Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Travel update from Isla Colon, Panama

Greetings to all!
I am on a little island in the Carribean Sea, About 10 km off the coast of Panama called Isla Colon, staying in a town called Boca de Torros. It is a nice little village, kind of a touristy hangout for scuba divers, snorkelers and people who just like relaxing on quiet little islands. To get here you take a water taxi from the mainland. From here I will probably go to Costa Rica which is only about 30 minutes away in a fast motor launch. I plan to transit Costa Rica quickly (about a week or 10 days...quick for me!)and then go to Nicaragua for a month or two. We shall see.
Today I spent the day on a quiet little beach called Boca del Drago (mouth of the dragon). I shared a taxi out there 15 km from the town, with 3 Israeli girls whom I met at the bus stop where we were gonna wait 45 minutes for the next bus. The bus was $1.50 and the taxi driver said he would take us for $2.00 each and so off we went with Elvis the driver.
Beautiful drive to a beautiful beach. We hung out in the sun and swam and I walked for about and hour(in the one hour walk I only passed two other humans). I arrived at the next beach which was completely desserted. It is called Playa Estrellas del Mar (Starfish Beach). As one walks along tahis beach one sees dozens and dozens of large reddish-orange starfish in the crystal clear water. If you go out a little farther in the water there are literally hundreds of them of all sizes, hence the name of the beach. These are not surfers beachs. The water is very calm. There are like no waves. The water is warm and crystal clear. I mean CRYSTAL CLEAR.It is beautiful for swimming and I got quite a bit of sun today! Nothing but blue skys and no clouds. Elvis returned four hours later as per our agreement and took us back to town after a thoroughly enjoyable day of swimming and walking and sunbathing and talking. Just another shitty day in Paradise.
Yesterday was a lot like today except I was with a Panamanian man, a Spanish man and two Costa Rican women, cousins, Who run a nice little hostel here in town. We hung out on a muelle(pier) on our sarongs and sunbathed and took turns diving into the sea and drinking a rum called Panama Jack but it was cloudy all day yesterday. Today was even better than yesterday because the sky was blue and free of clouds and yesterday was great.
I will stay here for another week. I like it here and its cheap so why rush off? I got a deal on a bed in a shared room of $49.00 for 7 nights with free coffee in the morning and free use of the kitchen.
Before coming here I was in a place called David which is Panamas second biggest city. It is a nice city, not too crowded and not too urban. No tall buildings or anything. I stayed 5 days there. It is not a tourist city or a tourist destination spot. Just a place where Panamanians live and work. There is nothing to "do" there. It is a place to "be" not a place to "do" so I was just "being" in Panama. Yazza very nice and relaxing. Took a day trip from David to Boquette in the mountains where the weather is nice and cool. I went biking with a guy from Chicago named James. A crazy Vietnam vet. We rode bicycles and went swimming in a nice river near a waterfall near the side of the road.
I arrived in David after 3 days and 4 nights in Panama City. Nice city I went around it pretty extensively. Visited the "Old City" and went to Miraflores Lock, which is a part of the Panama canal. Saw an educational movie about the canal, how it works and how it was built. Checked out the canal museum and watched as a boat went threw the locks. Pretty cool. Okay so now I have been there and done that. Interesting but sort of ho-hum if you aren't an engineer.
My last update left off as I was about to leave Cartagena Colombia and take a boat here to Panama. The boat is called the Golden Eagle, captained by Peter Rippingale. No shit. I swear thats his real name. The Golden eagle is a beautiful 65foot Sloop (one big mast) built in 1989 in France. It is a Dynamique 62. It is an awesome boat!!
It cost one million dollars when it was new but Peter took it over from the rich Canadian owner who married a woman who hates the water. Peter got it for half a million. Peter has been at sea since he was 19. He is 45 now. This is the third boat he has owned. He has sailed all over the world.
There were 10 passengers on this "backpacker no-frills" cruise. We sailed and motored (the Golden Eagle boasts a 500hp V-8)for 36 hours at about 8 knots to the San Blas Islands. It rained for the first 30 hours or so and the seas were pretty rough. But as we approached San Blas Islands the weather cleared and we spent 3 glorious days and two nights in a tranquil lagoon and on the wonderful and un-spoiled San Blas Islands.
The islands have no electricity and no motor vehicles and no white people live there, only Kuna Indians. Peter provided us with snorkelling gear and all our meals. There was another chef on board for the cruise a guy named Christian from Spain. He and I cooked breakfasts for everyone and taught Peter how to boil water. Only kidding. The food was good and Peter, although he is certainly not a chef is a pretty good cook.
This was truly a highlight of my first 26 months as a traveler. If any of you ever get a chance to visit San Blas Islands...GO!!! It is what Paradise used to look like before it went commercial!!! The captains e-mail is "p_rippingale@yahoo.co.uk"
or "ZCNZ4@sailmail.com" He does private charters too, for those of you with the big dollars he will take you anywhere in the world, at the low low price of $10,000 per week american dollars for up to 8 people, including meals and drinks. He also does these no frills backpacker cruises from Panama to Colombia or Colombia to Panama via San Blas islands for $275.00 per person. A real bargain. Worth twice the price!!
So now here I am in an internet Cafe on Isla Colon off the Panama Coast. Loving life.
You guys are all up to date now on the last couple of weeks.
I am safe and sound and brown and losing weight again. My new bathing suit that I bought 4 months ago in Mantanitas Ecuador is starting to fall off me when I dive in the water!
Next update will be from Costa Rica in a couple of weeks. Feel free to write me back I love hearing from all and any of you!
Congratulations to Long Hair Larry and Wonderful Eileen on the upcoming birth of their first child!!!!
Peace out,
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." -- T.S. Eliot

Monday, November 14, 2005

Update from Ciudad Perdida in the Colombian Jungle

I am now in Santa Marta, Colombia. I have been back from the Lost city for 1 day this is my second night. What a trip. The trek lasts 6 days and 5 nights. About 18 river crossings, 2000 steps to climb up when you finally reach the city and all the difficult conditions one would expect hiking the Colombian Jungle.
We got off to a late start. So when we finally began hiking the first days 6 km it was already 3pm. It is usually 4 hour hike. But of course it depends on the group. Some groups are faster than others. We started ut late anyway, and the problems are thus, it rains every day in the Jungle from about 4 or 5pm until 4 or 5 in the morning. It gets dark at about 6pm. So...You guessed it we humped in the dark for the last 90 minutes or so, in pouring down rain.
Mud up to your ankles. Thick mucky mud that makes this obscene sound when you lift up your foot and it grabs your hiking shoes and sucks them right off your feet!
Three guys two Aussies and a Brit, got ahead of the group and were detained by a group of 3 paramilitary guys. Before we began the hike in Mame we saw lots of armed youths in camoflage uniforms and UAD or CCAD patches on thier arms. Our guide Walter had a quick meeting with us and explained these guys were paras and they ran the show up here. They dont usually bother anyone but sometimes ask for donations or gifts. He said not to resist and to give them anything they wanted. It should turn out okay.
So these three guys are detained for about 20 minutes and questioned as to what they are doing in the jungle in the night in the rain. They are also fond of one guys watch and the other guys head lamp. So Walter When he learns of the situation runs off into the night and returns with them a few minutes later. We would see lots of these Para dudes out in the middle of nowhere. They were Young, mostly kind of friendly and definately not hostile or aggressive and the indian children described them to me as thier friends.
So we finally all reach camp wet and miserable. The first day was about 75% up hill and 4 river crossings. We slept in hammocks and drank river water from waterfalls beginning this night and for the remainder of the trip.No one got sick.It rained torrentially all nightr until about 5 am. Our hammocks were in a structure that had a hard dirt floor, poles sunk in cement and a fiberglass corrugated roof. It had no walls. Just beams and a roof. Oh yes and lest I forget...about 500,000,000 MOSQUITOS.
After dinner our guide plopped down a half pound bag of marijuana on the table ñand told us he was sorry that there was no alcohol available for the trekkers. but the marijuana was free. Well.....That lead to a robust round of applause by the group and we got stoned and listened to the wondrous sounds of thunder storms in the Jungle at night. A virtual symphony of insect sounds, rain beating up against all kinds of leaves, Thunder, and the occasionl flashes of lightning and the constant flash of fire flys!!!
I love my life--You aint old until you start acting old. I aint ever gonna grow up!! I was about 20 to 25 years older than the next oldest person but Walter was 6 months older than me, and I felt like if he can do it so can I. but it was hard. Really Hard!
So next day we all woke up early. This day was gonna be harder than the first which is supposed to be the easiest (4km up hill 2km down, 4 river crossings, 36degrees and 90%humidity) Well okay the second day was definately harder!
We hiked all day except for a 60 minuutes swimming break which was only a 15 minute break for the slowest of us. I had about 50 minutes as I was hiking up at the front of the group. The river was too swollen for the mules with food to ford and so we had no lunch. Our shoes are soaking wet after about 15 muinutes everyday so you have to hike all the time in wet shoes and feet, at the days end your feet are all white and wrinkly and gross. Your shoes weigh like an extra 2 kilos too when they are all wet. This was the worst in-convenience of the deal...always having wet feet. I injured 3 of my toes pretty bad on the down hill part that day. So I hiked in some pain the next 4 days.
Late on the third day we finally got to the steps leading to the Cuidad Perdida. We had 8 river crossings in a very swollen high river. We needed to use ropes to cross 3 times and twice all held hands as a human chain. Two of the times the water was chest high and we had to hand our backpacks off to the porters so they could get them across in a dry condition. It was a bitch of a day for me and I was at the edge of my endurance. If felt like if it was any longer I wouldnt be able to hack it.
Some people have to test themselves from time to time. To push the limits of what they can do. To confront thier fears and just do it. I guess I am one of them. I dont know why I put myself in a group of very fit young people and try to do a 6 day hike up mountains in the jungle, but then again maybe I do. I figure you aint old until you admit it,and I am not ready to admit it yet or maybe... I just like risky behavior.
Anyways now we had to climb first 1,200 wet, mossy, narrow, steep, stone steps to get to the site and then 800 more to get to where our lodge was that night. ¡Aye chingaso muchachos!
You can bet your last sweet potato the first joints of the night were rolled fast!!! Lots of moaning and groaning and lots of congratulating one another and a real warm fuzzy bonding feeling of having accomplished something really difficult.
The next day was spent relaxing and exploring the lost city itself. It is a nice archeological site. There are mostly round or oval structures only ab out a meter high. These are stone wsalls around mounds of earth. Aparently the Tayrona indians built these mounds and then constructed wooden structures to live in above the mounds. Then when they died they were burried in the mounds and the family moved to another place nearby. So now all thats left are the stone suports for the mounds. I have never been to an archeological site like this before. There are no touts. No one selling t-shirts sodas, posties, or anything else. It is just quiet almost surreal setting.
Hiking out was harder than hiking in. going down the wet slippery steps was quite nerve racking and a few of our grop fell but no one was hurt badly. The fifth day we had to cover all the ground we covered on days 2 and 3 so it was really grueling. On the morning of the sixth day, those who wanted to could pay an extra $9.00US and visit a clandestine operational cocaine lab. The guy who runs it makes about a kilo per month. He suppliments his income by taking trekkers on a tour of the lab. Just in case anyone was wondering if the "Whore on Drugs" is really a sham or not, I guess the DEA could find the labs if they paid to take a tour!!!
So finally on the 6th day I walked out of the jungle. A little worse for wear. I had to throw away two pairs of totally ruined socks and I tossed my shoes that I bought in Cusco because they were never really meant to wade through rivers and they are totally tweaked. As for me I think this time next week I will probably have three of my toe nails fall off. They are all black and ugly, but now 4 days later they dont hurt much. I still can only wear sandals though, but in this weather that is fine.
Tomorrow at 3pm I leave on a 65 foot (20 meters)Yacht for a 5 day trip from Cartegena Colombia to Panama via the San Blas Islands. I will then stay in Central America and maybe Mexico or somewhere in the Carribean for about 5 or 6 months I have decided to save Venezuela and Brazil for another trip.

"War is never a winning thing...You just lose all the time and the one who loses last asks for terms. All I remember is a lot of losing and sadness and nothing good but the end of it..." from "Dandelion Wine" by Ray Bradbury

Peace to all of you. Next update from Panama.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Santa Marta Colombia

Travel update from Santa Marta Colombia
Hi Everyone,
I am in Santa Marta Colombia, it is a city of about 300,000 on the Carribean Sea about 200km east from Caragena. Since my last update I have been to Medellin and to Cartagena.
I just got back from swimming in the Carribean Sea (Mar de Caribe) The water is warm and the waves are tiny.Lots of Colombians swimming and playing futbol on the beach which is a lovely white sand at Rodero Beach, 10 minutes west of Santa Marta. Santa Marta has a nice beach too but not too many swimmers. The beaches to the east and west are nicer and cleaner. I stayed here last night and will be here for two more nights. On Sunday, I fulfill one of my great travel dreams, to go to La Ciudad Perdida (the lost city). I am confirmed to go, I have paid my 400,000 pesos (ouch!) and there is no backing out now. The Ciudad Perdida or Lost City was discovered in the late 1970s. There are no roads to this 400 hectare (450 acres)archeological site. The only way to get there is to treck through the jungle with a guide.It is about 25 km through virgen rainforest up and down hill. 35 (90f)degrees and 90% humidity!
Then when you finally get there, there are 1,200 steps to climb. We will go from sea level to 1100 meters, about 3500ft above sea level. We will hike for 3 days to get there, and then the fourth day see the site and then on the 5th and 6th day hike back out.
SShhhaaa, I will be 50 in abut 4 months. I dont quite know if I have the Jam for this kind of stuff anymore...but what the wahh hay, theres only one way to find out!! The last trip like this one was the trek for 3 days and 2 nights in the golden triangle of Thailand. This one is 6 days and 5 nights. I will update you all when I get back.
Cartagena was one of the reasons I came here. Ever since I saw the movie Pirates of the Carribean with Johnny Depp, I wanted to see this ancient historical city. I must say I was a little dissappointed, kind of dirty and crowded. Many travellers love this old city with its walls and cannons and history of piracy and slavery but I just couldnt get into the vibe, yah know? So I followed RBs first rule of the traveler "If your not having fun...leave." So I left! Took an early bus to Santa Marta and here I am.
Before Caragena I was in Medellin for 6 days. Funny how this seems to go. I thought I would visit Medellin for a couple of days at most and stayed for a week. I thought I would be in Cartagena for a week and stayed for one night! You´ve got to play it the way you feel it.
Medellin was a beautiful city. clean and safe. I met up with lots of cool guys and gals there and had some cool fun. Went to see lots of Fernando Botero's art work. Many paintings and statues.
Including the famous "Bird of Peace" in San Antonio plaza. This giant Bronze statue done in Botero's unmistakeable style was the target of a "terrorist" bomb in 1995. The statue was badly damaged and about 20 persons lost their lives. All civilians. The statue was left un-repaired at Boteros request to further illustrate the futility of La Violencia and a new one stands right next to it. The original sits on a pedestal with a plaque listing the names and ages of the bomb victims including a 30 year old woman who was never identified. It is a heart breaking scene...
I also took in a wonderful futbol (soccer) match between Medellin (in Red and blue) and Nacional (in green and white) It was POURING DOWN RAIN and we (myself, another gringo from Wisconsin named Chris, and a dutch guy and an Israeli woman)were drenched, I mean just soaked to the skin but so was everyone else and no one seemed to care. It was a lovely warm evening and it stopped raining right before the game began but we were as I say just soaking wet (part of the fun I guess!)
The way they set this up, see, is they put the lunatic fringe hard core
FAN-atics on either side of the stadium behind the goals. Keeping them apart from one another. We sat just next to the hard core Nacional fans. What fun!!! They were chanting and jumping up and down. Throwing confetti, Screaming yelling I mean just absolutely GOING OFF, all night, even during the half time break!!!They dont sell beer or any other alcohol at the games and everyone is patted down by the police at the entrance. I had my 50cent lighter confiscated. Meanwhile there were fans who had HUGE firecrackers and they let off green and white or blue and red smoke when they exploded. but my lighter was confiscated...go figure.
No beer allowed but all through the match that lovely sweet smell of marijuana wafted up through the crowd. It was a peaceful and totally fun event ending in a tie score of 1 to 1. I am glad I got to go.
I stayed at a nice hostal called the Palm tree that is in no guide book. The two cool places in Medellin are the Palm tree and the Black Sheep. When I got there there were like 8 French travellers who did not know each other before they met at the hostal. and about 6 Americans and the usual assortment of Ozzies, Brits, Kiwis Irish and Israelis. I loved Medellin.
So now here I am and you are all up to date on my most excellent adventure through Colombia. Nothing to do but hang at the beach for a couple of days and then treck through the jungle to the lost city. What a life huh?
I have always thought I would hook up with my buddy Peta (whom I travelled with in Turkey)in Caracas Venezuela after Colombia but I just heard from her that she is in England again after spending the last three months in Syria. So she may not be there. I am having some second thoughts about Venexzuela and may change my plans and take a cheap flight or boat from Cartagena to Panama city and do Panama, El Salvadore, Nicaragua and Honduras instead of Venezuela and Brazil, and then head up through Mexico for my parents birthdays in USA in late April for Dad and Early May for Mom. Any suggestions?
I believe that my sweetie Angela from Austria/Peru will go to USA with me but this is as yet still up in the air. If so we will visit Florida, NJ,NY, New Hampshire (hi Perrin and Julie) and Then Colorado to learn Yoga with Suzy and then off to the Left coast to play a little poker and see SLO and RB and Mash and Chandy and Howard-n-Jay,PestoJim et al, and Jonathan and John and oh my buddha... I cant list all the Slo People I want to see before heading North to Sonoma to see Mortay, Deb and the kids and Hank and Doc and Tommy and Jeanie and thier new baby... I also gotta fit North Carolina in their some how...Then most likely tour the middle east ie Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Iran for a year or so.
So... What are all you guys planning anyway? I sure do love to hear from you all so write to me soon.
Nothing but Love to all of you
Rambling Robert the Travelling Man.