The first Colombian Days

After 6 days on the boat, one more than expected, due to some technical issues on the boat, we arrived in cartagena, Colombia. Most of the activities during the last few days were done together, so I was happy to have some time on my own again and it felt like a deliverance as I finally could move around again without a time to meet up again.

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We arrived in the evening when the immigration office was already closed, so that the captain handled everything during the next day, while we could spent some time in Cartagena as illegal immigrants. I took the chance to see the castle San Felipe, a big fort which served the Spanish against the attack of the Britons in 1740.

After two hours in the castle I went on to the old town of Cartagena, which I loved a lot. So far Cartagena can be called the most beautiful town on my path, but I have to admit that I just saw some part of the town. Later on I got to know, that some parts of the city are inhabited by very poor people and that this parts cover most of the city.
On my way to find a Hostal, a Brazilian guy recognized me and my bike and asked where I come from. It turned out that he is travelling on his bike as well, for 5 years through the whole south American continent. So I spontaneously checked in in the same hostel. He told my about the critical mass in Cartagena which was taking place the same evening. So I joined him and around 300 other cyclists for a tour along the coast and back. Although it was a great experience I missed the cohesion of the group. Some of the cyclists seem to mix up the excursion with a race. At the turning point there were 10 minutes between the first and the last cyclists. Anyway, I liked the the idea of the tombola, where different bike articles were given away to the participants.

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The next few days in Cartagena were somehow determined by the „reparation“ or destruction of my tablet, as well as some other things in a chain of bad luck. I visited the lovely old part of Cartagena, the library and the gold museum, met again the crew from the sailing boat to have some beers on a roof party and celebrate the birthday of the Brazilian Cyclist. I had a few interesting conversations with a guy from Norway, who was staying in the hostal as well.

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Equiped with a new tablet, it was time to leave the town. The accommodation for the next two days was already settled, a warmshower girl in Puerto Colombia and a Couchsurfing Couple in Rodadero, near Santa Marta. In the middle of the first stage I visited a „volcano“, full of mud. Due to the hot weather I already felt as a pig and so I enjoined a bath in the pothole on the top of the volcano. With 120 kilometers, the high temperature and headwind this day was really hard as well as the next one. Around noon I used to make a break to avoid cycling in the hotest time of the day. On my way to Rodadero there were no houses along the street, nearly people and even more no village for a couple of kilometers. In addition hardly places to hide from the sun for a nap. I finally found one and directly fall asleep. As I woke up suddenly two men with their bikes were standing right in front of me, fishermen who catched shrimps the whole night long. They were hard to understand in comparison to the people from Cartagena. After they passed I decided to go on but I parked my bike on some plants with prickles, which resulted in a flat tyre. I fixed it in the usual matter, while another fisherman arrived and helped me. Ready to go, the tyre was flat again – another hole in my inner tube, a new task. The fourth fisherman arrived and after some minutes a guy from Argentinia, who stopped his car to see if he can help. He invited me to come to his apartment and so I did one day later, cause I already demanded a couch for that night.

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As civilisation approached again it was a very sad picture. Not comparable to the trash I had seen in Panama or Costa Rica. The amount of waste exceeded all my imagination, a poor village drowning in plastics and other kind of rubbish.
In Santa Marta I took the day to relax. Besides two hard days of cycling an infection started to drain power from my body. In the evening I followed the invitation of the Argentinian guy, who stayed together with his girlfriend and a friend in an apartment of a hotel. A holiday resort with a pool on top of the roof where I enjoyed the fresh water, before we cooked some Spätzle together and spent an pleasant evening.
The next days the infection robbed more power and so I’m forced to recover some more time. Hopefully I will regain my power again to go in south to Medellin, where I will meat Tobias!

About the motivations of deceive people

I guess some of you might know the situation, where you have signed in for something without actually noticing that you did or you haven’t realize that there are costs which are linked to the action. The fine print is often not noticeable or costs are hidden in the long text of terms and conditions. Sometimes just one mouse click can lead to a contract. The motivation behind this method is to gain money by taking advantage of gaps in the laws or even by doing this with full awareness of the unlawful act. Most of the time organisations, which use their intelligence to rise their income, are acting this way.

So how does this look like in a country like Colombia? Just an example what happened to me in Cartagena: I couldn’t charge my tablet anymore due to a loose electronic contact. So I gave it to a repare shop, where I had to pay half of the prize in advance. The next day I went back to the shop to get back my devise. I checked it and noticed that the SD card was clamped in the case of the tablet, so I made the man aware of that. He directly went back to his colleague, who opened the case again to fix the problem, but due to the pressure my SD card was broken and unusable. He was totally aware of what caused the broken SD card, but told me that he didn’t know if it was broken before. Concerning the repair of the loose contact we remained that I will try to recharge the tablet with my own cable, although they had the same cables in their shop. When I came back to the hostal the recharger connection didn’t work as it was before. So I went back and although my trust was lost and my expectations were gone, I gave them a second chance.
Next day the display of my tablet wasn’t working at all, cause they destroyed another internal connection.
But the important question of that story is: What was their motivation? Did they use their intelligence to rise their income? I don’t think so. Some of them just work to survive. It’s not the greed to get more money but rather the fear of not been able to feed their families. Paying me a new SD card is not a small amount of money for them an worth more then their whole tried service.

In both cases the humanity is not in the foreground. When money comes into play, egoistic thoughts determine the situation. But who would you blame more? The one whose motivation is the greed to get more money or the one who has to fight his whole life to survive?

Thwarted to readjust (Ausgebremst um sich neu zu orientieren)

It took quite a long time until I finally have the peace and time to sum up the last two weeks. The story starts on my way to Portobelo, where I arrived at around noon. On my way I met a couple of Canadians (Shift happens), riding their bicycles as well, giving myself some advices for the trip on a boat, what I was in search of to get to Colombia. On my arrival in the hostal Captain Jack’s I bumped into a group, who where just about to visit a sailing boat to Cartagena, Colombia – perfect timing. The tourist guide, who took care of several activities took us to the pretty Calypsa, a sailing boat made of wood with two masts. The captain a Italian with some years of experience, so that I had a good impression and good freling that I will not drown in the Carribean Sea. The departure delayed by one day, so that their was plenty time to discover the small place Portobelo, which was discovered by Christoph Kolumbus in 1502 and whose name means beautiful harbour. A canoe tour to the nearby rivers with the tour guide Franscesco, and a two Swiss was a beautiful experience, especially the calmness and the presence of local birds. We saved a falcon, which was unable to fly and seemed to be very weak. So we took him to the village, where an animal doctor arrived one day later.

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The first few hours on the boat: I never had been on a sailing before, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I definitely not expected was the intense swing. And I was lucky that I choose the bed in the front of the boat, where there the moving was so intense, that had the feeling of falling down after a steep rise. Waves up to 5 meters hugh let me feel to be on a rollercoaster 24/7. Although I didn’t feel that bad, I had to feed the fishes twice. But later on I got used to it.
On our way we passed the San Blas Islands or KunaYala, which are controlled by the Kuna,  indigenous people, who were able to defend their territory against the Spanish invaders and still are an autonomous region as a part of Panama. The islands can be called Paradis because of the beautiful beaches and the clear water. We stayed there for three days and enjoyed swimming, snorkeling and just the beautiful atmosphere. The day we went snorkeling and we were just walking along the beach to find a good spot to discover the sealife, suddenly the crew, who remained on the boat screamed something. Due to tan upcoming thunderstorm, we though they wanted us to come back to the boat. But that wasn’t the message they wanted to transfer to us. They saw a shark and wanted us to stay out of the water. Fortunately we got to sea something big moving close to the beach, so that we finally got the message.
One night, after having a barbecue on the beach, I decided to stay on the island for the night while the others went back to the boat.

I was told to be picked up the next morning, but nobody appeared. I had no water, no breakfast no place to go a lavatory, but I had plenty of time. So, what to do on a lonely island which is as big as a soccer field. Throwing stones in the water, taking pictures,  observe little creatures on the beach, walk around the island, pack my stuff, think about some stuff, throw more stones in the water. After three other guys from the boat came to the island to snorkel I decided to swim back to the boat in my normal clothes. Just 4 hours alone on an island gave me a glimpse on the life of the Kuna. They maybe fish, produce some clothes or wristbands for tourists or pick coconuts but I guess there is not much more. I guess most of them don’t even read books, but still they seems to have a happy life. So what does a human need to be happy? For me it seemed to be pretty boring, but maybe just a thing of habit.
Some more hours we spent on the open sea, nearly 50 hours, surrounded by the sea, 10 people on the boat. I read a lot and could reflect some of my experience I gained over the last days. One thing,
which conquered my mind was the importance of people affecting the time I spent at certain places. People can inspire you and this gained inspiration is the basis of my motivation. Some people really have a big character, they can tell you something what really matters and which I never heard of. Some days later in Cartagena I deepen this thoughts by having several conversation with a guy from Norway. 
Time is passing fast sometimes and so now. I will leave the fancy Café Lulo in Santa Marta to meet a group of Argentinos, which invited me yesterday, while I was fixing another flat tyre. But more of this and more about my first days in Colombia with a new run of bad luck in the next entry.
More pictures on Flickr and Facebook.