Month: December 2007

Leaving South America

So, I wake up early on Boxing Day, St. Stevens Day, or 26 Dec – whatever you want to call it – with a ginga scottish bargirl in my arms, a couple of folks asleep on couches, barowner asleep on the floor, and the cleaner cleaning up around us.  I remove myself from the scot, praying that she doesn’t awake (you know the tempers on these redheads), and help the cleaner move the very heavy tables back to their original positions.  Then do a bit of cleaning up.  Starting a bit of work at a bar, even voluntarily, is rather addictive.  Although I’m hungover as hell, and just want to curl up in a ball somewhere the cleaner has already been – I feel the need to wash the dirty glasses, clean up the place overall, and then pour a couple of beers for some early-comers.  And one for myself, with a touch of lemonade.  A few people trickle in, as there’s some game on where people kick a round ball (ROUND?!) around a field – trying to get it into a net.  I therefore assume it’s called netball.  Because I heard that was some kind of a girl’s game, and this seemed like it was for girls.

Anyway, eventually things sort themselves out.  I drop off the santa suit.  Lee has two attempts at going to the bank.  Without his car keys – lost.  But, manages to get there – to find he’s left the till receipts at the bar.  Drunkard.  Second attempt – sweet.  Leaves me taking care of the bar each time – second time possibly not the best idea, as I take a second nap on a bench.  But, by the 2nd time, I think he’d got his shit together enough to see this possibility – and it seems that the chef, Patty, is keeping an eye on things as well.  To be fair to myself, which I always am, I did sleep in a position where I could see people coming up the stairs.  And I did wake up each time somebody came up.  Nearly.

Anyway, starting to regret the several wake-up beers, and lack of sleep, and lack of scottish bargirl – I figured I should probably return to my hostel for the first time in a long time.  Tried to sleep.  Not much success.   Shower instead, and then prepared for my final night at the bar.  This involved making sure I had a fair bit of cash in my pocket to pay for my tab.  Then making sure I took my kruse-suit to the bar – as a gift.  And making sure I smelled nice.

Got to Finn’s, and the place was dead.  Seemed like nobody else could do another night after last night.  Even Steve was missing.  But Ursula was there.  And Helen.  And Merav (I think the spelling’s right?).   And the ladies are all that matter.  But, after a few hard nights, nearly everybody wanted an early night.  And I guess I can partly blame myself for that.  So, after a half-yard of beer, and some other cocktails and shots and what-not, it was an early-closing.  And fair enough – there weren’t any customers.  Ursula, Ross & Helen get in a taxi together for their respective places.  So, I walk home with tears in my eyes after my last night at Finn McCool’s.

Run into the neighbourhood drug-dealer/mugger – (who I’ve made friends with, without buying any drugs – just giving cigarettes, talking to like a friend, and not being intimidated (well – appearing not to be)).  Tell him it’s my last night.  Nope – don’t need any crack.  Sorry.  Haven’t got any change either – just gave it to that other guy on the corner.  What?  Oh – change of clothes.  Last night here – might have some clothes I want to get rid of?  Just so happens I’ve got a pair of pants I don’t want anymore… he obviously doesn’t believe me – but a minute later I open the hostel gate again – and give him the pair of trousers I was going to throw away.  Probably shouldn’t encourage the nasty piece of work – but he hasn’t given me any problems.  Just some very good friends.

Oh well.  Maybe I’ve shown him the way to be a nice guy.  Anyway, pack my bags – and just as I’m starting to undress for a few hours of sleep – there’s a knock on my door.  Turns out to be Helen & Ross.  Couldn’t bear to be apart from me, it seems.  So – a couple of beers, and some chatting.  Definitely last night – although maybe they’re trying to get me too drunk to get my flight.  Ross fails – falls asleep at the foot of the bed reasonably early.  He eventually leaves, and then Helen & I have one last night of beautiful, beautiful love-making.  Well, love-making in the sense of the word that the protestants would use.

Still – I suspected ulterior motives – and sure enough, she kept me awake long enough that I damned near missed my flight.  Got awoke by the hostel staff at 7am, but was lured back to bed by those flaming red locks.  Then, same hostel staff was nice enough to bother about having another go, at 8am.  This time, it was panic a-go-go.  Left Helen sobbing into the pillows as I rushed to the airport.  Just in time to buy some trite souvenirs, listen to the pilot chatting with some guy at the bar, and then discover that it was to be delayed by two hours.  Only turned out to be about one hour, enough to fail at getting food – but succeed in getting a few cervezas.  Well, half cervezas.  Each time I bought one – something would suggest that the plane was ready, and I’d have to leave some left behind.  Only to return to buy another.  But eventually we were ready.  And we left.  After watching two 10-year old or so boys screaming and refusing to get onto the plane.  The poor kids were physically manhandled (with much difficulty) by a security guard.  I have to give it to them, they put up one hell of a fight.

So, after a few hours, we arrive in Amsterdam early in the morning of 28 Dec.  How was the flight?  Piss poor technology, acceptable food, shit movies/entertainment, and awful seat.  With a bad foot.  And too tired/hungover to keep asking for more booze in order to make everything better.  Still, managed to be tired enough, and to drink enough wine, that I slept a fair bit.  And the silly lady next to me got off at Bonaire, so I had two seats – and could kind of put my foot up when I wanted.  Kind of.  Got to Amsterdam late, so had to rush to the other airplane.  With bad foot – which only starts hurting when I’m doing something silly like this.  Rushed too much, and got there early, with pain.  After spending quite some time searching for an easy option for, and deliberating if I should, drinking a beer – I find a place that does it.  But big queue.  Then, spot an irish bar.  Sorted.  Have to wait for ages while the barman talks to some americans.  Never would have happened in Finn’s.  Have to wait for so long that when the guy finally does tend me, I only have time for a half-pint of Murphy’s Stout.  That goes down as quick as possible, and back off to the gate.  Just in time for final boarding.

Short flight across what I’m now going to have to refer to as The Ditch, while reminiscing fondly of what I used to call that term for.  And so I arrive in the famous Heathrow, London.  Buy some bottles of booze, and get met by Penelope.  Luckily – as I’d figured a while back that I hadn’t actually made any solid arrangements with her as to what was happening when I arrived.  Kinda wish I had – as those arrangements would have involved meeting at an airport bar.  Instead – straight to the Underground.  And the Underground is just like on the telly.  Look out the windows at streets of houses.  And the streets of houses are just like on the telly.  Long time later, switch trains.  Or lines, or whatever they want to call them.  Ages later, get out, and catch a taxi.  And the taxi is just like on the telly.  And the taxi’s driven by a driver with an accent.  And the accent is just like on the telly.  And we arrive at a doorway.  And the doorway is just like on the telly.  And we go inside, and Skye’s there.  But Skye’s not even on the telly.  Mike’s not there either, and he’s not on the telly neither.  (I wish I knew how to spell “either” and “neither” with the excessive “v” noises that the poms use).  Anyway – a couple of bottles of Guiness.  Some sleep.  A bath with red wine and a book.  A bottle of champagne.  Getting reacquainted with all the technology I left behind.  And now it’s nearly time for my first night’s sleep in what isn’t quite home, but will do for a while.

And tomorrow, I apparently start travelling again.  Some joint called the Lake District.  There were Lake Districts in both Chile and Argentina, and I avoided them – seeing as I got lakes at home.  Good lakes.  This here english Lake District had better be impressive, or the locals will be getting some talking-to.

Guess where… Finn McCool’s

As I hinted last time, I’m not feeling so good at about 9:30am 23 Dec – when Ursula and Helen turn up to collect me. But, I manage to make it to the car. And to not make a mess of the car while Ursula drives us to the supermarket. Then, I try to get out of the car to walk around the supermarket. Legs don’t work. Feel hollow, to the point where I am actually sure I would fall over if I tried to stand up. I think I proved it. I tell the lovely lasses that I’d catch up with them. And then try to recover. I get woken up by the girls returning with several trolleys full of groceries. Oops.

Return to Finn’s, and this time manage to help out. Carry the groceries in, and discover that the brags about the size of the turkey(s) weren’t exaggerated. Huge.  Then, some recovery cervezas and shepherd’s pie.  And so on, and so on.  Helping out behind the bar once in a while, drinking always, and playing absolutely awful pool.   And limping about.  Figure I may have broken my foot somehow, so go to hospital.  A fair amount of time and money later, I discover I just have an inflammation around the tendon.  Or something.  So – it’s bandaged up, and I’m told to go home, put it up, put ice on it, don’t walk on it, and take some pills.  I of course walk back to Finn’s, as I figure a pub is the best place to find ice, and to sit around with your foot up.  Of course I quickly find sitting down fairly boring.

And, it turns out to be the staff party.  The owners of Finn’s also own about 5 other bars/cafes/etc.  So – lots of staff – mostly ecuadorian.  And I figure that seeing as it’s supposed to be a party for the staff, I should work the bar while the Finn’s staff has fun.  Turns out to be a silly option, as there was free drinks.  I don’t think ecuadorians are used to free booze.  But they learnt pretty bloody quickly, and there were some instances where I thought brawls would break out between people trying to get to the booze first.  Turns out they probably had the right idea – as we ran out of nearly every booze available.  All the beer, whiskey, rum, wine, vodka which was supposed to be free got used up rather quickly.  So then we had to pour beer from the taps – and went through every keg in the place.  Madness.  People jumping up and down, causing the jeebersmas tree to sway, and then actually start hopping along from the vibrations.  Eventually people leave.  Leaving me rather tired, and a little intoxicated.

24 Dec – get up and go to Finn McCool’s.  Cerveza, shepherd’s pie, cerveza, irish stew, cerveza, etc.  Help out with the cooking for tomorrow’s dinner a little bit – but mostly watch/tend the bar while others do the kitchen stuff.  Another big night, with plenty of drinking behind the bar.  And then we close early – allowing Lee & Ursula to spend the night in the bar by themselves, doing the gift thing in front of the fire.  The theory being that tomorrow, they’re already here, and can start doing useful stuff early.

But, 25 Dec arrives – and then I turn up to the bar.   Lee & Ursula very much asleep in the middle of the floor.  We clean up the place a bit, and set up the tables for christmas dinner.  Drink some champagne.  More champagne.  Get into a santa suit, but the first two children were old enough and smart enough to figure I wasn’t really santa.  Third child, however, a gorgeous little girl – seemed rather convinced.  Couldn’t stop staring at me.  But I’m used to that now.  Lunch was eventually served – and we discover we are rather short of cutlery.  I run down to another cafe owned by the owners.  Quite the sight – fully costumed santa running down the street, in order to beg for knives and forks.  With a bandaged foot.  But, I succeed, and the dinner goes off rather well.  Except I couldn’t eat – because of my santa beard.  And the little girl kept standing next to me staring, so I couldn’t sneak the beard off for a couple of minutes.

Eventually dinner is over, and I give a couple of gifts out.  Then, wave goodbye, out the back door – and finally get out of the ridiculously hot and restrictive santa suit.  And get some food.  Very good meal – and I don’t think anybody could finish their plate.  Then, watching some christmas type movies on TV, drinking more champagne, then beer, then wine, then whatever one could think of.  And so on, and so on.  Until the bar becomes busy, and then I work the bar again.  Everybody enjoyed themselves quite a bit, I think – and once again it was a struggle to get people out at closing time.  Then, a few more drinks with some of the regulars/friends entrusted to stay after closing.  And a few of us end up sleeping here.

Next update will hopefully be written from London.  If they’ve got internet over there.

Finn McCool’s

Right – I usually use the name of the city or town as my subject-header for each story. And, I have again… I can’t really honestly say I’m in Quito – but have to admit that I’m just in Finn’s.

So – what’s been happening in Finn’s for the last couple of days? Madness. Full Moon Syndrome has hit with a vengeance. Relationship troubles, staff troubles, drunk troubles, mate troubles, etc etc. But, nothing too serious. Here goes…

Woke up on 21 Dec after a nice kip. Got to the bar just as Lee was arriving. Had been open for a little while previously though – so technically I was late. But, made up for it as soon as possible. Drinking drinks. Pouring drinks. Buying drinks. Drinks drinks drinks.  I cut Helen’s hair.  Helen cut my hair.  While each of us weren’t particularly sober.  Good idea at the time.  Fair bit of time behind the bar.  Without checking that it was alright – which was a bit naughty. But, Ursula and Lee know me well enough that if it’s not cool, or I’m getting in the way – they’ll let me know. But – all was good. More drinks. And then, after closing, I finally checked out Subway – a famous (well… infamous) bar nearby. My first thoughts… “okay, looking at the clientele, I see drug dealer, drug dealer, prostitute, drug dealer, prostitute, etc etc” And then – I go to the toilet. And follow the trail of drips-o’-blood down the corridor to find it. Decide I don’t really like Subway. So, drink my free drinks – wait for others to get sick of it also, and head off back to the hostel for another night of sleep. Discover daylight when we get outside Subway.

Which of course meant I was late again on 22 Dec. Finn’s opened at 7:30am for some soccer/football games, while I awoke at 2pm. So again, had to make up for lost time. Decided that vino blanco (white wine) was the best method. Turns out I was right. The last chap to stay with me last night, Steve, was already here. But asleep. Poor fella – it seems I’m a bad influence at times. Anyway – he eventually awoke – and taught me how to play Crib. Not a bad game actually – and I got to the point of trying to find a drill, so I could drill holes in the table for a crib board. Was given permission to, but there was no drill about. Maybe – I suspect that may have been a bluff. But – after a couple of games of crib, and some other game called Crash I was taught (two new card games in one day – my brain must still be working)… same old. Played some pool – but turns out I’m not very good on certain days. More bottles of the vino blanco. Barefeet all day, carrying around an ice bucket. Pure elegance and style. A few more drinks after closing time, and back to the hostel for some more sleep, so that I can be fresh and eager the next morning to go supermarket shopping for jeebersmas day dinner with Ursula and ‘Elen.

Next update – I fail at being fresh and eager. Miserably. To the point of being unable to stand/walk when we get to the supermarket because my legs feel hollow.

Bored, so Back To Quito

Plan was fulfilled, managed to get to the bus station. Caught an overnight bus to Medellin. Arriving in the former Murder Capital of THE WORLD!!! on 17 Dec.  But, the north americans didn’t like Pablo Escobar so much, so ended up killing him, and the Medellin Cartel broke up. It is now very nice, and safe. But the ‘Media’ always forgets to report the good news. Got to Medellin, and caught a taxi to the Black Sheep hostel. First time I heard of it, I guessed it was owned by a kiwi. But I’d heard of Casa Kiwi first. Then… heard that Casa Kiwi was owned and run by a naughty americano. (Joke for those who intiendo espanol.) So, I go to Black Sheep. The english guy I met the first night at San Agustin is there, and apparently good friends with the kiwi manager. Respect for kiwi manager drops. He’s friends with the inglis, for jeebers’ sake. But, I guess if there’s one thing this trip has taught me, is that there’s nice NeoZelandese, Norte Americanos, Inglis, and even Arsetralians. Anyway… got to the hostel, after the taxi driver got rather lost. Waited for a room to become available, and spent the time going to the supermarket to buy a bottle of Aotearoa sauvignon blanc, some colombian blue cheese, colombian duck pate, and a french loaf. Also, a sandwich for lunch. The expensive stuff is for dinner. The wine was bloody 20 seppo dollares.

Back to hostel, and drunk beer while waiting for my bed to become available. A little early in the day, perhaps, but I had to teach the kiwi chap what it means to be from Aotearoa.  Eventually got a bed, then headed into the central city.  Walked around for a while, checking out some chap’s sculptures.  Famous Colombian artist – specialty is satirical fatties.  Big sculptures of fat people, fat cats, fat dogs, etc.  Then, started towards some modern new-age blah-blah park.  Designed for people to walk around barefeet, over shallow ponds, sand pools, etc.  Stopped for a beer at a very dodgy bar.  Drunk guy tried to talk to me.  My espanol is reasonable by now, but I couldn’t understand a word he said.  Ended up telling him I didn’t understand, again and again.  Got annoyed, and left.  Got halfway to the park, couldn’t be bothered crossing the road – and turned around to get back on the subway to the hostel.  My enthusiasm for being a tourist really is completely gone.

So – back to the hostel, and decided I’ve completely had enough of travelling.  Make the plan to get back to Quito immediately.  To my new Finn McCool’s family.  So, evening is spent impatiently waiting for the next day, so I can leave.  Drinking cerveza, and eventually drinking my Sav Blanc, while eating cheese and pate – and watching Bruce Willis fighting the good fight against those dastardly terrorists.

So, mix of beer and wine caused a small hangover when I awake for 18 Dec.   Drink some cervezas, and book a flight to ingerlund.  27th of December I leave South America, and 28th December, I arrive in the Queen’s island.  More cerveza, finish my cheese and pate, and then off to the bus station.  Leaving the kiwi hostel owner still pondering the distribution of my bill.  Again – the cerveza was more than the accommodation.  This time – internet also, as I’d spent quite some time uploading photos.  Bus station, and get on a bus.  That’s what bus stations are for.

18 hours or so later, it’s the 19 Dec, and I’m at Ipiales for the fourth time.  Colectivo to the border, and met the Alejandro at the border.  Alejandro is a crazy colombian guy I met in Quito – in the same dorm room.  Get over the border without being searched by the corrupt policemen.  Didn’t have any forgotten bags of coca leaves this time anyway.  I think.  Another colectivo to Tulcan.  And discover the restaurant at the bus station is being renovated.  I’d been pinning my hopes on today’s meal being there.  No such luck.  Have an empanada & coffee instead, and get onto another bus.  Back to Quito.

So, a little over 30 hours after leaving Medellin, I get to Quito.  Taxi to the hostel.  Just in time for the free ron&coke night.  I avoid it.  Get myself a private room, with bathroom this time.  Novelty.  Get into my suit, and off to Finn McCool’s.  With four bottles of booze I bought at the duty-free store on the border.  I pretty much bought everything which said “Irish”, and a bottle of champagne.  The irish stuff as gifts for the bar, and champagne for jeebersmas.  Must remember to buy some icecream.  Get to Finn’s, and I can’t see Lee or Ursula, and there’s some new ginga girl behind the bar.  I’m apprehensive.  Then, I see Paula – the ‘glassie’.  Squeals and hugs.  Then she runs over to the pool table, to tell Lee & Ursula.  They were here, just hiding.  More squeals and hugs.  Then, the regulars.  Squeals and hugs.  And so on for the next hour or so, as more of the old regulars arrive.  It’s nice to be home.

And even the new ginga bargirl turns out to be quite nice.  Very nice in fact – I think I’m in love with her.  Platonically of course.  Scottish girl, and worthy of Finn’s.  Anyway – the night goes on.  And on.  7 or 8 of us for the shut-in.  Playing pool for money.  Hanging up a hammock.  Slightly too many people for the hammock, and suddenly a big chunk of the concrete pillar comes out.  The bit that contained the hook for the hammock.  So, hammock and people on ground.  Some time later, Lee falls over.  Knocks his head.  Decides not to get up.  Sleeps underneath the foosball table for a few hours.  The rest of us chat.  Eventually, it’s myself, scottish Helen, and Ross left – until it’s time for opening again.

And thus 20 Dec begins.  And how it begins, it continues. Lee & Ursula take the day off – good on them.  Spent most of the night trying to convince Ursula that they should both take a week off.  Anyway, I don’t take the day off.  Kiwis aren’t slackers.  Full day of drinking cerveza, playing pool, and a bit of bartending.  Gets to closing time again.  It’s Alison’s last night before heading back to seppo-land for 10 days.  And Rafael’s birthday.  Alison is barstaff, and Rafael is a foosball player.  So, again a few of us for the shut-in.  Alison leaves for the airport at 5am.  Arguments and silly deeds and silly words from/between Ross and Merav.  Ross – irish barman.  Or bar-boy, as I like to call him when I’m trying to annoy him.  Merav – israeli part-owner of the bar.  Alison had given me the keys to lock up, which I eventually do.  But Ross decides he’s taking the keys.  Despite Ali asking me to take care of them, Ross’s current mood insists that I acquiesce, to prevent further problems.  And so, after 30 hours of travel, and 33 hours of Finn McCools, I return to the hostel for bed.

Next update – I’m guessing, but pretty sure I’ll just copy-and-paste the stuff I wrote last time I was in Quito.

Cartagena de Indias

Morning of 14 Dec, the arsetralia and ingerlund boys are still going.  After a rather eventful night involving the police, from all accounts.  From what I could gather from the repeated, yet slurred, stories – they’d bought some illegal substances, got caught with them, ended up bribing the police.  The aussie who was taken on the back of a motorcycle into Santa Marta, in order to get the cash for the bribe, started his trip with arms and legs akimbo on the back of the bike.  Not quite “playing it cool”, as the lonely planet advises travellers to deal with the police.  Also, the inglis did a conga dance outside the police station.  The other aussie was in a cell.  Afterwards, the police insisted on taking them to a local nightclub for some drinks.

Anyway – they were still going strong in the morning – although getting harder to understand.  Still – the poms not quite doing so well as the aussies.  Surprise.  I decided I’d better get out of here before I decide to teach them a lesson.  So, check out, and a txi to the bus terminal.  Next bus to Cartagena, por favor.  Just behind a young japanese girl.  We wait for our bus.  Having just bought tickets for the 11am bus, at 10 minutes past 11.  Half an hour later – the japanese girl is getting antsy.  Starts asking people every 10 minutes or so where the bus is.  I figure she hasn’t been in Colombia too long.  Bus does turn up, eventually, and we get on.

The wheels on the bus went round and round.  And we arrived in Cartagena de Indias.  Bus to town, not really knowing where the bus goes.  Eventually figure I’ve gone well past where I probably should have exited the bus.  Get off a while later instead.  Across the road from a place called “Drinking Bar”.  So, I drink in the bar.  Then, have dinner at the chinese restaurant next door.  Expensive shrimps and broccoli.  But, I haven’t eaten broccoli in a while.  And despite not liking broccoli particularly, it’s good to eat it again.  Washed down with more cerveza, of course.

And then I figure it’s time to swallow the pride, and get a taxi.  So – taxi to a hostel.  In the red light district, of course.  Hostel is full, so have to walk to another one.  Immediately accosted by chap wanting to sell me the white stuff.  Doesn’t really believe me when I tell him I don’t want any, or the green stuff either – so the act of being best friends is put on several times over the next days every time he sees me.  But, I get to a hotel/hostel – check in, and actually get a decently priced room – all to myself, with fan and double bed.  Best deal I’ve had since Quito.  Ahhhh…. Quito, how I miss you Finn McCools.

But – no irish pubs with a block or two of my hotel here.  So – an evening at a cafe bordering a small plaza.  Cervezas, while watching children play soccer, and the local ladies posing for photographs with each other.

Wake up for the 15 Dec – ready to explore Cartagena.  And do so.  It’s got a big wall around it.  Walk on the wall for a while.  Apparently they didn’t like the inglis (Francis Drake, specifically) burning down the town, and holding it for ransom, and what-not.  So – a big wall.  Got the idea from the chinese, I reckon, but weren’t quite crazy enough to build a wall along an entire border.  Just around the town.  Still pretty cool.  But, having lost nearly all my enthusiasm and energy for being a tourist – got bored pretty quickly.  Ate some bloody good steak.  First time for a long long time.  Bloody good, and good’n’bloody.  More wandering around the Old City – which is also pretty cool.  All old.  And a city, I guess.  But, unlike most of Colombia, lots of people trying to sell you stuff, or anything else to get money.  First time I’ve seen it on this scale since Peru, I think.  Most of Colombia really has been qute tranquillo – which I took for granted until being reminded of it today.  So – in general, Cartagena is very similar to Cuzco, just to a lesser extent.  It would be an awesome place to wander around, if you got rid of all the hawkers.  Luckily in Cartagena, the hawkers and others are in certain areas – and the entire Old City is good for walking around.  So it’s just occasional moments of the “I’ve already said ‘no’ several times – now …” feeling.  Also – everything well overpriced.  Walk outside the Old City walls, and prices fall drastically.  Although still too high – am looking forward to getting out of Cartagena completely – and seeing proper Colombian prices again.

Anyway – had dinner in the dodgier district I’m staying in.  A few cervezas, and the garfield movie on the television.  (Punctuation nerds – I don’t use capitalisation when something doesn’t deserve it.)  And when the nice lady suggested I should have the bill rather than another delicious ice cold cerveza – moved back to my position on the small plaza from last night, until once again I became too tired to justify ordering more cerveza.

So – 16 Dec started with waking up earlier than is natural, again.  I’m getting sick of knowing what 8am is like.  Breakfast, a bit of electronics shopping – which involved flirting with 12 year old girls.  Electronics shopping, for you nerds, was an adaptor for a 2.5mm jack to a 3.5mm.  My new Titan MP3 player uses a 2.5mm earphone jack, which I didn’t realise at the time.  So, I’ve bought this useful adaptor for the inevitable breakage of current earphones.  And broke my Titan a couple of hours later.

But – today was dedicated to seeing a couple of the things which the guidebook recommended other than the big wall thing.  So – the Palace of the Inquisition.  Torture instruments.  Much better than the Lima one.  Better torture stuff – although most or all of it was replicas, I believe.  But – allowed to pretend to be the victim on most of it.  I believe.  Well – nobody was around, and nobody stopped me.  The museum also had a second floor with displays regarding the history of Cartagena.  Boooorrrrriiiiing.

Cold shower (all showers on the coast are cold – but one is not unhappy about this.  Hot weather & women)  Then – more aimless wandering.  Overpriced, but very very good ceviche for early dinner.  Shrimps with white wine, mango & maracuya marinade.  I’m describing it only so that I will remember it when I get to ingerlund, and want to attempt a replication.

Then, found a cheap dodgy cafe near my hotel.  Cervezas.  Dodgy inglis bloke talked to me for a while.  Told me I was a better man than he, after I sympathised with his lady problems, but mentioned I’d been faithful to a girlfriend while in this continent of beautiful ladies.  Also congratulated me on finding the place with cheapest cervezas in town after very little time.  I reminded him I was a Kiwi.  He left, and I continued with cheap cervezas.  Until internet time – and some babbling on this here website, possibly a little too soon after the cheap cervezas.

This evening – the plan is an overnight bus to Medellin.  Home of Pablo Escobar.  Apparently much improved since being the murder capital of the world back in the 80’s.

Ciudad Perdida & Parque Tayrona

So – 04-09 Dec was walkin’.  To Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City), and back.  Two or three hour jeep ride to a small village, where I had a couple of beers.  Also had one when we stopped for some diesel.  Reputation was sorted before we even started walking.  Then – walkin’.  With two french guys, one german girl, and an israeli guy.  The guy who turned out to be our guide looked more like a chef.  I hoped he was our cook, anyway.  But – the size of his gut lied.  I didn’t really hold out much hope for him actually surviving the walk.

But, he did survive the walk, as did we all.  Took three days to get to the actual city.  Lots of wading through rivers, avoiding poisonous snakes, meeting indigenous people, staying at an army camp, etc.  Arrived at Ciudad Perdida itself, after a long walk up lots and lots of very steep slippery stairs, at about lunchtime on the third day.  A very very cold shower, and then spent the afternoon and evening doing nothing but killing mosquitos, playing cards, and drinking a bit of whiskey and wine.  Previous camps had cerveza available.  But not the camp at the City itself.  Luckily, I had brought whiskey, and the french had brought wine.

The fourth day, we had a tour around the city.  All the explanations from our guide were in espanol, so I didn’t understand too much of it.  But just walking around it was cool.  I think they’ve only uncovered 10% of it, or something.  But that is good – as it is really only the foundations of where buildings used to stand.  All uncovered – it wouldn’t be too impressive, unless they rebuilt the houses.  But as it is now, you stand in a circular foundation made of stone – and there are half a dozen pathways leading from it into dense jungle.  Most of them just seeming to lead to nowhere – because of the density of the jungle – but two or three which have been cleared away, leading to more circles.  And the centre of the city, with a stone throne.  Which rhymes.  So I figured the rhyme must be a signal that I should sit on the throne naked. 

Anyway, the second night up at the city, we drank more whiskey, and played more cards.  And discovered that our guide had actually brought our blankets up here.  We just hadn’t found them last night.  So our freezing all night was not necessary.  Oh well.  Walked back to the army camp on the fifth day for lunch, and muchas cervezas.  Then onwards to the place we stayed at the first night.  Longest day of walking, and it had been raining – so was very very muddy.

Last day, returned to the village.  Swam fully clothed on the way back, to get rid of the mud.  Very nearly jumped in with camera still in pocket.  Spent my very little remaining cash on cerveza.  And then back to Taganga.  The frenchies and I then went to a seafood restaurant in Santa Marta – highly recommended by the hostel owner.  Was indeed good – and led to a late night of chatting and cerveza back at the hostel.

10 Dec – not feeling too bad after the six day hike.  Wasn’t that difficult though – and I think most reports I’d read about it beforehand must have been written by elderly unfit seppo women wearing hawaian shirts.  But, I did very little today anyway.  Lay in a hammock, reading an awful awful book.  Drinking good good cerveza.  Fish for lunch with the israeli chap from the trek.  And another day gone.

Which made me promise to actually get back to doing stuff on 11 Dec.  So, procrastinated for a while, but eventually packed my stuff, and caught the colectivo to Santa Marta.  Stocked up on carrots, apples, mandarins, cash, garlic, whiskey and sunglasses – and then headed off to the Tayrona national park.  Beaches, they reckon.  Pristine, they reckon.  Got there, and got my whiskey confiscated.  Dumb.  Walked for 40 minutes, and got to the first beach/campsite – Arrecifes.  Dangerous for swimming, they reckon – so the plan was to have a couple of cervezas, then continue to the third beach/second campsite.  But, started chatting with three colombian guys, and then playing cards with them.  And it got a little late to be walking in the jungle – so stayed there for a night.

12 Dec – an apple for breakfast, and then off walkin’ again.  Second beach which was supposed to be nice for swimming (was actually called La Piscina – which I think means something like swimming pool, or something to do with swimming anyway) turned out to be rather average.  So – I pressed on to the third beach, which had the second campsite.  El Cabo – nice setting, but again – the beach was rather disappointing for somebody who has been to Northland.  Pretty little bay though.  I guess.  Met an english couple who’d briefly joined us the previous night – they were looking for some friends.  Had a couple of cervezas, and then finally went for a swim.  One or two hours later – I’m already sunburnt, bored, and wishing I hadn’t already booked and paid for a hammock.  Afternoon trying to think of something to do.  Evening – watch the english boyfriend dig himself deeper and deeper into a hole that he’d made when he caused him and girlfriend to miss the restaurant’s dinner hours – on his girlfriends birthday.  So – birthday dinner consisted of canned tuna on crackers.  But he kept joking about it, as she got angrier and angrier.  It was rather reminiscent of myself on the last day of the Inca Trail.  But – she seemed to gradually forget about it – whenever he wasn’t reminding her – and eventually we all played frisbee on the beach for a while.  Glowing frisbee – in the dark.  Cool.

13 Dec – got up early, and started a-walkin’ again.  Ate the last of my healthy foodstuffs.  Got back to Arrecifes, and had a couple of beers.  Then – onwards to the park entrance – another couple of beers, and onto a bus back to Santa Marta.  Bought some souvenir-type stuff, and checked out a museum.  This museum had a model of Ciudad Perdida – as it would have looked, back in the day.  So – one can see the full extent of it.  Fairly impressive, I guess.

Back to Taganga, and checked back into the hostel.  Table of drunk inglis and arsetralian guys.  Had been going for a couple of days, by the sounds of it.  Sat with them for a while, but couldn’t handle listening to them after a while.  The arsetralians were holding themselves together fairly well – but the inglis.  Well, you know.  Managed to quickly once again rack up a tab of cervezas that was higher than my accommodation.  But managed to get a fairly early night.

Join in next time, when Spidey says: “Kruse goes to Cartagena”.