A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

Santa Marta, Our Home

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I wasn't lucky enough to execute my New Year's Eve plan last night. Instead the blasting meringue kept me up until 2 or 3 in the morning, by which time I was almost weeping with fatigue. But the sunny weather today made up for my nocturnal tortures, and we spent the morning hiking and being tossed by the most intense waves I've ever swam in. Afterwards Tayrona seemed to us like an idyllic paradise, and we were reluctant to leave. However, our food was running out and I couldn't face the increasingly unreliable toilets any longer, so leave we did, hiking another 1.5 hours to get out of the park, and now my legs are so tired I wish I could detach them from my body. But I'll have to wait because I'll need them for when we go scuba diving tomorrow.

We saw Rasmus and Isa in the street in Santa Marta this evening. I think it will be the last time. All the foreign tourists seem to hate Santa Marta, but Chris and I have come to view it as a sort of home. We know where to eat, which supermarket is cheaper, the going price for a milkshake (which we order every night). It's not a pretty city, nor does it have a wealth of tourist activities, but it does us just fine. Taganga by contrast seems a sweet little town tucked in a cove, a place where all the gringos and other tourists stay, which has never recommended a place to me. Gringos + sleepy usually means overpriced and inconvenient...

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

New Year's Eve

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After having been 6 days in the jungle, I can't feel a sharp pain anywhere without a shiver running down my back, thinking I've been attacked by some small and strange critter. If not an odd-looking pokey insect than a stinging caterpillar or a tiny tick or just an ordinary mosquito. Worse still, maybe a surprised scorpion or, horror of all horrors, a deadly coral snake (is it true that there is no antidote to their venom, that you die bleeding from your eyes? or is this a friendly jungle myth, a joke played on credulous tourists?).

Tonight it was just a small rock, but tomorrow who knows...

We will ring in the New Year quietly, in our sleep, perhaps slightly more comfortable than last year when we dozed through it sitting upright in the Nairobi airport. If we showed a montage of all the New Years of my life it would go from boring (watching fireworks on TV with my parents) to typical (a few controlled parties, alcohol, kissing other girls) to boring again fairly rapidly.

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Parque Tayrona

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In Parque Tayrona now. We can't go anywhere without it being a long, hot fatiguing journey, and today was no exception as we scrambled over rocks with our sacks of food and 8 kg of water. Still, I was impressed by the beach I saw. It was much cleaner and wilder than I expected. And for the first time in a long while I smelled that pungent sea smell. Interestingly not every seashore has it. It sent me straight back to California, and I nearly fainted with homesickness.

The people of Colombia on the whole seem almost embarrassingly warm and friendly. I am amazed and shamed by their overtures--shamed that I don't possess such natural openness and sincerity. From what deep well of culture springs this bright, vivacious warmth? I hear there are other friendly cultures, but I suspect none match Latin America's in sympathy and energy. It is a particular kind of welcome that makes you feel embraced, yet not just any kind of embrace but a family embrace that admits no barriers but rather takes you under its mothering, downy wing. I am thinking of many people now, not just Colombians, though all women. It is more a female trait. The male friendliness is different--hospitable, certainly, and helpful, but with the typical distance you find with strangers.

I just realized it's almost 2013. Damn. I'm not ready for another year.

When I was young I never thought I'd get older. Even now I haven't quite realized that I'm old--too old to still be what I am. When I see the years flip by so quickly, I lose my breath. Pondering mortality is at best a cliche, at worst melodrama. But I can't shake my preoccupation with it, with the idea of my own impermanence. In wiser moments I am happy to simply pass through, to squeeze whatever I can from the brief, sweet moments that strung together comprise a human life, and then to let go, to float on, away. But at other times I think, oh all this work, all this pain, all this learning for what? What is life for? Why all this struggle? Why not just hedonistic pleasure? One day it will all be gone, and my only impression on the earth will be what I took and used up forever.

These are heavy thoughts, too heavy for the New Year. Let me end, then, on a different note, a wish: May 2013 be an, oh, I don't know, an interesting year. Good night!

* * * * *

When I close my eyes and try to imagine myself at the side of a tranquil lake, I am surprised to find myself at the edge of Laguna de Apoyo. There I am, hacking away again at Chris's hair with the scissors. But already I know that somewhere behind me are three men with machetes, waiting to steal our backpack. They are shadows in the woods. Nevertheless, the lake and the day are as peaceful and clear as ever, and I smile as I snip away. And then it occurs to me in a slow, surging wave of gratittude that they--the men--did not take this away from me, this pure, simple pleasure in the lake. My whole body a grin of joyous surprise. I had to tell you.

Posted by chschen 04:27 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Back in Santa Marta

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We're back in Santa Marta now, after discovering that 40000 COP ($22) have mysteriously disappeared from Chris's wallet (really an airline pouch we've been using since his wallet was stolen). It weighs on us, but not as much, I noted, as it would have maybe a month ago. Traveling is messy (and life should be, too)--not all your flaps will be tucked in. I wonder if I'll remember that when I get back home.

It's hot hot hot here. I miss the coolness of the jungle--but not the mosquitoes.

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Ciudad Perdida: The End

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Feeling cinematic right now, possibly due to the Colombian rancheras playing over the speakers at the camp. It roused me from my hammock, and now I'm sitting at the table with all my hair resting on my right shoulder, which usually makes me feel warm toward myself. Or maybe the feeling comes from reading Roberto Bolaño--yes, I'm still reading 2666--which always leaves me filled with admiration and chaos. So here I am gazing soft-eyed at the overcast sky for no particular reason except that my heart feels full. And why should my heart be full? That mysterious, delicious cinematic feeling.

It's after Christmas now. The others have all left. A lovely, terrible solitude threatens, beckons. And, behind that, peace.


Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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