Just the other day I was thinking about deleting this whole damn thing. I have nothing against blogs - I quite like reading some of them - but I don’t think I’m what you would call a natural. I just have a hard time beleiving anybody I know has a whole lot of interest in reading about what I’ve been doing - basically the same things I do at home only with a Latin twist. But I think I should at least keep it going until the “foreign adventure” is over. Really, I have been trying, however unsuccesfully, to keep it from being boring.
I don’t know if I mentioned this in my last blog entry, but, due to visa problems and an affliction of general restlessness, I have temporarily relocated to Colombia. I will have been here a week tomorrow and have switched towns three times: first Cartagena, then Santa Marta, then Taganga.
I had a sort of vague, romantic vision of spending the entire trip in Cartagena, half-hoping the hometown of Gabriel Garcia Marquez would inspire me to churn out an epic tome before December which would solve both my employment and financial problems in one fell swoop. After realizing how shockingly expensive Cartagena was, I got the hell out of there. Not that I regret going - it was probably one of the most visually stunning cities I’d ever seen, easily on par with Venice and Seville (I’m am sure there are prettier cities out there, but those are the ones I’ve been to). I don’t think the pictures I remembered to take on the last day do it justice. The towering colonial buildings were painted with the most vibrant combinations of colors, each with an elegant wooden balcony that leaned out over the cobbled streets. The doorways and balconies were all draped with thick, trailing vines of tropical flowers that you brushed through like a curtain as you walked down the sidewalk. All of this surrounded by an ancient wall looking out over the white specs of fishing boats bobbing in the carribean - originally built to keep out pirates, who, men of good taste that they were, made regular stop-overs to Cartagena back in the day.
Most of the other tourists I encountered in Cartagena were Colombian (RICH Colombians). It was sort of strange to see middle-aged couples with floppy hats and flower-patterned outfits waving their cameras around and buying trinkets off the street, but speaking in Spanish. I’d never really encountered South Americans who were significantly wealthier than me and my family before, so it was kind of interesting. I spent the majortiy of my weekend in Cartagena wandering around and admiring the architecture, not really able to afford to do much else. Even a meal at a run-of-the-mill comedor chalked up to about $8, which is more than half of what it should cost. I did see Marquez’s house, after realizing it was around the corner from my hostel and that I had been walking past it almost every day. It is a very large but unassuming rust-colored dwelling, which (according to the cab driver who brought me over from the airport) Julio Iglesias and “Meek” Jagger had both attempted to purchase on numerous occasions. I thought about knocking to see if Gabriel was in and wanted to talk books (or pass a manuscript off to his publisher), but lost my nerve.
The next stop after Cartagena was Santa Marta, a colonial port town about four hours away. I’d heard it wasn’t worth staying in, but it seemed nice enough to me; tranquil, nondescript, with a few cute little colonial builings around the central plaza. I had planned to stay there just a night on my way to Taganga, but the guys at my hostel warned me that Taganga was dangerous and full of drug-addled tourists. However, being the kind of person who must find out these things for myself, I decided to go anyway, despite a growing tepidation.
Only a fifteen-minute cab ride from Santa Marta, Taganaga, a tiny fishing village nestled in a green, hilly cove, had the largest concentration of hostels I had ever seen in my life for such a small place. Apparently it is one of the cheapest places in the world to get a diving certificate, so that is the main attraction for hordes of backpackers. The bay, which a couple years ago probably was full of fishing boats, now is full of tour boats. Almost every home in the village has a painted sign on it advertising massages, laundry, or a room for rent. People are friendly here and it’s cute enough, but I get sort of a weird vibe from it, like it has been invaded and overrun with backpackers so fast it is on the verge of bursting at the seams. Right now I a writing in a coffee shop owned by a Swedish guy that looks like something you would find in a hip city like Asheville, but when I step outside again it will be onto a rocky, trash-strewn street lined with crumbling cinder-block homes. Weird, right?
Anyway, I was originally planning to squat in Taganga for a while, but now I think I might prefer Santa Marta. I have yet to book another hostel, but I’ll probably leave tomorrow, and stay at least for the weekend. I have heard that the thing to do in this part of the country is book a Lost City Trek, so that is my next goal - my mysteriously injured knee has not been doing too well in this humidity, but it will have to just deal and let me get my hike on. After that, finances and ganas (feelings/desires) pending, who knows where I will end up.