Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tagana, Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park

Currency Peso - $1.00US = $1930.000 Pesos

Shuttle Bus Cartagena to Taganga $38 mil pick up at hostel, drop off at hostel ($28.000 for regular bus but 15000.000 for a cab or $1,500.00 for a city bus that takes 60 minutes to get to the bus depot) I should mention I bought a ticket to Santa Marta but the night before I left changed my mind and went to Taganga, the driver did not charge me the extra. Shuttle fair should be $40.000 - about 3 hours

Hostel in Taganga $20.000 for a dorm

Bus Taganga to Santa Marta $2,000.000 - 15 minutes
Hostel in Santa Marta $15,000.000 for a dorm $22.000 for a private room
Storage charge to leave big backpack @ hostel for 1 night to go to park $2,000.00

Bus Santa Marta to Tayrona Park $4,000.000 (same for bus back) - 1 hour
Park Entrance fee $38.000
Shuttle bus up to the trails $2,000.000
Hammock Rental (depends were you stay $12.000 (Arrecffes) to $20.000 (El Cabo)

Taganga Colombia
In Taganga I stayed at Hostel Divanga, the town is really small so there really is no bad location. They have dorm rooms and a block up the street they have a hotel with private rooms and a swimming pool. Hostel stayers can use the pool, restaurant and bar at the hotel. Not often a place will let the riffraff mix with the real people. The hostel has a full kitchen a couple of computers and free WIFI.

I still had my cold that I caught in Cartagena and was not feeling all that great. I also managed to get too much sun on the boat over from Panama, enough that my tan was peeling. Strangely only in the places that I lathered on the sunscreen, really weird as I was not burnt. So what am I doing n a beach town you may ask.. Well it was either skip the area all together knowing I would not be back this way or go take a look. Due to the free Internet I was able to catch up on my blogs of which I had written none at that point.

When I first got to Taganga I thought what a cute little town, lots of poor folks but happy. The town itself is nice, the ocean is nice, the folks at the hostel are nice. The town is big with divers and there are a ton of diving schools. By day 2 I did not like the place much. Can't really describe why, I think mostly because people on the street all want something from you. An example, I walking along and a kid came up to me and asked me for money so he could eat, he must have been 9 or 10, I said no. 5 minutes later I see him laughing and playing with his friends riding a bike. On another occasion I went to the store and another kid about the same age asks me to by him ice cream, I didn't. He too leaves the store gets on his bike and off he goes. I don't think it is the parents, the people who live there seem to be a proud kind of folk (other than the town druggies only 4 obvious ones) I think if they knew their kids were begging for money from the tourist they would kick their asses. Once again tourism screws up a culture, these kids are going to grow up thinking all tourists are marks and expecting them to give them stuff.
I don't cook as my friends all know, I suck at it, everything I make gets burnt and it just does not taste good, so I eat at restaurants or street vendors. Things in Taganga are not cheap, a restaurant meal is $10.000 to $25.000, a juice is $2,500.000 (anywhere else it is $500.000-1,500.000). I over tip in restaurants, I used to be a server and I know it can be a shit job. I tried 3 different restaurants 3 times and got the same result. These are some of the laziest workers I have ever seen. I'm all for the laid back Caribbean vibe but these people are in a class of their own. Even if they have served you before and you left them a 30% tip they treat you like you are interrupting them and being an inconvenience by being there. If you want something else after you initial order (like another beer or a coffee) you can ask them for it but odds are not good that you will get it. At least they are equal opportunity bad servers, it doesn't matter if you are male or female still the same bad service. In other places I have had bad service where I have been with another woman or a few of us and they will serve tables with men at them first and ignore us so I guess at least it's not discrimination.

I was sitting at a restaurant on my 1st night there when who comes strolling down the street? People from the Panama/Columbia boat trip the American couple, weird had not seen them since leaving them at the docks in Cartagena.
There are many corner/grocery stores in town but everything is behind the counter so you have to ask for it and nothing has prices on it. I don't expect to pay the same price as the locals but wow, some guy wanted to charge me $2,000.000 for a water (usually they are $1300.00 - $1,500.000. I told him to keep it. So my advice is if you need groceries take the 5 minute bus ride over to Santa Marta where there are several real grocery stores and all of the items have prices on them and while you are there go to a restaurant where the server will actually serve you and at least pretend that they are happy you are in there spending your money.

On the upside like I said the people at the hostel were very nice and it is a pretty place and I was able to get a lot of work done, after 3 nights I was out of there. A lot of people I talked to were bored there, definitely go check it out but 2 nights would be more than enough unless you are diving or really want to spend time at the beach.

Santa Marta
The mini bus from Taganga took 10 minutes, I got off at the beach in Santa Marta, there are a lot of hostels in the area of Calle 10 so many options to choose from. I ended up at Casa Familiar which is listed in the Lonely Planet and I had heard some travelers say it was a good place to stay. The place is huge, 4 stories with dorm rooms and private rooms. There are a couple of terraces 1 with hammocks, a full kitchen and free WIFI (no computers available).

Santa Marta is a port town, it is a pretty busy place. There is a beach and lots of shops and markets, I really enjoyed wandering the streets, grabbing a juice and some fresh fruit at the market. It is noisy lots of horns honking music coming out of every shop and all of them playing a different song, the guys who stand in front of the shops with the microphones giving their spiels, the vendors yelling out what they are selling. I rather liked the hustle and bustle after the walking dead of Taganga.

Tayrona Park
I got to Tayrona park pretty early, left Santa Marta at 9ish and was at the park by 10ish. I planned on spending a day hiking and 1 night some more hiking the next day and back in Santa Marta in the afternoon. I put my big backpack in storage at the hostel and just took my small pack. The bus leaves Santa Marta from Carrera 11 & Calle 11 (the market), If you are coming up from the beach I recommend going through the market route rather than the street route. Lots of things to see and lots of good people watching. There is apparently a shuttle bus that goes from there for $5,000.000 but I lucked out and the regular bus was just getting ready to head out so I got on and it was $4,000.000. I had heard that everything is expensive in the park, rightly so there are no roads so everything has to get brought in by horses, donkeys and mules. So I brought along a big water, crackers and some cut up fruit figuring I could munch and then treat myself to a diner once I made it to where I was going to stay for the night.. Ahhh the best laid plans, I of course got off the bus and forgot the bag. The bus lets you off right across the road from the park so there is no way to get lost.

There is a line up to pay so it can take up to 1/2 an hour to get your ticket. They do have different pricing foreigners pay more by about a 1/3 than Colombians. I am okay with this system, they do the same thing in Costa Rica, the locals should be able to afford to go to their own parks. They do ask for a passport so make sure you take it along, not sure what they would do if you don't have one on you and they attach a wrist band. Once you pay you can either choose to walk the 3.5km up the road to where the trails start or you can take a mini bus or jeep up to the start of the trails, I chose the bus for $2,000.000. I have heard that you can get a boat out of Taganga that will drop you on the beach and you avoid paying the park entry fee but I'm not sure what the rangers would do if they caught you (no bracelet).

I wasn't really sure where I wanted to stay, I was kind of thinking El Cabo, it is more expensive than the other options but I thought I might take the hike up to El Pueblito a mini lost city in the park and at El Cabo I would be 60 minutes closer. You can also swim at the beach there, due to riptides you can't at the other 2 options and would have to do a 20 minute hike to swim. Decision made, El Cabo it is. I did run into a women leaving the trails as I was going in, she looked familiar, turns out we had stayed in the same hostel in Panama, ah the Lonely Planet backpacker trail we all end up in the same places eventually.

The trails are fairly easy there are some uphill sections but nothing that will kill you and they are pretty well marked along with encouraging signs that you are 15%, 45% and 90% to the next destination on the trail. If you choose you can rent a horse and go up at the entrance to the trail there are about 100 of them to choose from but they are expensive it will cost you $50.000 to get to the first camping/cabana/hammock area. There is lots of traffic on the trails, people animals always someone around. I purchased a water at the start of the trail and off I went (yes I walked), I got to Arrecifes (45 minutes) and stopped to purchase a beer and admire the beach (no swimming allowed). Next stop La Piscina (20 minutes) a nice little sheltered area where you can swim, I was pretty hot at that point and had worn my bathing suit under my closes so in for a swim I went, the water was awesome not too cold not too hot. Finished my beer and purchased a juice at the stand on the entrance to the trail to El Cabo another 15 minute walk.

El Cabo is not really all that pretty as an area, it is a campground with jungle around it but there are no real trees in the camping area, the beach is beautiful. There is a tent area and 2 covered areas that have hammocks, I was getting a hammock. I checked myself in, got my I belong wrist band and assigned my hammock (the one on the end closest in the picture).

Off for another swim and a wander around to see the sights, bathrooms, restaurant, beach, okay done. There is a little store there so another beer and a swing in the hammock with a book. Food at the restaurant was okay, fried chicken some rice, a few fries and lettuce with a tomato for $12.000.000, another beer and back to reading and chatting with other hammock dwellers. There is no electricity in the hammock area that I was in, the ones next door had lights so after chatting for a while off to bed.. I have never tried sleeping in a hammock for a night, I can say I won't do it again anytime soon, some people like it so to each their own. They are great for a 2 hour nap but for me they are no so comfy after that, and it started raining during the night so I was getting the odd rain drop hitting me, so very little sleep.

The next morning the sky was really dark, I didn't bring my rain gear with me and no way was I getting trapped and spending another night in that torture devise so I booked it at about 5 am and started heading out, forget the little lost city I just wanted to make it as far as I could back to the park entrance before rain hit. I got to Arrecifes and the sky started to clear up. I debated going back and heading for the little lost city but decided against it, I still had not had a coffee as none of the restaurants were open. It was an awesome walk, I was the only person in the jungle for awhile, I did make a dog friend who walked with me for most of the way, no idea why he just showed up and tagged along till I hit the next populated area. Waited until the restaurant in Affecifes opened and had my coffee, got a water and headed back out. Still not many folks on the trail, the jungle is beautiful and lots of noises, I did not see much wildlife, some lizards and butterflies but pretty. My only complaint is that due to the amount of horses, donkeys et al that use the trail it smells like shit for most of it, you figure over 100 of them a day a few times a day that is a lot of pooh, an added challenge to the hike, avoid the piles.

Since the weather cleared up I did some hiking on different trails on the way down, then I figured since I was at it why not hike out of the park? Because it's a trillion degrees on blacktop.. 1/2 way down I was thinking it wasn't a good idea but giving in and getting a ride would have been giving up so on I went although even the motor cycle taxi was looking pretty good and I am not a fan of the 2 wheel mode of transportation. No helmets required for the passengers and they will take as many people as you can fit on one.

I headed back to the hostel and treated myself to a private room for the night, next stop a 10 hour night bus and transfer for a 2 hour ride to San Gil Colombia the stupid human trick adventure capital of Colombia, what kind of trouble could I possibly get into I wonder?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cartagena Colombia

Currency in Colombia: Pesos $1.00Us = $1933 Mil (they don't take US bills unless forced and will charge you double over what it is in pesos)
Cab ride from marina to hostel: $7 Mil
Hostel: Dorm room $20 Mil a night
Entrance Fee to Fort: $9.00 US (don't ask my why this was in US)

I had found a hostel in Cartagena before I left Panama so I knew where I would be staying, i had not told anyone one the boat where I was staying. It was in the Historic District which it turns out is where most of the hostels are. The British/Dutch couple was going to a hotel just up the street so we shared a cab in.

I stayed at the Hotel Marlin, for about $10.00US a night there is air conditioning, a kitchen and free wifi, the dorms have 4 bunks per room. The rooms are all different and some are nicer than others so if you go check out a couple before you decide. On mine the bathroom door would not stay shut, 2 guys and 2 women in the room so we all just politely averted our eyes if it swung open while someone was in there.

The historic zone is awesome, it is located inside the old city walls. Lots of old buildings and twisting streets. Every time I went out I found a new street to go down and explore and a new court yard to sit in. Nothing like getting a Colombian latte and sitting in a shady court yard watching the world go by. Cartagena is a big tourist destination for Colombians as well as other Latin Americans, I met people from Peru, Panama and Costa Rica. It was very hot in Cartagena, the temperature was 28 but the humidity was at 84%, definitely a 3 shower a day place.

Cartagena is a very old city founded by the Spanish and it was constantly attacked by pirates and the French & English were always trying to invade it. They build forts and a wall around the city for protection a lot of which is still intact today. The bay going into the city has a wall built underwater to keep ships out. There is a narrow passageway that a ship can pass through today it is marked by a couple of markets however it is very narrow so the cruise ships have to go around the island beside it and enter the port that way.

So I am sitting the the lobby checking emails and reviewing/approving ad submissions to my web site Lost Trekkers, I have not had Internet for 4 days so some stuff had piled up, 20+ ad submissions and a ton of site related emails. When in walks the 2 Dutch guys from the boat, they check in. 20 minutes later in come the 3 Kiwi bikers, they check in, we are all getting a pretty good chuckle when in comes the 4 Germans. Kind of weird considering the street we are on is hostel row, within 2 blocks there are 7 of them and around the corner another 5 and yet we all end up at the same one "insert twilight zone theme here".

I finish my work and head out for a stroll and within a block I run into Canadian/Dutch biker couple at the corner store and 1/2 a block later British/Dutch couple. Cartagena it would seem is a very small place. The purpose of my stroll was to find an ATM as I had no Pesos to pay for my room, the hostel gave me a map of the area and drew a line to the ATM, even with my lousy sense of direction I managed to find it. Taking money out was another issue, they offer English as a language choice so that is good, letters and numbers on the keypad, also good (I use letters for my pin and I don't really know what the corresponding #'s are which has gotten my bank card almost eaten on several occasions). The issue is how much to take out, the money is in Millions and I'm a little unsure what the abbreviations are, choices are 50.000, 100.000 etc. crossing my fingers it choose the $200.000 option, which I am hoping is about $100.00, Yeah I was right, felt like I had hit the jackpot on the slots. Off to the grocery store I go and what do I find? Chocolate, big thick blocks of tasty chocolate. (like the bakers chocolate packages) so I bought 2 and some water and ran back to the hostel to binge. BURP!

The dorm room in the hostel has air conditioning, I don't really like AC I am happy with just the fan, however the roommates like the AC so they kept it on. It did feel pretty good when I came back from wandering the streets but, I don't know why but I always get sick after I have been in an AC environment. Sure enough after 1 night I wake up and I am sneezing, hacking and full of flem. There is nothing stupider than walking down the street in that kind of heat sneezing, the locals got a good chuckle out of it. I noticed on my walks that there are a lot of police on the streets, pretty much 2 at every street corner. I don't think there is an issue with crime, I think they are there to make the tourist feel safe. They are very nice and smile and talk to people, they were stopping and searching some of the locals (smelling cigarette packs and pat downs). There are drugs out there, on my 1st walk to the ATM I had 2 guys offer me whatever I wanted and pretty much every walk after that at least 1 offer. Before purchasing anything ask yourself how well you think you would adjust to life in a Colombian jail and base your purchase decision on that. On that note, the men of Cartagena and pretty much all Latin American countries.. In general if you are a woman walking down the street alone you can expect some harassment, nothing threatening but you will get stopped by men who want to engage you in conversation, starts with the usual where are you from and leads up to want to go out with me or if you need anything I am always here. The occasional I love you yelled out after you walk by, my personal favorite, the psst psst pssting and lots of getting stared at. Part of it is the blond hair blue eyes thing, I wear sunglasses most of the time and I did dye my hair darker before I left but a few weeks in the sun and it's back to blond. Every foreign women walking alone will get this treatment, funny sometimes they think I am a local in those cases I get a polite Buenos when passing them on the street.
Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas
Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas

I took a visit to the old fort just outside the walls of the historic zone, Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas. The cost to enter was $9.00 and the sign said that all of the money goes to restoring the fort and the city walls so I felt okay with parting with my money. It is a pretty neat place, you are allowed to go down some of the passages, those Spanish must have been short, my head was almost hitting the top of the tunnels and they are very narrow and in some places steep. I ran into a bunch of Colombians coming the other way and had to wait at a junction for them to come up and pass before I could go ahead. Other than the tunnels and a couple of overhangs there is not much shade so if you go do it in the morning or late afternoon and take water. They sell it there but it is double the price that you would pay at a store. There are some vendors selling assorted souvenirs as well as a gift shop/store at the top.

Catagena is full of restaurants, nightclubs and casino's, pretty much any form of entertainment is available including a red light district, most of it does not getting going until after 11pm. It can get pricey, the beer price doubles in a club, same with restaurants. There is lots of street food and my personal favorite the fresh juice stands. I can't figure out why in Latin America they cluster the same shops/vendors in the same area. By the park there are 10 vendors all selling juice and all for the same price, in my world it would make more sense to spread them out a bit, less competition, more money in your pocket. Ah well sometimes trying to make sense out of things will just drive you crazy so I just give it up and go with it. I think I have worked my way through most of the juices, Passion Fruit is my favorite although Mango and Guava are pretty darn tasty as well.

My last night in Cartagena some of us boat people got together for dinner along with the crew of the Stahlratte. Was great to see them, they are doing some maintenance while they are in port including giving the ship a new paint job. Looking forward to seeing the pictures. A little sad knowing that we are all scattering and most likely won't see each other again.

I spent 4 days in Cartagena and then headed out, There is a small fishing village about 3 hours up the coast towards Venezuela called Taganga that sounded interesting. One of the perks of traveling on your own you can go and do whatever you want, no pre-planning or consultation required.

I am almost caught up on the blogs now, you are 2 towns behind where I am now. I still have my stupid cold so it has been a good time to get caught up. Good thing there is a tax write off involved otherwise no way would I be working. Loving the netbook, 2.5 pounds, way better than the laptop for travel but wishing I had brought the mouse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Panama To Colombia

Boat Panama to Colombia: $410.00
Jeep Ride to Caribbean: $25.00
Entrance fee to Kuna Land: $6.00
Canoe Ride to ship: $6.00
Exit Fee from Panama: $0 (no stamp)
Entrance Free to Colombia: $0 (Stamp Required)

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale a tale of a faithful trip. That started from this tropic port aboard this big ass ship....

I got my alarm clock issues straightened out and all went according to plan. I got 2 cups of coffee into me by the time the jeep arrived to pick us up to take us to the boat at 5am.

Turns out that 3 people in my dorm were also booked on the same boat, 3 New Zealanders. For people who think the way I travel is crazy these folks make me look completely sane. They are bicycling from New York to the Christ Statue in Rio De Janeiro. I have no idea how they are doing it, the heat alone would kill me, toss in some hills and I would be changing up to a bus. They are averaging about 60km a day.

In typical Latin American fashion the jeep was 1/2 an hour late, then we had to wait for the pick up truck that would take the bikes. Many cell phone calls, much confusion and 1/2 an hour later we are off. There was a caravan of 5 jeeps, some folks were catching other boats and some were just going to the San Blas Islands to stay. After 45 minutes on the road we all pull into a grocery store parking lot to pick up supplies if you wanted them and to pay the drivers ($25.00). Organization is not these peoples strong point, again 45 minutes to get payments straightened out and many cell phone calls. Finally we are off. Then 30 minutes in a stop for coffee and breakfast.

The road to the Caribbean is dirt and full of potholes and pretty much all uphill twisty road. There were some road crews working so it looks like they are trying to make it a little more accessible. We also had to cross a river along the way, beautiful scenery, jungle jungle and more jungle. At one point you come to a shack were you have to pay $6.00 to come on to Kuna (native) land. There are also 2 passport check points along the way, 1 just for fun the other is the official checking out of Panama border (no stamp is given). There is something sureal about 4x4ing through the jungle listening to M&M on the CD player, every time I hear the Stan song from now on this road trip will come to mind. After a few hours we get to the river were the canoes are that will take us to the ship. The canoes are also run by the Kuna people. Again organized kaos as they try to get the right people in the right canoes with their bags. The trip takes about 1/2 an hour and costs $6.00. Met a Canadian guy who was taking another boat, he is bicycling from Vancouver to the bottom of Argentina.

Our boat is the Stahlratte (Steel Rat), it is owned and operated by a society, you can buy memberships and get discounts on all of the trips that they do. This is just one they also go up and down the Caribbean (Cuba, Jamaica, Honduras etc). The ship is 107 years old.

We get to the boat, got our stuff on board and picked our bunks. They have double and single ones as well as a private bedroom. All of the "bunks" have curtains that you can close for privacy and the sleeping quarters area is pretty large. I got a bottom bunk at the front of the ship, more bounce for your buck :-). When boarding you are required to hand over your passport, you get it back at the end of the trip once Columbia customs has stamped it. Some folks thought we might end up as slave labor and sold off to the Kuna's but really they need them so they can give the info to their boat agent in Columbia to try to speed up customs. They don't want to chase you again to get them when they hit port so they just keep them. No big deal you don't need them for anything during the trip.

The crew had set up a breakfast for us on the top deck, coffee, tea, breads eggs and all so once everyone was settled in the introductions began.

The Crew:
Led by Captain Ludwig aka LuLu - 6 in total - A mix of German's, 1 Swiss & 1 Austrian. All German speaking but they all speak english as well. Except for LuLu the crew rotates about every 3 - 4 months (Roli has been there a year) this trip was the last for 4 of them, 1 just came on board so it was her first trip but she has volunteered in previous years. I can't say enough about how great the crew is, they were willing to answer questions and let you "help" out with the sailing if you wanted to. An awesome group of people and they love a good party. Thanks for the whipping LuLu I promise to be a good steward from now on ;-)

The Passengers:
2 Dutch guys, 4 German guys, a German couple (riding motor bikes thru central/South America), A US couple, 3 Kiwi's (bicycling New York to Rio De Janeiro), 1 Canadian/Dutch couple (bicycling California to the bottom of Argentina), 1 British/Dutch couple and me

My Spanish did not improve on this leg of the trip but I did pick up some German swear words.

Over breakfast the rules of the boat and the safety procedures were explained. In case of a sinking the last party is on the top deck. The toilet works on a pump handle on the wall system, if you break it everyone will have to use the bucket and they will hate you. Everyone had to sign up for Steward duty which basically means you help get the food from the kitchen to the table on the top deck, clear the table and do the dishes. There was some mention of helping with cutting and chopping which luckily did not happen so I did not have to explain that I am not allowed to play with sharp pointy things especially on a rolling boat. 3 meals a day are supplied as well as coffee, tea and water. You can bring your own booze or you can buy it on board, beers were $1.00, cokes $1.00 and bottles of rum ranging from $10-$25. I brought along a bottle of rum and a few beers. I ended up just buying beers and left mine as a going away present for the crew when I left.

The trip from the San Blas Islands to Cartagena Columbia takes 4 days and 3 nights. 2 of those days are spent frolicking in the ocean, snorkeling and swimming and lazing at/around various deserted islands. Then it is 30 hours straight to Colombia. When I researched ships for the journey I came across some horror stories about too many people on the boats, bad food (5 days of ham & cheese sandwiches), drunk captains, getting lost and running out of food and water. One of the women I work with back home's daughter was on a boat that sank. If you do this trip do some research on the ships, everything I found said that if you could get on this ship it was the best. The cost was $410.00 which was only about $30.00 over what the others were but it was a day less of being on the water, it is totally worth it. There are only a couple of ships that will take you right to Cartagena, most go to Tobo as they can't make the crossing and have to follow the coast. From Tobo you need to catch a bus to Cartagena.

Day 1: Motor/sail to a deserted island - Snorkel, swim, do nothing - BBQ on the beach Chicken, fish other tasty things. Party.

Day 2: Motor/Sail to a spot with a few deserted islands - Snorkel, swim, do nothing. Lots of other boats here seems the secret is out much to LuLu's displeasure. They seemed to be mostly privately owned boats and they did not like us much. Our ship was much bigger, yacht envy? In the late afternoon a boat of backpackers pulled in there were a couple of Aussies & an Irish dude from the previous hostel/Noriega tour in Panama on board. They swam over with their rum, we tried to fend them off but well they had rum. So partied with them.

Day 3: Motor/Sail in open water to Colombia. Dolphins playing around the boat. Lots of heads hanging over the side of the ship, fish were well fed that day. I don't get sea sick, however I did over partake of the rum the night before and I can't drink. Even at home I spend the day after throwing up so I too was feeding the fishes in the morning. Rum is evil and I am very stupid. Pretty quiet around the ship, not many people attending breakfast and lunch and most that did didn't keep it down long. Psssst can you score me some dramamine? I just need 1 pill man I'll pay you in Colombia. Quiet night soup for dinner, lots of bread and soda crackers eaten, early to bed.

Day 4: Most folks have recovered some still a little queezy if they go below deck, most took a shot at breakfast. More dolphin's playing beside and in front of the boat, beautiful creatures. We got to Cartagena around 11am and after scooting through the hole in the wall that protects the harbor we dropped anchored in the harbor. LuLu took the launch and went ashore with our passports to drop them off with the agent. All ships have to have an agent, customs won't deal with individual captains/ships. LuLu returned and the wait was on. Fresh tuna fish soup for lunch. We got into port just after 2 huge cruise ships which did not bode well for a rapid clearance through immigration. Sure enough about 5 hours later a call comes in on the cell phone and immigration wants us all down at the office. They even sent a scary boat with angry looking men with guns on it to watch us to make sure we all went ashore (except the captain who had to stay with the ship).

5 cabs to get us all there, the ships crew paid for them, off to the immigration office we go. Many stern looking men with automatic weapons milling about. They seem to like to stand in such a way that they are not actually pointing them at you but they have them down by their sides (hanging off a strap) and they have their arm across the top, and yet the barrel is pointing at you. I love latin america it's all about the macho intimidation crap. The first group of us went into the office the rest of us pulled up a piece of stairs outside and waited. An hour later the 1st group comes out and the agent brings out all of our passports and they are all stamped. We didn't even have to go in and talk to anyone. I asked the people from the first group what happened they said nothing they didn't talk to anyone just sat in there. Back in the cabs we go and again the crew paid for them, on to the launch in shifts (only holds 9 people) grab our stuff and back to the docks.

We all say our goodbyes and go our separate ways with promises to keep in touch. Once you have hung over the side of a boat together you are bonded for life. Little did we now how soon it would be until we all ran into each other again.

On that note, a blatant push for my website www.losttrekkers.com and international people search. If you are looking for people you met on your travels you just might find them there. If not you can place a free ad to find them. I have to pay for this traveling somehow :-)