Vamos: the Cruelest Word in the Spanish Language

Trip Start Apr 07, 2013
Trip End Apr 21, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Magdalena,
Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm covering two day's worth here because yesterday resembled what I think of when I hear the words "death march". We hiked for eight solid hours, and it was just as painful as it sounds. Once an hour we would stop, drenched in sweat and panting to catch our breath, and minutes later hear that dreaded word: vamos! Brittany and I are polar opposites in the speed department, and we were both praying for patience the entire afternoon. I'm too fast and she's too slow, with no happy medium. Plus, her shoes got soaked and she decided to wear them without socks, which resulted in huge and very painful sores around her ankles (our guide's creative solution was to wrap her ankles in maxi-pads; sounds weird but it works!). To top it off, my precious dry boots got soaked on the very last river crossing of the day, just minutes from camp. Even the scenery couldn't save us from our foul moods yesterday, but today made up for it.

Now that we only had a measly three hours between us and civilization, we could relax. We slept in and feasted on seafood empanadas for breakfast (no bones this time!). Ironically, it was on the very last day that we all found our pace and stride. We finally realized that it's a whole lot better to go at your own speed and spread out, so we stopped trying to stay together as one big group. Brittany was comfortable staying in the back and our guide walked with her every step of the way, so I took advantage of my chance to finally lead the group. I was practically running down the trail, which meant I got so far ahead that I could stop and enjoy the pretty spots for five or ten minutes before seeing the second person in line. I made plenty of stops! We're covering the same ground as we did on the first day, but it's like seeing it for the very first time. We were so exhausted on day one that we couldn't appreciate anything around us. Today I got to really enjoy it and take it all in. Walking totally alone along the jungle path with sweeping mountain views on either side was my dream experience, and I got to live it again and again. All along the way I'd hear rustling in the foliage just off the path. It was like the animals were daring you to explore and discover. The only sounds I could track down came from foot-long glass lizards, and they often scurried about just in front of my feet.

We'd been seeing massive butterflies for days, but never the caterpillars. Today, while jogging down a very steep descent, I reached out to a tree to slow myself down. One half of it was black, and I just assumed it was some kind of fungus. I did a double-take, and when I looked closer I discovered it was thousands of fuzzy black caterpillars! And now we know where all the butterflies come from. I'm just glad I didn't put my hand on the black part of the tree; it would've been covered in bug guts...

The indigenous people were much more active today, and we ran across them several times. I traded a protein bar for some pictures, and got to learn a little about their culture. In the pictures you'll see the kids wearing big bundles of beads around their necks. That's how they identify the girls. The boys where a single strap across their chest holding a bag at their hip. I was kind of relieved to learn a way to tell who was what. When they all wear the same clothes and all have long hair, it can be pretty hard to tell! We also learned that they really hate dogs and sometimes kill them. Apparently there were never dogs in this part of the country until the Spaniards came and used them to hunt down the Indians. They're still taking it out on the dogs. Talk about a long-standing grudge!

The final leg of the trail was tough, but I got a huge sense of accomplishment when I saw the information sign you pass at the start (I think Brittany just got a sense of relief). We looked it over and realized we had just finished hiking 29 miles. Whoa! Throw on that every inch of it was steep up or down and I think we've earned some bragging rights! La Ciudad Perdida will get added to the very long list of things I'm glad I did but will never do again. Brittany would probably hand me divorce papers if I tried :)

After our last lunch as a group and some celebratory beers we piled back into the Jeep. We had one extra person this time so our phenomenal guide Wilson rode on the roof. I still have no idea how he made it back without being thrown off; that drive out of the jungle is like riding Rhino Rally without the seat belts! We got pulled over at a police security checkpoint on the way in and the officers made a point of looking through the Jeep, counting all of us. Somebody joked that the reason all these white people from rich countries were huddled in the back of that Jeep was obvious: we all want jobs! Things where we live are terrible and we're chasing the Colombian dream! If I could have rolled on the ground when I heard that I would've.

Against all odds and possibility, Brittany has a cold. How do you get a cold in the jungle??? I'm sure she's looking forward to the next few days at the beach; she really needs some down time. We picked up some pills to help her get through the night and then went back to Lulo for the best ceviche I've ever had. We really love that place! We decided to skip the crowds at Playa Blanca and head to Palomino on the Venezuelan border instead. It's supposed to be one of Colombia's best beaches, but the tourists haven't caught on yet. It's an hour and a half bus ride east, and we'll leave as soon as our laundry is done. Washing clothes in the sink only goes so far, and our clothes are in need of military-grade detergent in the hands of professionals. Let's face it, you can only flip your underwear inside-out four times before it starts to get gross ;)

Brittany's wheezing away, but at least she's in a warm bed now. The beach will be good for her. After the past five days, she deserves it.
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Felipe on

You must visit the increidible landscape, and beaches of Tayrona National park.

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