Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cartegena, Turbo, Colombia.

How convienient it is, not only can you nip out and get your fresh fish from the street and select your cuts, but also, you can choose which new shoes you'll be wearing out to the next Cartegena Ball.
Old town Cartegena, a sold door leading into a grand old church.

Manicured tourist area of Cartegena

A Patrol tower on a corner of the wall around Cartegena which was originally built in the 17th century funded by the Spanish Crown to ward off invasion from pirating ships that several times invaded the city and stole spains gold and silver reserves. The wall was constructed using European Military Engineers over the course of 208 years. In 1756 defenses were compled and considered impregnable with more than 11km of wall surrounding the city.

Over looking the city from atop the wall.

The slopeing wall was an effective deterrant to the would be theifs.

A Large bore cannon answered the call of any midnight knockers.

Some how on my way to Cartegena I managed to follow a few signs and ask a couple of the right people for directions and I ended up near enough to the Centro Nautico that I spotted the masts of several large yachts. I pulled a U-turn after riding across a small bridge that dropped me into old Cartegena and proceeded back across the same bridge and toward the port side where the sailboats were berthed. I was specifically looking for a 45 foot Catamaran with a blue and green boom bag. Somehow in the mirad of boats I saw a Catamaran, and then another, and then this was going to be easy. I continued motorcycling slowly along the street that paralled the port dock. Loathe and behold, I see this guy waiving to me from a Catamaran, I thought "cool", and immediately afterward I saw another Canadian motorcyclist Grant Else walking along the dock. Apparently we both had just arrived at the same time and the captain would be arriving any minute.
I chatted to Grant and moments later after a phone call the Captain "JP" showed up, explained a few things, accepted our deposit and stated our departure date for thursday morning. It was all so fluid that it just could not have been arranged. As this was tuesday night Grant and I had a few days to kill.
I was suprized to find several of the backpacker/traveller folks that I met in Taganga wandering the streets of Cartegena. It was kind of fun to run into a few people that I met in a completely different city. I must mention that it was odd that a simple change in my surroundings made it difficult to place some of the people immediately.
Wednesday night rolls around and Grant and I phone "JP" to verify loading of the bikes in the morning. I was trying to understand "JP" with his strong accent and could not quite make out what he was saying other than, he was going to give us a refund, he was arrested, problem with immigrations, must leave the country ASAP. Grant and I immediately went back to the dock and there he was. "JP" was a very honest man and despite being ordered to leave the country that morning he waited all day until 8pm for us to call so that he could give us back our 400 USD.
Together the 3 of us looked at the map and devised a plan that we'd meet the captain near the Darrien gap, he'd cross the border into Panama and we'd hop into a "launcher" (a 20 foot long and 6-8 feet wide boat) and zoom out to his anchor'd yacht. At this point the plan was to use the boom and its series of pullies to hoist the bikes into the deck and thus get to Panama with no lost time. Grant and I agreed with the Captain that this was the plan and the next morning we headed toward the town of Turbo some 300km southwest of Cartegena as the crow flies. The ride there took 7 hours and involved cruising through heavey traffic and some of the bumpiest dirt road sections that I've ridden for a while.
Alas, we arrived in Turbo. It became immediately apparent that Turbo was the true definition of a back water town (apparently a great town to get robbed, kidnapped by the FARC, shot, killed, Die from Dengue, Etc.) . Grant decided that he'd go for a scouting walk to look for accomidation rather than ride around in the chaotic moras and I'd keep an eye on the bikes. Three young fellows befriended me immediately and I was happy to talk to them. This conversation was different and it wasn't the usual questions about the bike and where I was from. Unfortunately these little boys were soliciting themselves as child prostitutes. It was terrible and I repeately told them to go away which made no difference. It was a really sad thing to see and experience and to know that someone out there is taking advantage of this.
Grant and I checked into the "Hotel Caribe" and planned to look for launchers in the morning. That evening we walked through the slummy neighborhoods along a river that was so heavily polluted with human waste that it was cholking to breathe. Everyone in their homes greeted us with "buenas" or "hola" as we walked through and not once did we feel threatened. This was where families lived and everyone looked after everyones kids. Infact there were kids running around everywhere in the dark and life seemed more safe and normal in this part in comparison to the central part of the town of Turbo.
I did not sleep well the night before because I was freezing and had nightmares all night. When I woke up at 6 am for the ride and felt groggy and hungover, I blamed it on the heat and insomnia. The problem reared it head that night in Turbo when I pulled off my t-shirt and revealed a spotty puffy rash that covered my abdomen and back which was not present that morning. I thought "damn, I'm not getting on any boat until I see where this goes".
All night I froze and tossed and turned. Once morning rolled around I drug myself out of bed and saw that Grant had already went out to check internet regarding the captains plans. I inspected the rash and it had progressed from 30% coverage to more than 80% coverage and I was feeling weak and nervous. I decided to bolt to a Clinic that was located in a garage nearby that had one doctor and a labratory that could do analysis for blood platelets. I was entering a small pannick phase knowing that sepsis can spread fast and not long afterward coma followed by death. I didn't want to be tossed into the stinky river so I B-lined it for the hotel as fast as my staggering exhausted gate could propell me. I managed to meet Grant on the street and when he saw me he literally laughed at my state. I was covered in puffy red bumps, my hair was sticking up all over the place, my eyes looked like two yellow holes in the snow, and I was covered in sweat. He asked how I was feeling and when I replied that I was feeling scared he apologised for laughing. I calmed down now that someone was there to help me if something bad was to happen in the next hours.
Grant and I notified the Captain that I was very ill and that we would not be making the journey out to his boat and that he need not wait for us. I needed to sleep and pretty much slept all day and all night. In the morning after the second night in Turbo my condition had worsened. All I could think about was getting trapped in this small backwater and having no immediate medical attention. I was certain that I had Denge fever but my platelets were still within the normal range but more on the "low"normal range according to the blood test results.
I popped 1000mg of acetominophen (tylenol) layed down for an hour and a half and then summoned all the deepest inner strength possible to get dressed and get on my motorcycle to get the hell out of Turbo. I had a fever of 38.8 according to the disposable thermometer and I was extremely fatigued to the point I was worried about falling asleep on the bike. Thankfully the breeze provided by the highway speeds and the overcast day made for ideal conditions and the 1000mg dose of Tylenol made the difference. Despite feeling the equivalent of being mildly intoxicated (similar to 4-5 beers) I was able to handle the bike like second nature. I guess riding 8-10 hours a day for 7 months makes the machine an attachment. However, I did missjudge a corner and leaned the bike over far enough to burn the edge of my boot on the asphalt...on a dirtbike that's way leaned over!
Grant lead the way for most of the ride and I was happy to mindlessly follow occasionally drifting off to other thoughts and not paying any attention at all. Thankfully we made it back to Cartegena and had a good meal before crashing for the night. I popped 1000mg more tylenol and in the middle of the night I awoke to use the bathroom and realized that I was completely covered in sweat and the blurry outline of my body was stained dark in the light green sheets of the bed. Apparently the fever had broke and I was already feeling a little better. When I had gone to bed I was 95% covered in red, by morning the red was all but gone and only dark purple dots remained near my ankles where the blood had pooled under the skin.
Grant and I are currently looking for new boats and hanging out in Cartegena until one shows up.

1 comment:

  1. those are incredible photos. This blog rocks, period.