Police searches and buses

Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 25, 2007

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ever found yourself somewhere so hot that the compulsory cold showers have you screaming "not cold enough!"? That's Santa Marta. The sea breeze eventually rises from its slumber and offers some relief in the evening, but by then my clothes have taken on a brown complexion to accompany the rank odour they spew forth without effort.

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. How ironic to eventually arrive at Santa Marta to the realisation that a few extra bloody fans would not go to waste. By this stage the novelty of having the bus stormed by military had somewhat worn off on me, and the fact I hadn't slept since leaving Merida on the night bus was starting to take its toll. I didn't want to have to lay the smackdown or open a can of whoop-ass. Luckily it didn't come to that, because there were enough mothers with babies on the bus that it was becoming a hand gesturing, shouting convention - having a gun did not appear to be an advantage. Vomit down the front of you and a crying kid on the other hand...

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!". My other favourite moment would be when a shy-looking military bloke lamely pretended to search my bags, and whispered to me in English "Itīs too hot to be doing this shit", just out of earshot of his superior.

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. The nightlife is decent, the beaches pleasant, and after knocking back a big lunch and a few joints the heat is free to take its toll on me - siesta time. I wake up just in time for dinner and a few joints, and by then it's a lot cooler and only a short walk to La Puerta - a friendly club full of drinking, dancing, and most importantly, girls. In this respect I am forced to shock the world by revealing that Colombian women are, in fact, hotter than their Venezuelan counterparts. Not only in raw hotness, but as an added bonus their friendly demeanor gifts them bonus points in what is an elusive find. I'm told things just get better the further south I go...

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).
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luz-angela on

I must say you have balls to be an american and have traveled through Colombia so freely like that. Or, you must be really insane!

kiemce on

Re: ballsy
Thanks Angela! While I did indeed have balls on last examination, I would prefer to attribute my fantastic fortune and insane disposition to being Australian - not american (I assume you mean from USA?).


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