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Published: January 17th 2008
Twas the night before Christmas and the Islands of Boccas Del Torres were beaconing us. We were weary from travel and needest food and shelter. Many people had gathered this day for the crossing of the rickety banana bridge into the promised land of Panama. Flood waters raged and thundered below, landslides nor torrential rain didst steer us from our path. Our faithful four wheeled companion led us safely to 'O Little Town of Almirante'. We were guided by a star across choppy waters in a sturdy vessel to the promise of shelter. Despondently we trudged the sodden streets with the cry of 'No room at the inn', ringing in our ears. At last glad tidings came upon us. A good samaritan lead us to a house of ample merriment and glee. We were led into the back room which was quiet and comfortable, lodgings shared with fellow travellers, large and small. After much needed rest the sun rose, wisemen (and women) from far away bore gifts and merriment was had by all(secret santa and a piss up).
You'll be pleased to know Christmas day was not all palm trees, beach and coconut cocktails. We were stuck in the middle of
Look what I got!
a tropical storm and it peed down for three days constantly. We spent our Christmas day trudging across a jungle on a nearby Island looking for little red frogs. You guessed it, we didn't see any. We did think of everybody back at home curled up by the fire, playing silly games and watching the ' Only fools and horses Xmas special' , whilst we ate our soggy BBQ. We fled the Islands for the sun of the South Pacific coast again and on to Panama City. Skyscrappers loomed in the distance and the familiar honk of an impatient Panamanian taxi driver could be heard over the horizon. After the calm of the countryside it was back to the hustle and bustle of city life. Our backpackers was ideal and full of the usual mixed bag of travellers. The city was very westernized and modern as well as having super slums full of grime and poverty where we were warned never to set foot, so we didn't. We explored the old town with all its colonial architecture, walked along the causeway to the islands which was built with excervations from the canal, traipsed throuh the local park and were fascinated
Sand, sea and cyclone
by the streams of leaf cutter ants toiling away oblivious to two giants peering down at them. Then, of course, was the canal a hugh feat of engineering, I won't bore you with the details but it was fascinating to see, cruise and cargo ships being manoevered into place with only feet to spare either side. We had our own bit of manoevering to do. Tommy had to be dropped off at the docks. We managed to organize his passage to Cartegena (Colombia). Yes, I can tell what you're thinking.... are they mad ! It wasn't possible to ship to Ecuador so he had to go to Columbia. We saw him safely into his box, said a sad farewell (well I did) and left him, crossing our fingers all would be well. Now resigned to buses and people watching. We have decided the women down here aren't afraid to show off their bits which according to Nik is fine until they get too big and look like a pair of ferrets wriggling around in a pillowcase. Should I be jealous ? I think not, as I am not married to a Julio Inglesias look-a-like. We treated ourselves to a meal
out on New Years eve a Lebanese special. We had to make it last till after midnight because Nik breaks out in a rash if he has to kiss and hug people, so we crept back into the hostal at 12.30 oblivious to the masses. We were ready to leave the madness of Panama City and boarded a short flight to Columbia.
Categena, our first destination in South America. We had a week here as we had to wait for the truck and do all the paper work which made land border crossings seem like a breeze. Cartegena is described by many as the most beautiful city in South America. Steeped in colonial history, surrounded by a city wall, dotted with statues and plazas filling about three square miles with narrow streets and over hanging balconies. Colombians flock to Cartagena for their holidays so the place has a real buzz. I think I can speak for both of us when I say it has been a highlight of our trip so far, spending warm evenings sitting in the old town watching Colombian ladies strutting and swaying in their finest. Usually made with barely enough material to make a decent handkerchief.
Truck in a Box
See you in Colombia
We also had time to take a day trip to a mud volcano. A 15m high giant mole hill. Up one side jump into the crater of warm mud with the consistency of custard. A compulsory massage by enthusiastic local men, then out for a wash in the lagoon from equally enthusiastic local women. We were scrapping mud out of crevices for days to come. Tommy the truck arrived safely and we were set to hot foot it south through Colombia to Ecuador. As you may be aware there is an element of risk with travel through Colombia. The thought of driving through Colombia in a truck with USA number plates felt about the same as it would running around Fratton Park on a Saturday afternoon in a Southampton strip singing 'When the saints come marching in'. They say that travel is an education and broadens the mind, I would certainly agree with that over the last week or so researching our options for our trip through Colombia. We consulted other travellers, guidebooks, consulate web sites and the locals. Firstly we were told the priority is to get up to date information on defence. I asked a couple of locals
Two stallions and a donkey.
on the beach and they said 'de man wid de hammer and de nails had bin to fix it in de week'. That was one less thing to worry about. Apparently the main concern is gorillas. I thought gorillas only lived around the Congo basin and anyway when I have seen them on TV David Attenborough seems to get by OK by whispering quietly, displaying submissive behaviour, dishing out a few bananas and not winding up the silver back. Well it turns out that these gorillas have got the hump because of disruption to there supply of coke. Something else I learnt, I didn´t know they drunk the stuff let alone had pallates so refined they could distinguish between different brands of carbonated drinks. To make matters worse these gorillas are so upset they have started to round up ostriches (I didn´t know they lived out here either). With our subject thoroughly researched we set off on our trip. Approximately 1500 miles, four days driving, elevations of over 10,000ft and spectacular scenery. Tentatively we scoured the trees on the side of the road for gorillas. Fortunately we did not see any gorillas or ostriches only numerous shifty looking types in
Mud glorious mud
combat dress with machine guns, pressumably out hunting thirsty gorillas and victimised ostriches. I´m looking forward to impressing everyone with my new found knowledge and wisdom when I get home.
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