So I was heading back up north to Cartagena, to meet back up with Abbie and Izzy. They had got the plane up there because apparently they were tired of the night buses and it was cheap enough. I on the other hand decided to get the night bus, I oddly am quite fond of the night buses and it was a little cheaper than a flight and with the saving a nights accommodation to I thought it was worth a while, my only apprehension was that I would be travelling solo, it would be my first night bus in South America and perhaps ever on my tod. It was more the getting lost aspect that concerned me and getting to the right place, when Earl and I did have fallings out quite commonly it was because we had a disagreement as to which direction to go. Earl always ended up being right! Getting to the bus terminal was easy it was just a metro ride away, the problem was the other side, and how would I get into the hustle and bustle of Cartagena? I would worry about that later I had 12 and a half hours on a bus to contend with first and another problem which arose, I was sat next to a local woman who looked like a very small and old Danny Welbeck, I woke up from my slumber to notice my iPod was not playing music, I assumed the battery must have exhausted itself and went to put the electronical device away, however, it wasn't that easy it turns out my Apple music device had slipped from my sky rocket on to the next seat where the old Colombian Danny Welbeck woman now perched on top asleep. I was pretty nervous of going in, I didn't want it to seem like I was touching her up and get lynched by the bus, I could have left it but instead I pulled at the head phone wires little by little until the iPod classic was free from the buttocks of the lady. It was like whipping a table cloth from under all the plates and cutlery as the woman didn't even flinch and I went back to listening to Elton John and falling to sleep. Sleeping wasn't that easy either having two very weird dreams, one about my ex-girlfriend Chloe Miller and the other about my good friend Tom Ellis, who I fell out with because he was trying to make me put my head under the water of a swimming pool, I for some reason didn't want to and stormed off telling him to stop preaching at me. It was all a bit weird but soon I was at Cartagena bus terminal and wondering how to get to the main part of town about an hour's drive away. I didn't want to get a taxi, it would have been expensive unless I asked the German couple if they wanted to share, but I always remember Earl saying to me as I arrived in Buenos I think it was that he thought that I would 'cheat' and get a taxi, it didn't matter to him that I had just done 38 hours' worth of travel, I was tired and it was late at night. But still it had rattled it my brain for a while and I wanted to prove a point to him and me too to show myself I could still do this. It turns out getting to Cartagena was a piece of cake I walked out of the bus terminal and right in front of me was a public bus with Centro in big letters, I boarded, paid the 1700 ticket fee and enjoyed the hour long ride to the main area. Point Proved.
I arrived in the walls of Cartagena at 11am, my next job was to find the hostel which Abs and Iz were located - Hostel Makako. Luckily I still had a map from the last time I was in Cartagena so it was pretty easy to walk the couple of blocks from where I was dropped off. Unfortunately the hostel had no room for me but they owned another just down the road called The Chill House so I checked in there. It was Halloween so we made our way into town for inspiration on Halloween outfits. I wanted to be something creative but had left it far to last minute I had ideas of a Games of Throne character, Alan from the Hangover or a Gnome Zombie as I wanted my beard to take pride of place in my outfit but due to time and money restrictions as always I just settled for a generic zombie, I already had face paints and it would be easy to sacrifice a top I hardly wore and cut it up. Izzy was stuck between going as a pumpkin or a mime artist and Abbie had no idea until we googled it and she opted for a zombie tourist, she would just need a toy camera. Our initial trip to town was pretty unsuccessful and I only returned with ingredients for lunch - a tuna sandwich. After lunch we chilled out for a bit, I watched a programme called Man Caves which was one of those renovation programmes where they make the dream room for the bloke of the house. I'd love to be on the programme as ever since Melbourne I love a good Man Cave. Our second trip out was more successful, Abbie got some cardboard to make her own Nikon camera which was quite impressive, Izzy got an orange top for her Pumpkin outfit and I came dangerously close to buying a full Spiderman suit, I think I would have done if it wasn't for the beard which I wanted to be an integral part of my costume. I mean it was going to be its last night!
Dinner consisted of super noodles and chicken sausages, I met an old Argentinian guy in the kitchen who had a full on Spanish rant at me presumably because my Spanish is if I'm being very generous - extremely limited. I ignored the old man dressed as if he was cycling the Tour De France, finished my University like meal and headed up to the girls hostel for some pre-drinks. Without playing cards we had to make do with Uno cards and improvised games of Bulls*** Pyramid with them and spoons. Then out came the dice and I taught the girls how to play 7s, 11s and doubles this didn't go well for me though and was where things escalated for me quite quickly. When you're having to skull rum and coke every minute these things will happen and will go some way to an explanation for the things I was doing later that night. We decided to get ready before us, mainly I was too pissed. I painted Izzy's face, you'd think that it would be easy to do a pumpkin but I made her black eyes massive, I suppose it fitted in to the context of a mean / angry pumpkin for Halloween though. Abbie did herself and perhaps looked the best, then I lived every man's dream and got doubled team by two girls, unfortunately this was only getting my face painted to look like a zombie cannibal. We were joined by a Dutch girl called Donna, who didn't want to much face paint so just had a trickle of blood running from her mouth to look like blood. The receptionist was loving the crazy antics, I was a mess showing her my banana tattoo on my bum and also getting the phone from her and calling her manager a cabeza de meirda (s*** head) and puta (w****) it was no surprise when the girls dragged me out. Things got more embarrassing for me as we made our way to a free concert which was happening in the middle of the old town. I convinced a group of burly Colombian Men to pose for a picture for Abbie's fake camera and then began to try and impress a local Colombian girl who was working selling beers at the concert by performing the very popular girls dance - the slut drop. Apparently after a few pointers from Abbie and Isabelle I was a pro. We decided to move on to a club and ended up at a place called El Laboratorio. It was pretty decent there, they had some belly dancers on, Abbie ripped my shirt so I was pretty much naked, and I was offering 3000 Colombian Pesos to anyone who did a forward roll. Abbie, Izzy and Dutch Donna did. Abbie even did a walk-over I think it was called for an extra 5000, we settled on a kebab at the end of the night. Unfortunately it wasn't a real kebab like in donner meat in pita bread with garlic mayonnaise and chilli sauce, it was just meat on a skewer with a potato at each end, I got a bit extra as I half inched one of Izzy's spuds.
The next morning I felt like George Groves must have felt after his fight with Carl Froch, I was hanging, but I had to get up as I was moving hostel and wanted to get there in time for the free Pancake breakfast. First though was the challenge of removing all the face paint, and I know from the World Cup that this can prove quite the challenge but after around thirty minutes I was clear, well all clear but for the club entry stamp on my forehead which wouldn't wash off at all. I got my s*** together and walked about five - six blocks to my new hostel Mamallena. The Chill House was ok, but the shower was just like a hose pipe and it was fairly small. At Mamallena you get a free breakfast, air conditioned and fan room, proper showers, a bottom bunk and it had a good social area, and bar. It also had a tab system which can be quite dangerous. For just 5,000 ore a night I thought why not. I also got there well in time for the free pancake breakfast though the way I was feeling that morning they were a little wasted on me. I only had one plan for the rest of the day and that was to get my beard removed. I had been growing my bead for well over three months since my stay with the Colombians in Sao Paulo. It's had much criticism, it's had praise, I've been called Alan from the hangover, a fat Gerrard Butler, Hagrid, pretty much anyone with a beard but it was time for it to vamos. It was going not because of the criticism, I loved the beard and that's all that matters but today was the first of November, or as the month is also known - Movember. My plan was to have a shave and leave a great moustache. I had already had some twirly bits I could twirl and play around with. I didn't want to do it myself, ideally I wanted one of them old school cut throat shaves so I went looking around Old Town to see if I could find anywhere. I didn't but I found a Colombian man band and headed back. I then decided to try Plaza Trinidad and to my delight I found a barber's. The barber was an old man and had his setup in his back yard; he had his chair under the tree with a big mirror hanging down. It took forty minutes for him to hack away at my beard, it might have taken less but at first I think he just thought I wanted a beard trim. After we cleared up the confusion it took him one go with the clippers and two cut throats to get rid of the stubble and leave me fresh faced and able to see my chin again. He didn't leave me a great mo, infact he had cut off the twirly bits I wanted desperately to wax, but they would grow back. I was pretty happy even though I know knew that the moustache would more than likely repel women
I met Abbie and Izzy that afternoon and we headed to the city beach Boca Grande. It was scorching hot and I spent most of the tie in the sea, unless I was getting a spud ball or a fresh orange juice, or being harassed by Byron the Coconut Oil guy. Who claimed his oil would make me as black as him in ten minutes. After a few hours at the beach we headed back, I had tuna sandwiches for dinner and then a little siesta. I thought it was about time to catch up with my blogs and it would be third time lucky but again I got distracted and instead went out to the Pizza restaurant El Ray across the road and helped myself to a Pepperoni Pizza. The blogs then fell to the wayside as I went to bed, I tried watching a Roy Keane interview but the internet was being funny so I decided to watch some friends episodes including the one with all the poker.
I woke up the next morning after a very intense dream about crabs coming out of my arms. I quickly realised that my arm was ok, in full working order and no crabs in sight and pulled on my Man United T-Shirt, it was derby day!! Big game nerves were in as I made my way to the bar, they didn't have the channel at the hostel so I headed across the road where I watched West Brom vs Man Utd last time I was in Cartagena. I watched the game with an English Chelsea supporter from my hostel and a Colombian who was a massive Rooney and United fan. The game didn't go exactly to plan, and when Chris Smalling got sent off it was always going to be an uphill struggle and we lost one zero. I went back to the hostel, had my pancake breakfast and then eventually started my blogs, I didn't have enough time though as no sooner as I had started Abs and Iz turned up ready for the Mud Volcano tour.
After a quick bite to eat (tuna and guacamole sandwiches) we were on our way to the Mud Volcano. I had a very different idea in my head to what it actually was. I think I was thinking it was a volcano made from mud, and not a mud bath in a volcano. The journey there was long, around an hour and a half but once we were the experience made the journey totally worth it. The mud volcano was allegedly over 2000 meters deep but the density of the mud meant you were able to float in the volcano; it was weird as we were floating there. Sometimes it was hard to keep balance, one of the locals dunked me and I shot out as if you had just punched a tube of full toothpaste in the middle. After a while soaking in the mud and getting a message it was time to leave and head to the lake where the local women washed us like we were three year olds. It was literally like that as you tried to breathe between them pouring water over your head. Things got a bit weird when they wanted me to get naked so they could clean y shorts, I panicked and refused, but as I turned around Abs and Iz were starker's in the water and getting there bikini's washed. I should have really got naked. The experience was totally worth it and I would recommend everyone to do it.
After a meat panzeria for dinner I eventually at the fifth tie of asking got my blogs up to date. Abs and Iz then came to the hostel, we were going to put some movies from my hard drive onto the laptop but Abs had forgot her plug adaptor, so we ended up playing cards and having a few beers.
I woke up early the next day, it was unfortunate because I had nothing on so could have had a healthy lie-in. Instead I got up and after some pancakes decided to be proactive, I got my visa sorted for the US, printed out my flight details, sorted out the dream team, updated my Cartagena blog and replied to messages and emails I was meant to days and weeks ago.
My chores for the day were finished, well apart from packing, but that could wait until later. It was my last day in Colombia and I still had some things to tick off that I wanted to do. The first was specific to Cartagena, when Earl and I were last here the Chilean woman we travelled with recommended us a place to eat called El Coroncoro. I checked the menu and they had Bandeja for only 6000 Colombian, it cost 14000 in Medellin. Unfortunately I felt a bit cheated with the Bandeja, it had several foods missing, and the only meat I got was very tough. I guess that's why it was so cheap. The only saving graces that saved the dish from being a total disaster was the tomato and beetroot side salad and the chips which were homemade and the most like chippy chips I have had since England. Next up was something that I had wanted to do all of South America, in the supermarkets over here they sell single pots of yoghurt but they also sell yoghurt in litre bags, it was completely new to me and I wanted to try it. So off I went to the supermarket, I encountered a small hurdle as it was one of the eighteen public holidays Colombian have, the most in the world, and my local supermarket was closed. Most other things were closed but a few blocks away there was a big exito supermarket open, so I went in and purchased some snacks for the rest of my travels and a litre of the supermarkets own brand strawberry yoghurt. I quickly pooped in to see Abs and Iz in their hostel, they were busy cooking soup but all I needed was a bin bag and then power walked back to the hostel. I was dripping with sweat by the time I had got back, my shirt felt like I had jumped into a swimming pool, it was soaring with heat and I'd only walked in total about ten blocks, but I was too excited about the yoghurt to jump in the shower straight. I was also a bit nervous as well as excited the last time I bought a litre back it was full of milk and I spilt the thing everywhere, but this time it was daylight and there was no power cut. The yoghurt was tasty and I only spilt a little, though I didn't quite get the concept of it coming in a bag, once it was open you either had to finish it and a litre is a good amount, or find adequate storage which is not so simple, I for one much prefer the pots / tubs of yoghurt you get.
It was time to be productive again, and after a nice long cold shower I began you pack my things ready for the next leg of my journey. It took a fair amount of time sorting everything and when I had done Abs and Izzy were waiting in reception, they were pottering about because they couldn't go and shop because most things were closed because of the public holiday, we went and got juice from the place opposite my hostel and I caught a glimpse of the Crystal Palace vs Sunderland game and saw Jordi Gomez's goal in Sunderland's victory. I got some American dollars and a quick trip to Exito and it was back to the hostel to chill out for a while.
Abbie and Isabelle came over that night for our last night in Colombia and South America, it wasn't as mental as what maybe Earl and I would have had as a last night but it was still fun none the less. We had a couple of beers in the bar at my hostel and I ticked off the last thing I had on my list to do in Colombia and finally had a BBC ale, no this was not the British Broadcasting Corporation but it was a beer from the Bogota Beer Company. It was pretty tasty but in truth I preferred the more standard lagers such as Aguilla, Club Colombia, Poker and Pilsen. A couple more beers were had and we sorted out some movies from my hard drive for future travels, then it was off to bed knowing that the next day we were off to a different continent.
Abbie and Izzie picked me up from The Blue Sailing shop and then we were off to the docks to meet our captain. Yes my next trip would entail sailing the open seas to the next destination of my journey - The San Blas Islands between Colombia and Panama. We met the captain Fabian, the rest of the crew and our fellow travellers who would join us on the journey, who actually would not be taking us on the trip this time because of a bad ticker and had to get his mate in instead, but he did give us the safety briefing, rules and regulations and the rest of the jargon and formalities that needed to be said. The biggest disappointment to come from the meeting was we were un able to drink alcohol for the first 48 hours as we were non-stop sailing, the other big thing to get from the meeting was that the toilet and the flushing mechanism and that if you went it would go straight to the ocean so it was best to warn people if you had to go for a number two. After the meeting we had the day to do our own thing, we would meet back up at 6pm for a group meal on the boat and set sail for what google images portrayed as paradise. So for the rest of the day Abbie, Isabelle and myself found ourselves at the mall where we would escape the soaring sun and bask in the delights of one of man's greatest inventions - Air Conditioning. We had a look around the mall, but there wasn't too much there, though I decided to purchase a pack of cards as mine were already on the boat and thought this would pass the time a bit more, little did I know it would be a torturous event where Abbie would teach me a game I can't remember the name of and slaughter me at said game. Isabelle and myself did leave fleetingly for a little adventure where we change our remaining Colombian Pesos, purchased some sea sickness tablets and had a chicken panzeria. Eventually it was time to go to the supermarket and pick up some supplies, mainly alcoholic beverages and then meet everyone back at our boat - The Sailing Koala and set sail on the next adventure of my travels.
So until next time stay safe and take care