Santa Marta and an unfortunate experience

(3/9/14 – 3/12/14)

Thanks to my wonderful cousins Jorge and Mandy as well as Jorge’s wonderful family we were given a gorgeous 5th floor apartment in Santa Marta to enjoy with absolute freedom. A respite from the road is amazingly welcomed whenever it can be found, but when it’s a penthouse with a birds eye view of the city with our own comfortable rooms, an amazing kitchen, and a fantastic balcony it’s even more appreciated.

To Jorge’s family.

A la familia de Jorge. Gracias por su amabilidad una generosidad. Fue maravilloso conocer a la abuela, ella es divertida y llena de vida. Su casa es hermosa y tranquila. Me siento como si sé mucho más ahora sobre Jorge estando en la casa donde se crió. Esto es importante para mí. Con mucho agradecimiento y gratitud.

The house was peaceful and beautiful and we enjoyed our time in Santa Marta.



When shit hits the fan.. Santa Marta

I have tried 3 different times to explain to locals what we mean by “The shit hit the fan” in English. Between my broken Spanish and using an unknown colloquial phrase, I haven’t been able to accurately describe the meaning. Every time my drawn out description is met with a bewildered look and eventually a laugh.. When my Spanish doesn’t work out, and I am left at a dead end in my explanation, my go to phrase is always “no importa, no importa, lo seinto” (not important, not important, I’m sorry). Something about pooping, something about a fan, something about those two being combined, something about it’s a thing we say in the United States.. then, not important, not important, I’m sorry.

Unfortunately for us, the shit hit the fan when taking the only route from Santa Marta to Taganga. We made a last minute decisions to take our bikes to Taganga, although we had initially planned to take the bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona. This decision would come back to haunt us and remind us of the importance of carefully planning routes when possible. Later we would find out that this road to Tagnaga is known by all as a dangerous trap for anyone traveling by foot or by bike; robberies are a common occurrence here. Leah made it for 10 months without being robbed, and many people make it for years of bike touring without a single problem. Unfortunately, we had our opportunity to feel the helplessness that comes with being robbed.

Climbing Calle 1 into Taganga, we passed a police station. Three blocks after the police station, I was following about 100 meters behind Leah climbing a big hill. When I came around the corner I was horrified to see a man with a big knife and Leah off of her bike. I began screaming at the top of my lungs to get his attention. The man was fighting to get Leah’s backpack off her back (she was wearing the backpack for the first time since she had been on the tour). Leah was trying to give him everything, but she was unaware the backpack was still on her back and did not understand why he was still going after her.

After he got the backpack he came charging after me with his knife high over his head flailing it back and forth. His erratic movements, his large kitchen knife, and his crazy, bulging eyes immediately instilled fear. I had a plan of attack when I reached him, but as soon as he came after me, plans changed. I just wanted to avoid being stabbed, I swerved with my bike away from him, screaming “NO! NO! NO!” throughout. He made the decision to turn away from me, thankfully, and to run down the hill where he would jump on a motorcycle and disappear with more than our things.

The backpack contained a few odds and ends; some things important (glasses), others a hassle to replace (water bladder), but we still had our health. He got nearly nothing of value for his assault on other human beings, but I am sure he will still be looking for his next victim. The most important thing I lost that day was my universal trust of the people and my general sense of ease in the experience. Possibly this was a valuable lesson learned with a small price.

The police arrived within 3 minutes, and people came out of their houses to try and help once the madman left. The police asked us what was taken, but didn’t take our names or contact information, which we thought was strange. They asked if we wanted an escort to the beach, but we decided to go back to the apartment as this was all we could take for a day. We would stay for 2 more nights before heading South.

Some will say “I told you so”, others will think it but not say it, others will be sorry that it happened. I am forever changed, but undeterred; the increased danger is a small price to pay for an entire world of life experience. My feelings are that this won’t happen again.  We made a bad decision and we were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

6 thoughts on “Santa Marta and an unfortunate experience

  1. Do not let your dreams will not come true.
    Keep cycling, in peace and freedom, just listen to your heart, guide you through the best route.


  2. man are you guys lucky. You should have taken the old Kung Foo stance and started making some of those steltzy moves and faked him out…lol. Just kidding, who knows what anyone would have done in that instance. Me…he could never catch because he would have slipped on my trail of you know I would leave behind me.

    Stay safe steltzy and keep the faith.
    Good Travels

  3. Hi Matt,

    Heard you were in Latin America already and wanted to reach out and coordinate something with you to meet some of the people involved with Affinity and possibly visit a couple of the projects in either Peru or Colombia.

    Please email or skype me when you get a minute so we can coordinate. Depending on schedules I can coordinate for you to meet with Carlos Loret de Mola (former Minister of Environment), JP van Hasselt, David Heyl or possibly some personal friends who will show you a bit of hospitality.

    Let me know. I think it would be great to have you meet some of the team if schedules allow.

    All the Best,

    PS – Be Safe! Its easy to find yourself in trouble if you’re not careful. I always carry a high lumens military-grade flashlight with beveled edges with me just in case. (if you’re ever in MN, you can get some training from our friends at Sealed Mindset – http://www.sealedmindset – ask for Larry Yacht)

  4. Fabian!! Thank you for the beautiful message! I’m trying to do just what you suggested. I have posted some new updates as well. I hope things are becoming more peaceful in Argentina.

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