hilly island with many eucalyptus trees. There are no motor vehicles or paved roads on the island. According to Andean legend, a pair of gods rose from the waters to found the Inca empire and the Indian people who live in small settlements around the lake believe that the Island of the Sun is the site of this mythic moment of creation. The island is currently home to indigenous families who farm the ancient agricultural terraces.

Hotel Rosario, a boutique hotel in Copacabana on the shore of Lake Titicaca is gorgeous, every room in different Andean design, a great view of the Lake, and delicious fresh pink salmon/trout for dinner. After dinner one can stroll around the beautiful town. When the local residents celebrate Carnivale, everyone decorates their minivans with flowers, balloons and streamers, and conduct ceremonies in the town square. The whole town smells of alcohol, Chicha to be exact, the corn home brewed beer. Obviously, drinking plays a big part of the ceremony of blessing the car, and why shouldn’t it?

View of Lake Titicaca from Hotel Rosario
Carnevale in Copacabana

La Paz, Bolivia

(Adapted from the travel journals of Lynn Shaw)

The acquisition of Diamox, a drug that fends off the symptoms of high altitude sickness, is a must if you are going to La Paz, Bolivia. If you forget to bring some, every pharmacy and drug store in La Paz can sell you some without an Rx and for a fraction of the price you paid in the states. Otherwise, the ubiquitous “mate de coca” is reputed to be a natural tea substance that will likewise ease the pain of being 12,000 feet above sea level quickly.

Mate de Coca

Perched at that altitude, the city of La Paz sits in the Andes mountain range like a densely populated bowl of 1.3 million inhabitants. The city center is in the bottom of the bowl. The upward slopes can be accessed by a relatively modern system of cable cars called “telepheriques”. Generally, the higher up you go, the more ramshackle the construction of the buildings will be. At the very top, is the rugged landscape of the Altiplano, a vast flat area with very poor infrastructure and incomplete buildings. The country-side residents of the Altiplano abandon their homes to go down to work in the city center, but when they secure enough funds, they return to them to add on to the ongoing construction project that is their home.

Half of the 11 million people in Bolivia are indigenous Aymara, descendants of the Incas. Most are itinerant street vendors in the markets hawking the usual market fare of fresh produce and other farm products. A kind of specialty market called the witch’s market sells plants, potions and talismans used in ancient Aymara “currandero” (healing) rituals. If you’re not in the market for a little healing, for an exchange of good old fashioned currency a “yatiri” or witch doctor can give you a little fortune reading. If that’s not your thing, many of the stalls in the witch’s market also sell the fetuses of llamas, (claimed by the vendors to be the products of naturally spontaneous abortions) for “good luck” charms that you bury under your house. Because nothing says “good luck” like a decomposing baby llama under your house.

Llama fetuses – a product of “natural abortions”

Take a gander at the local traditional garb. A feast for the eyes and also, an unsolved enigma: how do they keep those little hats from rolling right off their heads and down the street? Top secret. Don’t ask. Cause, they won’t tell. And, be quick if you take a photo because the populace is pretty shy and also pretty sure that what you’re really up to is the theft of their soul with that thing.

Local Flower Market

If you happen to get to La Paz during Carnivale you are in for a treat. EVERYBODY, especially the teen-agers, practice the “age-old custom” of spraying everyone in their vicinity with shaving cream. This is great fun. No. But, on the upside, you can purchase a plastic poncho  on just about every street in town. But, also, those same clever vendors are selling the shave cream. A racket for sure, but strangely fun to partake in. Desto3 advice: when in La Paz, do as the Bolivians do.



Welcome to Desto3’s new series, ADVENTURES IN PORTLANDIA. Or, as we like to think of it, A YEAR OF LIVING WEIRD. (For those who do not know…the city’s motto is “Keep Portland Weird”.)

Portland, Oregon is the 26th largest U.S. city in terms of human population (a little over 630,000 residents) but it is #8 in terms of popularity as judged by the numbers of people choosing to move there. (If you trust the people at the PEW Research joint.) Portland’s growing popularity and its growing population is a very hot, hot, hot topic among Portlanders. Many are not exactly thrilled with the changes to the city that such quick growth brings. Many say the TV series, Portlandia is to blame for the population boom, making the city look just too, too cool to resist. Historically speaking, that is just hogwash.

Portland’s population, dating back well into the mid-nineteenth century has experienced many cycles of manic growth. (One such spurt saw the population of the city triple between 1900 and 1930 and in that time the city’s deserved reputation as an edgy and cool place got well established. It’s cool still.

During prohibition especially, Portland was a wild and lawless town. You can still visit underground tunnels and secret chambers in many of the old buildings in Portland that functioned as speakeasies and passageways for the patrons to arrive and depart without detection. If you take a walking tour or a bike tour of Portlandia your guide will proudly point out the many buildings that served up sex for money to the locals and the itinerant port of call workers back when and they will also assert that Portland’s sex trade business is reputed to be ever booming to this very day. Another quirky distinction of the city, oft cited by proud citizens, is the vast number of strip joints in Portland. (More per capita than any other city in America.) We have not researched these claims and part of me (the part that’s been to Vegas) thinks this is impossible, but if true, it’s not the in your face kind of industry that one finds in Nevada the second you cross the state line. The only naked Portlanders I’ve seen with my own eyeballs so far were the several hundred folks riding bare-assed across the Tilikum Bridge one fine Saturday afternoon en masse as a contingent of the famed Annual Naked Bike Ride. (Completely accidental siting.)

We here at have a commitment to integrity so we shall make an effort soon to report with some other eyeball witnessing, just so you know, you know. Stay tuned to this channel. We’re on the job for you.


Meanwhile, what we can already report from personal experience, Portland is the kind of town where you can find a mural like this on a main drag building and on a given Sunday morning in the parking lot out front you might be fortunate enough find a spectacular live music performance* going on absolutely FREE to the public. If this is weird…sign me up!


This will be a great year, folks.

*This band is Portland’s Bright and Shiny, Not certain what the genre would be called but the vocals are some kind of Leonard Cohen and The Boss. Lyrics are killer.

Thousands of Swifts headed down a chimney for a good night’s sleep