Another Day Another Meal

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, October 20, 2011

AIRES Airlines shot me over the Andes and clear across Colombia in 550mph comfort from the top end to the very bottom of this big country.  Big countries are best explored by air...not vans and boats like that travel hell the other day!  Cartagena to Bogota is a humane hour and fifteen minutes and then from there onward to Leticia is another quick two hours.  Leticia being accessible only by air from the rest of Colombia makes for the perfect excuse to splurge on an air ticket.  At $93 one way, flying is actually cheaper than the bus equivalent for this type of distance that would likely involve bouncing down bad highways two full days and nights.

Just a sidenote, flying domestically outside the US and Europe is amazingly efficient and pleasurable.  How would you enjoy passing through security in 10 seconds flat with shoes and belt on, and liquids and computer fully packed away in a backpack.   This is how flying should be, and this was my experience departing Cartagena.

Several travelers and I found each other this afternoon, and we have grouped up to explore this remote area of the Amazon.  We will all be heading deep into Peru by passenger boat in a few days so having some new travel friends is perfect.  Already for tomorrow we have hired a speedboat to take us around the river in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.   This area shares open borders and so long as someone doesnīt venture to the next cities downriver in Brazil or Peru, no need for immigration hassles either.

Speaking of hassles, the local government zaps tourists with a bullcrap 19,500 peso ($10) fee to exit the baggage claim, and this ripoff pretty much steams us all.   The tax buys nothing except entry into the airportīs parking lot and hordes of taxi drivers aggresively trolling for a fare.   But hey, I got a free postcard of a parrot with his eyes closed when Mr. Personality at the ripoff desk handed me my receipt.  

While discussing this tax with a random Swiss girl at the grocery store, she casually mentioned Leticia reminds her of Vietnam, and I must agree.   Motorbikes make up most of the vehicular traffic, street food is common, and the concrete buildings are mostly open to the muggy warm air.  Same same but different in the truest sense of the phrase.  This familiarity puts me right at home here and makes me look even more forward to returning to Hanoi in January.  I just marvel at how buildings and towns all across these equatorial sweatbaths share the same utilitarian architecture and vibe no matter the country or continent.   All that changes really is the people and the types of food pushed out from these utilitarian blocks.

And hoping that these joints hold something tastier in Leticia, The Great All-Colombian Food Quest 2011 Extravaganza once again is underway.  I know daily food bust readings must be getting old by now, but I can report finding a lunch today marginally better than the crap in Cartagena.   For sure the beef was too tough but it actually had a taste other than salt.  The rice wasnīt too gummy and the beans werenīt mush.   So we are getting there.  Slowly but surely getting there.

Tomorrow with some luck we will pull a few piranha from the Amazon and grill them up on the riverbank for the ultimate in local cuisine.   We might even take a swim in the river just to say we did a piranha free zone of course.  Evidently, too, this is that part of the world Discovery Channel has warned against peeing in the water.   Yes, some tiny fish will swim right up in there and cause all sorts of internal misery when they find that warm water source.  This is going to be an exciting boat trip for sure.   

So here I am here in the freaking Amazon!   What a great place to veer well off the beaten path.   By the way, I canīt find my GPS device so for now no updates as to my exact location. 

How I Got Here:

El Viajero Hostel to Cartagena Airport - 10,000 pesos ($5) taxi - 10 minutes
Cartagena to Bogota to Leticia - $93 - Aires Airlines - 6 hours
Leticia Airport to La Jangada Hostel - 7,000 pesos ($3.50) taxi - 10 minutes
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