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Jan. 16 - 25, Day 98-107, COLOMBIA NORTH

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"I would rather ride my motorcycle through the impassable Darien Gap then take that boat with Michel again" by Brad Cougle

"If I go to a restaurant and order a $6 steak I'm happy if I can eat it, but if I order a $30 steak it better be a damn good steak!"  by Brad Cougle

"My boat is a $6 steak" Captain Michel.  "I know, but I paid $30..." by Brad Cougle

DAY 98-101, Jan. 16-19, 2012, Cartagena, Temp: 23-30C, (N/A, 12,460km)

Cartagena is a beautiful city for sure.  Full of colonial historic builidings and a reasonable night life with a sizeable population of 500,000 the city is worth a visit.  As we waited the first day to get our passports around 2pm and then the bikes the next day Guy, Dan and myself walking on sea legs in the heat eventually found Hotel Pedregal near the Fortress (A/C, private bath and all the spanish soap operas you can watch for $25).  It was a pleasant surprise to see how modern Colombia is even though the traffic raced around faster and more chaotic than Central America.  Oh, and yes there may be a few head turners here.

From my last post I think I have said enough about the boat.  I will however conclude with the point that Customs boarded the boat looking for Michel as he did not contact them prior to unloading the bikes.  Oops.  They stopped us half way though unloading and Michel had to do some fancy foot work, but in the end it turned out to be minor.  Oh, and Michel also set us up to pay an additional $35US to his importation consultant.  Of course we told him to stuff it and completed the forms ourselves as it was easy enough (even though we waited 2 days likely because we had too many bikes all at once for the customs guy).  See stats page...

In Cartagena we enjoyed; Cheap lunches that included soup, rice, beans, meat and a juice. Sunset at Cafe del Mar which you pay for via $6 drinks, but it's good.  Some bike problems due to salt water exposure.  Good dinners and drinks to complete everyday.  In 4 days I had fun even though I didn't even make the beach.

One of the protecting walls as you enter the harbour
of Cartagena.

Very nice sky line from the boat

In town, the fortress of San Felipe
 in the distance,

Dan, Guy and me, dinner time.

Hotel El Pedregal
On the second day we got our bikes back.  Meeting the crew from the Stahlratte while on the dock we realized how experience pays off.  Fast bike loading technique, see video (it's good)

Those smart, efficient germans
setting the lifting ropes before going
on the water.  Much more stable.

Some pretty sweet boats in the marina

Why not.

Due to poor communication with the
port authorities we found ourselves
in some hot water for a bit.

3 hours in to it and the 7th of 9 bikes reaches the dock.
Light weight KLR 650 (400lbs)

We made it!
Bye Michel

We really didn't make it that far.
Bikes were stuck here for another
24 hours.  Good thing Cartagena
is cool, plus we saved on parking.

Dan and Sam enjoy a beautiful morning coffee

Super shiny for the first time in

Roof top view from El Pedregal

Fortress across the river

Washing the dog in a bucket
Cartagena River View and Canon

Spanish Lessons with Larisa Paula

Lunch lessons

At Henry Confectiones

Classic street vendor shot

The writing's on the wall

Two Colombian staples.  I had no problem with the cake,
but the sweet Malt extract was not drained.

Streets of old town

Protective walls of the city

Cafe El Mar, I think it's famous

The expensive patio.

Goodbye Cartagena

DAY 102-107, Jan.20-25, 2012, Santa Marta / Taganga / Costeno Beach (330/12,690km)

Next up in Northern Colombia was Santa Marta and the surrounding area which included a stop on the way at the Mud Volcano (excellent).  Santa Marta area boosts a relaxed access to the carribean sea with more beach life than Cartagena.  It’s possible to go for a dive here, get nice fresh fruit juices, see Tayrona park and surf at Costeno if that's your thing.

Had a meat and egg arepa (corn flat beard) for breaky and then Aussie Dan and I hit the road to the mud baths near El Tortumo, Volcano de Lodo.  What an experience which I can only liken to a rustic mud spa?  You pay a couple bucks and climb up to the top with your camera where one guy relieves you of it and takes photos for you and then you are guided in to the mud.  Once in the mud a dude massages the mud in  and floats you across the pool where you chill for a bit.  Going early gives you a lot more time in the pool as it gets a bit crowded after 11am and people are simply processed. Apparently you are floating on about 2000m of mud and no matter how hard you try in a standing position you can’t get your head under (Dan did his best in an attempt to drown me).  Once out of the pool they guide you down to the lake where these very strong ladies similar to a female weightlifters wash / drown you while scrubbing the mud off (least fun part of the experience).  In the end each group comes over to you for a tip anywhere between $1 and 3 USD.  All up including bath entrance about $7 and it was so cool!

Leaving Cartagena, road ahead was C3R7T3V6

Mud Volcano entrance

Bathroom at the restaurant we
parked and ate at.  Longest wait for
lunch of the whole trip (1+ hr)

Just before the life changing mud bath 

Felt very foreign in so many ways

Did he touch you inappropriately

Your face isn't supposed to be that muddy, but I saw Dan
with mud on his and just assumed he put his face in it.
Not the case, but that's how I roll.

Sammy looking like frankenstein

Back on our way we ended the day by passing Santa Marta and staying in the more relaxed Taganga (it was a couple years ago).  It’s a party spot with a shitload of hostels once you find the right area.  We ended up at Bayview which is not the cheapest option, but had a pool and our Swedish friends from Panama too.  Side note: During Jan all the Colombians are on holidays too so it gets tight for accommodation. 
Big port bound ships in the distance

C2R7T4V8, Love being next to
the ocean

Very poor areas near Cienaga

Very aggressive driving, which you get used to after a couple of days.  How will I ever drive in Canada again.

Riding in to Taganga

Happy to be here Dan?

Cops station in Taganga

Meat on a stick for $.50, Yes!

Whatever the hell this is...

Shot from the trail that crosses to Playa Grande

Playa Grande

More Taganga

Check out the photo shoot behind
Diving chat, why do I post these???  Check the camera in my glasses...
Diving off the shores of
Tayrona Park

Lunch provided at this spot

Classic German Dive Buddy

Also in the area and about a 45min ride away passed Tyrona park is Costeno Beach where a couple of La Cross playing Canadian brothers, Calem and Brian, have set up a very nice place to stay.  I highly recommend heading out there for a night or two.  My first night I stayed in a hammock under a shelter for $7 and then next I went under a Kiosk for $15 which was outstanding waking to the ocean and beach right in front of you.  Nice work putting this place together guys.  Oh, and good meals too with seconds!

Riding the dirt next to a plantation

I believe people are living here

This is Costena Surf School / Beach and it's nice

Hammock hut

Vball and ocean

Bathrooms and shaving station

When you have a beard and shave
this much it's bound to be tried

Beautiful Costeno Beach
Inside the Kiosk
The Kiosks

Tire changing comedy with Mechanic Dan

Check out the makeshift connection
between the compressor and tire

Compressor 101 with Professor Brad

The internals of my tire pump

Our last night in the Santa Marta area was in Santa Marta, which we had been in for a Saturday night at La Puerta a gringo hunters bar and good fun previously.  We stayed at Hotel Intermar which is good for a private with TV, fan ($13) and entertaining hookers in the lobby.  I would recommend you try to find a room with a toilet seat like Dan had.  Thanks for the use of your facilities mate, haha.  One side note here is that hotels and food closest to the beach are well priced.  Note this is not the main tourist beach in Santa Marta which is more expensive of course.

Dan and Sam two up with Surfboard

Out of the sand and back to the

No Toilet seat, Ok, where Dan's bathroom at...

Hotel Intermar, 1 block to beach

On the water front of Santa Marta

Major port just to your right kind
of takes away from the beach

This is sweet to me

Good video of a Ceviche master at work on the Santa Marta Boardwalk

Tiendas with cheap drinks and
tables to enjoy, why go to the bar?

Why...did I do that?

Hookers in the lobby of the hotel

RECOMMEND at least 3 days in Cartagena, 2 in Taganga, 2 in Santa Marta and 3 in Costeno Beach.

Other Things

Dan trying to keep Guy proud refuses his Carbs

Hello?  Who's there?
Eating chicken the hygienic way

Drinking at the local Tienda is
even better when you have a pisser.

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