Journey to La Guajira

Trip Start May 2006
Trip End Aug 17, 2006

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Our last morning in Mompox, we visited the cemetery, filled with mausoleums, statues, flowers, and even a freshly dug grave. We bought tickets to Valledupar, the capital of the Cesar department and where I had to renew my visa tomorrow, or else! They said they would come to our hotel at 11:30, so after viewing the Bolģvar stone, which dates his arrivals and departures (all rather brief) we rushed back, but our ride came an hour late, because the driver was eating lunch. Turns it, it wasn“t a bus nor van, just a Chevy pickup truck and we were the only passengers. Our driver was short, balding, spoke incomprehensible Spanish, and from the back, could have been Chinese. We drove northward over flat dirt roads, and I was wondering how we would cross the river. We drove through some small town and pulled up by the river. Three canoes were connected by 2x6`s and then a crude floor was constructed over them, but sturdy enough to hold at least a few tons, but for how many trips, who knew? We drove onto this ferry contraption, and with a 15 hp motor attached to the back of the middle canoe, made our way across, back to the mainland. A bridge would be far safer, and eventually more cost effective, though it would put these people out of work, though I suppose they could be retrained to perform maintenance. On second thought though, better that Mompox stay isolated.

We picked up 4 more passengers on the other side and we were stuffed in the back seat.
The road lost its pavement, and became rather bumpy, which for some reason was soporific, but I could only nod off for an instant for fear of banging by head. For the next couple of hours we passed endless cattle ranches and at one point, right in front of us a dump truck unloaded about a ton of dirt across the road, making it impassable. I just laughed. A bulldozer came moseying down the road and flattened it for us. We picked up some campesinos who sat in the bed. When we reached pavement they got out, and we headed east. At Beconia, we reached a crossroads, N to Santa Marta, S to Bogotą and E to Valledupar. We waited for a massive train full of coal to cross, it was the same line that passed through Aracataca, the Garcia Marquez had taken 50+ years ago. The silhouette of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the largest oceanic mountain range in the world came into a view. We were planning on traveling around it, but I hoped we could find somewhere to enter. However there were almost no roads, guerillas were hiding out, and you needed Indigenous permission to enter.

Besides the visa issue, the only other reason to see Valledupar was because it was where Vallenato music had been founded. Vallenato is upbeat folkish accordion music and Garcia Marquez`s favorite. In his early years he had travelled to Valledupar on several occasions. Downtown was noisy and commercial and the cheapest place was an expensive 30,000 pesos (12 dollars). After dinner, we searched for live Vallento. Even on a Thursday night, it proved impossible. Seems like except for an annual festival, most of the musicians are in Bogotį or Medellin, where it is easier to make a living.
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