Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 13, 2014

In Colombia

10.10.14 – Friday – It was a working day in which boat jobs and shopping for food took most of the time. Walking around town we soaked in the special character of that South American country. The crowds, the traffic (on the road, not the other one) and the many small stalls selling everything from candy to fruit, clothes and accessories. In the evening we went to a fish restaurant near the marina named "Tres Sensaciones"; very good food and not so cheap. We felt we deserved it.

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11.10.14 – Saturday – We wanted to tour the land. Three options  were considered; first – a trek to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida). This is a five or six days trek during which you walk about five hours a day, a lot of it in a climb; you sleep in tents and/or hammocks. I wish I could have done it but my left leg isn’t up to the job so we turned to the second recommended site – Minca which is 17 km from Santa Marta, 600 meters high in the mountains. We arrived at the bus station for Minca and were told that the price was 7000 pesos each(about 2000 pesos to the dollar). "If you want to go immediately, it is 30000 for both of you". We elected not to wait and entered the double cabin truck; a local gentleman came in too. when I asked the driver who he was the answer was:"he is family".

The road to Minca is in a horrible state and we got there in 50 minutes. When I took out a bill of 50000 expecting change, the driver wanted 10000 more. The language barrier being too big I left him the 50K bill and walked away with a bad taste of being swindled. We walked for an hour to reach "Pozo Azul"; a few rocky pools in a fast going stream. The view was just what we hoped for and we certainly needed the exercise.

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Walking back we stopped and had some Chorizos at an Asaderia where a man in a cowboy hat and red shirt was grilling meat .

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Back at the town center, I was ready to go back but Gili did not want to miss the other attraction of the place – the waterfall. "How long is it to walk there?" "About an hour". That was too much for me so we employed two Mototaxis and put our lives into the hands of two young men who slalomed on the muddy, pot-holed dirt road in a scary 15 minutes ride. They stopped at a certain fork and pointed to another muddy track. "This is the way, 5 minutes only".

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We started climbing as the cloud above thickened and turned black. After 10 minutes we found the sign directing to the "Cascade" and just as the observation shed came into view the sky opened up and heavy rain fell. The fall was a disappointment and now we were stuck, waiting for the rain to stop. After about ten minutes, when no let up was felt we decided to return to our transport. Of course we were soaking wet when we got there. We found our drivers, plus some more people hiding under a small tarpaulin covered shed and joined them. A stream that was not there when we left them roared by, getting bigger and bigger each passing minute. Those were no conditions to try driving back. Thoughts about Colombian mud slides crept into our minds.

After about 30 minutes there was a lull in the rain and our drivers prepared to go. "Con mucho precaution" I told them, hoping they understood my concern about our safety. We drove no more than 50 meters to stop before a river raging across the road making it impassable. Near by we saw a building and signs for a "Survival school" which seemed the right place to hide in the circumstances.

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A young woman, who said her name was Lady, let us stay in a palm covered gazebo on their plot. Looking at the conditions I was not happy with the idea of riding on the motorbikes back; a fall could result in a severe injury, not a risk we should take. I asked Lady whether she knew somebody reliable in town who could come with a 4×4 and take us to Santa Marta.

She made a phone call and came back saying:"You are lucky. A driver I know is on the way up the mountain and when he goes back he will take you to Santa Marta for 30000 pesos". Great! I paid the bike drivers and we stood in our cover, feeling wet, cold and miserable, to wait for Kiko who was supposed to come around 5 pm. By that time the rain became lighter; I took my camera out of my backpack, wishing to take a picture of the watery barrier on the road and found water sloshing behind the lens. Another one lost to the elements. When the rain stopped and the water receded somewhat I went out and took some pictures with my smartphone.

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Lady brought us shawls and a hot drink called "Aguapanela"; we stood there waiting for Kiko to come. Frankly, with time dragging on and night falling, a feeling of uncertainty raised its ugly head. I could easily see ourselves having to spend the night in a hammock, without dry clothes in the candle lit Survival School…

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Lady did her best to assure us that the man will come. She told us that together with her English boyfriend they opened the center seven months before, wishing to lead a simpler, healthy lifestyle. They were building an internet site; www.colombiasurvival.com and hope to attract tourists who share the same views.

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To cut a long story short, the man arrived at 1900, we squeezed into the Toyota Land Cruiser, joining a large local family and slowly made our way to Santa Marta. I asked Kiko to take us to the marina; he said he couldn’t go there as one of the car lights was not working and he feared the police. Suggesting more money did not change his mind. He stopped in a suburb on the outskirts of town to let the other passengers disembark and then took us to a mall to take out money from an ATM. Surprise! The machine did not take international cards. He took our last 26000, helped us get a taxi, told the driver we would pay him at our boat and we parted on friendly terms.

It was 2040 when we finally got back home; wet, tired and hungry. What was planned as a simple day trip turned out to be a bit of a survival story and while I do not feel we were in real danger – the episode was extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable.

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