When the plane touched down at the unloading area in Caragena, the entire plane began clapping, a few of us gringos looked a bit confused. The lady in the seat in front of us said, “This is what we do in Colombia to thank the pilots for our safe travels; welcome to our country.” The doors of the plane opened, not one door, but two. We were able to get off on the tail as well. WOW!!! It was clear that I was in a new world now.
Seeing the bike box on the luggage belt in Cartegena made me very happy. When I finally set the box down on the ground to begin the building process, in one corner, the entire length of the box was split open. A water bottle popped out as soon as the box hit the ground. I assumed the worst; all of the most important parts of my bike were surely gone; however, when I started searching through the box, everything seemed to be there. Later, I would classify this as a prophetic message for my trip. There will be close calls, but everything will be okay in the end.
Piece by piece the bike began coming together. I was wearing a thick cotton long sleeve shirt and a pair of pants, and within minutes I was sweating profusely. First one police man, then another, then another, followed by a few baggage attendees, came to watch me put my bike together. Their questions were endless and my Spanish was limited, but we got by.
Finally, the bike was built, everything looked to be in good working order and I said goodbye. I asked in which direction the Ciudad centro, or City Center, was; I was pointed in the right direction, and off I wobbled. The top heavy bag on the back of my rear panniers, makes for an unstable load. I am working on fixing that now.
After a 5 km ride from the airport, I rode through the walls of the old city. My primary emotion was nervousness, closely followed by amazement. I rode up and down the streets in old town for an hour; I felt everyone was staring at me, and they were. I was uncomfortable. Finally I found a hostel which would be my safety net for the night called Hostel Makako. I threw all of my stuff on the bed after three trips up and down with the bags and the bike. After settling in, I got in bed took several deep breaths. Within minutes an Argentinian girl named Sabrina and I began talking across the room. Our conversation went from polite to meaningful within minutes. 30 minutes later we were sitting right next to each other on the floor sharing our dreams of life, love, and meaning. She was a sage, conjured from my subconscious quiet possibly. Quickly she reminded me how simple life can and should be. She told me to quiet the mind and listen to the heart (or the soul or whatever that other thing is that often contradicts the minds desires). We went to dinner, and sat on the sea wall looking into the ocean, and we laughed all night.
Following a wonderful, and long sleep, I opened my eyes to a beautiful traveler from Holland pantomiming to a fellow hostler about all my bags that were lining the entire edge of my bed (She was on the top bunk, I on the bottom; she didn’t really have any place to step down). “How in the hell does he have so much stuff”, I took to be her gestured meaning. I answered out loud, “Ya, I’m really sorry for all my stuff, it’s alot”, and I went back to sleep. She and I spent the day together, and around 3 she saw me off, taking pictures of my departure.
My destination was 4 blocks away at another hostel where Leah, my travel partner, was sleeping. She hadn’t slept the night before because she had just made a 92 hour bus ride from Quito (or somewhere nearby) to Cartegena, to come and meet me. She had to stay in the bus station the previous night, because riding at night, and not knowing where you are going can be dangerous. At Hostel Venecia, I met Leah. She was all smiles even though she still hadn’t slept. We talked for hours before getting some pescado, arroz y ensalada (fish, rice, and salad). Following food, we walked through the city. On a large bridge we saw 2 thousand people or more staring into the water. Leah asked what was happening; a man told us a thief has jumped from the bridge, into the water and was swimming the 500 meters to the opposite shore. A boat filled with paddling National police were chasing after him. The job of one of the men on board was to bail the boat out with a small bucket. We watched this scene for 30 mintues or so, they caught the man and put him in cuffs and were paddling him back when we had finally had enough. We both slept very well that night.