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Trip Start May 2006
Trip End Aug 17, 2006

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Friday, July 14, 2006

Hi y´all,

I have officially left Bogotá and will be traveling through the heart of the Colombia down the its most important river, the Magdalena and onto the Caribbean. Yesterday I left with Fernando (I wrote a whole intro to him but my computer broke and I couldn´t send it out) but for now, he is my traveling buddy, a 21 year old philosophy student eager to see parts of his country very few people know.
We first left the strangling capital traffic and arrived in Facatativa (say that 3 times, even slowly), the first place Símon Bolívar stopped on his last journey. Back then it was a village, now it´s a small city. We went to its only tourist attraction, a arqueological park, with pictographs drawn and carved giant stones, placed their by the hand of god or glaciers or whatever. Though it is beautiful with pretty vistas, it costs money to get in and is surrounded by barbed wire fence, which keep out vagrants and trash, though a small sluiceway of sewage flowed underneath some rocks. There is nothing dedicated to Bolívar and in fact one of the parks is named after his chief rival, Paula Santander. The restaurants have nothing vegetarian so I ate a tomato and avocado sandwich while Fernando had greasy chicken and fries.
We decided to take a bus straight to Honda, our first destination on the river. We could have stopped at Guadas, where Bolívar did, but we would have arrived in Honda too late. The bus had no empty seats, so instead of standing up, we went up forward and I sat practically on the lap of the bus driver. Soon after Facatativa, we left the Andean plains and went down and down and down, nonstop for several hours. The driver, though uncommunicative, maneuvered the bus with nerves of steel, or perhaps no nerves at all, down the road passing absolutely everybody no matter how windy or how crowded the roads. It´s probably how I would drive if traffic regulations in the US were lax, aggressive but in control, yet heavily relying on the capability of your machine and the semi-intelligence of other drivers.
Honda was a very important town when the river was still the primary means of transport. It was the link between the lowlands and coast and Bogotá. Above Honda are rapids that make the river unnavigable by large craft. Nowadays, it is merely a crossroads, little tourism, and a museum about the river. Despite only being a little more than 100 miles from chilly Bogotá, it is 8,000 feet lower and sweltering. The river along with a tributary Guali is crisscrossed by 29 bridges, some of which have collapsed. They are dirty and muddy. For Spanish readers here is a wikipedia article about the city
This is the first time I am traveling Latin America without some sort of guidebook, so when we arrived, we walked around asking about hotels, and altering finding one for 30 dollars a night, we found one for 6 bucks, just no air conditioning, but the sound and site of the Guali river at our window. The shower was a pipe sticking out of the wall that poured onto the toilet and sink.
For dinner, I made the difficult decision to eat fish. The reasons for it are clear. I want to experience river culture, and there really isn´t much else to eat. Fernando eats meat and I don´t want to inconvenience him by spending lots of time seeking out non-animal food. So probably every couple of days, I will sample some sort of river fish. I heard though that lately the harvest hasn´t been good. From what I have read, this is been the case more or less for at least 20 years, due to habitat destruction and overfishing. It felt weird to spit bones out, but I am sure I will adjust over the next few weeks, and then be thankful I don´t have to do it anymore.
There doesn´t seem to be any boats here, so we will take a short bus ride a little further south where we heard there is more of a port.
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