Goodbye Chanel nails, hello mud socks

Mud socks on Arrecifes beach in Parque Nacional Tayrona

Unrealistic idyllic view of horse ride to Arrecifes in Parque Nacional Tayrona

Mmmm how am I going to tackle all this mud?

02-12 November 2010

The liberating thing about travelling is that you get to the point where you don’t give a shit. My lack of make up is enough to scare anyone off due to the eruption of boils from not consuming my five-a-day. I stink, but then so does every other traveller I meet. I´ve been rotating my summer wardrobe, which consists of two pairs of shorts and two tops, for the last 10 days. My fingernails are constantly minging. I’m now the proud owner of approximately 68 mosquito bites of which I’ve had an allergic reaction to pretty much all of them making me resemble a swollen beast. It’s taken almost a week to get over the fact that I even own a pair of Berghaus zipped trousers, let alone put them on. I´ve been clubbing in flip-flops a Tee and shorts and no make up (as if that would happen in London – I wouldn´t even head to the corner shop in that ensemble).

By day three in Colombia, after Cartagena, I was literally running through shit. After escaping a pervy Colombian, in Parque Nacional Tayrona, who was trying to arrange to meet me on a nudest beach, (I tried to pretend that I didn’t understand but quite a few hand gestures were involved in the conversation), I began the 45 minute walk to the campsite. After two minutes of being sucked into the mud in quick sand fashion and losing my shoes, I turned around and rented a horse to take me there. OK so the photos might look idyllic but believe me it was hard work, especially seeing as though I was carrying about 80 litres. I still have bruised inner thighs. (Yes from the horse). I eventually arrived in about 45 minutes covered in mud and horse shit. It’s times like this when I most look forward to a shower. However, upon closer inspection and realising that the shower was basically a corrugated metal open top shell with a holey plastic rice sack as a curtain with freezing water sloshing out of a pipe (I later found out that this place was pretty much five-star), I decided just to remove my mud socks revealing rather grey Chanel nail polish. (Perhaps it´s this season´s new colour). Upon walking back to my hammock, approximately 15 yards, I was once again covered in mud. No one warned me just how ridiculous it would be to visit Parque Nacional Tayrona in the wet season. Thank you Looser Planet. There´s nothing like getting stuck in right from the word go. I bumped into some Gringonites that I met in Cartagena so it was fun in the end even though there was about 50 inches of rain. I´m sure the beaches would have looked nice in the sun. I think the highlight was the warm gooey chocolate filled bread at the panaria on the beach and perhaps it was the dinner on the second night there which was my first proper meal in nearly a week.

The view I had to put up with for three days on the beach in Palomino

Palomino beach

La Sirena, where I was staying in Palomino

On route to a river which frames the beach in Palomino

Anyway, I’m not complaining. After the trauma I spent three days on the beach in Palomino just North of Tayrona which was idyllic and well off the beaten track. No other gringonites in sight which was bliss. The hut I stayed in was pretty amazing and so was the view from the hammock. A well deserved rest me thinks especially after all the crazyness of the last few weeks. If it wasn’t for the muscle I drafted in to help me pack two days before I left, (thank you boys – love you!), I wouldn’t even be here. Anyone who knows me will know just how anal I am at organising. I didn’t even tick off a check list I had that little time and I have a habit of creating a check list when I stay overnight at a friends. I had lists coming out of my arse but just not enough time to get through them all. I packed the most essential item, my passport, and figured I could buy anything that I’d forgotten. I have since realised that I’ve bought three torches, two pairs of scissors and other multiples. Not sure why I need eight pens. On my first night in Cartagena after going out and sinking a few, I realised that I forgot my pyjama bottoms so my fellow roomies were treated to a view of my rear.

I love flight meals! Spicy chicken and rice, Delta Airlines, London to New York

After frantically finishing packing up the flat and doing a spot of hoovering, I ran out of my flat managed to catch my train with about five seconds to spare. On route to Colombia I was treated to a selection of perms, pop socks, Skoll shoes, pizza and ice-cream as we neared NY and crap films with Delta airlines. I waited hours for my delayed connection to Bogota meaning I’d miss my next connection to Cartagena, but at least I was in New York where my bucket of rooibos tea lasted a while. 30 hours after departing my flat I was finally in Cartagena… without my luggage. Ahhh my worst nightmare! A local explained that my luggage was on the next plane, panic over. Apparently they’d let us board the slightly earlier flight to get us there quicker even though our luggage was on the right flight, not quite sure what the point was.

From what I’ve encountered, most Colombians seem really friendly, on a local bus Egg-Boy, (he had about 10 dozen eggs and a large plastic laundry basket) who I was sat next to, stuck his arm out of the window and presented me with a giant piece of watermelon, Taxi-Man who was taking me to the bus stop in Santa Marta for Tayrona saw the bus ahead and did everything he could to make the bus stop, including swerving all over the road and nearly colliding with oncoming traffic, Sick-Boy threw up on my foot on the bus, got a telling off from his mum but then was politely sick in a plastic bag for the rest of the journey, people keep offering me seats because of my scabby leg and it seems that every male Colombian wants to chat though mainly to ask if I have a boyfriend. I´ve met some cool Gringonites too. There definitely seems to be a sense of unity here and everyone is really friendly, well nearly everyone, this is the beauty of travelling on your own. I´ve already bumped into familiar faces during my first 10 days and I´m sure I will do on the rest of my trip. On my second day in Cartagena I got chatting to Croc-Monsieur (I surprisingly haven´t seen too many pairs of crocs which is a good sign), a slightly more mature lone traveller. I don´t mean to be wary of this type of traveller but I don´t want them to assume that their generosity will be repaid with some sort of Thai bride action. ´Stop touching my leg Croc-Monsieur´. If my scab has existed then he wouldn´t have been touching it.

This was about as intersting as Santa Marta got

Unintentially perfected my choice of top for the carnival action

Carnival ´The crowning of Miss Colombia´, Cartagena

Crazy Colombians and Gingos dancing in the rain at the festival in Cartagena

So, the scab. It was very much the horses fault or rather the guides. ´Yes I do have a boyfriend back home and he is massive´. (Ah another thing I forgot, a fake wedding ring – damn) I left Parque Nacional Tayrona and hired a horse once again to take me and my bags back to near enough the main entrance of the park. A lot of it was downhill so seemed harder on the way back. The bless’ed guide sent the horses the wrong way, down a tight uphill crevice. He then decided that the horses should partially turn round then take a huge jump onto this ledge. There was no way that the horses could have reversed. The first two horses managed it in front of me but guess who got the mongy horse? Mine started headbutting the crevice, didn’t even make a poor attempt at a jump, got stressed, legs collapsed and I slid down this crevice with the horse heavily grazing my leg and arm. Nice. With the help of lots of iodine it´s on the mend though I just have a minging scab on my leg and am subject to even more pointing and it´s bright orange so looks pretty scary. The annoying thing is that I was supposed to go on a six days hike (Ciudad Perdida – The Lost City) but it wasn´t worth the risk in case it got infected. I also wanted to check out more remote beaches near Panama but can´t really get my wound wet cause it won´t heal. Gah, what to do? I ended up heading to civilisation, Santa Marta, (where I was originally going to go to sort the hike from) and staying the night. I walked around town, mmm not my cup of tea, and got some serious stares. I don´t think anyone there had ever seen a Chinese person. I had small children, old women, police men, pervy men all shouting out China and pointing at me! (Apparently Colombians think that China and me are going to invade them). I could make some serious money in the circus here. I exited swiftly the following morning and headed back to Cartagena where I knew there was a festival/carnival going on climaxing on Monday when Miss Colombia is to be crowned. Mad street parties, booty shaking, boom boxes blaring (generally with rubbish music – oh how I´m going to miss indie pop), kids blacked out in tar demanding money, paint being smeared all over you and lots of shaving-esque foam being squirted everywhere. (Not so nice when stuck to the old contact lenses though). I joined the party on Thursday night which was really good fun, and bargainous at COP$12,000 (GBP4) for entry and six beers in an ice bucket. Last night a few of us went to a salsa club which was interesting to say the least, but as the festival´s on it´s pretty quiet at the clubs. So back to Gringoville it was (party hostel) till 4am.

The plan is to head over to Pamplona for a couple of days,  sounds like a really sweet town, then head towards Medellin via Bogota. Can´t get out of town until tomorrow and the bus journey takes 12 hours, better get used to moving very very slowly. I am slowly adjusting to not moving at the speed of light but it´s taken a good week. Right, guess it´s back to the festivities then….

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