Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Estoy Solito

So first of all, i forgot one little thing about playa blanca. one day there was a big local fisherman-beach party kind of thing, for the local people on their end of the beach, not the tourists on our end. i walked down to check it out and it was a pretty cool scene, music blasting, people dancing; overall it seemed to be an enjoyable expierence. a hour or so later im reading and people start running past where we were posted up, locals and a few gringos who quickly duck into the saftey of hugos place. apparently there was a bit of a fight down there with some guys that came from another town, and they must have run our direction because it kept up. a couple guys with big sticks were beating the crap out of some other guy. people were all gathered around sort of yelling and doing this and that--kind of a mob scene--until someone fires a shot. it turns out it was a cop and he shot up in the air. it had the desired effect and people seemed to disperse. at this point we were all huddled in and around hugos watching from about 30 meters off and a couple guys come towards us half-carrying their friend with blood all over his shirt. this is apparently how the fight started--or at least why one guy was beaten about the head with sticks. some guy from one place stabbed some guy from another place in the shoulder, the beating commenced, the crowd gathered, the shot fired, the bleeding continued, the people dispersed, the gringos went back to reading and playing cards and the tourist boats left. at least something to that extent.

hannah left for bogota yesterday morning. our last couple days were spent checking out the sights (always more sights) of cartagena. she took about a thousand pictures, and im not kidding, i think the total was something close to 935 for the trip. had a couple nights out at a cool bar that played a little too much salsa but did a couple michael jackson songs when we asked, and a kid jumped up on the bar and danced as similar to michael as almost anyone ive ever seen. hannah has video. we ate dinner in a fancy-ish resturant overlooking a plaza, and went out later and found some americans and an israeli. we went into the club with them (the one that played MJ) and danced around till almost 4, at which point we walked around town till past 5, went back to the hostel and hannah got her taxi to the bus station for her bus to bogota to catch her plane. i finally got to bed, slept the next day, moved into a room with 3 norweigan girls who are leaving tomorrow (yes! room to myself) and then 2 isrealis showed up...hoo-ray! which is fine, it just means i dont get the room to myself.

i walked down to the docks today to put up a notice that i want to go to panama when a guy appoached me and asked if i wanted to go to panama. i said yes he said come look at my boat, i want to leave in the next couple days. he ownes it with his 2 friends--the 3 of them french. sounds like they already have a passanger list of 7, i make 8, they make 11, should be a fun trip. i have to bring my passport by tomorrow and hopefully we´ll be off the next day. less than 3 weeks left, thats a trip in itself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Broken Sunnnys

Well, as i mentioned in the final sentence of my last post, we have been on an island for a few days. its really not that exciting, but ill give you some details anyway.

we wanted to go to a place called Isla Rosario because we hadnt been there before and the only other beautiful beach was Playa Blanca, where we have already been. well the boat took us to the island in the chain of Islas Rosarios (there are 27) that has no accomodation and no beaches--just an aquarium. i dont know why you would want to pay to go into a aquarium on a gorgeous carribbean island, but apparently there is some motivator because it there was a long line of people waiting to get in. we hung out and dived off the dock till the boat left for...playa blanca!! were back!! what could be better?!

whatever, one white sand/crystal water beach is the same as another. so we get set up at "hugos place", the most established place to stay on the island. he had electicity and music at night powered from a generator. little did we know the man is wierdo. the first couple days were brilliant, a few colombian guys were there buying rum and whisky for what seemed like the whole beach. they left and we had a couple nights of relaxation and then a group of brits/aussies/kiwies showed up. another night of partying and home the next day.

i cant really explain in writing the way hugo behaved toward me, but he really didnt like, i guess. he had some stupid rules--like your bag had to be put up in the rafters all the time to keep the place organized. i wasnt allowed to leave my bag under my hammock. f that. so we didnt exactly hit it off. we also never ate dinner or lunch at hugos because his food was expensive and had smaller portions. he asked my why we didnt eat there and i told him it was cheaper and better for vegetarians (hannah, so essentially me as well) and he said something rude to me. it really escalated when he shut off the electicity without warning--whatever, his generator, his fuel, fine--but when we asked for a candle he said there werent any. the night before there were five all around. i told him this and he told me i could buy one from him and i said no, we didnt pay last night, were not paying tonight, that group (the brits) has candles why cant we. he told me i would spend money on snorkling and an exciting intertube ride but not candles and that was my problem; he walked away. i laughed and got my headlamp and we finished the game with that. i dont remember what sparked the confrontation the next day but it involved hugo telling me i was disorganized (my backpack under my hammock instead of out-of-reach in the rafters) and i was ruining everyone else´s time there. i then asked the woman working in the kitchen for napkins--we were eating and i wanted to clean up the table--he saw me walk out of kitchen with a handful, grabbed them from my hands yelled something i told him i asked and the woman gave them to me we were eating and it was messy. he told me i was the cause of all the problems and i wasnt a good person and people like me arnt welcome anymore at his house. i went back into the kitchen and apologized to the woman he yelled at for helping me, packed our stuff, paid, said thank you hugo, and bid that place adieu.

back in cartagena for the next 3 nights, the hopefully ill be on a boat to panama, keep your fingers crossed, and hannah will be heading back to bogota. we havent had any big nights out here yet so tonight and/or tomorrow should be good.

about the title, my sunglasses broke on the beach, one of the lenses popped out and got lost in the sand. i found it the last day but at that point the frame was lost. gosh darn it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Corruption and Smuggling

I took a bus to the bus station and found a guy who was driving a shared taxi to colombia. i had enough money for the taxi and nothing else, cutting it pretty close. after about half an hour of waiting he got a few more people and we all piled into the car. sweet sweet car. it was an old chevy malibu classic painted metallic blue with relfective blue tint on the windows, blue seats and street-racing style gauges (also blue) by the blue dash. it was--as they say--pimpin´. So off we go, and i have to say, i did feel safer being in this boat of a car rather than the little tiny hatchback we came in. the woman sitting next to me had a box with her with holes in it. it turned out she had 2 parrots in the box, one adult and one baby. i dont think your supposed to smuggle parrots from venezuela to colombia, but the driver didnt really seem to care. this woman--what was she thinking?--also didnt have identification with her. so everytime we stopped at the 5 or 6 checkpoints on the way to the border and the police asked to see our IDs she would slip the driver anywhere from $5 to $10 (in local currancy, converted to ease reading) to give to the cop, who would shake his hand let us go. she probably spent more on the bribes than the ride itself cost. at one point we were all made to get out of the car and pay about $15 to leave the country. i didnt have $15 so we got back in the car and kept going. when i got out to have my passport stamped the guy told me i had to pay so i went back to the car told the driver. we got into an argument that involved me saying i didnt have money, they didnt take cards, there was no ATM. he didnt seem to care. finally the woman with the birds gave me the money and i told her i would pay her back when we got to colombia. i paid got stamped out, stamped in to colombia (after a bit of an interogation about where ive been, how long i was here, if ive been sick--it had to do with swine flu). ive never been more realieved. just being out of venezuela where you never know what your gonna have to pay to do this or that or what the police will make you do. its like when you go through customs at the airport, maybe you have some trouble with nail clippers or something, you think your gonna miss your flight, you finally make through only to have more trouble at the ticketing counter, and then somehow you just end up on the plane at the last minute...that immense feeling of relief, thats what i felt.

so we got to the border town, i bought my ticket to cartagena (they say 8 hours, dont believe them, it was closer to 10) got lunch and was on my back to what i considered "home" at that point. 10 or so hours later found myself at the hostel, went to meet up with hannah at another hostel and who do i see sitting with her...? tatiana, a friend from taganga who we hadnt seen in a week or so, what luck. the 3 of us have been hanging out for the last few days. yesterday we went to a "mud volcanoe." you clime up the 30 stairs or so to the top of a big mound of dirt and inside is a 10´ by 10´ (more or less) area filled with mud that they say goes 2300 meters down into the earth. the mud is the perfect density--so you can sit in it and you dont sink, it comes up to your chest more or less. you can lie on your back or stomach and you dont sink, its wild. the pictures are great, i dont know when they´ll go up, it might be a while, but theyre cool. and afterwards you rinse off in a lagoon, which was only a little bit disgusting. it smelled terrible and the water was green with alge, im waiting for one of the 5 of us that went to end up with an infection.

tomorrow we are headed out to an island to chill our for a while, so if theres no post for a few days and nobody recieves emails, im not dead, im just lying on a beach.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hotel Vicoria

The interesting looking girl with the puppy started talking to me, asked me where i was from. i told her the US and immediatley realized i should probably stick with canada from now on. she was cool, told me her lifes story, has no place to live in maraciabo now, her friends sort of bailed on her, she doesnt pick the right guys, the dog was a gift from a friend so she wouldnt get lonley and it cost something like $150. wow. she was heading home to her parents and brother, sort of invited me along and i almost went but couldnt quite bring myself to do it. she asked me who i was visiting in maraciabo, i told her i didnt know anybody, she asked me why i would come here then. it wasnt promising. we chatted until her bus had to leave and i then walked across the road to some hotels. the first too said no rooms available. i asked the third how much he said how long i said a night. he didnt get it so i told him i needed it until the next morning, he said, "oh, 24 hours, that will be $60." (i translated the currancy for you.) i told him thats ok, tried the next one same thing. lovely. so i took an overpriced taxi to the cheapest hotel in the guide book--Hotel Victoria. it ended up being $20 a night for a dark room with no running water and one bed and a TV with a few cable station. porn was playing when i walked in, and i found out that there is a station that plays pornography 24 hours a day. how nice.

i slept in to the afternoon and then walked around a bit. during the day i was a bit worried, i dont think i would have made it to the front door if i had tried the night before. people yell at you, where you from, give me money. canada canada no no perdon. i got used to saying that. the streets were terrible, trash everywhere, dirty broken down buildings. homeless crackhead-looking people. then i came around a corner to find plaza bolivar. (simon bolivar liberated much of south america from spain the 1800s. the venezuelan currancy is the bolivar, bolivia is named for him, and almost every city in almost every country has a plaza bolivar.) chavez is obsessed with the man. the plaza in his name was gorgeous, plush green grass, big statues, fountains, it was beautiful. across the street people are collecting bottles to turn in for change, selling pencils and begging for anything. the streets are trashed, the buildings run down. makes me question government spending.

i was a bit concerned walking around only because i had my camera and card on me. after i dropped those off at the hotel and went back out i felt much more secure. the street food was fabulous. and cheap, best part of venezuela. i went back to the hotel and went up on the roof when it got dark. maraciabo has unexplained lighting storms almost every night. i tried to get pictures of it, but my timing was always off by a few seconds, a good show though. i went to bed after watching the first scene in kill bill in spanish. alarm set for 7am, excited as hell to get out of venezuela and back to colombia.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Forget Bolivia, the Death Road Runs Through Venezuela

We´re up early on saturday morning. I headed over to get us checked out and pay, and by 10 or so we were on our way out of Taganga. we got to the bus terminal in santa marta, hannah found a bus to cartagena, i found one to Maicao, the lawless colombian border town. we parted ways. i bumped into the 2 swiss girls we keep seeing everywhere, they were going to Maraciabo as well, but on a direct bus. the bus leaves a half our late, but we got to maicao before dark (very important according to the guide book). a man said to me ¨maraciabo¨ and i said yes. he put my pack in the back of a junky old car, i was a bit unnerved told him i wanted to eat and took my bag back. he walked me to the bakery (across the street) ate something with me, got into an argument with a guy behind me and walked back to the car. at that point he had someone else going to maraciabo, power in numbers, i wasnt going to be robbed and killed alone. 20 minutes later we had 2 other passengers and were under way.

the border is 13 km away from maicao. we get there, i get out, get my passport stamped (im running because im the only westerner in the car, the others dont need stamps and regular border formalities) and a nurse calls me over, asks about where ive been, have i been sick, something about the swine flu. i tell her im fine, ive been everyhwere in south ameica, no problems. back in the car we drive 10 minutes its time for venezuelan border formalities. i get out, talk to the guy, he says i need a form filled out, theres a woman sitting next to the window filling out forms (how convienent). she takes my passport, fills out the form that normally the traveller fills out, expects a tip. i give her some colombian pesos. i dont know if this is Chavez´s way of employing the people, but i can think of some better ones. form stamped, passport stamped, im in venezuela. the road immediatly changes, turns to shit. pot holes are the norm, not paved road but this doesnt stop people from driving fast and swerving not to break an axel. in the first 30 minutes we go through 3 or 4 police check points, marked by empty cans of food filled with gasoline and lit on fire. no problems, everyones in order. the road stays terrrible, its the same road that was in colombia, but on this side it looks like bombs have been dropped every 100 meters or so (Chavez, this is how you can employ your people, fix your roads). its night time now, all the other cars are worse than our old chevy hatchback. there´ll all american (only on the venezuelan side) cars. most look like they´re from the 80´s big old chevys and fords, picture the cop cars that chase the jake and elwwod blues in the end of the blues brothers. they are all falling apart, all bent up, have been in many accidents. my car (an 82 VW rabbit) would look like a lexus driving through these parts. most of the cars dont have working headlights or tailights, and the headlights that do work have the brightness of parking lights they dont do much. our car has good brakes they get testing whenever one of the pieces of american junk pulls out and cant speed up fast enough or slows down without brake lights. the woman sitting next to me cant help but to let out little screams and grab the seats everytime we are nearly in a crash. i cant really blame her. the man on her right is talking or smoking cigarettes most of the time, i dont know who hes talking to, the woman sometimes responds the driver sometimes responds, sometimes no one responds but that doesnt deter him. the woman in the front seat is going back and forth between texting, sleeping, and showing her ID at the necessary times. i dont know how she could sleep shes sitting in the death seat and will be the first and most likely to go if we go off the road. the closer we get to maraciabo the more cars that have working headlights. the road is still bad and people still swerve and veer and pass, but now we can see them coming, most of the time we can see them coming. occasionally 3 or 4 headlights will be seen coming towards us and the driver leans forward squinting trying to see out the windsheild. at the last second we usually swerve to the right to allow some motorcycle to get by us without being crushed. now we are quite close to maraciabo, the road gets better, the police checkpoints have lights and buildings and gates instead of burning gasoline. during on stretch of road we have steet lights. we start to get into the city limits no more checkpoints just more cars better roads more buildings, civilization. we pass a chevy dealership, a nissan dealership, another chevy one. theres not a shortage of chevys on the road, some are even new and look like they were bought recently at the dealership but i dont see one nissan. sometimes theres a fiat or hyundai no nissan. we pass an expensive looking shopping center with a drive through bank and a mcdonalds. we pass a TGI fridays next to it, something ive seen only in the rich neighboorhood of Buenos Aires before this. we pass a wendys. almost all the cars would be US-street legal now. we get to the bus station, ive never been happier to be out of a car. i wander the bus station its hot i get 2 empandadas and an apple juice. they dont have beer. i sit in the waiting room its past 10 pm. the book says the hotel at which im planning to say is in a part of town not safe at night. i only have $50 worth of venezuelan currancy and with the offical (atm) exchange rate i dont want to get more. i decide not to go tonight. after reading and eating in the 24 hour air conditioned bus station waiting room i take a natural ¨sleep aid¨, lie down on the seats and sleep an uncomfortable 5 hours. at 5 am a cop wakes me (and everyone else sleeping) up. i pick up my book, start to read. a girl with bright clothes, red hair and colorful tatoos sits next to me. she has a puppy with her.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Playas Hermosas

For starters, theres some older news just below this post, you might want to start with that, not that im trying to tell you how to read this blog.

It should be noted that Cartagena is hot. really hot. hotter than anywhere ive been in a long time. it wouldnt be all that bad but the humitidy adds 10-15 degrees on to what the sun already provides, which usually hovers around 90-95. lovely. that being said, playa blanca was an excellent get-a-way from the city heat. a bit of a mission to get there (we took a local bus that could have come straight from austin powers´ life in 1969, a hand-paddle canoe across a river and then a 25 minute moter-bike ride during which i was convinced of iniment death on half a dosen occasions), but when we arrived we knew it was worth the effort. you can look at my pictures (i just uploaded an album, move your eyes left) but they dont do it justice. it really was white sand, bright blue water, thatched huts over resturants with no running water or electricty. the water was almost two warm, but the wind blew all day and kept us cool. we slept in tents provided for us on the beach, ate fish, coconut and fruit, and did nothing for 3 days. although we were all getting a little stir crazy the last morning before we went back, like "give me a shower right now, i dont even care, i swam in ocean but my hair is a day away from dread, give me a shower!". another couple nights in cartagena and we were off to taganga.

that was an adventure too. got on our bus, which was a piece of poop. most of the seats were broken, it was dirty, the lights didnt work (so we looked a little silly using our headlamps to read on a bus during the day, but hey, the windows were tinted) and the air conditioning would go on and off randomly, making the bus too hot and then too cold. we were asked to change to another bus halfway to our destination, which was empty, and were then asked to change again. the bus we changed to was FULL. were were the last two seats in the back of the bus, with some a-hole in front of hannah making sure his seat was as back as far as it could so he could sleep. then a cockroach is discovered by hannah to be crawing around on the floor, although i can neither confirm nor deny, as i never saw it. not a big deal if your not deathly terrified of bugs (hannah, not me). we started by putting our feet up on our seats as to avoid it crawling up our legs, but after another siting (again by hannah) she had to move to the front to get away from it. okay with me, it just meant i had a bit more room. we finally made, found out our hostel was full, and found another one, which ended up just being some guys house which had 2 rooms, one with 3 bunk beds and one with a double. it was cheap, but there was nobody else staying there. fortunatly we ran into one of our friends from medellin and partied with him and about 20 other brits at the poshest hostel in town.

the last two days have been spent at Parque Nacional Tyrona, which is the colombian-famous national park where everybody goes. you can do the 6 day lost city trek but its quite pricey, and after peru i think ive filled my ruins quota for a few years. so we took the bus out and walked to the coast, which is quite specacular (again see photos, but remember it was nicer in person than what they portray) rainforest coming all the way down to the ocean. one downside i suppose is that we didnt get much sun, which made the beach side of things a bit less exciting, but felt fitting with all the rainforest we were surrounded by. two nights there was enough, and after getting back to taganga i ate a hamburger (something i had been craving for a few days) and we went out with a group of worldly (holland, germany, NZ, US, scottish, british) travellers from our hostel.

i think one more night will be good here, and then i think ill head over to venezuela for a few days and hannah will probably go to cartagena, where i will meet here after the weekend. but planes change, so we´ll see. oh, big news, bought my plane ticket just now. im home the night of july 18, for those of you who are reading and might be effected in some way by my return (apart, of course, from not getting to read this fantastic blog). so ill see you all in 5 weeks or so, and ill try to start posting a little more regularly. buena suerte!

Older stuff

Alright, im sort of making this blog post about stuff i have been forgetting to mention, thats not really that important, but kinda funny. so read this if you want, or skip it and you wont miss much news.

To start off, back in exensive medellin we were having trouble with food. we ate so much pizza in bogota for so cheap at one place that the guys started to get to know us and would bring hannah her vegetarian slice before we said anything. (hannah is vegetarian, which limits our eating options to an extent which is difficult to imagine for people that have not been to south america). so in medellin pizza is about 3 times as much, which is out of our price range to say the least. fortunatly there is in an Exito, which is bolivias largest chain of supermakets, near by. picture something like a wal-mart/k-mart/fred myers/target. two floors, selling food, clothes, TVs, cell phones, beds, plankets, prepared food, deli food, they sold chairs and tables, tents and cutlery, the list goes one. outside exito are many little fast food places (two of which, horribly enough, are dunkin donuts and mcdonalds) but the others sell things like ice cream, baked goods, burgers, this and that. we found one that sold empanadas. for those of you who dont know, and empanada is a round piece of dough folded into a half mood with either cheese, cheese and ham, meat, chicken, potaotes, rice or corn inside, and then deep fried. the ones they had here were cheese, ham and cheese, and hawaian. they were cheap and they had fountain soda (also a rarity). we probably ate at this place 5 times, and after the first few, the woman (it was the same woman working no matter what time of day, weekend or weekday, she was always there) also began to know us. she would smile and laugh when we walked up, give hannah her 2 cheese empanadas and a diet coke from the fountain, and i would get my 2 hawaian and 1 ham and cheese, or 2 ham and cheese and 1 hawaian, and a grape soda, also from the fountain. grape soda (unusual anywhere in south america, in any form) coming from a fountain at this fast food empanada shop gave me such a shock i may have let out a bit of an excited yell, attracting strange stares from the locals around us, and causing hannah to step back and make sure i was feeling ok.

one night we felt like pasta (also in medellin, also from exito) but couldnt be bothered to make pasta and a sauce, and i spotted kraft, yes! but next to the kraft is a colombian knock-off brand that is a little cheaper and held a little more. cool. let me tell you this, dont ever eat Señora Muñeca intant mac and cheese. just dont. it was one of the worst meals i have had in south america. just bad. we finished it, but it was bad. stick with the "quality" of kraft.

ok, i sort of have other wierd food stories, but to descibe them so that it would be like it was when we were eating would be difficult, take up my time (and money), and probably be a bit boring to read, so ill cut the crap and start a new blog post (above) with real stories.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


sorry ya´ll, a post is coming about the beautiful playa blanca and some stuff i forgot about medellin. but it would be a shame to write without pictures to back me up, and i forgot my camera, so tomorrow you´ll get photos and words, consider it a 2 for 1 deal, and no, you dont have to thank me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mi Amor Cartagena

So to wrap up Medellin, lets see. we went to the water park, which was a bit more difficult to get to than expected. the hostel owner said, "take the train to the end of the line, hop on a bus marked "copacabana" and you´re there." nay. copacabana is a town from which you must walk to the highway and take the bus that says "barbosa," not "copacabana." it was more expensive. but the water park was only $4 and we had the whole day to run around with thong-bikini (i dont know who is raising these girls and letting them wear what they were) 12 year olds. the park was pretty good actually, apart from the fact that they didnt have enough staff to have every slide open, so they rotated 2 at a time, and ever hour or so would open up a new slide and close a different one. but it was good fun, and something nice to do with our day.

That night we had a pretty big night out, spent a little too much money getting into a club, but i was having enough fun that i got up on stage. let me say this, it was cops and robbers theme, so you had scantily clad hookers dressed as cops dancing dirtily to reggaeton, the macaraina, and the occasional american rap song. there were some regular guys and girls up there with them, and when i went up there with some girl i got a pair of black and white stiped "robber" pants, which i still have, and which i plan on keeping. anyway, overall, a pretty good night, considering everyone else that when out elsewhere didnt have that much fun--we found the right place.

Off the next night to Cartagena, we arrived in the morning to the most expensive hostel in the city, stayed a night, enjoyed the pool and terrace they had, and found a cheaper hostel called Casa Vienna. yes, the owner is austrian. we have been to the beach twice, despite that it is a 15- 20 block walk from here, and have stolled in the old town, which should be called the ghetto. its pretty rough. everywhere you go people are offering you all kinds of drugs at all hours of the day, and although nobody has asked us for money, there are some really poor people around. lets call it colorful, which is descriptive because of the colorful buildings and the people hanging around them. ill put some pictures up sooner or later.

Tomorrow morning we are off to a place called Playa Blanca, which is a true carribbean style beach, something the city lacks. its supposed to be quite cheap to stay out there, so we might be sleeping in hammocks on the beach for a few days. i would be suprised if there is internet--its on a beach--so dont be shocked if you dont here from me via email, facebook or blog for a couple days. im not dead, im probably passed out on a beautiful (safe) beach--not to worry.