Driving by big concrete walls topped with shards of glass bottles I imagine some Colombian drug lord´s estate hidden behind them. Maybe we should not have watched the movie ¨Blow¨ while traveling through Colombia. A shirtless man sitting by the road feeds a chicken on his knee from a plastic cup and then drinks out of it himself. The drastic mountain landscape around Bogota and Medellin has flattened into a swampy wetland littered with cactus trees and windowless shacks. Once in a while a bridge over a muddy river gives a glimpse of some ratty old fishing boats or a quick flash of the sea. I´m riding from Cartagena to Santa Marta. Leaving the old colonial buildings with pink, white and purple flowering vines climbing up the walls behind. The roads barely wide enough for two cars. Where posh shops like Gucci are two doors down from Jose´s Empanadas. And heading to the Dreamer Hostel. A little pool in a courtyard surrounded by ten or twelve private and dorm rooms filled with young people from all over the world. The neighborhood is by no means an old historic city center the likes of which I found myself in Cartagena. But it´s nice to feel a little isolated.
Passed by the blender vendor street the other day in Santa Marta. Snuggled in between the shoelace shop and of course twenty cell phone carts. On the road to Taganga, a neighboring beach town/fishing village, a family sits in the dirt outside their cement block hut and on a bar by the open front door sits a blue and yellow parrot, shifting from foot to foot, probably squawking in spanish.
Where oh where has the time gone? I´ve given up my last two weeks of backpacking spontaneity to settle into a grind that I can´t imagine finding ¨back home¨. Reading and writing by the pool all day and running the little bar every night. Paid with a bed and two meals a day, I am not making a living. I`m just living. Soaking it in till I fly home in a couple of weeks, possibly by way of Carnaval in Barranquilla. (conveniently followed by Winter Carnival with SCI in Colorado) Normally on a trip like this I follow word of mouth and try to check out all the ´must-sees´ in the area, but I`m letting that go. This trip I am living and learning rather than going and finding and it´s a welcome change of pace. Living in the present tense.
This place where the river runs North. Medellin. A sprawling city nestled between a few giant mountains. I’ve realized since arriving in Colombia that the streets are specific-product oriented. Looking for a new phone? Maracaibo es el calle para ti. There is one street of all hats, and the next is lined with lighting fixtures.
Today, wandering behind that church, the ornate black and white one, the one with all the big ole Botero statues, I found the street of dictations… Seven or eight old men sitting on crates behind old-school typewriters, eagerly waiting to take dictation, type out your c.v. or help you finalize that silly handwritten love note you haven’t had the heart to send as is. Supply and demand folks. Give the people what they need.
I took the metrocable up the mountain (to the North-East) today. As you get higher and higher the houses change from crumbling red brick to strapped together, recycled wood shacks. From rosy ceramic tile roofs to sheet metal. The paved roads become more intermingled with the red dirt ones. Laundry hangs from the line everywhere you look. Puppies rumble in the streets. A young boy asks me for money so I give him the soda in my hand. It’s all I have to give at the moment kid but it’s yours if it’ll make you happy.
Large black carrion birds scrounge uptown, or down river, from the city. A newborn on the train who’s ears are already pierced. I cherish these moments of introspection laid upon me by this (ever-shrinking) language gap. Once in a while it’s the less you understand, yet the more you take in.
What a beautiful place. I got in last night, calm as a kitten, despite my embarrassingly pitiful rendition of the spanish language. Arrived at the Cranky Croc, a hostel in La Candelaria. A funky little establishment with a quaint cafe, communal kitchen and mossy courtyard inside. Wandering around the city today I found myself coming to street corners and choosing my direction by looking for the next patch of trees or a photo-worthy piece of graffiti. Bought a compass for a dollar and a chocolate croissant for fifty cents. Looming over the city is a lush mountainside mostly shrouded in clouds. Wild flowers grow on the rooftops and besides all the road construction, the run-down, paint-peeling architecture invokes an exotic sort of nostalgia. Once again I find myself, a stranger in an unknown land, the scent of adventure at every turn.