because i had such little time between planning my trip and my departure, i was unable to get more pages added to my passport.
when i had my passport issued i thought about getting (free) extra pages but back in 2009 it was free to add more pages later. i thought it would be "cool" to have a fully stamped passport. it wasn't until i was travelling and needed more pages that i found out that it now cost $82 to add pages.
upon my departure from ecuador, the woman at border control reprimanded me for not having space in my passport to print a (very ugy) departure message. see the second to last page. this was after waiting in line for over an hour to leave the country. i must say i much preferred the "welcome to colombia!" message...
ok government, you will soon get my $82.
all the buses in south america play super violent movies.
so at first i didn't think much of the fact that a homeless man got pushed into me right when i got down from the bus. a mob started beating him in the stairs of the bus. then i realized what was actually happening.
i tried to stay out of the way and avoided the urge to photograph the scene, especially because i still needed my big backpack from the lower storage. much to my dismay the bus started leaving the scene-i yelled, then i ran alongside the bus and yelled some more, then i sprinted and yelled. the engine overpowered my yells. i had three consecutive flights to catch and eventually the bus stopped and obliged giving me my bag. i am pretty sure with all the commotion they had forgotten.
after much runaround i eventually made it to the airport in baranquilla where i connected to bogota. upon my return to the united states, i picked my bags up again for customs. somehow i was selected for the full bag inspection. the agent asked me ambiguous questions like "are you carrying anything for anyone?" to which i responded "nooooooo." then he asked "so, you're not bringing gifts for anyone?" "yeeeeees." after sifting through everything, he let me through and i checked my bag again.
upon my return to san francisco, my bag was missing from the carousel. i waited for an hour. i later found out that my bag had been screened once again and missed the connecting flight. i left my information and cell phone number at baggage services and expected my bag to be delivered that night. my dear friend picking me up forgot that she had my cell phone so that the drop wasn't possible....eventually i got my bag back. whew!
what a journey it's been.
the los pinos hostel had just recently relocated so that our group of 5 were the first visitors of the vast plantation of cafe j.s. jose suescun. it took us quite an effort to keep up with our guide, a 70-year-old man with a giant machete. he took us up and down the hills and showed us many perimeters of the farm and even cut down fresh bananas for us to eat. he also showed us the processing facility where they process 30,000-40,000 kilos of coffee beans each fall harvest. it was yet another instance in which i wished my spanish were better so that i could really understand the process and all that it entails.
later we were able to try the coffee, meet the family, and even meet their pet rodent. they all insisted that i sit on their horse-they went to the trouble of putting a saddle on the horse for some photos. it was so special to have what felt like an insider perspective on this sweet farm and family.
courtney knew of a great hostel up in the foothills of the mountains-a much needed break from the heat was welcomed. she and i had thought about taking a mountain bike tour in the area but after the gnarly motortaxi journey i was sure that was enough excitement. christian, a german scientist working on a documentary about scientists, was first in line by mototaxi. then courtney who was excited about being on a bike again, albeit she didn't get to drive. i'm pretty sure she did ask. then me. at first i was trying to take pictures from the back of the bike. i realized quickly that actually i needed to focus all of my energy on remaining a passenger of the mototaxi. the roads were super rough, uphill, rocky, muddy, uneven and the experience for me was absolutely terrifying.
the payoff was arriving at ed's great hostel in los pinos with the famous oversized hammock. we caught a great sunset and amazing thunderstorm. the power went out so that we were powered by candlelight and surrounded by great people.
i hiked back from tayrona national park with courtney, a canadian woman also on a solo mission. we returned to the sleepy fishing town of taganga for a night, only to find out the next day that the roads leaving taganga were closed. apparently there was no more water in the town and in order to summon the mayor to reconcile the problem, they closed the roads in protest. ha ha.
eventually, after almost being completely ripped off for laundry by a granny (and receiving many of our clothes soaking wet), we made it out of taganga by boat. tourist boat that we were overcharged for. we were drenched by the turbulence by the time we got out to the middle of the bay...my clean clothes only took about half an hour to get filthy again...then the engine stopped. see last image. yay!
dear lord this place is stunning. the much anticipated caribbean coast was indeed a highlight of this journey.
i met up again with sebastian, the german guy who i met hiking in peru. his friend flo had met him in cartagena and they were embarking on some major travels. we took some funny photos of us jumping off the rocks once we arrived after several hours of hiking to cabo san juan de la guia.
i also met daan, a great belgian guy who was willing to share some time with me. one of the most entertaining expressions he shared was "neck carpet" as a synonym for "mullet." thank you for that.
the volcan de lodo el totumo mud volcano definitely cheered me up. this giant mound offers a crater filled with special healing mud for one to bathe in. i don't know how it happened but in a gigantic thick vat of mud i was able to find a used band aid. it was fun and funny to float around. i was happy that i made the journey solo because i was able to have the volcano to myself for some moments before the tour buses showed up. (i was also able to refuse photographic/massage/washing mud off services more easily because i was on my own...)
because i took public transportation i was also able to meet some local fishermen catching crabs, shrimp, and fish in the nearby river. they fished with throw nets and beautiful wooden canoes.
it's hotter than hell here but somehow i managed to get out and about and see a bit of this beautiful colonial town. the architecture and flower balconies are splendid, as are the parks and cathedrals. the historic fortress walls and horse drawn carriages make for an interesting setting.
the caribbean is so lovely to swim in; it's sort of like bath water. swimmytime cheered me up from a bout of loneliness. it's been a long haul north and because i've had to move quickly i haven't had much company. just as the hot springs in banos were different than i would have chosen, so were the beaches in cartagena; locals charge money for rented shade on the beach and many folks pop in to see if beach goers want to buy jewelry, beverages, cut fruit, ice cream, a massage (somehow these people were particularly aggressive), have their hair braided...all i wanted was to sit on the beach and read my book!
i was lucky to meet norwegian stian and canadian antonio on the way to the beautiful playa blanca. this idyllic beach on isla de baru 20 km from cartagena was reached by boat. i was elated to get much anticipated snorkel time in. stian returned back to the sea with his snorkel after a short rest on the beach, stating that he was "like a child" and eager to play in the water. i followed, declaring "me too."
it wasn't until we headed to the boat to return to cartagena that i realized just how sunburned i was (the same thing happens every time i snorkel...). i had just begun malarone malaria antibiotics which makes one more sensitive to sunlight. my back and bum were red/white. my legs were just red red red. luckily i found aloe in the produce section of the supermarket. if it wasn't bedbugs it was mosquitoes. if it wasn't stress rash it was sunburn/peel. i just want to scratch off all of my skin and start over.
after so many long hauls by bus i decided to spare my backside another long journey. from cali i took a flight connecting in bogota to cartagena on the caribbean coast. i got a nice view of the mountains of colombia, plus a neat view of cartagena upon landing. the first flight only lasted 45 minutes...i blinked twice and it was over. during the next flight i tallied how many hours i had spent on long distance buses so far and roughly came up with 134 hours. dang south america is huge and mountainous.