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Thread: 2Guys1Truck: Astro Van through Central and South America March 2012

  1. #41
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    While I was waiting for your latest post to load I realized that I missed one of your earlier posts about Chiapas...we went to the ruins in Tonina too and thought that place was epic! There was nobody there, it was monstrous, and beautiful...glad you took the time to check it out.

    Good thing you were in the Astro while someone was trying to break in. If only I were that quick when our stove was being stolen off our bumper!!!

    We loved Honduras and found the people there incredibly nice and helpful (even the cops). Technically we rushed it, since we didn't end up heading to Utila or the coast at all, but we still had fun. Really enjoying those diving shots! We will be back someday, just for the diving.
    Recently finished 2 years exploring North, Central & South America in our '87 4Runner

  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1leglance View Post
    thanks for the update on the travels...
    I feel for you having to slug it out 18 days on the island...but what is with the no pic of the lady SCUBA instructor?

    I will be adding your blog to the list of ones that get me through horrible nights at the hospital, thanks for keeping the rest of us inspired to travel.
    Thanks, I didn't bring the camera on the dives where we had complete tasks, even though they were easy...I wish I had. Not only did I not get a picture of her, I didn't get a picture of the wreck, which was pretty cool as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruined Adventures View Post
    While I was waiting for your latest post to load I realized that I missed one of your earlier posts about Chiapas...we went to the ruins in Tonina too and thought that place was epic! There was nobody there, it was monstrous, and beautiful...glad you took the time to check it out.

    Good thing you were in the Astro while someone was trying to break in. If only I were that quick when our stove was being stolen off our bumper!!!

    We loved Honduras and found the people there incredibly nice and helpful (even the cops). Technically we rushed it, since we didn't end up heading to Utila or the coast at all, but we still had fun. Really enjoying those diving shots! We will be back someday, just for the diving.
    Ouch that sucks, I didnt know that happened. Had another visitor the other day who also got nothing, but its pretty sad that a few can ruin whole countries for everyone else. Again I know it happenes anywhere, but I would avoid Playa Teta in Panama, as I was warned of smash and grabs being a problem there, woke up to my visitor in the morning, and later that day saw a smashed out taxi cab who had been robbed. Just use the normal caution and its fine, i was there for about 36 hours without any real problem, but so you know.
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  3. #43
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    Default Turns out it harder to kick someone in the face than I thought

    Nicaragua, and Panama:

    1 US dollar = 23.9600 Nicaraguan cůrdobas
    1 US dollar = 499.6000 Costa Rican colůns
    1 US dollar = 1 Panamanian Balboa



    As mentioned it was a mad dash through Central America, one which turned out to be even quicker due to a last minute plane ticket home, to see the family one more time before jumping the gap. To the surfers, I apologize for the lack of surf content. For one thing, when there were waves, I was in the water rather than taking pics of them, I am sure you can understand. Second, as you can guess, there are no secret spots left in this modern world. I hope to get pics of beautiful beaches with waves, but wont be saying where they are aside from which country, you can find that info all over the internet. There have been countless beaches that were empty, but just as many ruined by one or more resort complexes or giant gringo homes. Central America is full of surf, so if your looking for a surf trip my best advice is to go out there yourself, donít worry you will find it. I also didnít do much surfing due to the revised schedule, knowing I will be back to focus on it more later. Of course I plan on Surfing in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chili, and possibly Brazil so donít worry, there should be more to come. There is a lot more to see down here than just waves, so it was a tough line to walk on when to stay near the beaches and when to head inland.









    Back to the traveling, I stopped in Both Grenada and Leon, two cities in Nicaragua that people seem to love. I could once again take them or leave them. They were nice enough, and due to the rush I didnít have time to stop and take a step back to really get a feel for them, but they once again they didnít have the Central American feel I was looking for, though I will be back to give them a second chance. With Grenada especially, it is clear that there are two distinct parts of Grenada, the touristy section that they want you to see, and the real, poorer Grenada on the outskrits, almost banished in shame. Once again it seems these are cities ďtouristsĒ like, as opposed to travelers. They come in, see a nice section and say they were there when they fly back home.

    I then proceeded to Costa Rica, where I spent a full day of driving through the country to setup outside of the border, ready to cross in to Panama the following day. I am sure Costa Rica is great, and there is that surf stuff down there as well, so I will give it a chanceÖanother time. Even in Panama I only spent one day surfing, followed by another day of beach camping, before heading to Panama City, where I would end up spending more time than I really wanted to.

    Playa Tela, Panama:




    This beach I am naming for a reason. As I was flying home before heading to South America I wanted to be near Panama City as the flight date approached to make sure there were no problems making it, as delays are inevitable in Central America. Playa Tela is a beach break located about an hour outside of Panama City. Popular with the locals due to its ease of accessibility, and the somewhat consistent surf, I headed that way 1st before seeing if I would need a more isolated beach. I found the turnoff and followed the dirt road to the end where I came out onto the beach, with no people, or waves, in sight, sigh. I had decided I was camping here regardless so parked along the side of a natural rock wall and walked out to get my surroundings. This beach is another example of what I hate seeing, as there are several enormous new houses along the beach, most likely built by rich gringos from countries north of Panama. I am one of those people who would love to see only locals being able to own land or homes, but what can I say money talks. Usually people sell the land because they need the money, then rich gringos or resorts move in, and drive the prices up, forcing the rest of the locals out, ruining it for just about everyone. Turned out there was one other guy tent camping just around the corner, with a board leaning against the nearby tree. He was relaxing in his hammock for an afternoon siesta, so I decided I would wait till later to head over and get the lowdown on the area. Some cops then immediately showed up, so I verified this was in fact Playa Tela, as there are several beaches in this immediate area. Once they left I took advantage of the solitude and did some quick Astro maintenance greasing the zirks. No I have not gotten too intimate during all this time alone with my van, that is what it is actually called.



    Later during the day a family with Cali plates rolled up and hit the water, hungry for any scraps they could find. Being a polite surfer I gave them 45 minutes before making my way out as well, as I had been waiting here all day to get some waves of my own after all, and there was more than enough room for everyone. I said hello and mentioned the Cali plates. They had moved down to Panama just two weeks ago, so didnít have a whole lot of info on the area, but seemed excited to be in the area. We shared some mediocre waves, and eventually they went in. I decided to stick it out, as it had been way to long since I had really surfed, and just getting out there always seems to make it worthwhile, regardless of the session itself. A person here or there would show up and surf for a bit, and then leave, but overall I had the waves to myself, and the tide finally cooperated. I donít know why no one came back out, but I had the best waves of the day to myself while others stood watching from the shore. Now thatís my kind of day!

    I eventually came back in and tried to talk to the guy in the tent rather unsuccessfully, but he told me there were 3 of them, and one of his friends spoke English. Turns out his friend had lived in the same place as where I spent some time living north of San Diego, and mentioned he couldnít go out as he forgot his leash. Hello sir, have you seen my van overloaded with way too much crap, I have a leash, and possibly can throw in a microwave and airplane for free, who knows whats really in there. Even though my arms were tired, he immediately talked me into heading back out for a sunset session. I tried to convince myself 25 years old was still young and mentally prepared myself to head back out. As I am heading back to the van to grab the extra leash he warns me that Playa Tela has a bit of a smash and grab problem, where the young locals are breaking into the vehicles here, so I should park where I can see my vehicle from the water. I continue around the corner to my van and see too young guys hanging around the Astro. They are not right by the van, but also not where anyone would hangout for a day at the beach, so decide I had better move. Its quite probable that they were just there not causing any problems, but I got a bad vibe from them after hearing the smash and grab news, and wasnít taking any chances. They then left around the same time I moved, so its also probable they were up to no good. Either way I enjoyed some more waves even though it was getting dangerously dark out. I was slightly bummed as I paddled in and noticed the pile of firewood I had gathered before moving my van was now blazing, as someone had helped themselves to it. At least it was a good fire. We stood around talking for a bit and suddenly the skies opened up and we all retreated to our shelters for the night, so it would not have mattered anyway as that fire went out quickly, and the people took off to escape the rain.

    It had gotten dark early, and after about an hour of rain it finally let up around 8:30. I hear a knock on the window but cannot see out my windows, so roll them down to find one of the guys who only spoke Spanish from my new Panamanian group. This guy is pretty small, and soaked to the bone. He is asking for a ride to the store but I figure he just needs a tarp or tent, but we still cannot connect on exactly what he needs so I tell him to get his friend. Why they sent him is beyond me, but at least it forced more Spanish on me. I am also not sure why they waited in the rain an hour before stopping by. While he is off getting his English speaking friend I jump out and open up my never ending back of stuff to pull out the tarp, as I am sure that is what he is looking for. Seriously, if I keep digging I am pretty sure I can find the entrance to Narnia somewhere in my van. The other guy shows up equally soaking wet, does in fact need a tarp, and I once again save the day. I throw them a towel I have and wish them luck on what has to be a terrible night ahead for them. I get back in the van, crack the front windows, and open the side windows that open outward as its getting real hot without the rain. The only thing within reach are my board shorts and rash guard hanging to dry so I donít mind opening these windows, as the threat of theft is low. I then pass out to the sound of waves crashing, is there any better sound?

    I wake up the next morning to a different, though familiar sound, almost like foil flapping in the breeze. The reflectix curtains I use are made from a foil like material, so with the windows open they blow around a bit and often wake me. Probably due to the smash and grab story in the back of my mind I awake from a deep sleep and lift my head to look over, even though I usually hear this sound and just roll over to continue my sleep. I see a young guy probably about 15, with his face up in the small opening the side windows provide, with his hand halfway in my van pushing the reflectix to the side. He freezes for a moment, and I whip my leg up into the air, and extend it fully connecting with his face knocking him back to the ground in his own pool of blood. Well, that is what I pictured doing in this scenario anyway. Instead I hesitate not wanting to hit my small Panamanian friend in case he is looking for a dawn patrol partner, as my vision is still a bit blurry as I come to my senses. The clearance from my bed to the roof is somewhat cramped to begin with, so any chance of extending my leg into this would be thiefís face is pretty low. Add that to the fact that I am a bit sore from too much surfing (is there such a thing?), and this guy could have had a sweet rash guard. Instead we lock eyes for a brief moment, and he suddenly puts his head down, turns and breaks off into a sprint. Not that easy I think, and yell out ď**** off *****!Ē Yeah I showed him, I am so clever 1st thing in the morning.





    At that point I am up, go about my normal morning routine, and eventually the Panamanians get up and come hangout. We discuss going to another beach as this one is flat again, and donít think it will pick up until at least 4 in the afternoon. I like this plan, but we sit around anyway as its getting hot and we have the awning providing some much needed shade. Just then we see a mini cooper with tinted windows coming down the dirt road to the beach. A chick is driving, and like a fortune teller I am hit with a vision, and instantly know she is going to get stuck, yup I got skillz. Before she hits the sand I say ďwe should probably go help her, but none of the guys moveĒ. For some reason that no male driver could ever understand, she pulls onto the beach and drives along the rock wall, then backs up to turn around , backs around, and then tries to pull forward, digging herself deeper and deeper into the sand. She then jumps out, and hold on, this chick is pretty attractive, and not wearing very much for clothing. She grabs a stick to put under the tire, and while its clear this will accomplish nothing, I have to commend the idea as she is on the right track. Next the other doors of the mini open and like a clown car 4 more super attractive girls pile out. Suddenly I am not the only one thinking these girls need help, and my Panamanian friends stop watching and finally get up to help. Of course by then its almost too late, as 2 cops show up out of nowhere, as well as some random dude to help free these girls from the sand. I was pretty sure we were the only ones on the beach a minute ago, but you get a group of hot girls in bikinis in distress and people come out of the woodwork I guess. While still an idiot, maybe she is smarter than I thought, as she clearly will never have a problem getting stuck on a beach assuming she normally dresses like she is. The mini is freed easily, and since I have lost all confidence in my Spanish skills from the 2 Panamanians that cant talk to me, I foolishly let them do most of the talking. Basically all I get from the convo is that they are local, 4 Panamanians and a Venezuelan. Well once again I am reminded I NEED to learn to speak Spanish as letting those guys do the talking ends up being a huge mistake. I donít know what they said, but whatever it was did not impress these girls. After thanking us they wander off wanting nothing to do with them. At least that works out for you, as we can chalk this up to another failure story to share. With no hope of getting to know these girls I am forced to take a stalker pic for the good of the blog as that was the best I could do. Hey I didnít want to, but I have to keep my fans happy.

    Later in the day everyone took off and it began to rain again, so I made a run to the store for some food. I came back expecting to do one more night of beach camping, but as I was driving back to the beach I find a parked taxi car that was not there when I left. In the hour or so since I had left this guy parked his car and headed down to the beach. Unfortunately when he returns he is going to be met with the same sight I saw, the shattered glass of a smashed window. I obviously decide that this place has too many petty theft problems and head out to find somewhere else to sleep for the night. Obviously this can happen anywhere, but I would avoid this beach, it just isnít worth the risk, especially for the average waves I saw.

    Panama City:




    ...Continued

    As usual, more pics and rest of story here:"Turns out it harder to kick someone in the face than I thought"
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  4. #44
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    "With no hope of getting to know these girls I am forced to take a stalker pic for the good of the blog as that was the best I could do. Hey I didnít want to, but I have to keep my fans happy."

    You're doing God's work me boy! And looking that good with bikini's that small I doubt they mind a picture or two...




    I saw that Burj Al Arab copycat in your Panama City photo and had to look it up, turns out Donny Chump owns it. Figures he couldn't come up with an original design.

  5. #45
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    Default Batten Down the Hatches, Im Turning 25!

    Sorry guys, just a direct link today.

    Batten Down the Hatches, Im Turning 25
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  6. #46
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    Another epic travel thread, fuggin' awesome, I like your attitude!!
    Please "LIKE" The Buddy Expedition on Facebook!

  7. #47
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    Default Colombia, where are the kidnappings, bombs, and murders??

    Might as well go to the site for story and pics, I am staying at Casa Grande beach camp minutes from tyrona, so I have to go all the way to Santa Marta for Internet

    Colombia, where are the kidnappings, bombs, and murders

    People thought I was nuts when I said I was going to drive through Mexico, and ****ing crazy for going to Colombia. Yes its true, back in the day, from the 90's and early 2000's, there was a pretty significant safety problem in Colombia. And yes it is true that there still are areas where safety is a problem. Take Cali for example, it is a relatively safe, fun city, yet just last year in 2011 there were bombings and kidnappings, and recent a bombing in Bogota of May 2012. Now I havent made it down there yet, but as its on my list I wont be skipping it, so I suppose you will get the real low down later, but for what I have seen of Colombia so far, it is just what everyone else who has been here describes it as, amazing. The country is beautiful, and the people are very friendly and love life...I suppose that living through a period of terror will make you appreciate things others take for granted.

    Cartagena, Tagonga, and Tyrona National Park:

    Finally free from the ship the Independence crew got dropped off in the harbor and we all headed to the aduana, where eventually we were given our stamped passports, no paperwork, no nothing! While most stayed there are the aduana, the two Canadian girls, the Swiss girl, and I went off to find an ATM and get some money, as they had to pay up their tab. Warning, ATMs in Colombia are a bit problematic. We eventually tried four different ATMs, I think I went 2/4, the Swiss girl could only get 150USD worth of Colombian pesos, and the Canadians couldnt get anything. My shipping partners later also head problems getting money, its actually quite a pain here. Most limit you to 150USD, but let you withdraw 3 times, hitting you for 3x the service charges, if they work at all. There is a city bank in Cartagena a few blocks from calle Media Luna where the hostels are, where we later found we could get at least 500USD which worked for me every time, so just ask where that one is and dont bother messing with the others.

    I already mentioned we hung out for a bit in Cartagena, walking the streets of the walled city, where every corner reveals another picturesque setting. The city has a great feel to it, but I quickly realized that its pretty small, and can be seen in a day or so. Later I was even convinced to go to the tourist trap mud volcano. As I had read, it was actually fun, a unique experience, has a consistency of yogurt, and tastes disgusting. I decided if I was going to do it I was going all in, dunking my hair and covering my face predator style, which resulted in me going blind for 5 minutes until one of the workers came to my rescue, as well as getting it in my mouth and forcing me to taste the mud continuously through out the experience whether I wanted to or not.

    As I had to start the dreaded Colombian half of the shipping process, I unfortunately didnt see the Canadian guys off when they left early after two or so nights, so made sure not to miss everyone elses bon voyage party as the rest of the crew was leaving on the same day, coincidentally the day I was supposed to get my van (of course we didnt get it when planned). This meant partying till 3-3:30 in the morning, and waking up at 6am to head to the port, for a 12 hour day of nonsense. That means at most I had 3 hours of sleep, I cant quite say exactly what time it was that I went to bed, but can assure you I woke up at 6 am, unfortunately I do not recommend doing this. I repeat, I do not recommend doing this....oh my god, what a terrible day. The worst part was I barely did anything all day, the lady wouldn't let me into the port even though I read that both owners of the vehicles could go in. She probably saw that I would be useless, but I would have rather been roughing it doing car stuff than watching the grass grow outside for hours upon hours not knowing what was happening. Eventually we defeated the evil port bastards and got our homes back...never have I been so happy to be living in a van again.

    With everyone gone headed south I was a bit lost as to what to do. At the same time I was busy enjoying my AC room so stuck around Cartagena for a week, which is way to long for that place as far as I am concerned, even if 3 of those days were running to and from the port. Cartagena is extremely humid, but its is also a good time, and I made a few group of friends as people passed through in that time, as most people seem to stay for about 2-3 days. One night the new boat crew I mentioned in the previous post, along with two English guys and a German girl and I decided to have a wall party. This is just the crazy and wild party it sounds to be, as we hung out on the wall causally drinking beers (1 giant one, so 3 normal beers, no one was drunk), as you can walk around with beers in Cartagena. As we were winding down the party we were greeted by some cops, who looking for cocaine gave us some of the most throughout frisks of my life...now this is a wall party! Finding nothing they let us go, and at this point it finally happened. I have dreaded it for months figuring Cabo San Lucas would be my downfall, assuming it would be the result of too much alcohol, but no, this would be a sober moment. Walking along the German girl says something to me and I turn a bit to respond, when suddenly my foot falls through a hole in the ground and smashes my shin against a rusty grate. Thinking quickly I catch myself with the giant glass bottle in my hand which could have easily shattered on the rock walkway and sliced open an artery, see I told you I was smart. Luckily neither the leg or bottle broke, but even know, weeks later it still hasnt healed properly, but it could have been much worse.

    With that it was time to get out of this city. I made plans to meet the English guys and German girl in Tagonga. Tagonga is a good place to meet other travelers and do some partying, as well as do some cheap scuba certifications, though not necessarily the greatest environment for it, the people I talked to who did it enjoyed the experience. After the great diving in Honduras I was in no mood for some sub par diving. Other than that I dont think Tagonga has much to offer, but we just used it as a stop over before Tyrona national park, as most do. At the hostel I bumped into the Australian from the Independence crew my night there, so we invited him out with us for some food, but that is really all I saw of Tagonga. I stayed at some hostel with San Felipe in the name, it seems to be the backpacker place to be. I first asked if I could sleep in my van and just use their bathrooms and internet, but they said no. I asked if they thought my van would be safe if I left it out front and got the awkward face no answer routine. Sold...I decided the parking spot I had wasnt too bad and would risk it and got a room as I wasnt sure when my friends would show. Turns out its a pretty nice place, the dorm room I had was just a 3 person with our own bathroom. I had 2 blond roommates from somewhere in Europe, but we unfortunately didnt really see each other until the next day at breakfast, and they had already been to Tyrona. Thats too bad, I was ready to ditch the English guys and make room in the van for these girls. BTW two weeks later I am back. It also turns out there is a bathroom here, though probably no shower. I know this as I am back, pretending to be a backpacker staying here, so I can use the internet...little do they know I slept outside last nigh in the van, mauahhaha.

    The next day I reluctantly loaded the English guys instead of two hot blondes, and of course the German girl into the van and we made our way to Tyrona. Tyrona is a beautiful, though pricey place. There are several campgrounds, but the popular backpacker one is San Juan del Guia. The entrance fee is 36,000 pesos, (20USD), and then you need to rent hammocks once you get to San Juan for another 20,000 pesos a night (11USD). Now that isnt terrible, but I carried in my own tent thinking I could avoid this fee as I had read conflicting info online, but I was still charged 15,000 pesos a night(8.35USD) for using my own tent so should have saved myself the effort leaving the ten behind and got a hammock. They also wanted to charge me 15,000 pesos (8.35USD) for the vehicle entrance fee, and then a daily parking fee of 7,000 pesos (3.90USD). You can see this starts to get expensive for a camping excursion. Then of course the food is on average 8-12 dollars for pretty bland stuff. To save some cash I parked at a small store out front of the park and paid them 6,000 pesos (3.34USD) a night, which ended up working out fine, and saved me a whooping 56 cents a night! The beaches are beautiful, and there is plenty of hiking through the jungle to be had. To get to San Juan you have to hike about 2 hours. Everyone told us in Tagonga to get an early start, and make sure we were hiking by 3 at the latest, so naturally we started our hike at 3:30 haha. Of course we ran out of light, and finished the last bit by walking through disgusting mud pits in the dark, but we kept our spirits up and the English guy even said it probably added to the experience in a comedic way. I wasnt sure I agreed at the time, but of course looking back he was correct, it was hilarious, and I am sure the norm or plenty of travelers. Everyone left the next day which seems to be pretty standard for the backpackers I met there, as most people grab the boat back to Tagonga from San Juan, rather than hike back out. I stayed and relaxed for 5 additional days getting my moneys worth and enjoying the beaches. One night I even met a couple from San Diego who lived 5 minutes from me, small world. Finally I had enough and got ready to leave early one morning only to find no one was at the exit of San Juan. I waited for 5 minuted intent on paying, but finally said F' it and headed off for my 2 hour return hike, saving myself some money as I only had paid for the 1st night. Yes, thats roughly 30 bucks saved, I am so bad ***!
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  8. #48
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    Default The Death of Joselito



    Ooook, it's been awhile, you probably think I am in Ecuador or Peru by now. In the past two months I have managed to drive 5 kilometers or so from Tayrona National Park, or 5-6 hours from my Colombian starting point of Cartagena. The Swiss couple from the crew had mentioned they were going to head north and check out a surf camp last I had talked to them. The Australian confirmed this when I bumped into him in Tagonga. Well I didn't see the surf camp they were at, so back tracked and stopped at a different one I had seen just outside Tayrona, Casa Grande Surf Camp, turns out there basically next to each other.



    Even if I had found the other one they wouldn't have been there anyway as they had moved on, the waves were not very good when they were there, and they are on a quicker pace than I can do. The surf at Casa Grande is ok, but certainly nothing to stick around 2 months for. What is nice from a surfers perspective is that in exchange for mediocre waves, very few people are normally in the water which is one of several reasons I have stayed so long, plus people tell me its cool to say I have surfed Colombia's caribbean coast, though I am not sure why. On the busiest day we had out there had 15 people, which is not a lot, but it felt crowded as there are usually 6 or less in the water at a time. The other reasons for my delay, I needed another vacation from my vacation. It was great to stop moving for a bit, and this allowed me to practice my Spanish daily, meet people from all over Colombia without going anywhere, see what the holiday beach parties were like in Colombia, and witness the death of Joselito.





    Once again I had palm trees, billions of stars, and waves, so I was happy, all for 12,000 pesos a night for camping (7USD). This stop was originally planned as a two night stop, though that steadily changed as I kept saying, "one more week". A lot happened in the 2 months, too much to write about. When I showed up it was literally myself, a family of 4, and the people who worked at Casa Grande, that's it. While I enjoyed having this paradise to myself, I decided that I wanted to stay there a bit longer to experience the xmas and new years holidays when 500 or so people show up to party, even though I was not sure I could handle that. Turns out I could, and having a van with Cali plates equals rock star status at times, which means lots of perks. Not only did people stop by to chat, they would often bring me free beers, free food, one family invited me back to their hotel room with a kitchen and cooked me up a feast, and many nights I was lucky enough to have the employees make fires for me. Yup, being there so long meant I made friends with the surf instructors and other people working there, and they would often stop by at night to hangout, and start a fire for me by the van/tent, while I stood by doing my all important job of supervising from my camping chair. There was a few days were a particular group of people from Bogota came to stay, and of course my van ended up being the command center for the fiestas. Most people avoided us those days due to the level of awesomeness, and after they left everyone commented on how crazy my new friends were, we definitely threw the best 4 day party of the season. Hey, that's how I roll.



    Casa Grande is geared more towards the Colombian vacationers, as opposed to tourists from other countries. There were still a handful of people over the 2 months from other parts of the world which provided a good mix and nice atmosphere, but 90% of the people seemed to be from , Bucaramanga, Medellin or Bogota. As far as the Surf goes it is a beach break, which means the waves are not very good, though they can be fun at times. When it gets too big and just closes out head to Los Naranjos as that can handle the bigger swell and get fun. The current here can be very strong as well, so strong in fact that 3 swimmers had to be rescued on separate occasions during one week were the water was constantly tough to deal with. There are no lifeguards, but the surf instructors would keep an eye out when they were free, and go in with their boards to save them as people would get stuck in the currents and quickly tire, as well as panic. One day I heard calls of distress and saw 7 people staring out at the water somewhat near my van, yup that is a sign of a possible drowning if I know one. I couldn't see anyone, but as a former lifeguard my training must have kicked in as I threw off my shirt, grabbed my board out of the van, and sprinted towards the water in a matter of seconds. Just as I got to the water the guy had finally made it back to the beach while the others watched and did nothing (sometimes a good thing, you don't want to make it worse, but they did NOTHING). I figured he would be a bit embarrassed, so rather than go over to him I turned around and tried to do a slow motion jog back to the van David Hasselhoff style. He later stopped by thanking me for reacting, as he was in serious trouble for a second.





    The next day the waves were a good size but rough. I fell on my board and thanks to my google MD education I determined I had bruised my rib. I couldn't take deep breaths, in fact it was hard to breath at all, so I was constantly panting and in pain. I told my friends I was taking a week off, but the next day the waves were good so out I went. Once I paddled out my Swiss friend said "That was a quick week"...well they always are. Anyway I probably shouldn't have been out there with those conditions. While out there my leash snapped, and I instantly worried that I would either drown or need to be rescued with this rib problem. I looked around but no one had seen what happened, so knowing I was on my own I made my way back to shore. I was fine, but can see how easy it is to panic when the conditions are that rough, as it was sketchy. The next day the conditions were still rough but the waves were huge for Casa Grande. I couldn't get out past them on my first attempt, in fact most of us didn't make it, and many gave up. Not one to give up I went back out, and spent about 45 minutes dodging a few monsters. In the end it was worth it as I got what was dubbed "wave of the month" which is saying something as you really need to have that right place at the right time kind of luck there. For my level of surfing (I still suck) it was a huge, loooong wave, and thanks to the cheering of everyone on the shore, the girl from England was able to find me halfway through it and snap a pretty decent pic considering she wasn't even looking at me. I figure it will be on the cover of Surfer Magazine, I guess (lisaimages.com) it wont be till next issue as I have yet to see it, but I am sure it will be soon.





    Spending all this time here I have gotten a glimpse of the real Colombia, one which I would not have seen as a tourist. There was a guy who had run away from home at the age of 8 due to a rough childhood. Without going into details, he has done various jobs to get by, working on the coffee plantations, working in the labs hidden in the jungles making coke, as well as hiding out in the jungle with a machine gun...I don't think I have to say what he did with that. These were all things he had to do for survival, and made him who he was, though it was a life I couldn't imagine. Luckily the overall situation here has improved greatly, but it is far from over. The area around Tayrona still has its problems, and is considered a zone to use caution. As a tourist I have never felt threatened, in fact I would say the area is very safe for us, a perk of being a foreigner. That said, the locals still have to deal with the problems, and if your not careful you can get yourself into trouble. I have read in the papers, as well as been told several times by different people about the problems here, and how there are still people being killed on a semi regular basis, and how little value life can have to some people. One of the friends I made here was an example of what can go wrong, though I was not there when any of it went down. A guy working at Casa Grande unfortunately got into a fight with the wrong guy one night at a bar. A few days later some guys showed up on motorbikes, armed, looking for him. He wasn't there, and eventually they were persuaded to leave. Arrangements were quickly made for him to leave for another part of Colombia for his safety, and sadly he wont be coming back. I didn't know any of this had occurred, and was shocked when he returned my board I lent him saying he was leaving. We were all sad, he was a great guy, and the waves are not the same without him.

    After things settled down a bit again, the surf got good so I stuck around a little longer, suddenly before I knew it nearly 2 months had passed. Ready to go I found yet another reason to stick around, the worlds second largest (and arguably less touristy) Carnival party.

    Barranquilla, Carnival



    Joselito Carnival is dead. Even worse than that, I spent 6 days in Barranquilla, home to both Shakira and that hot Latin chick from Modern Family, and didn't hangout with either one of them, though I did hangout with Shakiras brother if that counts for anything...turns out it doesn't. No I didn't set the cruise control and head straight for Brazil, turns out the worlds second largest Carnival party is held in Barranquilla Colombia, just 2 hours from where I had been camped out. I mentioned to one of the instructors here that I was thinking of changing my plans yet again and sticking around for Carnival before heading out. She had some friends who lived in Barranquilla who I had met briefly earlier in the month when they came to Casa Grande. The decision was made before we had even finished talking...we would make a trip to Barranquilla for the celebrations, staying with them which not only meant saving money, but getting to see the Colombian side of Carnival rather than the tourists side.



    Carnival is Colombia's most important celebration of the year, with traditions dating back to the 19th century. During Carnival there are parties all over Barranquilla, I never knew where I was, I just got out of the cab and followed the others. The city is very uninspiring, as well as disorienting, as you don't have any visual landmarks to use. I spoke to my Swiss friends from Casa Grande who also went and said it was a bit tough to know where to go at various times in order to find the better parties. There are parades in the afternoon, and then parties all day and night. The Swiss couple paid around 90USD each for 3 day passes to the parade. They said they had a good time, but after 3 days decided it was enough and headed back to Casa Grande, an option I didn't have.



    I had read several times about the influx of pick pocketers in Barranquilla during Carnival, and it seems to be true to a point. We had a large group of people, but were always meeting up or splitting up, usually not together all at once. There were 2 separate groups of Germans, and both groups were robbed on different days. They were sprayed in the face with the foam you see everywhere in the pics, and as they reacted and put their hands to their faces, the robbers grabbed what was in their pockets, so future party goers be warned. I didn't have any problems, not sure if its due to my awesomeness, or the fact that I look Colombian, and blend in so well.



    During Carnival you can drink in the streets throughout Barenquilla, which means bring your own beer, Aguadiente, Whiskey, Rum, you name it. The first night we jumped in one of my new friends trucks and headed off to buy some Whiskey. After 10 or so minutes I thought to myself, "Strange, we have already passed 3 liquor stores, maybe I misunderstood his Spanish". Well, we were certainly in route for Whiskey, the reason we went out of our way was to buy some illegally imported Whiskey from Venezuela from a local house/illegal store which was 50% cheaper, I like these guys already. In fact, this would not be our only trip to the illegal store while I was in Barranquilla. Of course this made the 3 of us late to meet the others at the parade, so to save time we jumped in the parade for a shortcut. I remember thinking to myself funnily enough this is not the first parade I have crashed, back in high school my friend and I drove our cars into the middle of our local parade cutting it in half, and then driving as slow as possible so that there was a quarter mile or so gap in the parade by the end. This time things didn't go as well, and after 10 or 15 minutes we finally got hassled by the cops.







    Shots are constantly being passed around all day, there is no break. Somehow everyone is in great control considering how drunk everybody must be. I didn't see any fights, everyone was a having a good time, and as soon as music was heard bodies were moving. I don't know how these people never get tired, or excessively drunk. Everyone seemed to have a great time, people were covered in foam and what I assumed was cocaine this being Colombia, turns out it was just some corn powder. The only downside is like other places in Latin America, a lot of people drink and drive. We had a minor accident happen right in front of us as we partied at one bar, where a car hit another, breaking his front wheel off....that's going to delay his party.



    The basic break down for the 6 days we were there was head to a local bar and drink. Then pop over to a parade where the locals were, only paying 3-5USD rather than the 90, though not necessarily seeing the best part of the parade, though possibly having a better time doing it up Colombian style. Then it was back to an overcrowded bar somewhere where we didn't even hangout in the bar, we just hung out on the streets with everyone else drinking. At one point we stopped at a party on the street provided by some guys sound system in his car. Then repeat this process each day, until the end of Carnival.



    Day 3 or 4 was one of my new friends birthday, yeah, like they needed another reason to drink. Her friends had been out all night before, and decided to show up and start the festivities early rather than go home to bed. At 6 am they showed up ready to party with a bottle of rum. I stayed in bed pretending I didnt hear the loud music that was being blasted, but my friend from Casa Grande was not so lucky. I eventually came out at 10 and found them all a bit drunk, with an empty bottle to show for it. Not only that, but some of them had left in order to get another. It was pretty obvious they were drunk as they made a comment on how they were impressed that I could understand them.....though in realty I couldn't haha. It was here that I partied with Shakiras brother or half brother, and the guy didn't even bring her, what the hell...of course I didn't say anything, who wants to be known as Shakiras brother.



    Carnival FINALLY ends with the death of Joselito Carnival. According to Wiki, Joselito is a character who symbolizes the joy of the festivities, who had been resurrected the Saturday of Carnival and dies on the last day, tired and hungover, only to be resurrected again next year. Of course once Carnival was officially over, we headed back to the apartment for more drinking, and then to another local outdoor party/free concert, and then back to the apartment for more...so really, I am not sure the madness ever ended....I was just glad to get out when I did. I loved every minute of Carnival, though on day one had eaten some bad seafood. That made it tough to drink, move, or do anything, which worried my new friends that I wasn't having fun. The last day I wasn't 100% but decided I was feeling pretty good and drank a mix of beers, Whiskey, Rum, and even Aguadiente which I don't even like....I paid for it the next day, but I think it killed off whatever had invaded my body. I hope to go back some day and really experience Carnival for what it is, as it was one of the best parties I have been to, and I loved that I got to experience it from a Colombian perspective.

    As usual addition pics here: The Death of Joselito
    2Guys1Truck: 2004 AWD Chevy Astro from California to Colombia!

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Seattle
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    Loving the stories! I spent three years in Panama in Bacas Del Toro along the carribean coast in a town called Kusapin, your making me want to drop everything and get back down there....if only life werent so f***in* complicated!

    Keep up the awesomeness.
    This post was most likely made from my Tmobile Droid so spelling and punctuation errors are expected.

    2007 Toyota Tacoma DC 6spd. 4WD TRD - http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...rk-In-Progress

  10. #50
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    Mar 2007
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    Montreal & San Francisco
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    Awesome. Totally awesome.
    Christian

    CTO Expedition Portal
    www.expeditionportal.com
    www.overlandjournal.com

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