Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Escape From Cartagena, Colombia

The peep-hole in the door of our
hotel room wasn't especially useful
After 7 days cooped up in our air-conditioned hotel room, eating homemade microwave quiche for dinner and drinking way too much aguardiente, we finally got the truck from the port and headed to the highlands. If you read our last post, you know that we were pretty much dying to get out of the city of Cartagena and the intense heat. Many people drive northwest from Cartagena to enjoy the beautiful Caribbean beaches, including a very popular and reportedly stunning national park (Parque Tayrona). We did in fact drive northwest, but we wanted nothing to do with the heat of the coast, beauty be damned.

We headed straight for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. This mountain range is completely isolated from the Andes and really close to the Caribbean coast. In fact, it's the world's highest coastal mountain range, reaching an altitude of 18,700 ft only 26 miles from the coast! We headed to the small highland town of Minca where you can see the coast from an altitude of about 2300 ft.

The air was refreshing. We were so excited to put on some pants, socks, and jackets, and fill our lungs with clean air. We spent a few days biking around the jungly highlands, never getting a great view of the Sierras. We were not willing to get up early enough to see them before a blanket of clouds rolled in. Therefore, the picture is not ours.

Sierra Nevada courtesy of

The hostel we parked at (Hostal San Souci) was a cool little place - views, jungle, swimming pool, hammocks, and 2 cats! The parking situation was treacherous and we really should NOT have squeezed into their driveway. When we left, it took us an hour to back out of the driveway and navigate the steep, angled drop-off at the bottom. Seriously sketchy and one of our biggest parking mistakes to date.
Coffee and internet with a view of the jungle straight out to the sea. "Mouse" the cat was more interested in the head scritches.

Biking through the clouds - no mountain views today

Rated PG - I promise

Sunset view over the pool at Sans Souci 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweating our A**es Off In Some Big Cities

We do not do well with big cities. Even the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia chased us away after a year of trying to make a go of it. For us, cities mean traffic, crowds, noise, air pollution, and expense. I start to feel claustrophobic in big cities and it quite literally becomes hard to take a deep breath. Nevertheless, we had to spend time in both Panama City, Panama and Cartagena, Colombia (both with pop. 1.2 million) in order to get El Tigre over to South America. We tried to make the best of it.

We couldn't leave Panama City without checking out the nearby Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal. We hopped on one of the ubiquitous "diablos rojos" (red devil) buses that took us about 20 minutes outside the city.

An old American school bus taken to the next level - un diablo rojo
Giant container ship sailing through the Miraflores Locks

After 4 days in Panama City, we bought 2 (really expensive) one-way plane tickets to Cartagena, Columbia. We ended up staying 5 nights in a hotel in Cartagena while waiting for El Tigre to arrive (our  page about shipping your vehicle across the DariĆ©n). We tried very hard not to hide in our air-conditioned room all day. For each 1-2 hour errand in the city, we spent that amount of time cooling off in our room. The first night we arrived, we treated ourselves to pizza, and before we could pay the bill, Scott almost fainted. He got dizzy and sweaty and spent 10 minutes in the restaurant with his head between his legs before he was able to stand up and walk back to the hotel. See? We really don't do well in cities.

Nevertheless, we did get some good pictures during our short excursions in Cartagena.

Dog bathroom ("Bano Canino")
We walked by here later in the day and there were plastic bags of dog poo thrown in the grass.