From the Rio Magdalena to the Panama border

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January 13th 2014
Published: February 23rd 2014
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On my way south I stopped for a couple of days in the idyllic backwater of Mompos - a Unesco World Heritage site full of beautiful colonial merchant houses and churches along the Rio Grande de la Magdalena. Life moves along at a snail pace with locals relaxing in the early evening in doorways and squares with their kids and neighbours - invariably in a locally made wicker rocking chair. Being a little off the beaten track, it was a peaceful haven allowing me to chill out well away from the party animals on the hostel circuit. From Mompos, it was an adventurous journey to Turbo starting at 5am by 5 means of transport over a 10 hour period (colectivo to Bodega; chalupa to Magangue; colectivo to Sincelejo; colectivo to Monteria; minibus to Turbo). Turbo is a mega-dodgy trading port, however I had no choice but to stay overnight in order to catch the first lancha to Capurgana the next morning. My ass and back were totally cactus with the rough ride over the waves. Capurgana was lovely and laid-back with the lush jungle meeting the blue Caribbean waters. I also had a chance to cross the Panama border by sea
colonial splendourcolonial splendourcolonial splendour

even the abandoned buildings look good
(as opposed to the notorious and dangerous Darien Gap land crossing) and go to the first island of Caledonia in the San Blas islands of Panama. If I was continuing onto Central America, this would have been the ideal way to travel with a 4 day lancha cruise through the island archipelago to Panama City. Wanting to continue on my Colombian odyssey, I instead caught a south-bound lancha back to La Miel in Panama, and crossed over by foot to stay in neighbouring Sapzurro in Colombia, along with a friendly wave from the border army guards. Having officially been in No ManĀ“s Land after getting an exit stamp from Puerto Obaldia in Panama two days previously, the Colombian officials in Capurgana were totally cool that we had stayed in Sapzurro for the intervening days. I wish all border crossings were so relaxed. Final stop of my second fortnight was the city of Medellin - previously one of the most violent cities in the world made infamous by the drug dude Pablo Escobar - but now more renowned as a cultural and party hub with a few progressive social twists.

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 23


merchant housesmerchant houses
merchant houses

Still use the horse and cart for transportation of goods
fleur de lysfleur de lys
fleur de lys

Mompos ironwork following the Masonite design
chalupas at dawnchalupas at dawn
chalupas at dawn

motorised speed boats
still smiling... notstill smiling... not
still smiling... not

Only the start of a torturous 3 hour lancha ride to Capurgana, and already my back and ass were killing me

local version of fried fish and chips

Chicken, rice and veggies
La PiscinaLa Piscina
La Piscina

A natural jacuzzi caused by the waves crashing into the sea pool - tossing you around with a kind of washing machine like effect

Delicious flat, fried and crispy plaintain topped with tomato and cheese
lancha to Panamalancha to Panama
lancha to Panama

A soaking wet ride to the Islas de San Blas in Panama

Indigenous village

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