Sunday, October 10, 2010

Medellin: Home

After a quick stop in Bucaramanga for Miles to buy one of their famed guitars, we bused back to Medellin. Ha, if only it were that easy! We woke up in the morning to find ourselves part of a long line of trucks and buses parked on the side of the road in the mountains. We waited patiently for a few hours as somewhere up ahead, workers cleared the mudslide that had blocked the road during the night. Then, as the first pangs of hunger hit, we were spurred to take action. Along with two fellow passengers we shouldered our bags and walked the mile or so to the site of the mudslide where we joined other travelers, including a group of nuns, scaling the hillside around it. Once on the other side we were able to get on a bus and finally made it to Medellin, only six hours later than expected!

I often think that a place really feels like home the first time I come back to it. So here I am, only two weeks into my life in Colombia, returning “home” to Medellin for the first time. And despite the fact that I’ve only actually spent five days in Medellin, the sight of the redbrick city set in a valley among mountains already feels familiar, and it’s good to be home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

La Guajira: The Land of Death and Dreams

After a few days relaxing in Santa Marta we moved on to Riohacha, a new city for Miles. Riohacha is the capital of the northernmost state of Colombia, La Guajira: Land of Death and Dreams. How could we not visit an area with such an enticing moniker! Our plan was to rent motorcycles and head into this “most mysterious place in Colombia” with nothing but the bags on our backs. Ah, how na├»ve we were.

As our Jeep was expertly steered by our local driver through a cacti forest between the paved road and our coastal destination of Cabo de la Vela, we were exceedingly grateful that motorcycles had not been available in Riohacha. It had been raining all night and the mud and water had collected to the point that we were fording rivers, fishtailing across muddy flats, and gripping the seats to keep from slamming our heads into the ceiling as the Jeep bumped along.

Disappointed by our inability to rent a vehicle and drive ourselves, I was at least mollified by the excitement of this drive. The coast itself was quiet, fairly deserted, and beautiful despite the storms. We finally got to swim, ate delicious fresh seafood, slept in hammocks, and cemented the plan to return at a time of year when the weather is more conducive to exploring the interior. Our time in Guajira was completed with the purchase of traditional hats from the Wayuu people who inhabit the area and with their different dress, features and language make it feel as if you really have entered another land.

Note: La Guajira will have to remain mysterious as I forgot my camera battery . . . but please, admire my Wayuu hat :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Santa Marta: Research

In Santa Marta we got to do some hostel research. We spent the first night at Noctambular, one of four hostels in Santa Marta, only three of which are centrally located. Noctambular opened a couple months ago and was started by a young French couple who are managing the whole thing themselves. It was great to chat hostel work with them, but it seemed like they weren’t in the best place at the moment. Since it’s just the two of them and someone always has to be there, they’re completely tied down to the hostel and can’t even go out for a drink of dinner together. Thankfully, Miles already has a couple reliable employees lined up so that won’t be us!

In the name of research we moved to Brisa Loca, a beautiful hostel in a renovated hacienda, for the next night. Brisa Loca was the first hostel in Santa Marta and was started by two brothers from California. My dad had actually sent me a NY Times article about them just over a month ago. The hostel is incredibly well done and was a great place to get ideas as well as confirmation of a lot of the plans that Miles and Brent already have. Miles got a chance to talk to both the brothers and they were really helpful with stories from when they started and lots of tips. Exploring these hostels has been a really fun part of the trip for me because, all my recent travel experience having been bungalows and guesthouses in Asia, this is my first exposure to South American hostels. Now I have a much better idea of what Miles and Brent are aiming for and can also recognize how great their plans are.