So it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote. For which I apologize…I’ve been a bit distracted. You see, I met someone. And I’ve just spent the last 3 weeks traveling with him and spending the time with someone is not conducive to staying on top of one’s travel blog! However, I find myself now sitting in my hostel in Bogota, only a few hours’ away from leaving for the airport and my flight back home to the States (which I changed for the 3rd time after meeting my travel companion extraordinaire.) And I want to stay committed to documenting for myself and my readers the last and most incredible part of my three month journey here in South America.
In order to do that, however, I will have to continue writing once I’ve returned home to my little townhouse in Kirkland. I do hope I’ll have the strength and courage to do so, given the extremely mixed feelings I have about my return to the US.
I last left you in Santa Marta after I’d returned from my epic 5 day hiking adventure in the Lost City and Tayrona National Park. I had a blissful day of doing absolutely nothing the following day at Drop Bear Hostel. I was going to be heading south and it turned out that the best way to get to San Gil was by night bus – which left me with one more free day on the Caribbean coast before I could head south.
I elected to go river tubing in Palomino with four dudes from my dorm at the hostel. It was a nice, chill day floating on the river through the jungle, working on my tan. The only truly memorable moment, however, was when I left the boys who were about to grab a table for lunch to go rinse my feet of sand from the beach. Upon my return, they were nowhere to be seen. They had my change of clothes and my wallet.
After about 30 minutes of walking up and down the beach getting more and more stressed by the moment, one of the locals on motorcycle who’d taken us up river turned up explaining that the guys had returned to the main road for lunch and had been looking for me! I was not happy when I ran into them, having to return to the center of town in my bikini. I let them know how pissed I was – which didn’t make me too popular, but I didn’t care.
The last bus back to Santa Marta took about 2 hours longer than the bus we’d taken in the morning. It ended up being a massive panic, shower, and packing session for me to make it to the bus station in time, only to discover, of course, that the hostel had given me wrong bus times and I actually had a full hour to chill and relax before my bus left for Bucaramanga! Grrrr.
I slept quite well on the bus that wasn’t too air conditioned and only contained one Colombian who took it upon himself to ensure that his music collection was shared with the entire bus load of people at 1′ o clock in the morning. Incidentally, this is not an isolated experience….a LOT of Colombians have never heard of headphones. Store owners put out speakers, the bigger and louder the better, sometimes as early as 7am and blast their latest taste in music, usually consisting of some form of accordion, to the entire town. This is starting to drive me to despair.
I managed to get a good transfer in Buca and arrived in San Gil around 11:30 in the morning. I checked into the Macondo Hostel which had been recommended to me by the folks at Drop Bear. It seemed disturbingly empty. I was informed later in the day, after I’d had an amazing burrito lunch at Mike’s (a staple food establishment in San Gil) that I was the only person staying in the hostel. What the hell? When I asked why that was, I was given some bullshit answer about how it was low season and everyone had left for Medellin’s flower festival. Which I found very suspicious because I immediately went to check on the other hostel in town, Sam’s VIP, which was just off the main town square, and found out that they were full except for one dorm bed that was available.
Heading back to my hostel, I decided I would pack up my things and move to the hostel that actually had people in it, when an incredible storm with a massive downpour, thunder and lightning, put a curve ball in my plans. I ended up spending the afternoon in the hammock, until the thunder actually got so loud that I ran upstairs to sit with the receptionist as I actually felt afraid to be downstairs on my own.
That night ended up being the worst of my entire trip. I felt so alone and lonely…the first being actually true. I cried and wrote to people on Facebook, called Giovanna and my sister and contemplated just going home. But that made me feel even worse. I was so mad that I didn’t even have the option of connecting with anyone at this stupid hostel. I decided I would just move in the morning, it was getting too late to lug all my stuff across town tonight. After the rain stopped, I forced myself to get up and go find a bar and console myself with a nice glass of wine. After passing through several establishments that were all empty, I found a table at Sam’s Pub and was certain that it would soon fill up with a typical Saturday night crowd. However, I managed to get through two glasses and a steak without a single soul entering the pub.
The owners explained that people didn’t go out in San Gil if it was raining. I felt like such a loser as I wandered around town for an hour after dinner trying to convince myself that I would find a place to sit out the evening where I wasn’t just by myself. But no such place materialized and I returned to my empty hostel and cried myself to sleep.
This is all the more interesting to recall as my fate was about to do an 180 degree turn and life was about to slap me across the face in the most beautiful way imaginable. I got up early the next morning as I’d decided to go explore one of the caves in the San Gil area – Cueva de Vaca. I had to grab a local bus at 9am, so I was very reluctant to get up early, pack, and lug my bags over to the other hostel. When I was told that the hostel wasn’t going to make coffee “for only 1 guest” – I decided enough was enough and I was going to move. Luckily, Sam’s VIP still had one dorm bed available and I could check in later after my visit to the cave.
As I dumped my bags behind reception, I noticed a beautiful black man working away on his laptop at the table in the common area. He greeted me with a giant smile and emanated the most positive and warm energy. We chatted briefly as he mentioned he’d already visited the Cueva I was going to. He had been in San Gil for a few weeks’ now. I immediately asked him if he’d like to join me that afternoon on the El Camino walk from Barichara to Guane? He seemed so warm and affable, something told me we’d get along and have a good time together. He agreed to consider it and told me to come find him when I got back from the cave. I asked his name. “Kwame” he said. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Guess?!” I correctly guessed the Caribbean after first suggesting the UK. Then I went through about six different islands before he stopped me and explained that he was from Trinidad and Tobago.
Cool. The first person I’ve ever met from that island country.
Off I went and thoroughly enjoyed my morning traipsing through the pitch black darkness of Cueva de Vaca. Of the cave descriptions I’d read, they carefully omitted the bit of information regarding needing to walk through a long tunnel for several minutes bent over in two, AND the need to completely submerge and swim through a short passage of cold, muddy water. I’m not sure I would have gone had I known! It was quite the adventure and the formations inside the limestone cave were well worth the visit.
I arrived back to Sam’s around lunchtime and quite hungry. Kwame was still sat in the same spot and with a bit of encouragement, agreed to pack up and come have some lunch with me before grabbing the bus to Barichara.
Our connection was instant and we soon fell into a day long conversation of sharing our life stories, and laughing a lot. We giggled on the bus to Barichara, which I instantly fell in love with. It is a gorgeous colonial little town that used to be the capital of Colombia and is now home to artists and rich Colombians who can afford the lavish real estate. I soon discovered that Kwame had a huge sweet tooth as we started the afternoon off right with cappuccinos and giant slices of cake…despite being full from lunch.
We look like quite a pair and talking to Kwame while walking is quite a task as he’s over 6 ft 5 inches tall. A very tall, very attractive Trinidadian. Not someone I’d expected to meet and click with. Starting our hike together, I realized very soon that I was engrossed in our conversation so much that I wasn’t paying as much attention to the stunning countryside and the storm clouds that were brewing in the distance.
It was a perfect, warm and cozy afternoon’s walk with great company.
On arrival in Guane, we both swooned over how cute the little village was. I fell about laughing as Kwame immediately enquired as to “Donde hay cervezas?” to a store owner and we happily settled in the town square on a park bench sharing beers and more conversation. Luckily, the bus arrived to take us back to San Gil right as the heavens opened and the rain began pelting down. We immediately made plans to grab take out upon our return and hunt down a decent bottle of red wine, which is a hard task in a non-wine friendly country like Colombia.
I’d found a kindred spirit in Kwame, in Guane.