Bienvenidos a South America – Colombia

Cartagena

Where did we leave off last time? Can’t even remember myself…

Oh yeah, on the death defying crossing of the Darien Gap.

The internet situation has been getting progressively worse as we venture further South.

 

From our landing in Colombia, we needed to make it to Cartagena, where our cars were patiently waiting for us, safe and locked away in a container.

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Unlike Colon, which was a complete wasteland, Cartagena is a very beautiful and most importantly safe city!

Can you believe it? We were able to walk around the city at night and nothing happened to us? Panama…take a lesson.
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The downtown, where we stayed, is lively and has a bunch of small restaurants, that look surprisingly California/hipsterish.

With solid ground under our feet, welcoming city and cheap beer…we were properly welcomed to South America!

But nothing good lasts forever and the morning came sooner than we wanted…and with it came adult responsibilities.

Getting the car out from Colombian customs is apparently a two day process.

First day we ran around…no literally…RAN around from building to building trying to gather all the required paperwork.

There was a list of 11 steps that we needed to do on the first day. And all boring shit like insurance, permits, signatures, life insurance, receipts, etc…

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Remember that boat ride…well, my face is starting to peel off a little bit…sunburn is no joke kids.

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Done with the first day…happy, excited…but mostly just really sweaty. Remember this is 100 degree weather and the sun is a tad stronger than Southern California.

Anyway, i wont bore you with the details…but if you are actually travelling here is the document we found helpful – Panama side shipping and Colombia side shipping (can’t find the blog where i got it from, thank you either way!).

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Second day we got to wear awesome vests and hard hats! And a few more hours of paperwork and and and…

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We finally get to see our cars again…YAYA!!!!

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As usual, one guy working 4 people watching him 🙂

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Last security check and we are out of the port – 2 days of running around and Hodori is finally on South American soil.

Now 6000 miles of open roads…no more shipping…for a while!

I know that an alcoholic will find any excuse to celebrate, but going through this ordeal, every completed step was worth a few beers.

But finally getting the cars … was worth a few beers and a Hamburgesa.

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For a couple of bucks you can buy a hamburger with everything on it or some mixed meat with veggies.

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IT WAS HUGE…i could barely finish half of it.

Next day we ride again!

Since Martha and Fernando were driving in the same direction we decided to go together for a while.

Our plan was to make it to Medellin by the end of the day, but due to some bullshit traffic we wasted 3 hours and only made it half way.

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It was Christmas Eve and Fernando decided to make dinner for everyone. We found a little roadside hotel and as luck would have it …there was an outdoor kitchen….waiting …just for us.

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Perfect way to spend the evening.

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Neither Fernando, nor I can take a normal picture…but i guess you already knew that about me.

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I’m not sure what Fernando is doing… i hope he is not trying to ruin our dinner.

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After innumerable number of cervezas and what seemed like an eternity… dinner was finally ready.

Quickly consumed, we decided to see what this little pueblo had to offer in terms of nightlife entertainment.

See, unlike US, Christmas is a party kind of holiday that you celebrate with your friends…get drunk, dance… make a fool of yourself kind of holiday.

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The city center was bustling with live music, dressed up teenagers walking around and elderly people sitting around watching the whole commotion.

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Hyein didn’t have a chance to dress up for the party and went as the local “defense force”.

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After an hour of watching the teenagers shyly dance with each other, we headed to sleep.

Medellin

By the end of next day, we ended up in Medellin, said good bye to Martha and Fernando. They were going to continue driving South.

Its funny, how extreme situations bond people instantly. In the couple of weeks we went from not knowing each other…to spending all days together…to actually missing them as we drove off.

But enough with emotions…you didn’t come here to read a romantic novel. You are here to read about what kind of adventures we will get ourselves in next.

You dont have to wait long…since we couldn’t find camping in the city… we found the cheapest hotel…turned out to be a themed love motel!

Actually, I highly recommend these kind of places. They are usually well kept, clean, cheap and comfy.

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Medellin is known for it’s Christmas lights and since it was Christmas Day there was a ton of people frolicking about, staring at the lights and each other.

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Got ourselves a few beers and walked around.

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Local party bus.

Enough about food and partying for a bit.

Hm…lets see what can i tell you about Medellin? Once considered one of the most dangerous places in the world…now it is in revival. There is police on every corner to make you feel safe.

The city is clean, the air is fresh and due to it’s location in the valley in the mountains…the weather is always spring-like.

The city even has a subway system…and as part of it there are two cable car lines.

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No..no..there is nothing wrong with the above photo…just my attempt at being a bit artistic…if you dont like it, keep it to yourself 🙂

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One of the lines connects the poorest neighborhood of Medellin to the transportation network.

Also, it provides the best views of the city. I’ll just shut up for a moment and let you enjoy the views.

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Fine..fine … i can’t be quiet for too long. Tried to take a picture of Hyein again…look at that hair swoop…i swear she does that on purpose.

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My hair is also beautiful…right? no…who am i kidding…

Medellin is also an artistic city.

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Library or museum…or an art museum…i dont remember. Whatever it is, but outside of it you can find a large number of very interesting sculptures.

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We couldn’t resist…and apparently no one else even tried to resist.

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Thats not a look of satisfaction… in the equatorial sun the metal became so hot you could barely touch it.

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Hyein battling the heat to get her chance with the beautiful lady.

Lunch time – simple. Just grab an avocado the size of a watermelon.

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No BS, these things are HUGE.

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Okay, try to focus on the gigantic size of the avocado and not on my mummy-like face.

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Hyein, a world renowned avocado connoisseur, proclaimed that this was the best avocado she has ever had. I think she just liked it cuz it was big 🙂

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Wait…you thought, just because we are in South America now…we will stop with the church pictures? I also really hoped we did…apparently not.

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WHAT? another one? hm…looks like the first one, but consulting with Hyein as i write this…its a different church…who knew.

Oh…yes, i see it. This one has two towers!

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Finally… a picture worth taking. I think I will start taking my own pictures…of beer instead of churches.

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It was awesome to see people gathering in the middle of the city, playing music and dancing. My expectations of South America are becoming reality.

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Another interesting observations we made. People can rent cellphones by the minute at $100 pesos/minute (about 3 cents). But the phones are chained up, so the people end up standing around in a circle. Connected to the middle like an insect.

The nightlife of Medellin continued with fresh empanadas.

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They are like hot pockets, but better.

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And finally i was able to find a hot sauce worth my tongue. It was spicy and flavorful. In general the hot sauce situation has been rather disappointing…i was hoping for some “feel them twice” kind of concoctions. In reality, they just tickle and dont bite.

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Fresh off the grill…i mean deep-fryer.

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We became addicted to micheladas, a mixture of beer and lime juice served in a glass with salt on the rim.

They are so light and refreshing, you just cant get enough of them. And bonus, they get you a bit tipsy.
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Ice delivery for my micheladas. This guy looked very menacing, dressed in all black and with an ice pick.

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Hyein decided to spend her money more wisely.

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Thank god for the purple lighting…my face is pretty much the same color without the light. This sunburn is pretty bad by this point.

Hard to look in the mirror kind of bad.

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A street show with juggling, trained dogs, balancing acts, sword swallowing…

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But for us it is back to the love motel…today we get a candy themed room!

Ibague

It is not often that you get to see a friend during the travel, but in Colombia we got lucky. Our friend from the states, Kelly, lives in Ibague.

It was supposed to be a short drive from Medellin, but because of all the holiday traffic it took us all day to get to her.

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She welcomed us with open arms and let us stay in her house for a few days. She even planned a few typically Colombia activities.

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Day 1 – we went to a fish farm, swimming pool, relaxing kind of a place.

The first thing Hyein did is trade hats with one of Kelly’s friends.

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He didn’t care…it suited his shirt and he wore it like a champion.

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I would be lying if i told you i caught that fish. This poor little thing was pass around the group like a joint at a Neil Young concert.

Everyone took their turn to get a photo.

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Told you he is wearing it proudly!

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This ‘finca’ (a farm) is a nice little place where Colombians come out on the weekend to drink beer, swim in the pool and relax with their family.

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Oooooh…ohoohohoh…and they got horses? why didn’t anyone mention this earlier?

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For $3/person we got to take a little 20 minute leisurely ride.

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Lunch with all of Kelly’s friends.

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The fish they breed at the finca is a relative of the pirahna…you can see clearly why. And it was damn delicious.

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With the New Years around the corner, we decided to spend it in Ibague.

There is a Colombian tradition of making a stuffed doll with a person’s old clothes. Since Kelly wanted to get rid of some of hers, we made a “Kelly” doll.
Neither one of us knew how to make it, so it turned out nothing like Kelly. And then in the good spirit of the holidays and blowing shit up, Colombians usually stuff the doll with fireworks and let it rip.

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We couldn’t get any fireworks in time, so a bit of gasoline did the trick.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Cali

We began the New Year by driving closer to Ecuador and stopped in the city that sounded so much like home to us.

Cali… i guess i miss California, with all my friends and family there. Can’t wait to see everyone when we get back.

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Cali, not to be out done by Medellin, put on an even bigger light show.

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And the installations seemed somewhat classier, less cheesy.

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Wow, are we in a Disney movie? What is a that an actual church…man it’s pretty. I’m gonna go on record and say that this is the first time I asked Hyein to take a photo of the church.

Maybe all these church photos are getting under my skin..
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Serious and silly.

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I’m not sure what the instrument is called, but it sounded awesome.

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By this point in the blog you have already realized that Hyein gets called out as China all the time…but in Colombia people actually wanted to take a picture with her. We should make a sign: “1 cerveza, 1 photo” and stand in the middle of the crowd. We would be wasted before the end of the hour.

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Finally, something we can all relate to – delicious food. “I’ll have one of everything, please”

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By this point I dont even ask what it is anymore, just grab and eat it. Most of the time its delicious, sometimes nothings special.

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“Yessssss….more tube-form meats”

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Is that ….is that a whole pig? Yes, they stuff it with all kinds of carbs and cook it for hours. It is absolutely delicious, but thats not fair…its pretty hard to screw up pork.

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Finally, we hit the 5000 mile mark. Time to change the oil and have a look-see under the car.

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Somewhere in Nicaragua, when making a really tight turn on a really steep hill, i heard an unpleasant noise from the wheels. Thinking for the past 2000 miles that it was the axles that i have rebuild. I have been dreading to fully inspect it.

Everytime i would turn the wheels all the way right and move…there was that creaking sound. It was horrible.

I should have looked earlier…turns out it was a plastic piece of the undercarriage that was rubbing against the wheel when it was fully turned.

WOOOOHOOOOH – crisis averted, for now.

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Nothing special about this bus, except that it was fully loaded with provisions and groceries on the top, some flour and corn on the back and like a hundred people inside.

And since it was made before humans took to the skies…this thing barely moved.

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Trying out our new Colombian make up with got from Kelly and Edwin.

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You probably already saw this picture on facebook. But i’ll include it here for posterity.

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Unlike the Northeast Colombia, which is flat and very arid. The South is very green and has a ton of mountains.

An interesting side note: people in Colombia do not talk about North and South like we do, when talking about weather. Here everything is measured by the elevation. Since you are so close to the Equator the weather doesn’t change much throughout the year. Instead, here you just pick what elevation you like (lower for hotter, higher for colder) and live there. You will have the same temperature all year…nice right?
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I keep seeing this beautiful things on the road. Hyein affectionately named all the Russian cars “tuktuks”…because thats how they sound.

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Right on the border with Ecuador, there is a little town of “Las Lajas” that has an amazing church.

Omg, stop me…i’have been converted to a church journalist. Okay, i’ll just let you look and decide for yourself.

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The architecture is absolutely beautiful and the finish on each detail is marvelous.

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And most importantly, like they say in real estate – the LOCATION.

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If you are blind and cant see it, i’ll write it out. The church sits on a side of a mountain, with the foundation of the church extending a few hundred feet down to the bottom of the canyon that has a river running through it. And the architect decided like that wasn’t enough and made a beautiful bridge that extends to the other side.

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Truly, stunning. I’m glad that we finish Colombia on such a beautiful note.

1 Comment

  1. Kenia says: Reply

    Hi, thank you for updates! We miss both of you! When you have a chance, please, Skype!

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