I have done so much since the last blog I don´t know how to cram everything in one blog. So I think I will give some delayed updates of my travels when I get home. Before I type a ton I have questions about gifts. I am just starting to buy stuff for your fine folks at home and I was wondering what people even want! There is most commonly jewelry from the street, its beautiful stuff, but do the ladies like that kind of thing? (my lady friends that is). I also bought these amazing Chinese ink sketches of scenes around Cartagena, Colombia. I buy things I like and think are amazing pieces of art, so hopefully you will too. Otherwise tell me what you want. My other ideas for gifts were hammocks if I can find decently priced, good quality ones. And of course Colombian coffee!!! Anyone want the same stuff you buy in the store only by passed the middle man of grocery stores? Anyone?? Seriously, email me on the things you may want from here or suggestions of things to look for. I am not buying things with anyone in mind, I figured it would just be divided up in the end by whoever wants want. If you want something, email me.
My latest experiences in the brief (it´s long but trust me, it is briefed):
I couchsurfed in Colon, Panama for a few days and then went back to Panama City to book a boat through a hostel there. The hostel was awesome, great atmosphere. I then got on a boat with five dudes and one captain and sailed for three days to San Blas islands off of the Panama coast where loads of Kunas, native people in the Carribean live. The islands were all small and some would have maybe one to four families on it. We would buy fish from people who rowed in long kayaks up to our sail boat. The water was something from a Corona commercial and I snorkeled in a school of fish so dense I couldn´t see through them. (like in Finding Nemo... the mob of fish that spoke as one and floated into designs). But the boy crew were stupid crew, they were inconsiderate, sometimes snotty to the captain, got loads of things dirty and wet (my things and the captain´s things) and didn´t seem to care much. Hernando, our captain, said it was the worst journey in his eight years and the dirtiest his boat had ever been. I didn´t like those boys at all. They were into partying late into the night, drinking lots, and had all kinds of stories of all the drugs they´ve done since they were 14. Not even hippy types, just impatient uptight folks. None of them except the two Canadians knew each other before hand either. I still seem them around because I am on what is called the Gringo trail but soon I will lose them.
After San Blas, and eating a 100 year old turtle that was inhumanly and illegal killed by the Kuna, we set sail for our two day, turned into three day, trek in open water to Cartagena, Colombia. I got a little sea sick but didn´t throw up. Hernando is a classic gentleman and paid special attention to me because I was a girl, and the only girl. In contrast to the insensitive men it was a godsend and it felt really nice. I was weirded out at first, but he was a wonderful man that I spent extra time with in Cartagena with his daughter and wife. Our sail broke from the strong wind we had, and then ironically the wind died away for 12 hours. We replaced the sail but sat not moving for a long time so my five day trek was now six.
In Colombia my passport was taken and not returned to me until the next day because of the immigration chaos here. No worries for me, I was happy to be on land after not having showered in six days, eaten in three days, and had remained wet so long I developed a rash on my bottom.
I went to the popular hostel in Cartagena alone, ditching the boys ASAP and it was full. However, some other nice folks (two from Alaska, one Brit, and one Canadian... and yes it was incredibly ironic to meet Alaskans here, the first ones!) literally walked me to another hotel for me, helping me carry my stuff which I had separated into two bags... wet and gross and still usable. I had a glorious shower there and washed my things and laid everything out everywhere since I was alone. It took two days before feeling like I was still on the boat to fade away.
I moved into the popular hostel the next day and then hung out with my new friends. I actually only continued to hang out with the Canadian, a girl... one of few I have met, traveling alone. There are more guys than girls traveling, few are alone, most are couples.
Colombia.... madly misrepresented. I am so pissed I listened to anyone who talked about Colombia negatively. Some people do know English, it isn´t that cheap anymore, I have felt safer here than I did in Panama, taxis don´t rip you off, people talk to you all the time, and I hear non stop music from everywhere! In the old city of Cartagena its a maze of colonial buildings that are so beautiful I think I took about a 100 pictures of just buildings. They have drumming and Afro Colombian dancing in the main plaza everyday!
While there I went to a mud volcano to have a mud bath. I met an incredibly friendly Swiss girl there and she was my buddy for the day. We sat in this muck you couldn´t sink in, had some guy rub the mud into your skin, which apparently is very good for your skin. Another guy has your camera and takes your picture, then you go to the ocean and people are there helping you wash the mud off. It was an interesting experience.
I went to Santa Marta next and stayed in a hotel I knew the gringos wouldn´t go to. I needed to get away from these people whose personalities seem alike to me. They LOVE drinking late into the night, sleeping half the day, their intentions here are vastly different from mine and most are cruising either from South America north or Central America south, so fast they breeze through countries spending just a few days at a time. Blows my mind. I am here to learn the culture and enjoy it, participate in it! So I met up with friends I made off of couchsurfing in Santa Marta and had an amazing squid dinner with them... we bought and cooked it ourselves. Yum. I moved to Taganga three days ago to get my scuba diving open water certificate. Most places you start in a pool, but here I started in the ocean and was diving my first day. I have done six dives and have seen so many amazing fish and coral, so many colors and bizarre things I can´t wait to look up later. I have a water housing for my camera but won´t risk taking it 60 feet under water so no underwater pictures of this.
Taganga is a small fishing village that is highly touristy for other Colombians and south Americans. I was the only American I knew of here until just an hour ago when I met a guy who stayed in my room last night and will go diving with us tomorrow... I didn´t actually get introduced until today though we talked all yesterday, he was from Wisconsin! ha. He didn´t seem to care too much that I was from there too.
So I wish I had more time to write interestingly, I am just spitting out things as I remember it as fast as possible to get back to studying for my exam tomorrow and to catch the music at the beach. One night I was sitting at a restaurant journaling and watching the life pass by me on the street and suddenly these amazing drumming sounds dominate all other sounds. They were on the balcony of the bar next to where I was. It was so cool, the percussion and the dancing of locals. It is a different type of music that sounds like African drumming... really fast paced rhythms, and a clarinet player being the only source of melody. The clarinet almost sounds middle eastern, but not quite. It´s so off on its own genre from here I had never heard anything like it to compare it to and describe it to someone who hasn´t heard it. Luckily I videoed some of it. Now I just need to not loose my camera again until I back that up.
That´s all for now. I changed my plans in Colombia to revolve around Carnival, same time as the Brazilian one, but there is one really big one here close to Santa Marta. I have to go, it´s the best way to see and experience this culture. I have some local friends to go with too which is nice. Some gringos as well. Email me about gifts!