Sunday, April 3, 2011

tyrona

So parke tyrona.... it was good and bad... i mean it was a beautiful place.... but it took forever to get there... it was like 1 1/2 hours by boat..... and it was like 20 bucks for the ride there... and buuuuumpy seriously.... it was sooo scary... and me and joe were on the front of the boat so we were getting a beating.


Another problem is that there are sooo many mosquitos.  I looked like I had chicken pox when I cam home... we slept outside in hammocks and I didn't have a mosquito net.. so I could barely sleep because the mosquitoes kept waking me up.  So.... worth the trip to be in a little paradise... but not anywhere you want to stay more than a day or 2.



So we didn't want to take the boat back... cause it was kinda scary... so we rode mules back to the front of the park.. the part that we got rained out of the first time we went there... it was a couple hours on mules.. and just as expensive and then we had a long bus ride back to Santa Marta when we were done... but it was cool to go both ways... some people only take the boat both ways and some only take the mules.





Playa Blanca

Let me tell you about playa blanca.  So it is a private beach just off Rodadero that you have to pay boats to take you to.  It was lots of fun.... I've always wanted to do the banana boat thing... and when I saw one there I had to do it.
video
playa blanca

So I went to playa blanca with Marcela and Lalo.... her friend... she met a guy there... so it was just the 4 of us chilling under a sun shade and playing on the beach.  The great thing about these places is that there are people who just work the beach... pretty much they come up to you... and offer to be your servant for the day.... get you food.. ice... drinks.... if you want a massage they go and find the massage lady...  haha it's pretty cool.
So I don't think I have posted about Marcela before this... it has been kind of a touchy subject in my life up until now.... but hey... this blog is my journal and I'm not gonna leave this part out... cause it happened.....
So marcela is from Armenia Colombia..... which is the south part of colombia... she was on vacation in santa marta as well and thats where we met.  When I first talked to her and she told me she was from Armenia... I was like.. how did you learn such good spanish.... lol because for me Armenia is by Iran.... that's when she let me know that it's a city in Colombia.
So we met and just had an instant connection... we danced... ate together.... and just had a great time... it was fun to have someone to go to the beach with and show me different parts of colombia that not all the tourists go to.

Anyway... the bad part about playa blanca is that I lost my camera there... it is a water proof one.. I lost it in the ocean... well.... a diver found it when he was looking for a woman's ring..... and he made me pay good to get it back..... so... I had to pay for it because  1... I wanted the pictures... and 2 I wanted to take more pictures on the trip.

Taganga

Taganga was quite the experience.... Found a cheap hostel near the beach and stayed in a dorm room with Joe.  So we walk down the street to use the internet cafe and then we hear what sounds like gunshots... then some little kids come running in saying someone got shot... we walk out the door and right there in the street is a group of people....  I don't know what for but a guy got gunned down right in front of the hostel. Supposedly the killer was a man in black riding a motorcycle.  Sounds James Bondish :)

The next day we went to the beach.... ate fresh fish.... and had a good time before we headed to parke tyrona.  We got there way way way too late....  it was very stormy... and we decided to turn around and go home.... and it's a good thing we did.. because when we did eventually make it to tyrona... we saw what a journey it was.. and if we would have attempted it in the dark during a storm.... it would have been really really bad.


Playa Rodadero





Rodadero is just over the hill from Santa Marta.  I was supposed to meet Robbie and Troy at the hostel and we were all gonna go together but I got a little distracted at the market.... way sidetracked and so they left without me.  I got there about the same time they did with Bret and Beatriz.... we bought a little tent and had a party.  There was music, dancing, massages, swimming, body surfing.... just an all out great day.  It was actually the best day at the beach I have ever had.  I am not really a beach person.  As I get older I really like having a tan for some reason... so I like the beach for that reason.... but I dunno I don't think of going to the beach much when I'm at home.  Well the waves, the temp, the atmosphere, everything was just perfect....



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Colombia: Santa Marta (Part 1)

So I realize that I have fallen far behind on my blog.  I have done so many things in Colombia and haven´t written a thing…. So here I go.  When I got into Colombia I was asleep so I almost missed Santa Marta completely.  The bus let me out on the outskirts of the city and I had no dollars to change into pesos.  It was a Sunday and pretty much everything was closed… My ATM card wasn´t working and I was getting kind of scared.  I asked how much it was for a room at the nearest place and they told me $35,000 pesos.  The exchange rate here is about $1,800 to $1  so to make things easy every $2000 pesos is like a dollar.  So the room was between $17 and $20.  The girl at the hotel told me that I wouldn´t find anything cheaper especially if I went into the center part of the city.  That made my ears perk up… center part of the city… I needed to find this place.  Well lucky for me my friend Urs from Germany gave me a $50 Euro note and so I had that with me.  I asked a guy to take me somewhere in the Central to exchange it and then I would pay him.  We looked at 3 different places before I finally had the money to pay him.  He was a nice guy to take me around so many places on his moto taxi. 
At the 3rd place I spotted white people walking around a plaza.  Something I have learned on my trip is that where there are white people… a hostel is not far.  I walked down the same street I saw them go and sure enough I found a hostel called ¨La Brisa Loca¨ It is a nice place with a pretty fun atmosphere… the owners are a couple of brothers from San Francisco and they are cool guys… the only problem with the place is that all the employees they hired are crack heads… always high… and usually pretty rude guys.  Me and my friend Joe were gonna work there cause some of the bad employees were leaving… but we decided against it.

our biker gang

My first night at the hostel I met Troy and Robbie.  They are 2 way cool guys from San Diego who were on a 3 week vacation to Colombia.  They just got to Santa Marta from Cartagena and were waiting on Troy´s little brother and his Colombian girlfriend to show up the next day.  So Robbie is like… a white rapper…. Lol but not like Eminem status… he gave me his CD and it is actually really good!  So we start swapping stories and hanging out and they invite me to go to some waterfalls with them and some Colombian girls that they met…. They were leaving the next morning.  So the next morning I wake up and well… I was a little disappointed.  You see… when I think of Colombian girls… I just always think they are gonna be super hot… especially hanging out with Robbie and Troy…. Unfortunately …. They weren´t….  lol they were pretty nice though.  So one of the girls says she has been to this waterfall like 3 times so she is like officially out guide.  Well we take a taxi to some random corner and wait for 7 Mototaxis that take us up the mountain to where we will start walking to the waterfall.  Well we rode around in the rain on these moto taxis… and they were crazy… my guy was always racing the others… well while we were on the streets he was… as soon as we hit dirt and mud… he was seriously the worst driver ever.  So I had to get off the motorcycle a few times and walk through the mud while he waited for me… but one time he decides he´s gonna pull some crazy stunt and launch off a rock… well… like I said… bad driver.. the
motorcycle turns sideways… I fly off and land on 1 leg in the mud… but I was holding onto him and so I ripped him off the motorcycle too…. Haha… If I fall in the mud… so does he.  Anyway… soft landing… no injuries… and we make it to the first little river where the Moto Taxis leave us.  So we cross this river and about 200 meters later I see a sign in Spanish that pretty much says…



 this is the way to the waterfall.  I point it out to our guide and she says… no no no… its this way.  Wel… she has been there before.. I haven’t.. so we walk… and walk… and walk…. We did see some beautiful views… and goofed off to keep good spirits since it was raining…  Robbie and Troy posed for a picture that I call ¨brokeback jungle¨ Anyway… it was all good fun… but it started getting dark.  The moto taxis were supposed to drop us off 5 minutes from the falls and we had walked seriously over 3 miles uphill…. It was definetly the wrong way.  So a Toyota landcruiser full of people makes it up there… I stop them and ask them where the waterfall is… and they say we are way way way way past it.  So we turn around walk all the way back… in the dark… and I make our guide pose in front of the sign I showed her earlier.  It´s pretty much the only thing that made me feel good about walking in the rain and riding in the rain for so many hours.


So we walk back to this small mountain town and find that all the taxis are gone for the night…. 2 busses jammed packed with people went by and wouldn’t let us on…. We had a dilemma.  We tried tons of different ways to get a taxi back to town…. In the end we finally did it…. But it took a couple of hours… and lots and lots and lots of frustration… we took a picture of the group… the funniest part of the picture is that the skinny white guy (from England) is the boyfriend of the girl next to me in the photo…. But for some reason…. She looks like she´s my girlfriend in the picture.  I showed it to him laughing…. He didn´t think it was funny.

So during the trip Troy and Robbie are telling me how they met this beautiful girl in Cartagena and that Troy´s little brother Bret was now still with her in Cartagena but would be making it to Santa Marta sometime that night.  So they are trying to describe her to me…. And all I can picture is the Colombian wife that Al Bundy is married to on modern family.  I told them… guys… you are building this up way way too much…. Especially after who we went to the waterfalls with.  But when I told them that… they said… no man… just wait you´ll see.  Well… she walked in the door that night… and I stood corrected… wow… is all I could say about Beatriz.  I found out later that the Miss Colombia pageant was in Cartagena earlier that week and that Beatriz is the director of a modeling school and had a girl in the competition.  Her friend hector is some famous clothing designer and was making dresses for the beauties… or queens.. or… whatever you call them…. Anyway… that´s why she was in Cartagena… and well… Bret Robbie and Troy were in the right place at the right time. 
We had a fun time that night and decided that we would all go to the beach the next day.  I´ll save that for my next post… it was a really good time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goodbye Venezuela

I sure my mother has said “My son wasn’t thinking straight when he did that; deep down, he’s a very good person.”

Although I respect my mother, I know that this is not true.  I don’t waste my time blaming myself for my rash actions or spend my life forgiving myself for all the wrong I have done – doing that would never set me back on the right path.

I use common sense to judge not the intentions of an action but its consequences.  I take responsibility for everything I do, even if I have to pay a high price for my mistake.

As the old Arabic proverb says: “God judges a tree by its fruits and not by its roots.”

I have been reading a lot on my trip.  I have read 4 books… and for me… that’s a lot.  It has been really good for me to read and write.  I am working on my 5th book right now.  And it’s raining today so I am going to try to catch up on all my blogs and maybe even finish book #5.

From my journal that I wrote between Venezuela and Colombia:

I’m in Colombia now on a bus headed for Santa Marta.  Yesterday I traveled for a long time to get to Maracaibo because I thought I had a free place to stay there… turns out I didn’t.
A cool thing about Maracaibo is the large cement bridge you have to cross over to get there! Amazing!  I was told it was the largest cement bridge in the world… You should see it at night!
My plan was to go to Sinamaica today… sleep in a palofito again then head to Colombia tomorrow…. I didn’t feel like hanging around for the festival of the chinita…. Festivals are more fun with friends….  Well Sinamaica was a dump!  Not to be rude… but it was rainy… I was almost out of Bolivars and the place was covered in Garbage… so I decided to head straight for Colombia.
It appears there are lots of people in traditional dress in this area.  They weave shoes and put tire tread on the bottom… I’ve seen this in Mexico too… very cool!
The benefit of being in Colombia is that I can withdraw money from an ATM with no worries.  The ATM will give me a good exchange rate.  In Venezuela the banks have devalued the dollar by 50% so if you want to spend any time there you have to change your money on the black market.

sinamaica

sinamaica

Maybe it was the rain, maybe it’s because I’m alone… or maybe it’s because I’m tired of eating Arepas… I felt like today was my day to get out of Venezuela… and when I get strong feelings… I try to listen to them.  I’m lucky I left today because I only had 100 bolivars when I crossed the border. (About 12 bucks)
ok so this is the only place that I could find
that even resembled venice... or what I
think of as venice... but it's definetly not
as pretty :D
On the drive from Maracaibo to Maicao (Colombia) the car was stopped 4 times.  Once they made everyone get out of the car and they searched it.  They searched my pockets and my backpack… and all my clothes.  I started taking pictures because I thought it was cool.  I was then apprehended and taken into a guard shack… the guy was gonna steal my camera… ha!  He told me it was against the law to take pics of the military… I told him he wasn’t gonna take my camera and that I would delete the pictures.  He waited awhile (For money of course) but I gave him nothing…. He let me go.
While they were going through my bag I bought a Popsicle from a boy.  They make them in plastic bags here… you bite off the end and suck on it…. Mine was strawberry…. Care to take a guess what they call those popsicles?  Tetas (of course)…. Once again… tetas…
Maracaibo has people called Maracuchos.  They speak Spanish of course but it’s fast… choppy… and full of slang that is vulgar in most countries but not in Venezuela… at least not in Zulia….



Here are some Examples:  If I write them wrong it’s so you will pronounce it right

Vergataria – Super cool
            The base word of this of course is Verga – which is well… a weenie J  you might think that doesn’t make any sense…. But in English we say… man… that was the S#*t … which is also not a very cool thing… but when you say it like that it is…. I dunno… I'm not a linguist yet… but that’s my interpretation

Vergacion! – Same but different from above

Example sentence: Vergacion! Ese telĂ©fono esta Vergataria!  Wow your phone Rocks!

Que Moyeja! – How cool!

Mira voz! (boz) – Hey you (tu) look at this… even though voz usually means y’all

Como estai mi Viejo? – How are you friend?

Como stai bo? – Como estas – how are you

Pa que mas? Who could ask for more?

No te arreche chico! – don’t get mad!

Bo se soi arrecho – lazy butt!

It’s strange leaving Venezuela.  I have been here exactly 3 weeks.  My first morning I went to the bus terminal in Valencia and it was crowded and full of signs of places I had never heard of.  Now at the terminal I recognize almost every sign.  I know how the terminal works, where the busses are, the cars, the taxis.  The men yelling at the top of their lungs are no longer screaming gibberish but the names of the cities their bus is going to…. Just takes a bit for the ears to adjust.  The terminal is full of stores for food, snacks, water, magazines, luggage storage, and books.  Of course there is always some display of the virgin somewhere with a candle lit in front of it… and a lady who sits in front of the bathroom selling sheets of toilet paper.  I notice guys with lots of money wearing hats that say “bass pro shop” on them.  Did you know that’s an expensive marca (brand) here?  Maybe it is in the US too? I dunno… looks like something you’d get for free at a hillbilly fishin’ contest along with a trophy that best “best noodler” (yes I know you noodle for catfish and not bass )
the first time I looked out the bus window in Colombia this
is what I saw... do I need to explain the thoughts that
were going through my head?
Anyway… all in all Venezuela was great.  I was warned not to go there by many… that it was dangerous… If I showed up to Maracaibo first I would have believed it… Now I know Venezuelans are harmless… and very friendly.  Of course there are stories of danger… but I have found that as long as I stay away from trouble… trouble stays away from me.  The world is a dangerous place… not just Venezuela… it’s all about being cautious and knowing your surroundings…. Being “pila”
One last funny story...  the way to say gay here is Maricon... but they say it fast and cut so it sounds like Marico  ... well this lady i had been talking to in the car and on the bus went into the bus terminal and bough some fish to eat... i didn't see that... fish is Mariscos .... well he columbian accent dropped the S sounds... so... she said I'm gonna sit here and eat my fish... I thought she said I'm gonna sit here by the gay guy... and I was like... I'm not gay! haha! and she cracked up... showed me her food and said... no no mijo... MARISCOS! hahaha

Friday, November 12, 2010

Catatumbo!

Ok... so... Urs, Joe, and I set out tuesday afternoon towards Santa Barbara de Zulia.  We got there kinda late and paid 160 bolivar... for a super nice room.  So we split that and ended up paying as much as we were paying for the hostel in Maracaibo but this Hotel was waaaay nicer and everything in the fridge was the same price or cheaper than it was at the store.... no need to eaven leave the room.... but we still did of course....
The next day we took a bus to Porta Concha where we ate and then met some locals that took us out on a little boat tour and then took us to these houses on stilts in the middle of a giant lake (too big to see the other side....) the houses are called palofitos...(sp.?)  Anyways we stayed there for awhile... I cooked everyone dinner with some ingredients we picked up earlier at the store and then we went back to Porta Concha for a huge party.  See in Zulia they have an 8 day festival to celebrate La Chinita... (the virgin)  It was tons of fun.  Then we went back to the palofitos and watched lightning all night... from like 11 pm to 3 am it was going.  This happens all the time at lake maracaibo at the south end... they call  it Catatumbo.  Everyone says it is this unexplanable miracle.... scientists say it is the super cold air coming off the mountain from merida and coliding with the super hot humid air in Maracaibo.  There is lighting without thunder 300 nights a year.... pretty cool.
Urs and Joe were running out of money so they decided to go to Colombia without me.  I still want to go to Maracaibo for the last day of the festival.. theres bull fighting, concerts.... and tons of stuff to do.  So I am headed there tomorrow and I´ll stay with my brother in law´s sister Denis (Gustavo´s oldest sister)  Right now I am in Trujillo again staying at the Parra house because when I got to Valera the bus was only half full so the driver told us all to get off... I was the last one off so the little cars headed to maracaibo were full by the time I got to them.  But it is probably better that I travel during the day anyway.
I spent last night in a hostel in a place called Isnotu.  Isnotu is where the people I met at the Virgin Statue live.  I went up there and we made pastelitos together one night... and pasticho (venezuelans version of lasagna) the next day.  It was fun learning how to cook they way they do.  I visited this sanctuary that is dedicated to this local doctor.  So I don´t know the whole story but here´s what I got from word of mouth.  So Isnotu had this doctor named Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez... he was a good Dr. but one day he got hit by a car.  As a spirit he would appear to people and heal them... so now this guy is super famous and has been made a saint by the Diocese in Venezuela or something.... this guy is important enough to get put in stain glass windows with God... you know he´s pretty important ;)  Anyway... other than that there´s not much there... it is a touristy place for venezuelans... but not for anyone else :)