Magical streets in Cartagena, long waiting for bicycles, visit of the “nicest” beach on Carribiean coast and first 130km on southamerican Panamericana
The first person we get to know in Colombia is a guy from Slovakia – Andrej who was bicycling from Mexico like us. Now he lives on boat and waits till the captain returns from Panama, because he owes him his bike because he forgot where he left it after one party :D.
We all go to the same hostel and on the way we are offered cocain in one side street! We refuse and conclude that we are really in Colombia. We eat something, have finally shower after 5 days and go to see the city.
Mostly we just walk the nearby streets and in a part of the old town. There are a lot of tourists, street sellers and also weird people (does everybody takes drugs here?). We also find a interesting statuette in one shop and during the evening with meals, beer and good mood with other co-passengers we also hear the explanation:
This is just for adults :)
Statuette – a guy fucks a mule from behind.
Explanation of the background – on the Caribbean coast of Colombia is a tradition to not use the services of hookers but to have a good time with these hard-working animals. They have joy houses and you can guess what you can find there… :D
In the evening Jorge surprisingly brings our passports with Colombian stamps. We say goodbyes to Cami who flights home arrange the meeting in Argentina.
After big breakfast we go for a “short walk” to the place of unloading of the RV. After 45min and advices of locals we take taxi and after 15min of fast drive through worse parts of the city we get to the harbor. We spend half an hour trying to get any info about the car, without success but at the end I see through the fence the roof of our “bicycle box” (fortunately I’m such tall).
We don’t know anything about our guys so we go to the nearest fast food shop and wait… wait… hour… two… and finally Carmen, Jose and Roman arrive (friend who is joining them for 2 weeks). After something to eat they go to do some more paper work. And we wait… and wait… We came around 10am and leave at 7pm – with a taxi! Fighting the bureaucracy is impossible.
We killed whole day here but at least it was air condition, bathroom, electricity and bad internet here and for buying one coke, lemonade and a cookies they let us stay 8 hours. We refuse a special offer to stay in the same hotel as Carmen – for 80USD and find look for cheaper hostel.
In the street we accidentally meet Nick (one of the 3 Argentinian cyclists) with his girlfriend and after a big dinner we go for a walk in the historical center together. The historical town is surrounded with a big wall and its colonial architecture, small streets, curved shutters and lattice, many small squares and sculptures make it an interesting touristic attraction.
Around 11pm we buy beers and sit down in front of a church close to our hostel – popular place where people meet every night. Nick wanted to take the second round but we will postpone this for the next time we’ll meet somewhere :) (these accidental meetings with old friends during traveling are great because we have at least for a while feeling that we don’t just leave all the nice people behind).
Breakfast isn’t very good (our fault – we should have gone to that luxury hotel :P) and we go for walk and photo shooting in daylight conditions. This place has its magic during day and night. Carmen calls at 11am, we take taxi and in a while we sit all in the RV and move in direction to Playa Blanca (white beach).
There is at least 45°C outside and we don’t really want to sweat on bicycle and we accept the offer of Argentinians to go to bath at the “most beautiful beach”. I would be really interested to know who chooses the “top” places, because this one isn’t that great – beach full of people, not very clean restaurants, paid bathrooms, cabanas, many boats parking close to beach in the turquoise water which is in all Caribbean the same…
But it gets better later just before the sunset when the tourists leave and we can enjoy it here in peace.
There is a lightning show in the evening and after a “donor” night (I have again at least 20 new mosquito bites) we say goodbyes to our Argentinian parents with the promise we will visit them. We sit on our saddles and with the wind in hair we feel free again.
Road on the island is without traffic, relatively flat and with nice surrounding – bicycling is great :). For 2.5USD a pontoon driven by a small boat takes us 15m to the other side of the channel and we are in a village like in Haiti. Then 30km of industrial zone full of dust and trucks, sun is burning us and I ask myself where is the morning enthusiasm.
Jan rings the bell as a sign to stop… I look back and there is a police patrol on motorbike. And it’s here – first control of the documents … Policemen (young guys) stop almost in middle of the road and all the cars need to avoid them with a big loop. With big smile they start to talk with us – where are we from, where we go, how we like it here and what are our plans. They say it’s safe here, give us some traveling tips and after wishing us a nice day, many good experiences and pleasant traveling they continue. Shall all contact with officers be like this!
We don’t have more energy to pedal and the heat doesn’t allow us to continue. We find a cheap place to eat in a village full of mango sellers and we see Aron and Chase on motorbikes passing us by without stopping, just waving… come on guys!
We cycle one more hour and take another rest in a shadow next to the road. We sweat, wait but a local guy tells us good news – after 10km in next village is fireman station.
With the vision of comfortable night we overcome last uphills and with total of 100km today we reach San Juan. Unfortunately there are no firemen!
We see a small restaurant and we stay to refill energy to be able think more. We start talking with the owner – Wilson and he offers us to stay in the tent on the terrace. We get coffee for free, take shower while the water is running and then go with him for a walk in the town. Willy tells us much about the culture, economics, politics, education and generally about life in Colombia.
After this 2-hour guided tour he offers us a place on mattress in the living room and we accept :). He prepares coffee and traditional tortilla – arepa, we make some pictures and start pedaling again.
It’s cloudy, the road is very narrow, goes up-and-down and only every 4th car isn’t a big truck. We are nervous, stressed and we don’t like it at all! We stop in the next town, eat delicious bakery with yogurt and they tell us that next 30km will be also like that and because next 300km is Panamericana the only option, the traffic will be the same even after that.
Decided – we need to find some other transport because this isn’t comfortable and safe. We see a new bus arriving at the terminal and ask the driver where he goes – Medellin. Aaaaa … this is tempting! But such a cheating (around 8 days with bicycle)? But the road is bad, full of traffic, we need to decide fast and they will take the bicycles for free and he can wait for us now… what to do??? We don’t have enough cash and it’s not possible to pay by card here. That’s not a problem, we can buy it in the next town, we leave some advance, load the bicycle and get in the bus.
The feeling is weird: we haven’t promised to anybody to go by bicycle the whole way, but we still feel like we are cheating. Besides that, it becomes sunny again, the road gets wider and for 20km there is a cycling path next to us – I WANT TO GET OFF THE BUS!
We try to pay the tickets in the next town by card but the terminal doesn’t work. Is this a destiny and we should bicycle the rest? :) … but at the end the transaction goes through and we know we’ll be able to enjoy the road to Medellin just from the window of a bus. We get beck to the bus wearing warm sweaters (it’s freezing here from the air condition) and we watch the shoulder and delight every bad and narrow section because that means our decision was right!