Crossed the border into Columbia today. An uneventful journey to a place called Maicao where we have found a cheap hotel for the night. It will be nice to sleep in a bed for a change. I have run out of things to read so earlier I found a bookshop and went in for a look around. Obviously the books were in Spanish, but there were a very small number in English. The problems was they were all religious books. I decided to buy ‘Pilgrims Progress’ which at least is a story, albeit a very thinly disguised allegory. I also bought a copy of the New Testament. It is the basis of the Christian religions but tends be something you only ever hear very selective bits from. Usually they are selected to support a point of view and often a selection can be found supporting the opposite view. It will be interesting to see what it actually says.
I woke up this morning, looked in a mirror and thought ugh, what is it. I have had my beard for a little while now, but this morning I decided I didn’t like it and shaved it off. Now I think I did like it after all. I returned to our room and as I walked in Francois gave a very Gallic ‘Mon Dieu’. He obviously thinks I should have stuck with the beard too.
This morning we went for a short walk. As we were walking a young lad bumped into me. I felt his hand on my passport and managed to knock his arm down and push him away from me. He though it was hilarious and skipped away with a big grin on his face. I wished I knew a few highly insulting Spanish expressions. A bit later Francois was trying to change some Dollars on the black market, a much better rate than the banks. The man counted out the money and then palmed 100 pesos of it before passing it over. Fortunately Francois noticed him doing it and made him hand all of the money over. Apart from the thieves, which you get anywhere in Columbia, Cartagena is a beautiful town.
We have just moved hotel, from one costing about £1.50 each to another just as good ( the fan is a bit noisier) and only costing about 70p each. It is possible to eat for about 30p a two course ‘Cossida Corriente’ (Literally ‘Current Meal’ roughly ‘ you get what you are given’) so it is possible to live quite cheaply here, though we were both quite ill at one point, Beer is about 8p for a bottle which is good as well. The thing that has eaten mostly into my funds has been the cost of flying which I didn’t expect to do around the Caribbean. I even had to buy a ticket out of Venezuela before they would let me in, though I will be able to get a full refund on that. In addition to my flight home it looks like I am going to have to pay for two more flights. But more of that another day.
Francois is starting to plan the next part of his journey. He is just starting his travels and is intending to head south from here. He is a bit nervous about it because of the awful stories you hear about Bogota. It is hot there, so the buses tend to drive with open windows. If your watch can be reached through a window then it is quite likely that someone on a motorcycle will try to take it. They might try to rip it off, or cut it off, not caring what damage they might do to you. I am sure the stories are exaggerated, but I glad I am not going that way.
We had a bit of an argument with the owner of our hotel today. Not easy when he speaks no English, and neither Francois nor I can do much more than get by in Spanish. Francois came in to the room after having a shower and said that the owner had asked if we could pay today’s rent. I was heading for the bathroom, so he gave me his share and I paid as requested. Later in the day the owner came and said we hadn’t paid. Hence the argument. He agreed that I had given him some money that morning, but said that was for yesterday. In my weak spanish I insisted that I had paid today for today, hoy para hoy in Spanish. I don’t think he was trying to con us because he eventually said to forget about it. He obviously thought he was right but was prepared to let it go, which left me feeling hard done because he was clearly of the view that he had been cheated. No winners there.
My plan from here is to start heading home, which means north through Central America. The only problem is, there is no road between South and Central America. Apparently it is possible to get from Columbia to Panama overland, but only on unmade trails passable on foot or with Donkeys. You also need an expensive guide and it takes quite a while. The alternative is another flight, or two. About 500 miles north of here is a small Caribbean island called San Andrés, which is part of Columbia. A flight there will an internal flight which will be comparatively cheap. From there I can fly on to Central America. So that is what I shall do, though more flights means I am going to have to replenish my money in some way.
Tickets all booked. I will be heading for the Caribbean island of San Andrès tomorrow. I think Francois is planning to spend a few more days here before he heads south.