Monday, October 27, 2014

Gypsies of the Caribbean

I got stuck in Cartagena for way longer than I thought I would.  I really didn't like it at first but it started to grow on me.  And then slowly it turned into a vortex and I couldnt leave.  Here I am with my Venezuelan friends and we are in my new hostel for 5 dollars a night.  It was kind of a shit hole though but it was good to save money from the other fancy hostel I was staying at for 15 dollars a night.

 Pasqual from Venezuela.  This guy is the most Original Gypsy I have ever met.  He can talk his way with anyone to get really good discounts.  He came here with no money at all and he is finding a way to squeak by everyday and make it to Panama to start a new life.
 This guy worked the door at the cheap hostel.  He is from Chile but he is trying to save up money to go to Panama (like pretty much everyone I met in Cartagena).  After Panama he is going to Mexico, US then Canada.  I have a feeling I will run into him again.

My friends from Venezuela wanted to go to Panama.  I wasn't to keen on going back to North America.  But I was down for  a little bit of a journey.  From Cartagena we took a bus to Monteria for 25,000 pesos.  From Monteria we took a bus to Turbo for 40,000 pesos.
 In Turbo we paid to take a boat to Capurgana.  Capurgana is right beside the border to Panama in the Caribbean.  Here is the station in Turbo where you can buy the boat tickets.
 Turbo was definitely an interesting town.  A true Colombia town with no tourism but it is a port town.  Everyone rode bikes here, so many motos.  It was definitely a dangerous place if you spend a lot of time there.  Lots of drug problems with Cocaine and crack.  We had to spend the night here to wait for our ferry.  The next morning we walked around for three hours and I bought the cheapest rum so far in Colombia.  But quickly we got on a boat and out of this town.
 Here in Turbo we have the fish market.
 Waiting for the boat to take us to Capurgana. 
 Hanging in the main plaza and port of Turbo with Phillipe waiting for our two hour boat ride to Capurgana.  I had been hanging with this guy for a few days so it was gonna suck to leave him when he goes to Panama.  He has a job lined up with REd Bull already in Panama.  He talks so highly of Panama like it is heaven but I dont think that he has been there before.  I hope it works out for him there.  He sold everything he owned just to have a little bit of American dollars to go to Panama.  
 Look at the port in Turbo.  What a place!  I had a strong connection with Turbo even though I was only there for about 8 hours.
 On the boat to  Capurgana.  So Close to Panama!
 Made it to Capurgana.  This is where I say goodbye to the Venezuelans.  I have to stay here and check out this town.  It is so beautiful and so untouched.  You can only access it by boat or two planes per week.  There are no cars here or motos.  The truest Colombian Caribean town.

You can see that CApurgana is so close to Panama.  The Panama Canal does not separate Colombia and Panama, it is actually further north.  The South of Panama doesnt have much and there are no roads to Panama City and North.  You have to take a plane or a giant network of boats like the Venezuelans were shaping up to do.  One day I will visit Panama.  I think on my next trip I will fly from Canada to Mexico and see all of Central America, and definitely come back to Capurgana.
 Having lunch in Capurgana with my amigos while they wait for their boat to Panama.
 The wild flowers in Capurgana are so beautiful.
 This is the path that winds its way to my hostel.  The hostel I am staying at here is called the Bohemia.  Very nice hostel with shared rooms for 5 or 7 dollars a night.  A beautiful kitchen and bbq.
Girl rides her bike through the main park and town square of Capurgana.  Nobody every locks there bikes here even if you have a good one.  There is a couple bars, a couple grocerias, and one bakery in this area where the photo is taken.  In the nighttime it is filled with loud caribbean music and people drinking rum, whiskey and beer.  You don't really need to know the time or the day of the week here.  It is always kinda the same thing.  A beautiful, untouched beach town with amazing walks, beaches and people.  You can walk to Panama in one hour and there is a beautiful beach there.  I may do that tomorow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cartagena, Colombia

The North Coast of Colombia and the touristy beach towns I have been too are unique.  The closest comparison I would have would be Mexcio because they have beautiful beaches and are very touristy.  Cartagena is the most famous and biggest beach town in Colombia.  It was one of the places that was safe even during the very dangerous 80s and 90s.  The people in this city are used to tourism being the number one industry, so you are going to get hassles non stop as a gringo.

Here we have a closed up shop.
Man on bicycle riding in front of one of Cartagena's buildings designed with Colonial Architecture.  PS) Under renovation
Man eating Plantane (Platano) walking down the street
Here is my buddy Jeff from Comox, BC, Canada eating Mangoes and drinking beer.  Only got to hang out with this guy for one afternoon because he was on his way to Medellin, but he was a really rad MAHF.  Jeff just couldnt get over how many fucking pigeons there are in this city!!!!!  Behind him a little girl feeds the throngs of birds.
Chillin with the holmies!!!
Civillian Military keeping on eye on things.  I just hoped he wasnt going to shoot me for taking this picture.
The Colombian Mens National Soccer team practicising in Cartagena's brand new soccer facility.

I caught a video of a penalty shot attempt:

The beautiful jaggedy rock garbage littered beaches of downtown Cartagena.  Too be honest this is the most overrated beach town in the world.  The main beach is Playa Blanca which is far away from the city so most people pay a tour company to drive them there and then pay an entrance fee to the beach.  Then when you are on the beach you are hassled by an endless amount of pushy salespeople trying to sell you nicknacks.  PLus the beach is filled with cabanas and hammocks so there is not much room to lay down.

If you want a true beach town withouth the hassles go to Palomino.

A shot of the beautiful courtyard of Media Luna Hostel.  I am staying at the Media Luna Hostel in Media Luna a neighborhood of Cartagena.  It is the nicest hostel I have stayed in during this trip.  Beautiful pool, rooftop terrace and gigantic rooms for fifteen dollars a night.  Its not a great place to learn Spanish though, everyone at the hostel speaks English as a first language.

Check it out here
The bicycling here is good... not great.  My hostel has some bicycles and they will rent them for free for the first hour.  After that its $1.50 an hour.  So cheap.  No Bicycle lanes so you have to ride on the roads.  
My view of biking down the streets of Cartagena.  Here is nowhere near as bicycle friendly as Bogota obviously.  Here cars practice the art of the Courtesy Honk.  It is when you honk at a cyclist everytime you pass them.  I am still on the fence on whether I like this or not.
Walking down the street and I ran into my friends that I had met in Bogota.  This is my favorite part about travelling when you run into people in different cities that you travel.  The girl with the balloon it was her birthday.  Next to me is my good friend Phillipe.

All in all Cartagena is a good city.  I would recomend you have to check it out for at least a weekend.  It is a difficult place for a twenty-something gringoe male to be.  People don't call you "hey amigo" when you walk down the street like Mexico.  Here they call you "you want cocaine" or "What do you need, i got everything".  Too many idiots have come to this city before me and really changed the dynamic of the tourism.  Even Bogota in the most touristy areas of the city was lightyears better than Cartagena for this.  The other troubling thing is the police will do random searches constantly.  They pick on gringoes, hoping to find drugs on them and then force them to pay $300 to avoid going to jail.  It is a very corrupt city.  I find it annoying and an invasion of privacy to be walking down the street and have police randomly stop me for pat-downs.  It is really bad on Friday or Saturday nights.  One of my friends from Australia, on the walk home from a bar to the hostel was stopped and random searched by four different police officers in twenty minutes.  I was searched within minutes of arriving to the city when I got off the bus downtown.  Of course they found nothing because I am here for the culture, the people and the food, definitely not the drugs.  But there is no shortage of Partyboy Australians, Americans and other Gringoes in this city buying copious amounts of drugs and getting stuck in hostels here, hung-over day after day, without the energy to wake up early and catch a bus to another city.  This city is definitely one of the bigger gringoe vortexes I have seen in South America.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caribbean Coast of Colombia

i was sick and tired of the mountains and the cold life so i bussed it 17 hours to the Caribbean sea of 
Colombia.  This is 
Santa Marta, 
Colombia.  its a cheap beach town that the Colombians really like, but the beaches kinda suck.

So i bussed it to
Casa del Grande Surf school.  
Six bucks a night to camp on their beach.

** still i wanted to boogie board.  so i came to another small town called 
Palomino.  a quiet somewhat little hippie town on the coast.

Lots of people on the beaches with nice waves.  Hippies from
Argentina and
Uruguay selling bracelets too

** i would highly recomend the town of
Palomino if you are coming to 

Caribbean Colombia.  cheap accomodation. and if you go to town for your meals its very cheap too.  its a twenty minute walk from town to the beach or  1 dollar moto bike ride.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Festival de la Bajada (Downhill)

Definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. Accompanied the Venezuelan National Downhill Longboard team to the mountains near Bogota for a worldclass downhill Longboard Competition.  We missed the bus in the morning so we had to take public transit there including three buses. The taxis wouldn't even take us there because they felt the mountains were too dangerous.
That meant walking up the mountain once we got to the base.  Fortunately we hitchhiked a ride to the top.
Once we got there it was an adrenaline seekers dream.  Competitors from all over the world bombing down this mountain on the boards with speeds up to 100 km/h. I met many people that had flown in to Bogota from North America just to watch this event.
Lots of fearless girls in this event too.

We do not have trees like this in Canada.
The average time on the course was less than 2 minutes.  
This differs from typical longboarding because this one is called body luge.
Sunday was qualifying where you run four solo time trial heats.  Where Monday was the final where you start in groups of four and all race each other down the mountain together.

From the mountain you can see this beautiful lake below.  But the weather is so tempermental.  One second it is sunny the next it is cloudy.
At the top of the mountain at the start line it was a big party with dj's.  All the competitors from across the world know each other and there was great commraderie with people seeing each other for the first time in a while.
There was busses to take the competitors up the mountain but when that failed you could try this.
Here the sun broke through for just a little bit of the day.
Even the police are shuttling people up the mountain by the masses.

For people that were trying to commute through the area they had to wait in big lines as they had to shut down the road for an hour at a time during the runs.  But they had a nice view of all the people on the drive up.

So many giant crashes into hay-bales.  I wish i had caught more.  A lot of people I talked to felt it was the most dangerous course they had ever ridden.  A few people did have to get trucked off to the hospital in ambulances.  And a few people bailed so hard I was sure they broke something but they always got up, walked it off, and some got back on their boards and kept riding.  

Person at the front is a beginner and the person on the back has a go pro on to document their ride down this incredibly difficult course.
Mountain top, sun, Wildflowers.  Another beautiful day in South America.

If you want to see more information about the day and the event you can check it out here on the IDF WEbsite