I write this from Hostal Bababuy in one of their common spaces sitting a few feet from some young pot plants growing in planters... ah Colombia.
I write the December 31st portion from the Miami airport and the two flights I took to get home.
Towards the end of our stay in Cartagena Kelly and I started to get weird. Come spring semester I'm taking a swim conditioning class, so I picked up some gear I knew I'd need as we saw them on the trip. Well, the jammers I got were far too small even for my skinny ass, the goggles didn't fit quite right, but the swim cap worked fine! I gifted the goggles to Kelly since they seemed to fit her fine... and we ended up with this.
We continued to be delayed with the insurance after Monday a smidge! They were having "trouble with the system," whatever that means, so we had to wait a day for it to go through after we spent a morning racing around town trying to find a place we could pay the bank. We were told we could do it at any drug store or supermarket... but we ended up just going to an actual bank. Shocker, right?
Anyway, after we finally got that taken care of... they insured J and C's rig in our name instead of Savannah! They had to cancel the policy they made and create a new one for Savannah... that had everything right except listing her as a Toyota instead of a Ford. Another cancellation and recreation later and we were finally good to go!
However, it was so late by now, that it was very likely we wouldn't be able to make it to Bogota for my flight, and our backup plan of driving to Medellin for me to fly from there to Bogota was also a bit dubious... so we made the adult decision and I bought a ticket from Cartagena to Bogota for the 29th. (which, amazingly, only cost $15 freaking dollars!! I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but yes, I bought a plane ticket for less than one could spend on cat food. Wild.)
Kelly and I spent our last couple days together trying not to think about how we would be apart soon. For those of you wondering, we are going to stay together and do long distance! It will be about as different as it's possible to be from living in a tin can together for months, but we're confident we'll be able to pull it off!
Well, today is the day. It seemed like it would never come, but here we are. We carefully orchestrated our parting to avoid a breakdown from either of us, which would surely trigger a breakdown for the other as well, and Kelly had to drive out of the mess that is Cartagena to drive in! We somehow pulled it off, just barely, and Kelly drove off South as I double checked that I had everything and checked us out of the hotel.
I was nervous about complications with my flight, especially since I was flying with my climbing cams in my carryon, including my #5, which is pretty damn big. I did indeed get flagged at security, but they just checked them out, I said they were for mountain climbing, and they shrugged and we all moved on with our lives. Well, my nerves were for naught. I was waiting outside the gate a full three hours early, but I'd much prefer that to 5 minutes late!
The flight was pretty uneventful so TIME WARP
I got to Bogota, picked up my checked bag, and started walking to hostal Bababuy (I'm sorry, I see this scene from Parks and Rec every time I read or hear the name) 2.5km from the airport... I thought it would be a breeze, but holy crap the duffel I checked weighed 44 pounds and was unweildy as hell! I took about 4 chunky breaks to rest on the trek and had to change up my form every couple minutes at the most to get there, but get there I did! ... 2 hours after I started.
They were all super nice at the hostal and got me settled in quickly, where I recovered a bit before heading outside to forage (read: go to the grocery store around the block) for some dinner, which ended up being like the one thing I'm sure I can cook: pasta and tomato sauce!!
After dinner I went upstairs to chill at the table next to some pot plants to get a bit of work done, when another guest at the hostal approacheed and struck up a conversation. He was a German dude named Michael on a layover in Bogota on his way to Panama City! We chatted for a bit before he went to bed (he was pretty damn wiped from a long day of travel), but we floated heading into town together the next day, since his flight wasn't until the evening.
When I went to dive into bed I discovered a cat had made himself comfortable right where I'd planned my legs to go. I found him there by accidentally kicking him lightly since he was the same exact color as the blanket! We coexisted for perhaps an hour before I decided it was time I actually head to sleep and he got the boot (gently).
Man, what a crazy long, sociable day.
Michael and I chatted in the morning briefly about what we could do and came up with a few categories, so while he had a morning shower I did some more in depth research to find things. I found the perfect activity: a hike up to a church on Monserrate mountain, overlooking the city! After throwing some snacks and water in a bag we blasted over to the mountain. There are cable cars to get up to the top, but we wanted to waste more time and get nice and tired so we opted for the hike. Holy crap, it was steep and never let up all the way to the top! A bit more than we had bargained for, but we made it to the top in good time, we thought. On the way up, we spied a couple alpacas and a horse grazing, tons of locals, and even a blind dude complete with the cane and sunglasses with a big speaker strapped across his chest blasting latin music. You meet all types, truly. Check out this map of the hike and some pictures!
After making it down for the hike we still had several hours to kill, so we made our way to the Pre-Colombian Gold museum a couple blocks away. Apparently the indigenous peoples in the region were excellent metallurgists! The place was, believe it or not, chock full of gold artifacts. The thing that blew my mind the most were the gold nose rings these people wore. Some of them looked like they might as well stick a car grill through their nose! But it seems the idea was the more jangleys you had the more royal you were, so that tracks.
We kinda blasted through the last section of the museum because we were getting pretty hungry, and somehow found ourselves at a middle eastern restaurant. I had been trying to find Michael a place where we could get good, authentic Colombian food, so I'm really not sure how we ended up there! The food was damn good though, so we weren't complaining. The owner also approached and asked if I was middle eastern because I look like I could be, but I explained my parents are from Brazil. It's not even the first time that happened!
After that it was time for Michael to hit the airport, so we shared a cab there, since that's where the covid test site is where I need to get my test to return to the U.S. A nice Colombian woman in front of me in the line helped me out with translating the form to fill out beforehand, she'd been living in Florida for 13 years! Chatting with her also helped pass the time in line, we were there for at least half an hour. After we got in to get our tests they got us through quick though, and before I knew it I was speedwalking the 2.5km back to the hostal. Night had fallen while I was in line and it got freezing cold as Bogota is a bit shy of 9,000ft!
I'll dispense with the narrative style in favor of reflections on the trip in general, since I'm sure nobdoy wants to hear the gritty details and shenanigans associated with flying!
What a crazy few months! That was a lot of firsts for both of us, and we both learned and grew so much from the experience. We had so many amazing experiences and good times, and now with some time, I even look back on the really rough moments fondly! It turned out to be quite a different experience than we had expected. We had both imagined at least a 50/50 split between driving and adventuring, maybe even being weighted towards adventuring, but it ended up being more like 20/80 adventuring versus driving. Even though we didn't do as many adventures as we thought we might initially, the entire trip was such an adventure and so novel for us that we didn't feel TOO badly about blasting past places where we knew we could spend several days playing outside! At least we made use of almost all our gear: caving, climbing, packrafting, and mountaineering gear all saw use! The one thing we missed was canyoneering, but there's still time for that as Kelly drives through South America and for us together when I visit her. I'm especially happy that we managed to use almost all the gear I packed for the trip, all except the climbing cams, which keep getting me flagged at TSA, but ah well.
The trip turned out to be a lot harder, and a lot easier than Kelly and I had expected, although Kelly is starting round 2, singleplayer mode as I write this. It was a bit surreal to be doing normal things like going to the grocery store in Costa Rica, then to have the random realization that we had, in fact, just driven there.
When thinking about such a trip, it seems like such an insurmountable task, but when I was meandering about a grocery store in Costa Rica, I thought to myself: "Of course we made it here, we just had to drive!" On the other hand, this trip is the most intense thing I've ever done. It was the never ending need to keep driving south, no matter what obstacles we encountered, like corrupt police, flat tires, breakdowns (emotional and mechanical, naturally), and the inescapable heat. It took a lot to get up every morning for the last ~100 days and do it all over again, no matter what task we might anticipate for the day, and to persevere no matter what troubles we might experience. I was chatting with Michael about art while we walked, and something we spoke about on modern art reminded me of my perspective on this trip.
Modern, abstract art might not seem technically impressive, it's just shapes of different colors. Anybody can draw shapes in whatever colors they like! However, what gives the art value and makes it special is that the artist who created that art thought to create it... then did.
This trip reminds me of that a lot. Kelly and I spoke about this a few times, how we get a lot of praise that we don't quite feel we deserve from people for making such a trip. Really all we did was drive, buy food (from too many restaurants and too few supermarkets, perhaps), do adult things like fix the van, and follow the rules. That's normal stuff people do every day, all over the world!
I suppose what's different about us, and what we should be proud of, is that we realized the trip was possible for us... then we did it.
Kelly and I were starting to get pretty weird in Cartagena towards the end, I fly from Cartagena to Bogota, have an unexpected adventure there, then head back to North Carolina. Relfections on the trip as a whole included as well!
If there's something I wrote too little about, make a comment or reach out to ask to hear more, I'd love to answer any questions!