Micah: Unmitigated


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Posts Tagged ‘San Gil’

On The Bus Mall

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

After a long 24 hrs of transit, I finally made it to the beach. The day was full of mildly interesting events and I did some things that made me feel good inside.  People may say I was almost Christ like, though I wouldn’t say that.

It started with a language barrier induced misstep. After consulting with the touristica informacion, I believed that the buses to Santa Marta left at a semi regular basis beginning in the AM. The lady said ¨Ocho, Nueve, Diez, ... ¨, thus I aimed for the 9am departure. The taxi driver to the terminal was a little skeptical and walked in with me, helping me discover that they don’t leave until noche (night). He drove me down to the other station so that I may at least get started going north to the next town (Buca), 2 hours away.

I made a poor seat choice for this trip, which has become very common for me. Being a tourist, I feel that I should take the least desirable seats, especially with most of the other passengers being from the older generation. Choosing the back left seat presented a few problem: They are raised up about 18 inches and when the riders in front reclined, my leg room was nada. To look out the windows, I have to wrench my head down to my knees. But the biggest regret was missing the views, out the right side, of the Rio Chicamocha canyon.  The glimpses that I did catch were stunning.

While we were passing the crevase via some curvy roads, a little girl next to me sitting on her mother’s lap, began to feel ill. Luckily she was able to acquire a plastic bag in time to for la niña to let it fly. I offered her some of my unopened water, but she graciously declined.

Upon my arrival to the Buca bus station @ 11:30am, my fears were correct when I was told that the Santa Marta bus didn’t leave until 9:30pm. It was a nice enough terminal, with outdoor seating and plenty of empanadas.

Buca bus station

Buca bus station

Random people sometimes sat near me and tried to have some type of conversation. I always smiled and tried to find a time to jump in and tell them¨No entiendo, no hablo español.¨ A young boy who wandered over seemed confused by the fact that I didn’t speak Spanish, and after a few moments of silence, sweetly waved and said ¨Ciao¨.

doodling in my notebook

doodling in my notebook

The most interesting locals, were a husband and wife who strolled over after it got dark. They seemed from the Caribbean area, with darker skin and creol accents. The lady attempted to teach me some things, by talking slowly and not giving up until I gave the correct response. I later impressed her by saying ¨No tengo tiempo¨when she asked me for the time.  The phrase was one I had memorized and felt appropriate though it was a lie, because I had just checked my clock.  My suspicions that they were homeless were confirmed when she saw me in the terminal and told me they weren’t heading anywhere. I bought her a beverage and let her walk down another stall or 2 to get someone to buy her food. As she successfully strolled back with fried stuff in hand, I received a victorious fist bump and a smile.

The 11 hour bus ride was slighly eventful as well. With my back left seat secured, I realized that I was going to be on unofficial el bano patrol. The door was tuff to open and close, which provided me with some enjoyment and concerns. I would hear a lady struggling with the door, open my eyes, and then reach over and give it a tug. But my job was not finished, they still have to get out. Most found the strength but I still kept my ears alert for the sound of knocking or the cry for help. It was a difficult job, you have to be sure that they are ready to come out and that you are not just hearing road noise. A premature door opening would be devastating. The fearful ones would not even close the door all the way, causing it to fling open at all minor bumps. Luckily, I had no view in and just giggled everytime. I helped one old lady and listened for her exit call, with my eyes closed. I never heard it and feared that she may be trapped in there the rest of the trip. Maybe too shy or weak to knock loud enough, she would wait for a rescue from the next user.  I was relived to realize she had made it out without me knowing and tried to get some shuteye.

I arrived into Santa Marta at about 9am and plan to spend 2 nights here before heading north to the better beaches but more touristy town of Toganga.  I may have to rethink my bus seating strategy for future trips, but hate to think of the fun I may miss. No sé qué decir

E = 16

Stay (Wasting Time)

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

I am taking full advantge of not having time constraints. My 2 night stay here in San Gil has turned into 5.  After the initial downpour on my first night, the weather has been perfect. I have been able to do as much or as little as I want.

Thursday: I strolled through “El Parque Natural el Gallinera”. A beautiful, quiet park, set on triangle shaped land at a fork in the river. Lots of green stuff to look at, but the most impressive was the “Old Man´s Beard” that hangs from nearly all of the 1,800 trees. My favorite spot was near the massive tree seen in the photo below.

Parque el Gallineral

Parque el Gallineral

I sat there for over an hour, only seeing a gardener.  As I walked around the place, I saw my first Colombian snake (Brownish, small head,  about 1.2 meters long). Also saw a lizard on a rock near a creek. I approached in an attempt to capture his image in digital form, but he ran away on top of the water. Kinda cool.

After the park, I sampled the local treat called “Hormigas Culonas” or as we know them “Fat-bottom ants”. They are fried and actually quite tasty.  I took my snack up to a high place called “Cerra La Gruta”, where there is a shrine and great city/valley views. Plan is to head up there tonight for sunset.

I like to think he was praying

I like to think he was praying

Friday: A day trip to Barichara. Quaint, picturesque village sitting above a valley. I hiked the 2 hr cobblestone path down to an even smaller pueblo called Guane. Sometimes scared of the goats and cattle grazing unattended in my line. More desert like, dry and hot. Cactus around me and I drank lots of liquids. Feeling a bit parched the past couple days, when I got back into San Gil I purchased a 5 liter jug of water to keep in my room. Turned out to be a great money saver.

Saturday: Didn´t really do much. After lunch, I sat in the park for over 2 hours and read “Crime and Punishment” while the locals did what it is that they do. I was able to get through the crime part of the book, but I am not as much of a fan of punishment, so we shall see how it goes.  That was my cheapest day so far, totaling about $14.62 USA money.

I have been consuming a good amount of Empanadas, due to the price and portability. The varieties have been: Chicken and rice, beef and egg, or chicken rice and egg. At first, I was ashamed of taking the easy way out so often but now I plan on embracing it and putting my empanadas out there for everyone to see. New to Micah:Unmitigated, “The Empanada Count“.



I am not sure yet how I will display it (H1, any suggestions?), but for now I will just say: E = 14. I think that 200 is a reasonable goal for the trip, with 300 even within reach. I know you all will be glued to your computer, mobile device, or Ipad.

Mañana, I will most likely be leaving this place via a 13 hour bus ride to the Caribbean coast. I think I am ready. Soon, I hope to purchase a Spanish/English dictionary so that I may study up. Watching episodes of “Jersey Shore” with Spanish subtitles, doesn´t seem like the best way to learn. But at least now I know how to ask for hair gel. La playa está a la espera

Walk Hard

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

It´s time to get into shape. I have begun the part of my trip that I have been looking forward to most: Hiking in the hills. There are many foot powered journeys in Colombia, some can be done in one day while others are long, guided affairs.  I plan to tackle all of the one-dayers that I can, and that begins here in Villa De Leyva.

This place is quiet and scenic. The cobblestone square is very cool and the streets are safe to walk at night. More of a getaway for Colombian tourists to shop and spend the weekend. I love the way the orangish street lights illuminate the stones in the road, as you will see in the picture below.

Villa De Leyva at night

Villa De Leyva at night

My first jaunt took just less than an hour to summit and rewarded me with some nice city views and a white Jesus statue. A good conditioning hike. The next day I attempted a longer expedition, one which required a stop at an out of town guest house for directions. The regular trail was closed due to a recent fire, so they guided me to a nearby path up the hill. My feet were pressing down on mostly rock and clay, fairly vertical, with occasional animal land mines. No real summit to this one, the top was an entrance to a valley with scattered farms and cloud covered peaks on either side. I realized then that the path was the road for the locals into town, and on the way down I crossed paths with a woman walking her donkey back up. A little rain on the way up made the path slick for my decent, but the clouds parted and the views were bueno.

Thanks for the tripod

Thanks for the tripod

After having my first set menu lunch on Tuesday, I rented an expensive bicycle to extend my range, and got to see some average things. Without studying the map close enough, I was unable to find the waterfall I was searching for. Legs got tired and I decided to turn back. I did enjoy the ability to get out of town and see some of the surrounding villages. On a trip like that, I tend to tell myself that at least I will be a stronger/better man because of it.

I am now in San Gil, the “The extreme sports capital of Colombia”. The bus ride was rough and not cheap, but I was able to partake in conversation with a young Canadian man who is on a similiar journey. My accommodations are both the cheapest and most luxurious I have come upon, so I may extend my stay. There are a few sights in town, but I plan to do a day trip tomorrow to Barichara for a local trek.  As I am writing, it is absolutely pouring down rain and the street looks like a river. The same happened in the last town, but this is what I get for coming during the wet season. Makes me want to get to the Caribbean coast even sooner.

A few notes and numbers at the 1 week mark: My daily spending is a little high right now, I estimate that I am currently on a $30/day pace. Partly hurt by the bad exchange rate, also the cheapest accommodations have all been over $10/night. Tonight´s hostel is down to $8 and dinner was only about $2, so those are good reasons to stick around. My goal is to be under $20/day and possibly lower if I get some farming in. At the present photo rate, I will top the 9,000 picture mark. I imagine that may go down as I linger more in places, but the beach sunsets are still on the horizon.

The past few days and adventures have reinforced a theme for my trip: “It´s the journey, not the destination.” My brief excursions of the past 3 days, had no real finish lines. My travels will end at some point, but they will not reach a known climax and hopefully neither a nadir. It is going to be a long, exciting, hard walk, but I intend to walk hard. Buenos Noches