Police searches and buses
Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
76Trip End Apr 25, 2007
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It was certainly not all fun and games getting here. Not the 8hr overnight bus from hell, Merida - Maracaibo. Not the 4hrs in an hilariously crammed "colectivo" taxi from Maracaibo - Maicao, scampering across the border only after 10-or-so military/police stops. No, most enjoyable was the Maicao - Santa Marta leg of the trip, which seemed to go so well until 8km from our destination a terribly enthusiastic customs official stopped us for 2hrs to unpack/repack our bus several times and generally screw us around. Keep in mind there was no hint of drugs or guns, simply some poor bastard importing too many floor fans
And so I made it. In reality, I was the least hassled passenger on any of the buses as soon as the army/police/random bloke spotted my passport. Seems they only care about locals skipping across the border, so I will see what I can strap to my body for the exit border crossing (just joking - please don't hurt me scary men with guns). The security checks were sooo tedious, and often a police checkpoint was only a few hundred metres from a military checkpoint making it a stop-start affair. One cop, who incidentally was sporting the greatest pair of post-80s aviators I am likely to witness, momentarily relaxed his steely gaze of terror long enough to lower his fantastic lenses and take the piss out of me - "This crazy gringo has been all over the place, even fucking China!"
Colombia is cheap. The food is better. The people are nicer. The place is safer. You read right - safer. A lot of this can be attributed to the US sponsorship of about US$640M this year (and previous years) that goes directly to the police force - intended to give them a fighting chance against the various cartels and to protect visiting foreigners. I'm yet to discover what it is they expect in return, but there is sure to be an angle they're working. Maybe it's a downpayment on health care plans for all the highlanders being poisoned by the indiscriminate spraying of crops with defoliant (as part of the brilliant "war on drugs" initiative).
I admittedly spent my first week here relaxing on a beach to escape the suffocating heat, but it doesn't seem to work so I'm now resigned to a 24-hour sweat. The last few days I've been trying to accumulate enough momentum of motivation to take myself to visit Taganga - a mere 5km away. Getting to Tayrona, 65km away, could be tough. The thing is - heat aside - Santa Marta is a pretty great place to just hang out on the cheap
Oh, I almost forgot. In a couple of weeks I will venture to Cartagena - I assure you it is merely coincidental that the rigorous process to find Miss Colombia happens to be booked for the same dates. I will of course do my best to avoid the commotion and crowds, but on the off chance I have to suffer through a pageant or two I will post the photos here so that you can all suffer along with me (McKee).