Want to have a taste of Colombian corruption Guzman? I’ll give you a bite. But first I’ll tell you that Cartagena is a wicked city. Yes it actually is. I know that we the tourists are to blame. We have the money and we are looking for cheap pleasure. Without us Cartagena would probably be an average port with incidents with drunken sailors or drug runners. Down town looks okay. It’s an old city, well preserved, lots of police and militaries carrying their M16-rifles. The old city centre is just a façade. The nicely painted houses and expensive shops can’t cover reality: it looks like the whole city is on coke. And than the girls, beautiful but most of them are prostitutes, aiming for ignorant tourists. Coke and whores, it’s a dangerous combination, especially when everything is according to European standards so ridiculously cheap. And than this heat; you’re pouring sweat all fuckin day. Just think of the idea of moving a leg and you’re soaking wet. So, coke, whores, tourists, tropical climate, that’s rush this city is in. Anyway, a Dutch friend and I were drinking a beer outside on the Calle de Arsenal. Young whores flocked around us. My friend apparently went off to take a sniff. He came back, looked in his pocket for money to buy another beer and then the police confronted him. He had to empty his pockets and they found two grams of coke. He got arrested. My friend doesn’t speak any Spanish so I came with him to translate and to negotiate. A tourist with coke, for sure he was in trouble and faced jail and deportation. After 15 minutes sweating I started to talk about a way out of this. ‘Hay otra manera? Si hay, qual es?’ Jorge, the policeman, started to smile and then I knew everything would be okay. It was only a matter of ‘how much.’ So my friend paid 150 bucks and got his stay-out-off-jail-card. But that’s not all. He got his coke back and Jorge gave me two bowls of marihuana, he ripped from a girl some hours before, because I did so well. While walking back to the hotel I realized that I could get arrested myself for carrying drugs a policeman gave me.
PS Guzman don’t worry I’m clean.
PS Surprise, surprise, the Dutch Taxes will block (?) my bank account (beslagleggen op). I thought they only do this with guys like Cees van der Hoeven, corrupted vastgoedhandelaren and not with a stone-broke journalist who doesn’t produce, because he took some time off. The good news is that there’s nothing on my account. It’s a continuously fight with Holland, Guzman. It seems that you’re going to win, I mean the World Championship. To be honest, I’m getting awfully tired off this all.
PS No, I don’t like it here at all. I’m still in Cartagena waiting for my friend Tal. She is Panama City and will come on Sunday.
Anyway a lot has happened since I left Balgüe. It took me five days to get to Panama City where I easily found a boat to Cartagena. The bike ran beautiful; although it was pouring rain most of the time we traveled. But where to begin Guzman? So I’ll just show you a bunch of pics I’ve left of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the amazing trip to Cartagena and tell you some details.
Fidel the fisherman
The main reason I stayed so long in Balgüe was the simple lifestyle and the close relation to nature. There’s no money in Balgüe but plenty of food. If you’re hungry you go out fishing on the lake of Nicaragua, one of the biggest sweet water lakes in the world. If you look at Fidel it’s easy. In one hour he got 35 fishes. And some more pics: like this one myself a lot, and this one, and this one even more.
Jesper and his horse
In Amsterdam I don’t even know how a horse smells; you never see them. In Balgüe a horse is transportation. You pay 150 bucks for a strong horse. I even played with the taught to buy one for myself. So everybody is on them, even little Jesper. He is only 6 years old.
If you feel like drinking but you don’t have a peso to spend you make yourself an Ometepe Chicha Coyol. Here’s the recipe: you find yourself a Coyol, cut it down with your machete, make a square whole were the leaves spring and wait. The Coyol now produces his milk you can drink. I drank it pure, with the ants and all and it tastes like a Belgium beer and you even get lightheaded. Two times a day you get a refill. This goes on for a week or two then the tree is dried-out and dies. You drank 40 liters of his milk.
Jasmina was the first one I took pictures of for this I want you-vehicle. She has such a beautiful face. So one day I went to visit her and took some more pictures. She had no problems with the camera. Uris, the boy next to her, is deaf and dumb. I made this smile sign, so he’s actually smiling. The woman is her mother. Other boys are nephews and stuff. As you understand, this family who lived in a remote area of Ometepe is not used to that people take pictures of them. Francisco, Jasmina’s older brother, thought I was in love with the girl and he offered to be the intermediate. I told him that I was old enough to be her grandfather. He replied that true love everything makes possible, which is a lie anyway. I never came back.
Deyner became a good friend in Balgüe. I climbed the volcano with him. He is a lively and brave young man who felt in love with this German girl who worked as a volunteer in Balgüe. They stayed together for 6 months and then she left. Deyner was persistent to visit her in Germany, but how? Average wage in Balgüe is 400 dollars a year. So he decided to go to Costa Rica where he’ll make more money. I took him with me to San Jose. Deyner had a brand new passport; since it was the first time that he left the country. It took us two days to get at San Jose. First time I actually took somebody on the fully loaded bike. Deyner was freaking out and shouted things like ‘freedom, adventura’. I was surprised that the bike could carry all this weight. So we felt only once and got only one flat tire, the first one. I really hope Deyner makes it to Germany.
San Jose – Paso Canoas
I stayed only one night in San Jose. The transition Balgüe – San Jose was enormous. People, traffic, drug addicts, skyscrapers, people buying things, it just looked like an average day in Amsterdam. Felt absolutely lost. First time that I saw a supermarket in months. I was used to the little dusty stores in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Next morning I left for Paso Canoas, the border at Panama. I found a highway that would bring me straight to Paso Canoas, a 6 hours ride with nice views. I wanted to change oil for the bike, but couldn’t find a garage. At Cartago I took a wrong turn and ended up in the city centre and found by accident a garage. The owner Enrique turned out to be a very good sport. I got the oil for a good price and his brother found the leak in the electricity-system. So I was surrounded by bright light again. Above all Enrique bought me a meal. I think I stayed only a hour or two with Enrique, but we left as friends.
My goal that day was the border at Paso. Wishful thinking. I had to cross this mountain range and climbed for hours. The next for hours it was mainly raining. I drove until dark and ended up in this little village Ray Curre. It turned out to be a peaceful and quiet Indian reserve. I asked the local policeman if I could use my tent and if there were snakes around. I could, but they were, so I got frantic. I know now that I get help when I need it. So Fidelia, a local woman, invited me to her house. I could stay the night. She made me some meals and I could use the shower. And she had this beautiful daughter, but I had to leave the next day. Still don’t know why, though. Again, we stayed only one day together but left as friends. I loved Fidelia. That’s what I like most of my travels, these unexpected friendships with people you will never forget.
Paso Canoas – Panama City
It’s a 500 k’s ride from the border to Panama City. The road was awesome. the best since the States. You see, no wholes. It rained all-day and hard. And it was hot, so I started to smell bad. I drove until nine in the evening. For three hours I couldn’t find any shelter, so I decided to move on, driving on the tail of this huge truck. Don’t like to ride at night, but sometimes it’s just necessary. That day I saw a dead crocodile beside the road. It was run over by a car. Five minutes later a saw a luiaard (monkey kind of animal with huge nails), hit by a car but still alive and I realized that this is not an ordinary trip. Next day I crossed the Panama Canal.
The Stahlratte – Panama – Cartagena
While drinking my beer in De Koe, my local hangout in Amsterdam, people were bothering me with questions about the passage to Colombia. ‘No idea, I’ll see when I get there’, I answered and focused on the girl on my left side. Same question in Anchorage. ‘No idea man, first I’ll have to deal with the bears.’ Same question in Canada and in the US and in Mexico, Guatemala and so on and so on. What is this Guzman, with the Darien Gap, the most southern state of Panama that fits to Colombia? Why do people go hysteric when they hear about the Darien Gap, as it has this huge stop-sign? I know Guzman, there’s no road and it’s freaking dangerous with al the drug runners, para militaries, FARC guerrillas, local lowlife or snakes and swamps. If you have a death wish you’ll drive your bike straight into the jungle, trying to find your way to Colombia and probably die a slow death while doing this. And if you make it to the Colombian border you get arrested for trespassing and suffer some time in a sweaty prison. So, cruising by land to Colombia is no option. I knew that. Pues Guzman you take a boat, dead simple, but apparently not for all of us. Some gringo bikers tried to find a boat for weeks, without success, and turned back. I just talked in Panama City one minute to this crazy German guy Ludwig, captain of the Stahlratte, and had a deal. It turned out that I had a very good deal.
The Stahlratte (Steal Rat), more than hundred years old and built near Scheveningen (Holland), was lying near Porvenir, a small island 180 k’s north/west of Panama City. To get there I had to drive to Miramar a small fishers and trading village on the Caribbean coast. The rainy season just started so again it was pouring all fuckin day. The Guzzi and I where sliding on muddy roads, crossing unstable bridges and trying not to loose our cool for five hours or so when we arrived without any problem, but tired at Miramar. It took another four hours to get by lancha to the Stahlratte. I liked that: bike at the back, me sitting on the bow with my feet in the water, like riding a whale or something. On my right I saw the Panama coastline; jungle, empty beaches and here and there a rusty shipwreck. By all means I was on the move and couldn’t stop smiling. Arrived at eight, got the bike on board, met the crew, smoked my joint and went to bed. Interesting ‘coincidence’: next morning I woke up and saw Thomas, who boarded a day later. He’s a Dutch friend (I’m just one day older) I’ve met four months ago in Guatemala. The night before he boarded the ship he could see on my website that I was in Panama and wanted to meet somewhere.
The next five days were… lets say interesting. I mean, I’ve been traveling for a year on my own and now I was stuck on this beautiful boat with 25 other people, most of them man. Besides the toilet there’s no other place to hide from mankind. But why hide? The German crew was a bunch of funky Berlin-outlaws who are sailing this ship for years now. Absolutely cool people. Pues, the captain lowered the anchor for two full days at [[popup:_mg_1202.jpg:San
Blas::1:inline]], an archipelago of small exotic islands inhabited by the Kuna Indians. It was one of the most relaxing scenery’s I saw in my life. One night the five of us were looking at the Perfect View; a full moon, a glistering ocean and these palm tree islands filling the picture. And there was no wind, just silence. I looked at the person on my left and saw Tomas who was pretty hammered by beer and a joint, looked at my right and saw Claus, same deal. Five lonely souls watching the Perfect View, that’s pathetic Guzman.
The sisters Ruth and Yodalis Flores saved the trip. I met them in the water near the island. They came floating by in this canoe and asked my if I wanted to buy some stuff of them, like handmade cloths. I asked them to come back the next day and they actually did. They’re so sweet Guzman. They stayed for one hour, sold some of their stuff on the boat and sailed off again. After the islands it took the Stahlratte 35 hours to get to Cartagena. We saw dolphins, whales and got into a real lightning storm, so we got pretty good value for our money and nobody drowned or died because of deadly shark attack or something. On Saturday morning I went off board, realizing that Cartagena, with all his cheap drugs and ten dollar-whores, is a place where you easily can drown. (Which didn’t happen, I know now, I think)
PS Guzman, YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN´T HIDE.