I'll be backpacking, couch surfing, ukuleleing and volunteering around all of the countries between Mexico and Colombia, oh and I'll be home for Christmas.
Pilot, artist, poet, captain, chef and musician. Just how many man points can one person acquire?
Our boat captain was a great character. Most 64 year olds that live on a sailboat that travel the seas have probably got some stories to tell and Andrea was no different.
He spoke in broken English and good Spanish but no matter what language you talked to him in, the only person he listened to was his Colombian first mate (also called Andrea). He had a passion for the Beatles and for pasta so after the five day trip I was glad to avoid those things for a while.
I never saw Andrea put any sunscreen on (even though he was balding and semi naked most of the time), or drink anything but alcohol (though he never got drunk).
It must be difficult to share your house and life with 9 strangers going back and forth doing the same trip, but he was normally pretty chipper and is now enjoying a well earned vacation on land.
A Korean girl came with our group on board the Micamale, but she didn't have as good a time as the rest of the passengers. As we boarded the vessel, and sat down to our first meal before departing (pasta), she told us she felt sea sick even though we weren't moving!
Needless to say after five days sailing, she still felt sea sick and probably felt like she had paid $500 for nearly a week of torture. She spent almost the entire journey sitting on deck with her eyes closed trying to block out the gently bobbing surroundings. She looked like she was dreaming of a far off world and was also spaced out on sea sickness pills 24 hours a day. She was already thin but seemed to go almost inverse as she ate so little and then went back to concentrating on nothing in particular with her eyes closed.
I really feel like she had WiFi sickness, as even with her aquatic malady she proved most unsociable. She dived into the internet like a starving prisoner would attack a roast chicken when we landed in Catagena. She quickly ditched the rest of the group as we checked into a hostel, and she went to . . . you know . . . that other hostel.
I encountered a tall, curly haired bespectacled fellow in my hostel in Catagena. He really looked look a young mad scientist. I even speculated that he engineered waffles and other Belgian snacks.
Although I didn't speak to him much, he really looked odd, especially when covered in carnival paint. He also paraded his pasty, gangly body around the hostel for a good two hours whilst he was waiting for he clothes to be washed.
Gonzalo and Igor
In Medellin we plumped for an AirB&B lodging as we thought it might be more relaxing and private than a hostel. The host Gonzalo made sure that nobody felt comfortable.
"No, I don't like to party no more, I just like to stay in my house and fuck"
What made the experience even stranger was Igor, Gonzalo's toothless skinny Venezuelan side kick. He shuffled about the house occasionally washing up or speaking on the phone. He seemed to receive an endless stream of male house guests who didn't stay long, or say much, Although he spoke good English, he only communicated in clipped phrases and would creep up on you, lean in and just whisper 'sup'.
1. Seeing Spiderman in Panama City. A guy dressed as the superhero was swinging around from slack lines attached to bridges. He was just doing this to earn some spare change from the drivers stopped at the junction. Whatever happened to juggling or riding a unicycle?
2. Writing a song about our sailboat and its inhabitants. The Micamale was a really cool place to sit on deck and strum the ukulele looking at palm tree islands and crystal blue waters. I even had a jam with Captain Andrea and his guitar, although all he wanted to play was the Beatles. Here's the audio, and if I ever get my hands on the video of 'Micamale', I'll post it here.
Anyway, a couple of indigenous locals approached our boat in San Blas trying to sell us a turtle. They didn't want to kill it really, but they were drunk and bored enough to try their luck selling it. Under pressure from the girls, the captain had to pay them to leave the turtle with us which was then 'released' in a big ceremony a mile away from the boat.
Its bad to go along with things like that because the locals will just catch the dumb beast again and repeat the trick on another boat of unsuspecting tourists. The funniest thing is that we chowed down that night on lobster that we bough from the same guys. Turtles lives are worth more than lobsters apperently. Here are some boat trip pictures.
4. Carnival in Cartagena. When we arrived in Colombia it was carnival season which brought all sorts to town. The main parade consisted of pirates and people on stilts dancing along whilst everyone sprayed each other with foam. I remember one night an old thin black guy came into the bar wearing a gold Santa hat and camply writhed around to the song 'murder she wrote'. He came over and promptly told us that he didn't drink, but he liked drugs before grinning and continuing his dance.
5. Germans speaking English. I've met a lot of Germans in the last few weeks including five on my boat trip. Over numerous conversations, it has been established that the only German I know is how to ask where the train station is and of course most Germans speak English very well. What I find most impressive, is that they continue to speak to each other in English even when in a purely German group. In the same bar where Gay Santa came in to dance, I remember the five Germans switching to English so that I could understand even though I wasn't involved in the conversation!
Some thoughts:Border control
Borders always make people nervous. There's some extra document you need, or something you've forgotten. There's certainly a real art to spending up unwanted currency before crossing. Several countries in Central America use the American dollar, but give you back local currency which is of no use when you cross that border. How much currency you have left after exit fees and transport costs will determine if you exit the country like a prince or a pauper. When I'm flush at the border I take luxuries like taxi rides, first class buses and dole out change to beggars like there's no tomorrow. There have also been a few occasions where I've only had enough money for one bread roll and take a long walk to the cash machine.
Another thing that Central American countries tend to have is a weird old American guy living in the hostel. It's undoubtedly a cheap retirement plan as these old folks bed down for $10 a night, but I can't imagine it's too comfortable. These old boys never leave the hostel and spend all of their time shuffling around, reading the news and prying into everyone's business.
When they're not disturbing you, you're disturbing them, because they go to bed at 8pm and snore like hibernating bears waking with the first sensation of light.
As the elderly get poorer, cheap stay-cations are going to be more common. Maybe someone should open up a hostel for septuagenarians.
The Silver Surfer Hostel:
Large print books available
Bingo on Sundays
Weekly shopping trip
Free shuttle to the hospital
2nd chapter adults
I had a thought about the kinds of travellers I've met on this trip. Most of them between 25 and 40, don't have families yet and have changed careers, quit their job, just finished studying or live abroad.
I've travelled with a German army captain who went into HR, then got fed up and went travelling. Another friend backed out of a relationship to split his time between travelling and earning money to travel. Another guy just finished a masters in Philosophy and is busily contemplating life.
As someone who fits comfortably into this rather nomadic group, I'm not planning on entering phase three of adulthood yet (whatever that is).
As somebody who went from a history degree, to teaching via advertising, my studies influenced my life indirectly. I believe what you really gain from university is the method, rather than the content. How to manage your finances, how to construct an argument, how to play the system, how to survive.
Maybe I'm just callous about other peoples' interests, but I don't care about the ins and outs of your dissertation, or the important research you are doing for your PHD. Everyone I meet seems to put so much emphasis on what they studied and how it affected their job etc, but seem to have forgotten that they should still be learning from travel. What ever happened to the university of life?
Here are the pictures from the Panama and Colombia leg of the trip.
Next time I head to Ecuador and travel back towards Bogota on the final leg of my journey.