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Published: June 28th 2018
Lost Lake, New Mexico
This was a beautiful hike we did near Red River, New Mexico - our last bit of exercise before leaving for Houston.
Mark Twain said that if you try to grab a cat by the tail, there are things that you'll learn that you can't learn any other way... or something like that. I think the same could be said about one's first dealings with ocean shipping companies, mercurial ship schedules, port authorities, and the many disgruntled and generally grumpy people of which they are comprised. Cargo shipping agents, in particular, are a notorious lot, many of whom have fallen into this line of work after having shown a lack of required character and integrity to succeed as used car salesmen. To partially quote Steve Carrell (from The Office), if I were in a room with Osama bin Laden, Hitler, and a cargo shipping agent, and had only a gun with just two bullets, I'd shoot the shipping agent, twice. Luckily for us, we contacted and vetted several agents, so that the agent whom we chose (IVSS of the U.K.) and who prepared our paperwork and facilitated our shipment was decent, honest, and straight-forward. This made things infinitely easier, although it was still pretty tedious and bureaucratic.
Nonetheless, Fi and I managed to negotiate the Byzantine network of paperwork and procedures to
Doug, Tana and their little doggy Chloe
Doug and Tana are a lovely couple from Texas whom we met at the Red River campground. They very kindly took us out for a delicious steak meal on our last night at camp.
drop off our truck camper (a.k.a. Tortuga) on June 20th, where it currently sits on a pier at the port of Galveston, Texas, awaiting its ship to arrive on June 29th. From there, it will be loaded onboard and delivered to Cartagena, Colombia, where we'll get to deal with their port authority and customs. We'll see how that goes. Meanwhile, we've flown to Medellin, where we're enjoying our time as tourists. We'll make our way to Cartagena in a week or two, when Tortuga is expected to arrive.
Before flying out of Houston (more on that later), we spent a couple of weeks in the mountains surrounding Red River, New Mexico, at 8,500-ft (2615m) above sea level. It was there that we met some really great folks, Doug and Tana, from the greater Houston area, spending the summer in Red River, avoiding the Texas heat, as many folks do. We really enjoyed getting to know them a bit, as well as their cute, affectionate cocker spaniel, Chloe. Warm, affable, and friendly, Doug and Tana were a pleasure to meet and made our stay in Red River that much more fun. We wish them, and Chloe, well, and hope to
cross paths with them again someday.
Leaving Red River for Galveston, we slogged through the hot, dusty, windy Texas plains: about 900 miles. We spent a few days at an AirBnB guesthouse in Galveston, a few blocks from the beach - not that we ever went to the beach due to the biblical amount of rain that fell during our stay. This rain also complicated efforts to stow everything and ready Tortuga for ocean shipping. But we got everything done, dropped Tortuga off at the port, and decided to celebrate our unexpected success at doing so, on our last day in the U.S., by having dinner at one of two Indian restaurants in Galveston. We arrived at the restaurant, named Himalayan Diarrhea, or something like that, at about 6:30 pm. The place had seating for over 100 guests, but there were only four people in the entire place, all seated at one table. Hmm, first red flag. So where does the hostess seat us in this nearly empty, auditorium-sized dining hall in which you could play full-court basketball, you may ask? In the booth immediately behind the only other diners. Close enough that we could hear every sniffle (as
A piece of fine art!
This was left by a guest at our Airbnb in Galveston - brilliant!
well as its reverberating echo). Second red flag was the grease-stained scrap of paper serving as a menu, which included such well-known delights of Indian cuisine as chicken nuggets and 'cilantro chicken'! A few minutes later, when we saw a large mouse race across the tiled floor, we decided to scrap our tikka massala orders (one of just 2 curries on offer) and take our chances at Denny's. Hey, sometimes it's tough to beat a grand slam breakfast for dinner!
I need to take a moment to explain a little about this latest mouse encounter. Fi, who detests mice and will even cheer for the rattlesnake in snake-versus-mouse nature shows, has had 6 unplanned, and "non-consensual" mouse encounters as well as one indoor bat strafing, in the last 3 years, and all in the U.S. Most of these encounters result in me-versus-mouse standoffs, where I often end up looking like a fool chasing a fleet-of-foot rodent through a confined space with a frying pan (or something similar) in one hand and a flashlight in the other. If she were to be examined by a shrink, she'd probably be diagnosed with low-grade mouse PTSD. "I've never seen a mouse indoors
Recycling bins at our hotel near the airport in Medellin
We are already impressed by Colombia's attention to green matters. We've been able to recycle more here in 6 days than we could in 6 weeks in the US.
in my life and now it seems like they're everywhere, following me, like they're... organizing! What is it about this country that mice love so much, and what do they want with me?! We need to let them know that I... I want to make peace with them!" Such was the nature of our slightly surreal conversation at Denny's, which, fortunately, was mouse-free. Whatever she did to piss off the U.S. mouse population, word must've travelled far and wide within the animal kingdom, as on just our second day in Medellin, she was enthusiastically chased by a large duck in Medellin's botanical garden. This was the same duck that moments earlier had been docilely eating bread from a 5-year old's hand.
So flying from Houston to Medellin was pretty easy. The only snag was when TSA found a pocket knife that I had forgotten about in my carry-on bag. Rather than have TSA confiscate it, I quickly returned to
the airline ticket counter to check my carry-on bag. No big deal, and back through the TSA security line I went: shoes off, belt off, empty pockets, hands up, try not to let my pants fall down... for the second
time. Fi, waiting for me on the other end of the checkpoint as I walked towards her, with me looking like an escaped mental patient, carrying my shoes, belt, passport, and a bunch of other crap bundled in my arms as my trousers were sagging downward, asked, "Do you have your wallet?" As I mentally rewound the events of the last 15 minutes, one image that came dreadfully into focus was that of my wallet in the half-zipped outer pocket of the bag that I had planned to carry on, but that was now checked and somewhere in the bowels of Houston International Airport. Fi, who immediately interpreted all that was needed to know from the horrified look on my face, and sudden convulsions that overtook my body, was not impressed, but also not surprised, although she was pretty much able to contain her frustration. Like Batman when he sees the bat signal in the night sky, I leapt to action, with one shoe on, the other in my hand and belt precariously trailing behind me by two belt loops. Backwards through the TSA checkpoint I raced (they don't like it when you do that, by the way) and back
Our 18th floor Airbnb in Medellin
This has been a great and affordable place to spend our first week in Colombia. Beautiful views of the city and a well-equipped kitchen so we can cook our own meals.
to the check-in counter to see about retrieving my bag and wallet. I won't go into much detail about the explaining, negotiating, pleading, hand-wringing, screaming, foot-stomping, job-threatening, whining, begging, wailing, crying scene that next unfolded.(*) Let's just say that I was able to get my bag back, fish out my wallet, and get back into the TSA line for the third time - shoes off, belt off, hands up, pants fall down, etc. TSA employees told me that I only needed to make two more trips through the line for a free cup of coffee. I guess they have a sense of humor after all.
* Actually, to set the record straight, the folks at the AeroMexico ticket counter were extremely understanding, helpful and gracious and quickly retrieved my bag from the tarmac (or wherever it was). No histrionics needed.
So now we're in Medellin. So far, we've found it to be a strikingly modern city with great public transportation and environmentally-conscious initiatives, such as plentiful recycling bins throughout the city. For an urban area, home to over 3 million people, it's a remarkably friendly place, with public messages and posters reminding passersby to simply be kind and
respectful to each other (we could use such an initiative in the U.S.). To the casual observer, there is no remaining shadow of the troubles that plagued this part of Colombia just two decades ago. But speaking to the folks old enough to remember those times, it's clear that the memories are vivid, and that no one has any desire to repeat them. We ate dinner with a former colleague of Fi's who is British (Rob), and his wife who is from Medellin (Natalia) - really decent and interesting folks whom we hope to see again. They currently live and work here, near Natalia's family, and enjoy the life that this vibrant city and its beautiful mountain surroundings offer. Rob told us that his mother-in-law was surprised to learn that he had never seen someone get shot to death in front of his eyes. Those violent instances were, apparently, not uncommon during those dark times, but are now just memories for most people. Perhaps such memories are what ensures that Medellin, and other parts of the country, continue in the successful direction they're on, and don't devolve backwards. Our experience, thus far, has been entirely positive: as was the case
World Cup fun - Colombia vs Poland
There was a great atmosphere in this restaurant during the match, and we were yelling as much as the Colombians every time they scored!
in Mexico, we've greatly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of nearly everyone we've encountered, and are eager to explore more of this beautiful country and culture; especially after we get back on the road in our own camper soon, and get our Tortuga Tour back on track. Enjoy the photos; there should be 15 in all. Thanks for checkin' in with us. - Ken
Tot: 0.195s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 10; qc: 66; dbt: 0.0199s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb