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Mar. 14th, 2014

Forever Ago

It's almost Spring and the snow is melting to slush. She lies tight to another, playing her favorite song after sharing a night. Her clean head pressed against his chest, eyes down. Both listen to the trembling notes of that piano and this broken man's voice. Their eyes never met through the emotion that filled that room. A girl doesn't play such a painful song to another, only to tell him she wants nothing more than cold, casual friendship unless she had at least once wished to be the girl from those lyrics who crushed his heart beneath her heel. Wishing she was the one who walked over his stiff, frozen body, left to tremble alone over winter in that cedar log cabin in those Wisconsin woods. There is something cold and dark in the way she holds her eyes and a sense of beauty in the way she leaves the guys around her with a longing to be loved. Maybe she just wanted to be held close that night, maybe she had gotten all the satisfaction that she was looking for. The love he found in that nick of time was in himself.

Nov. 3rd, 2013

Heaven's Earth

Ignorance is bliss, Ignorance of Ignorance is evil.

Aug. 18th, 2013

Womb

Since I left, you've never let me in.
I'm nothing, all the things you're not.
I'm nothing and none of all the things you've always wanted to be.

I watched you fall, but you didn't want me to help you up.
I'm nothing but the shadow of a man you once loved more,
and now you love him none.

The pounding of your heart against me.
The warmth sunken through your skin.
You pushed me out into this world,
I was so afraid of swimming.
Now I'm drowning and you turn your cheek to grin.

Apr. 18th, 2013

Capurgana to Quito

It´s nearing the end of my trip to Latin American. I arrived in Medellin late the night after my last blog entry, but not before an eleven hour bus ride winding through the thick jungle and rolling mountains of Colombia´s Northwest countryside and a two-hour boat ride from Capurgana to the nearest city with road access; it turned into a four hour boat trip after my passenger boat ran out of fuel in the middle of the Gulf of Uraba, the Southern-most bay of the Carribean ocean in the Northwest Antioguia region of Colombia. We were rescued by another passing passenger-boat who had extra gasoline and were eventually escorted to shore by the Colombian Armada. As my boat from Capurgana landed in the city of Turbo, I decided not to spend much of what is left of my time in Columbia in Turbo, which is notorious for it´s high volume of crime and narco-trafficing. I was advised to stay clear of the city from both travel guide-books and even Javier, who currently lives on the boarder between to rivaling cocaine cartels at war in the hills of Sierra Nevada. We drifted into the main docks of Turbo as a swarm of black afro-carribean locals in matching faded fohawks battled for the best position alongside the boat on one slender dock to help us ashore. Apparently, the locals get commission for bringing passengers to the local bus companies and we were quickly ushered through the dusty crowded streets of Turbo and onto the next bus to Medellin in no more than ten minutes flat.

I ended up spending over a week in Medellin, fascinated by the beautiful city´s fashion, reputation and Paisa culture. From Medellin, I headed South by bus through the mountains and hills of Colombia´s coffee district to the self proclaimed salsa-capital of Cali on my way towards the Ecuador boarder. Tonight, I am catching a night-bus, eleven hours for the small border town of Ipialas, where I will walk over the border to Ecuador tomorrow morning and make my way back to Ecuador´s capital city of Quito to fly out of South America on the 25th of April. It has been an awesome trip, I have seen some amazing sights and possibly more importantly met some amazing people. I will be sure to be back in Latin America sooner than later. Thanks for the company for all of those who I have met along the way. Cheers!

Apr. 9th, 2013

Panama

Pat and I left the San Blas islands early in the morning on March 28th in water-taxi to the mainland of Panama. It was overcast when we said our goodbyes to the Venelzuelans and headed off from the West Lemons, it had rained quite a bit the morning before we left. We arrived on the eastern coast of Panama soaked with sea water from our rough boat ride over the choppy Carribean sea and cruised down a narrow river on the mainland into the Panamanian jungle. We arrived at a dirt parkinglot of high-end sports utility vehicles and hoards of travellers, fully loaded with their backpacks and hiking gear. Out of all the new Land Cruisers and Jeeps, Pat and I somehow ended up riding with the one beat-in mid 70`s era manuel tranmission truck that I had originally invisioned us taking through the jungle to Panama city before witnessing the lot full of backpackers and expensive vehicles. Our ride did however have a good sound system and an exceptional sountrack of Beegies, Phill Collins and Rolling Stones tracts that matched the truck perfectly. We arrived in Panama city, on the Pacific coast, in the early afternoon after only a three hour ride and checked into a reasonably priced hotel with an all-you-can-eat breakfast so Pat could fuel up for his long day of flying from Panama city to Bogota, Colombia, where he weill board his flight to Rio De Janiero; with a layover in Panama city. Given the time restraints to make it to Bogota by water and land from the San Blas islands, Pat would prefer to just board the second half of his ticket to Brazil from Panama city. However, doing so without boarding his original plane in Bogota would cancel his entire trip. I checked into a hostel after seeing Pat to his flight at Panama`s international airport, a lively backpacker`s inn called Luna`s Castle located within the old town district of the city in an old heritage mansion, with a gorgeous view of the Panama city skyline across the bay and surrounded by trendy cafes and bars. The hostel is decorated with many paintings of funky abstract images and complex geometric patterns, all created by a traveller from Surrey, British Colombia who had stayed in the hostel for some time in it`s early beginnings. The hostel also has a free pancake breakfast every morning and dollar Rum and Cokes in the bar downstairs during happy hour.

I met a Nicaraguan-born traveller named Anthony on my first day arriving at Luna`s Castle. A couple days after arriving at Luna`s Castle, Anthony and I went to the city of Colon, a port-town an hour from Panama city built at the edge of the canal and inhabited by mostly incredible poor afro-carribean families. Colon is also where most international cargo freighters drop their excess supplies before heading through the rest of the canal and on to other areas of the world. There is a segregated first-world city of American outlet stores within the ghetto black community of Colon that requires a passport and stamp of permission to enter, as though it was a country in itself. On our way back from the outlet stores to out bus-terminal in the afternoon, Anthony and I caught a taxi through the centre of Colon. Their were very hostile looking locals haning out on the decrepit street-corners playing dominos on metal tables and leaning out of the concrete shells of roofless houses in designer clothing, American baseball caps and shades. I woke up the next morning to Tragically Hip playing from the common room of Luna`s Castle downstairs and a pancake breakfast and I felt for a moment as though I was back in Canada.

I spent my last full day in Panama city visiting the Miraflores locks at the Pacific end of the Panama canal. The next morning I boarded a tiny passenger plane at the domestic airport with eight other people heading Puerto Olbaldia, a small Panamanian boarder town before Colombia on the Carribean coast with not a lot of character, a littered beach and beautiful surrounding rainforrests. As our plane lifted off the tarmac, I could see the country spread from under and at one point before we hit the cloud banks I could see all the way from the Pacific coast on the west to the Carribean coast at the far eastern horizon. After touching down in Puerto Olbaldia and getting an exit stamp at the immigration office, I immediately hopped on a small water-taxi with a couple other local passengers for Capurgana, on the Colombian side of the boarder. When I arrived at the small fishing village of Capurgana, I walked past the many empty hostels, on the main strip of stone-layed road facing the ocean. I walked into the community for a meal after a swim in the rough ocean waves in front of my cabana. Capurgana is mainly inhabited by black afro-carribeans riding bikes and horses and playing cards during the day in the small one-room bars that face the village´s grassy main square that doubles as a soccer field. The locals of Capurgana seem to be much friendlier than the local carribeans of the Colombian coast east of Cartegena and the women are more attractive, with a sense of confidence and strength that I didn´t see elswhere in the Carribean. I spent two more days in Capurgana, hiking to the nearby village of Sapzurro, a one and a half hour walk north of Capurgana over a coastal mountain range. From Sapzurro I hiked another hour in the afternoon, over a hill at the far end of the village to the virtually uninhabited community of La Miel on the Panamanian fronteer. On my walk back to Capurgana, I found some colourful tree-frogs alongside the mountain path through the jungle, obsidian black in colour with vibrant neon greet spots and lines. I spent the next couple evenings in Capurgana, before I left for a road to Medellin on a passenger-boat, drinking many fresh exotic fruit juices from the food stands surrounding Capurgana´s main square and lounging in the hammock of my beach cabana listening to the crash of waves over the smooth stones, rolling and tumbling back into the ocean as they receded into the Carribean sea.

Apr. 2nd, 2013

San Blas

On the 20th of March, in the early afternoon, we finally achored the Modus Vivendi in the Sab Blas islands. The sky was one shade of royal blue and the calm, shallow water was five shades of turquoise under the hot Carribean sun. Our voyage across the Carribean ocean from Colomiba had been nearly thirty-six hours longer than originally estimated. Pat and I, along with the two Swiss and two German passengers jumped off the side of the boat into the sapphire ocean and swam to the nearest island of Povenire. I went for a walk along the beach and found Pat at the other end of the island, eating some freshly fallen coconut under the shade of a tree. We returned from our walk to the passengers and crew sitting at a small restaurant. Josh was at the far corner of the table, arms crossed as he leaned back in his chair, cold and expressionless under the black reflection of his sunglasses. Maik, his ownly crew member was sitting amongst the Germain speaking assembly of passengers and I sensed some definate tension before even sitting down. Once we were all seated Josh explained in an emotionless monotone that he was leaving for mainland Panama to pull his sailboat out of the water and is forced to cut our island hopping adventure short. Furthermore, Josh claimed that all our money been left in Colombia or invested into the sail from Cartegena, except for enough to get him and Maik safely to Panama and none of us were entitled to any form of reambursement for the cost of the trip. After some discussion in english that escalated into a heated argument in german. I left my dest and walked some more along the crystal clear shores and sat for a while listening to the calm break of waves against the sand and the ocean breeze through the palm trees. It was one of the most that I had felt at odds with my emotions. I was on the most beutiful beach I have had the opportunity visiting, in such a peaceful place and still behind it all lingered over me a sense of betrayal as my bliss was eventually broken by the reality that we had very little money, food or water to last long in paradise; but I couldn't forget which felling mattered the most to me. Pat and I parted ways with the passengers and crew of Modus Vivendi on a small five dollar passenger-boat to another small island of Elefante ten minutes south with sixty dollar each in American dollars, a small duffle-bag containing a small amount of food, a speargun, snorkle and mask to fend for ourselves in the picturesk archapellago and more of a sense of adventure than the Swiss and German passengers who headed to the mainland of Panama will the little money they had.

We met Craig at the one small cabana-bar on Elefante island the next morning, he motored up to shore in a dingy with his five year old son from his family's sailboat anchored offshore between the cluster of small islands, some consisting of only sand and a couple coco-nut trees. Craig has been sailing his Catamaran, the Safari, with a convoy of two other cats sialed by his sister's family and freinds from South Africa, where Craig was raised. Craig met his wife nikky while working as crew members aboard a charter sailboat over twenty years ago and has two kinds, Teek and Storm, in France before raising his family at sea. I was spearfishing at a reef offshore when Pat waved me in to meet him on the beach, he had been talking with Craig while I was in the water and sweet-talked him into letting us accompany him and his family as they headed towards the Holandaise Key islands, towards the South of the San Blas archapelago. We cruised with Craig´s and his family to the East Lemon islands that afternoon, popular for of it´s sheltered coral reefs and beutiful beaches. We stopped to spend some time snorkling at a sunken boat covered in coral, busy with the vibrant colours of tropical fish and set conveniently at the middle of the small bunch of islands. I had a drink with Criag at a small cabana on one of the islands while Pat was off hunting with the speargun for our dinner and met the rest of Craig´s family and convoy before motoring a few minutes further and anchoring for the night in the West Lemons. I was invited to another catamaran for rum and tequila, identical to Craig´s boat besides it´s red painted exterior and custom faux hardwood deck, and ate some delicious sunfish that Pat had speared for us that afternoon. We were invited to sleep in the cockpit of Craig´s family boat on the patted seating around the outdoor dining table.

The next day we spent another night with Craig´s family at another group of islands called the East Hollandaise Keys further south in the San Blas archapelago, where I had the chance to swim with sea turtles in the waters just behind where we anchored the sailboat. I was able to dive down to meet the giant turtles and casually swim within feet of them before they decended down the coral reefs and deep into the dark ocean. There were also many stingrays in the Hollandaise Keys, totally relaxed as I swam overhead. I snorkled for most of the morning and spent some time watching a pair of stingrays gliding along the sandy ocean floor symetrically, as every subtle movement of one flat body and long tail was mirrored by the partner close to it´s side, like an airshow of jet fighter-pilots. I spent the afternoon with the speargun, attempting to catch enough fish to feed us later for dinner, but got sidetracked trying to tag a large baracuda that I caught out of the side of my eye stalking me before I switched roles and started hunting it through the shallow corals. Pat and I spent one last night with Craig and his family before heading to the West Hollandaise Keys the next morning and anchoring the Safari in the very centre of the islands in a large area nicknamed ¨the swimming-pool anchorage¨ because of it´s shallow sandy bottom that stretched outwards towards the islands and gave the impression of floating atop a giant torquoise swimming-pool. The West Hollandaise anchorage is also known thoughout San Blas as the Canadian snchorage. When we cruised up in the South African catamaran, Pat and I spotted three Canadian sailboats registered out of Victoria, BC, sitting alongside the many Canadian flags blowing from the back of most sailboats in the breeze. Pat and I borrowed two cayaks from Craig and paddled from boat to boat, talking with mostly elderly Canadian couples. We were eventually adopted by an elderly couple from Vancouver. I went for a swim with the speargun and when I headed back to the Safari empty-handed a jet-sky raced up alongside Craig´s boat and Craig helped an overweight P. Diddiesk Venezuelan guy in thick designer shades onto his boat, followed by a slender latin-american girl who riding on the backseat. Apparently, earlier that morning, Craig had rescued the Venzualians jet-ski, which had floated off into the ocean past Craig´s sailboat from a nearby island where they lost track of time and the beached jet-ski while they were drinking rum and cokes on the beach. The Latin American P. Diddy was the owner of a yacht in another anchorage on the otherside of the island and invited us to a party on his boat later that evening. Pat and I spent once last evening with Craig drinking Cuba Libres with the Venezualans and listening to incredible loud Latin American music on the Yacht with beutiful Venezualan girls. For the next couple days that followed, Pat and I stayed with the elderly Canadian couple onboard their sailboat, while they fattened us up with sardine pizza, spagetti and tuna sandwiches on homebacked bread until arranging a ride for us norht with their friends sailing from Seattle, back towards where it was able to catch a water-taxi to the mainland of Panama.

Pat and I set off on the 25th of March after a pancake breakfast with the Canadians for the East Lemon islands with the couple from Seattle. We spotted a few fins emerging out the ocean alongside the sailboat as a pod of dolphins cruised by us, close to our portside. After arrving in the East Lemons, we swam to a nearby island to check out the cost of renting a hammock on the beach for a night. I ended up swimming all the way to the West Lemons while Pat rowed ahead in the only Cayak belonging to the American couple that we hitched a ride with from the Hollandaise Keys. The water began to get a little choppy half way between the islands, but I could faintly recognised over the waves a yacht in the distance anchored close to one of the islands in the West Lemons. A few minutes later a jet-ski planes up alongside me in the water with the Venezualan that we partied with a few nights earlier behing the bars and Pat riding in the backseat. I squeezed on the very back of the jet-ski and was escorted the rest of the way to the West Lemons. We spent the next couple nights aboard the Venezualan yacht, playing latin-american music loudly over speakers mounted off the back of the boat and warding off any vacationers looking for peace and quiet in the once popular snorkling destination of the tranquille coral reefs. The yacht was a bit abnoxious, to say the least, but Pat and I were in no position to turn down an offer to stay as the Venezuelan´s ontourage aboard the boa until we arranged a ride to the mainland of Panama and Michel and Monstro, the two Venezuelans who invited us aboard turned out to be really nice and genuine people behind their designer shades and lavish livestyle. We talked the Venelzualians into taking a day trip to Chichamen island, where Josh had drawn Pat and I a picture of an island in the sun full of bronzing Argentinian girls, but we found mostly couples camping alongside the beach and an anchorage of sailboats between Chichamen and another small sheltered islands within swimming distance. The sun was intense under the open blue sky, but I found it easy to relax while lounging in the shade of a coconut tree after my swim to the small utopic iland on the other side of the anchorage. Although, the thought of a coconut falling from the tree and landing point-blank on my face kept me from relaxing completely. Michel`s family had arrived on the boat the day before, and his mother-in-law and aunt cooked us lobster for dinner once we returned to the boat that eveneing. I fell asleep early on my last night in San Blas under the stars after a couple hot drinks of honey and aguardiente, an anise liquor traditional to Colombia which I had packed with me since Cartegena. Tomorrow Pat and I would leave San Blas for a day of travelling to Panama city on the Pacific coast.

Mar. 29th, 2013

Dodging Davie Jone's Locker

After my last blog entry I spent a few more days in Cartegena, Colombia, helping Josh find another two passengers so that Pat and I could sail with him for thirty-six hours over the open Carribean ocean to the San Blas archipelago off the coast of Panama, where we would island-hop for at least three days until dropping the other passengers off and hanging out on the boat for another week before heading to Panama city. Josh is the young German born captain of Modus Vivendi, a German built twelve meter steel-haul sailboat that we would be boarding, a sailboat that is more than capable of safely getting us from Colombia to Panama in one piece. Pat and I were originally looking to work on one of the many sailboats heading to the San Blas islands in exchange for room and board on a ship. However, none of the captains seemed interested in hosting two unexperienced crew members when they could make upwards of five-hundred dollars a passenger for a bed and three meals a day while onboard. Josh offered us a discount aboard the Modus Vivendi for helping him find passengers, shopping for supplies and cooking aboard the boat. However, since paying Josh half of our money for the trip, our originaly deal had seemed to change slightly, as he crammed his twelve meter boat full of six passengers including us and shafting Pat and I to share a single bed in the common area below deck. I was not incredibly impressed with Josh maximizing his profits and minimizing the value of his first two loyal passengers, who had helped him prepare for the journey, but I swallowed my pride. It seemed as though Pat had been become somewhat good friends with Josh during our time in Cartegena over the week before we headed out to sea and Josh had painted us such a idyllic picture of islands in paradise, lined with beautiful Argentinean girls, waiting under the Carribean sun for our arrival.

We heading out of harbor on the 15th of March at around five O' clock in the evening on the Modus Vivendi. However, we were forced to turn back to the Club Nautical harbor before even setting our sails after hitting a wall. Cartegena was once victim to frequent pirate raids early in the port-city's history and to prevent attacking boats from sieging the city a underwater "pirate-wall" wall built, enabling only welcomed and familiar sailers from safely anchoring their ships and coming ashore. Although the pirate-wall is now marked by buoys, the rolling waves were high that night withing the harbor and our visibility was low. As the sun was setting Josh and his first-mate, Maik, maneuvered the Modus Vivendi between the two buoys and hung us directly atop a wall of stone and sand. In that moment, the large wave that we were rolling over sunk to it's low and the ship stalled briefly over the ocean, leaning atop the wall until the next wave lifted us free and over another peaking wave. The steel boat seemed fine after the impact, but after a quick word with Maik and a looking down in the engine room, Josh thought it would be safe to anchor the boat back in harbour and dive down to check the damage first-hand in the daylight and let the marina know about the hazard. We motored back to land and spent the night on the boat before before attempting the voyage again the next day in early afternoon.

Here is an excerpt from my hand-written journal from the 18th of March;


"Pat and I have spent the past two days aboard the Modus Vivendi, a name I could live peacefully without hearing again so long as I live. We headed out of Cartegena on the 16th of March for our second attempt as planned, but instead took an hour detour around the far side of Bocagrande island to avoid anymore possible run-ins with the pirate-wall. The ocean swells were slightly larger than average, two to four meters high, and Pat was hit with sea-sickness almost immediately after the trip began, forcing him uncomplicated in the fetal position for most of the sail. I felt fin until I lay down on our bed the first night in the cabin below and listened to the similarities between the salt water sloshing against the sides of the sailboat and my dinner sloshing against the walls of my stomach as the heavy swells past under us. However, a couple gravels later and I was feeling fine and out for most of the night. I layed thinking of a good analogy Maik had made earlier in the day as he described sleeping on a sailboat like being rocked gently to sleep by his mother. I pictured myself as a baby in a wooden cradle rocking helplessly under the control of the open ocean and listened to the tune of the wind blowing through the slightly varying sized holes in the boom, it played the same sequence of high-notes like a wind-chime as the boat rocked to the pattern of the ocean swells. It sounded as though someone was practicing a Asian melody in a pan-flute and I drifted quickly to sleep."


We were schedules to arrive at the San Blas islands this morning, but instead of awaking to carribean drums and an island full of Argentinian girls calling our names, I was lying in the cabin listening to Josh broadcast the same "mayday" message for help repeatedly into the radio about the Modus Vivendi losing power to it's main engine and calling for urgent immediate assistance, along with the banter of our all German speaking passengers and crew on the main deck above me. A large cargo freighter eventually returned a call on the radio, correcting Josh that mayday calls are withheld for life-threatening emergencies and since we still had our sails and were drifting in the now calmed ocean breeze, a panning message was better advised. It was more apparent that Josh new little about sailing when he returned a call to the cargo captain asking for a tug to maneuver him through the shallow waters of the Chichi-men archipelago to a safe anchorage. The cargo ship warned Josh that his lowest speed was most likely faster the the twelve-meter sailboat's top speed and could possibly tear the bow off the small ship, he was also unable to maneuver his cargo vessel anywhere near a safe anchorage of such shallow waters.

Mar. 12th, 2013

Carribean Coast

Pat and I met Javier on the shore of the main bay to Taganga, just east of the city of Santa Marta. Javier was advertising accommodation for the "Hawaiian Village" that he is attempting to create on a large piece of property set in the Sierra Nevada hills outside of Santa Marta and overlooking the Carribean coast of Colombia, close to the enterence to Tayrona National Park. I noticed him walking up and down the beach, talking mostly with attractive travelling girls, but he slipped us a couple flyiers as he walked by. I was attracted to the idea of spearfishing, which was also advertised alongside other adventure-type activities on Javier´s flyer, and his eyes lit up as he explained to us his favourite Hawaiian passtime and top-of-the-line spearguns. Javier stopped to talk with us for some while as georgous potential clients passed us by. Javier was born in the central United States to an American father and mother of Colombian decent, but was sent to live in Hawaii as punishment after getting in trouble in school and lived there into his young adulthood before deciding to save up to buy his own piece of paradise on the Carribean coast.

We have been living on Javier´s property since our spearfishing trip last weekend in a privately owned cove occupied by heavy hitters in the cocaine industry and lined with beach-recliners, where wealthy Colombian business-men lounged under unbrellas with a full service of drinks and civiche. Spearfishing was an amazing experience, even though all I managed to shoot with my speargun was a blowfish, that quickly expanded to ten times it´s original size after impact. I was concerned that it´s spines contained the same neurotoxic that makes the Pufferfish such a delecicy to prepare in high-end Japanese restauarants, so I let Javier dive down to remove my harpoon. Pat managed to tag a few good fish that we were able to keep, although it wasn´t as though the other couple colourful coral fish he also shot would have survived after being released anyways and I am sure they would have tasted just as wonderfully as they looked. Javier caught enough fish to feed a large Colombian family, including an incredibly tasty Parrat fish that he maranaded and cooked for us that evening. Pat and I have been staying with Javier at the edge of the virgin Colombian rainforrest and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Javier has offered to let Pat and I stay with him in exchange for buying our food, which he cooks for us into gourmet Hawaiian meals. He snapped at us one morning for having breakfast without him, down the hill from his property on the main road to Santa Marta and I realized an important lession about selfishness and living at harmony with the world. Selfishness does not have to be defined by melicious or greedy actions, but is rather merely the act of not thinking about others or purposely remaining ignorant to other's feelings in an fruitless attempt at personal bliss. I have actually learned a lot from living with Javier and Pat in a paradise in the making. One evening Pat learned the hard way how precious a barbeque is to a Hawaiian chef when he refused to respect Javier's rules to manning the grill, which turned into a pointless argument over rational until Javier threatened to dice Pat´s legs with a machetti if he didn´t step away from the barbeque, nearly stark naked in his underwear if it wasn´t for a full body jumpsuit of hair. The argument didn´t ruin the perfectly cooked meal of enchiladas and Hawaiian salsa, despite the silence around the dinner table.

Javier showed us around Tayrona national Park the next day and we spent our last day in the Sierra Nevada hills painting signs for Javier´s property before leaving for Cartegena. Tayrona park was amazing, the nicest beaches that I have had the opportunity to visit in South America, where acres of thick untouched jungle meet the Carribean surf and huge rock formations punctuate the crystal-quartz sand beaches. We arrived in Cartegena two days ago and besides walking around the Old Town district, we have mostly been hanging out around the many hostels and planning a sailing trip to the San Blas islands. The area of town where we are staying is lively with bars and restaurants that spill tourists into the chewed up streets of Cartegena every day except Sundays. Just down the street from our hostel, towards the water and past the two storey heritage building that press tight against the narrow stone roads, one can see a view of the rippled skyline of Cartegena´s business district and first world harbour filled with beutiful sailboats, chauchy boat-owners and barefoot afro-carribean dock workers. Pat and I have arranged a sailing trip to the San Blas islands of Panama with a German captain named Josh and will most likely be hanging out in Cartegena for the next few days until we can gather at least another two passengers before we set sail. At first I felt as though it would be a painful task, waiting with the crouds of tourists in a busy town of merchants, street venders and taxis; but just past the hostels and backpacker inns, it is still possible to take the time to sit on the steps of an church and watch the aging carribean men playing chess, an elderly Colombian woman walk by in a vibrantly coloured dress selling fruit from a bowl balanced on her head and kids playing in the catheral square and drawing with chaulk on the stone walkways. When given the chance to really take it all in, it becomes apparent that the richly diverse carribean culture still thrives in these parts of the Colombian coast.

Mar. 1st, 2013

Colombia

I arrived in Bogota on the twenty-second of Febuary. My flight from Leticia was two hours late, but after I picked up my bag and walked through security I found Pat, waiting for me to arrive in the airport as planned. He was with Juan Diego, a Colombian couch-surfing host a few years older than us that has lived in Bogota nearly his entire life. We discovered in the taxi-ride from the airport that Juan didn´t have enough room in his apartment for both Pat and I to stay with him, but instead arranged for us to stay with his cousin and Aunt twenty-five minutes from the centre of town in a very untouristic area closer to the airport and bus terminal. Immediately after meeting the family and seeing to our Rooms, Juan´s aunt Cecilia noticed an infected bug bite that I had on my left calf and gave me swift medical attention after stating her authority as a retired nurse. I quickly found that Cecilia did not attend to my wound with any wuch tender care that one would assume of an sweet little elderly Colombian lady, as she squeezed the swollen infection out of me with every ounce of muscle in her short stalky frame, along with what seemed like a couple pints of blood. I retired early to bed that night after Cecilia was done disinfecting and bandaging my wound to rest my acking leg. I was awoken around seven the next morning by a large jet airplane flying low overhead oroute for the airport tarmac. Over my bed our bedroom window facing the street rattled loudly but Pat somehow managed to sleep through another three jets until around ten am. Pat and I spent the next three nights in Bogota, walking through the Sunday street markets, which resembled a North American ¨swap-meet¨more that most South American sunday markets. We wandered through the city centre and hiked to a nearby cathedral on top of a hill overlooking Bogota and the surrounding area set in a large valley of the Andes mountains. It was amazing to discover how little Huan knew about his home of twenty-seven years and inspired me to discover more of my hometown of Victoria when I return to Canada in May, and much more of North America. Pat amd O headed down from the cool, dry, mountainous caital of Colombia straight to the Carribean coast and spent a couple nights on the beaches of Palomino, outside Santa Marta, soaking up the sun and surf. Colombian food seems to lack balance, even compared with other South American neibouring countries. A typical meal consists of a brothy bowl of soup to start, followed by a large serving of meat with tons of starch in the form of potato, yuca, plantain, or rice and virtually no vegitables, salad or colour. However, good fresh fruit and incredibly delicious coconuts are in full abundance. We head back towards Santa Marta yesterday and are staying a few nights just outside of town in Tagunga, a once small fishing community which has turned into a popular backpackers destination due to its relaxed environment and lack of street traffic and chaos. Tomorrow Pat and I are going to leave Santa Marta and make our way west along the coast towards Cartegena.

Feb. 21st, 2013

Leticia and the Columbian Amazon; Febuary 20, 2013

I arrived in Leticia on the fifeteenth of Febuary on the cargo boat, or rather in Santa Rosa on the Peruvian side of the Amazon river and a five minute peque-peque boat-taxi from there across the river to Colombia. It`s an interesting mix of culture on this part of the Amazon, where Colombia, Peru and Brazil merge together and one can pass freely between Santa Rosa, Leticia and Tabatinga without any formal entry or exit records or documentation. To make it even more convenient, all three border towns excpet Colombian pesos, Brazilian reais and Peruvian solas for the most part. I found an exceptionally clean dormitory in a hostel/hotel built in the backyard of a Catholic family home, a few blocks from Leticia`s main square, and I have an eleven bed dorm room to myself. I sat on a toilet seat for the first time since leaving Quito a month ago for the Amazon and I watched a bit of english television for the first time since leaving Canada.

The morning after arriving in Colombia I checked out of my rom and caught a speedboat an couple hours from Leticia to the small town of Puerto Narino, set deeper in the heart of the Colombian rainforrest but still on the banks of the Amazon river. I stayed in a cabana on the far side of Puerto Narino for four nights, on the grounds of an elderly religious man who also uses the area as a refuge for an assortment of monkeys and parots. It was a place highly reccomended to me by Nate during my trip with him down the Napo river from Ecuador. I hiked from the grounds the next day through the jungle to a smaller village an hour away, with Nico, a traveller staying in the cabana next to mine from a small island in Greece, who is spending the last of his time away from home in the Amazon before flying back to Greece after three months in Colombia. Nico arrived in Puerto Narino the day before I did and he is planning to leave the day before I am to spend a night in Leticia before flying to Bogota, and then home from there. During our walk we talked about South American plant medicine and it was discovered that both Nico and I had originally been told about Puerto Narino by Nate, Nico had met him and Andreas two months ago in Bogota. We watched a soccer game in the small, friendly and remarkable clean village and left as dark clouds began ro roll in and Thunder could be heard from the distance. We made our way a few hundred steps before terrential downpours cam crashing down and took refuge in the village church. We talked more in depth about plant medicine and Shamanism in the empty benches as the water reflected off the tin roof. It became ever more apparent to me that Nico was years older in maturity, at the young age of twenty-two, than he would likely be. He talked with much respect and graditute towards the Kallawaya Shamans of the Bolivian Andes and his beliefs on natural plant medicine as opposed to medicine from plants that have been bread for maximum cultivation and potency; such as the hybridization of marijuana strains in comparison with the natural sativa varieties which grow wild in tropical climates. On the walk back to our cabanas I founds a fallen Copawasu fruit, with it`s inner construstion similar to Cocao but instead tasting refreshingly sour, like an incredibly strong lemon, towards the inner seeds from the outer swee layer. Nico expressed his view that the true knowledge of ancient civilizations is nearly entirely lost, due to lack of trust beween medicinal Shamans and the younger generations, which don`t appear to respect the earth enough to know it`s secrets.

I left Puerto Narino yesterday with Nico, a day earlier than I had planned. The weather has been overcast and spotted with terrential downpours for the past few days as the rainy season has officially started in the Colombian rainforrest. In the early afternoon checked into the same dorm-room in Leticia, that I had stayed in before Puerto Narino, and visited Nico for a swim, ping-pong and cigar at his hostel on the other end of town before he prepared for his flight this morning for Bogota.

I checked out Tabatinga today for a short while after the rains this morning, definately not as clean and green as Leticia, only a ten minute walk past the fronteer to the centre of the Brazilian town and their main port; but I did pick up some amazingly cheap Brazil nuts. I have been living for the most part on fresh Mangos since Iquitos. It has been mango season for the most part of my visit to the Amazon and they are the sweetest and ripest colour of orange on the inside that I am ever come across. I eat an average of about three a day.

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