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Tourist Town

February 12, 2020


Up until yesterday I was trapped in Santa Marta.  A nice beach town, if such a thing really is a thing, which I doubt.  But it is the kind of place with little to offer but less to leave for.  

All my journeys define themselves and I have no idea when they will find their end.  
When I talk about an upcoming journey I say, when asked, it will end when the end comes.  It is interesting that most people do not hear that.  Those statements are not in most people’s travel vocabulary.   They want to know how long, where and when.  Those are things I do not know.  To me a journey never ends early or late,  just when it does.  The road always is in charge.  

I try to hear the road tell me the things to do, places to see and give each its own time.  In this way each place defines itself.  For me it is very true that a month is about minimum to say I like or do not like a country. BTW, I have never found a country I did not like.  Does that mean I haven’t spent a month in any country?  No, it merely means I have only a limited ability to discriminate.
I have been in Cartagena for 4 days and do find it very different from other cities in Colombia.  For one, English is spoken here.  Another it has a very tourist feel.  I guess that is because there are a lot of tourists here.  Boy, are there a lot of tourists here.  Colombia is at the end of its tourist season but still the streets of Getsemani, Old Town, are packed with mostly young travelers.  Many are from other South American countries and of college age.  Although I do hear a great deal of European, US and Canadian accents in the calles.  


It is certainly a lively scene, on these streets.  I like to walk and will find myself strolling the streets, watching the locals deal with the on slot, for hours. 
Had an interesting event the other day riding here from Santa Marta.  It was very hot and a sign for cold coco, coconut milk in the coconut drew me to a stop.  I ordered one and sat down to drink it at a small, thatched palm roofed road side stand.  I saw a picture of a cyclist on a wall and asked the old lady about it.  She offered her son to take my picture with it.  
Later, while we were discussing general stuff a group of American younger men rode up on rented motorcycles.  They stopped and wanted cold bottles of water.  This was a very remote place where few tourists came and they spoke no Spanish.  She turned to me and asked how much she should charge the men.  What, why ask me?  Then I became aware that she thought I was almost a local, but still a tourist, so I might be a help.  What a compliment!  I told her to charge 1 mill, about 30 cents more than the normal 2 mills.  She laughed and did just that!  Helped my ego and gave me an inflated view of my very bad Spanish.  
There is an areapa stand on the main tourist street that always has the sidewalk curbs full of the young and old alike sitting eating their fried meat or cheese filled cornbread and drinking a beer.  All day, all night, I never saw the curbs empty.  The music is playing, loudly, the taxis trying to squeeze down the very narrow, pedestrian and knee filled street.  Bars and restaurants add to the scene with their patrons poring in and out , not always in full control.  A lot of fun and very entertaining.
Cartagena is far and away the most expensive city in Colombia.  The same room with a private bath that I have been paying less than $10, is $35 to 40 here.  A lunch with a beer that costs $3 all over this country, is $6 to 10.  That may seem cheap, but for me, used to the other prices, it is very high.  Taxis, on the other hand are barata.   Had a cab for about 2 hours, running some errands the other day and the total came to around $6, very cheap.

It is hot here.  The temps have been in the high 90’s with 90% humidity.  The only saving is that there is a constant strong sea breeze pushing you around all day.  Another difference here is that everyplace is air-conditioned. Although I do like sitting in one of the many outdoor, I will call them stores, at a table having a cold jugo or beer and talking with the locals.  There are many types of fresh juice. One only needs to learn their names.  I say only as if that were easy.  Colombia has its own brand of names for things and one could spend years here and never learn them all.
Interesting about languages.  When I first entered Colombia I was reluctant communicate in Spanish, but I had no choice.  I am seating across the counter from a couple in the lounge in Miami, that I think are Russian.  I am now reluctant to speak to them in English.  
“Didn’t he start this story with how trips define themselves?  I pretty sure he did.” 
Thanks, I guess I did.  
But you know me, I get distracted easily.  The other day I went out for lunch and…. See, even talking about distraction gets me off track.

This trip has ended.  I am writing this from the airport in Cartagena and Miami.  Well, I guess that means it has not yet ended, just in its final phase.  I have about 24 hours of travel ahead of me.  
I felt the end coming in Santa Marta.  Just could not see anything calling me after Cartagena.  Nothing has.  I really do not want to return to the cold month or so of winter left, but the road says that is where I am going.  
See my Ashland friends on the winter streets very soon.  You others will have to wait until your road calls me.  I have no idea when that will be or for how long. 

Cartegna: Trip Complete
Trip Complete

Keep the porch light on.

—Bill H.

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