Columbia Part 2

Trip Start Sep 23, 2008
Trip End Aug 08, 2009

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Flag of Colombia  , La Guajira,
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So after gaining further altitude stamps and partying here and there along the way we headed for the Carribean. Arriving at the coast further evidence to support my belief that this country is not to be missed.  First landing in Riohacha it was the military presence that shocks. Being so close to the Venezuelan border Chevez (who together with his merry men is not popular around here either) and the oil that he controls (3rd or 4th biggest exporter to the US) has convinced the Yanks to propose a military base. Accordingly, (as told by a local) the Columbian army have begun to show a significant present to allow the people to get used to the idea before Yanks come down to save the world. So we got out of there in a hurry as with my background in guerrilla warfare I just didnīt want to be discovered. Jumping into the back of a jeep onwards to Cabo de la Vela which is on the far Eastern tip in the middle of the bloody nowhere.
Loading into a UTE with people in and on top for the journey to Cabo de la Vale, fueling up at a road side gas station with stolen Venezuelan petrol pipe line that runs close to the town and intersting start to the mission.  A truck full of people with completely different backgrounds, experiences, relationships, definitions of hate and love, concepts of wealth and desire, people all with differing expectations, rituals, fantasies and beliefs and bemused by these two gringos and their idiosyncrasies.  The truck loaded also with everything from bananas to blankets, cervaza to soft drink and chilli-bins to coffins. The coffin for a young 8 yr old girl who had recently died. Dropping this off providing a chilling symbol of the tough reality of living in desolation without Doctors, without medical treatment and without hope if stricken by anything much at such a young or vulnerable age. Thats life in the Columbian desert and in stark contrast to our society where we live in search of mortality "where men will die to live forever." (Hope for a Generation - Fat Freddys Drop).  As we powered on through the desert hanging off the back of the truck it open up together with my mind to the reality of "where the fuck am I" putting back that all important smile (also held by the driving dry wind which  kept the corners of my mouth from doing anything else) to this here mask which can sometime be vulnerable to loosing it. With Tavis's, (my Co-Pilot) legs hanging over the windscreen, butt pressed to the roof,  smoke in one hand, dreams in the other, we both realised we were definitely off the beaten track and another two "culture vultures" (as Tavis termed) were satisfying their addiction - the discovery of new cultural experiences. A cultural dance by night , some cruising in fishing boats by day and even time to shake booty in a poor excuse for a disco was how time was spent.
How off the beaten track?...try and put it into goggle maps, yip it ainīt there. This is the smallest of coastal villages where the main road exists as a sand swept track sitting protected by a peninsula that rises up red in colour displaying the rocky and devastating dry foundations of the area that exists within Wayuu tribal. The land merely passed down from generation to generation in its primitive state looking as it would if the outback of Australia existed next to the coast.  A village where previous they fished and now they attempt to net the pesos of the tourist hooking them into their little eateries or renting the odd hammock. Tranquility redefined but the deep inners of the Columbian jungle in search for the now found Ciudad Peridad (Lost City) was next up.
The Lost City trek was a trip that would prove to be full of surprises with 13 of us heading in and only 9 coming out. Boarding a reworked Toyota Landcruiser proved to be a test of oneīs ability not to Sardine (pooh oneīs pants) as the road in, cut itīs way around the mountain side with devastatingly steep cliffs eyeing any mistake. The replacement of a slick on the punctured tyre proving to hinder but not stopping the progress of the beast (which would be more appropriate as a booze bus) as the engine screamed  for forgiveness as the driver feed it with more and more pedal hauling us 15 people.   You cannot help having this strange sense of visage as the reality of location (Columbian jungle) , with its treacherous historical past and the military presence. The requisite 2500 stairway entry rather tough. The natural surroundings rich with beauty and the depth of the mud obviously going to pose a few problems to some and the required crossings of rivers problems to others. A vine swing  proving the end and necessary helicopter evacuation to another with the fracturing of her back proving a rather uncomfortable injury. It was thanks to a few first aids courses a few of us had taken as opposed to the armies idea of getting her to walk around that proved worth the day off work down in Hammersmith Red Cross. The army even struggling with the idea of a telephone calling up the injury  until I pulled out my gun. A tough three days in and even tougher 2 days out with rain like I had never imagined forcing the rivers to swell and road to prove even more treacherous on the way out.  
Where the Lost City is the Columbian Macha Pichu, but for the requisite trek in nothing stands to match the Tyrona national park which takes in some incredible patches of the Caribbean coast protected from the ferocity of the ocean by reefs looking not unlike Polynesia.
Coconuts grew wild forcing an Italian to believe that getting hers out wouldn't be overly obvious. Whereas this was a reasonable sight the misadventure of realising we were on a nudest beach and having a pale skinned, quite obviously British, dude parking his sack wrapped coconuts in our line of sight proving  too much even for the most experienced of bird watchers.
Further back around the coast a number of dives were necessary just to prove how good the Galapagos was. A couple of moray eels, the odd dragon fish and the reaslisation that most of you when talking about depth are involved in a conversation about the depth of the despair of the profits warnings announce to the  the market by some investment bank. Adding to the the daily routine of fruit smoothey, couple of dives, couple of beers, lots of book time and chatter with others equally content with their crisis of how long to stay in Taganga or the beauty of 50p cold beers or GBP 2 massage not the economy. Stunning old fishing place now more inept at keeping the tourist happy though.
But according to most all parties start further around the coast in a little place called Cartagena and if my man Mr Cawson is true in saying "that if the world was turned on its side all things loose would fall into Columbia" then Cartagena is the port of distribution as many of you people reading through this know (and have some very interesting stories that would definitely have been brought out at 21st speeches aye Roger, Mt Futts oh are you there Duff?). A couple of cocktails and the beautifully ripped off Cafe del Mar Cartagena all much fun but sorry this is not my 21st. A place of complete and utter beauty mixed with a little too many apartment buildings. A walled city with intriguing colonial buildings and many other beautiful objects making it not unlike anywhere in Europe. What Europe didnīt have was this ridiculous mud moutain. About 300 metres deep they reackon but so dense one floats on top to the feeling of Dead Sea... . It was briefinly after this excursion I logged on to my emails at received the news the Polish Maoris of this world had been waiting for...Another addition to the tribal ranks had ocurred and like his ancestors before threw out a solid 9+ pounds for good measure. The first of the new sub species and likely to be a hit amongst the ladies and a master on the field. Despite being born in Aussie if he even dares to play...lets not think about it. So we toasted it...thinking of the pending Ngai Tahu registration and Polish Passport application to be filed in due course. So after a good time here including a mud session time in this country dew to a close before heading off to Bogota for a couple of days.
Traveling alone is a interesting proposition. I didn't really know what to expect but got a lot of helpful guidance from J Hodgson ( um.. yeah).   It is not something for everyone and yeah there are pros and cons. What helps along the way is the people you meet. I have had the fortune of meeting some really cool cats (and some dicks).  Traveling throughout Columbia was made all the more enjoyable in this case with my Co-Pilot, Tavis. It always amazes me how two strangers from different parts of the world can meet (following a Salsa dance lesson), to form such a close bond and then to part as incredibly close friends feeling as if each has known each other for a significant part of their lives.  Such traveling buddies enter your journey without any pre deposition of who you may or may not be and it is with this objectivity that can often be so engaging. But it was with melancholy consolation that shortly after returning home T-Man was faced with the grim reality that we are all mortal and yet being so far away one can only offer words over a broken telephone line. Further  condolences brother, I know if you Dad was blessed with half the caring, understanding, humour and propensity to smoke cheap Columbian cigarettes and drink so much rum like his son he would have been a great man  and a huge loss. Not to mention the willingness to offer up his bed to Ecuadorian damsels in distress. Thanks for runnin'with me partner.
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