When we arrived at our lastest location that we booked on AirBnB. Our hostess is Marliyna she is a sweet little lady. Curly hair, shorter than I am and so cute. She has been in the tourism industry for 12 years and has opened a lodge on the Amazon. It seems to be doing really well. The World Cup has brought significant tourism to every city where the games are. The stats are sad and happy. At our AirBnB little house there has been only Americans so far, no surprise there with the USA-Portagul game just around the corner.
We spent the evening watching a game Brazil style. At a bar close by to our AirBnB. When we returned, our host Marliyna was there as well as her husband, and Sam another person staying at the AirBnB. We all went out and enjoyed some drinks and local food.
The next morning Marliyna took us on a little tour of the market and around town. We are only about 15 mins from the Stadium so this was the first time for me to see it during the day. We have our fist game to watch live today Cameroon and Croatia. I’m excited to see inside the stadium!
The three of us eventually branched off on our own, Sam, Mateo and I. We wondered around until it was time to head to the stadium for the game.
We hopped on to a bus early hoping to get to the stadium with time to spare!
Our Bus ended up hitting major traffic and so after about 30 mins of a slow moving pace we all got off and started walking. It was no surprise that we beat the bus and eventually loss sight of it as we made our way to the stadium. It was a smooth moving process to get in and we were at our high altitude seats in no time. The stadium is small but there is no bad seat in the house. It was awesome to be at the world cup and seeing a live game we may not really know the teams that well but watching live soccer is fun and really exciting.
Today we went and picked up our tickets, after some sunny pool time, we hopped in a taxi and went to the cultural center to get our tickets. It doesn’t make sense to me that the ticket center is so far away from the stadium. It was a simple process to pick them up much like an airport you just slide your credit card and your name pops up, then the ticket prints out. We caught a bus back into the city center. This was our first time on a Brazilian bus. They are rough, the roads have many dips and tight corners throwing everyone on the bus around. I white knuckled the bars to keep from falling into someone. We got off the bus much earlier than needed because it was so rough.
There aren’t many times that walking in the heat is better than the transit but this was the time. We have now moved to a hostel, we booked this place when we were in San Fran looking for anywhere to stay to help validate our visa applications. We arrive at the hostel and take off to the Fan Fest that FIFA has set up on the Rio Nergro river. This river flows directly into the Amazon. We will be watching the US vs Ghana game on the big screen. There is a big area set up for viewing and the cost is free. USA won the game!
It was a tight game where our last point to win was a header into the goal. We bussed it back to the hostel, this bus ride was not as rough to the other one, but we were thoroughly entertained by a crew of England guys singing and chanting loudly on the bus ride back. The internet is good from what we have read, so I’ll spend some time posting blogs and buying plane tickets home. I really cannot believe it is time to get our tickets. Only one month to go. I will get the chance to meet my new niece, Annalise and see the kids. People talk of Hawaii like it is a vaction for me, and it is for many people but if my sister lived in Alabama I would still be going to see her at least once a year and maybe more because it wouldn’t be so spendy. I have had a lot of trouble with the internet and buying my tickets have been a pain in my butt. I get to the last stage of purchasing and the internet goes out. Maybe I will try at the next place.
We quickly passed into another time zone, all the World Cup goers we saw at the airport were getting onto our boat. This is exciting. We took a short tuk tuk ride to the boat lunching area and checked in our bags. Drank a bit of coffee and moved onto the next phase of getting onto the boat. Our bags were checked by policemen thoroughly. We had read that they nearly do everything but a cavity search but not for us, just a quick check. I don’t know any Portuguese, so when the policeman said anything I smiled with my teeth, I didn’t understand him. He was super nice and helped me repack my bag and even zipped the zipper on my fanny-pack. It is interesting during situations like this, if I were to get asked any serious questions in Portuguese I would look like I didn’t understand and smile cute. Mateo didn’t look so innocent and had his bag searched more thoroughly than I did.
I was surprised by the view of our boat it looked like a large speed boat, I know we purchased tickets for the speed boat but this is the Amazon I didnt expect this boat. When I stepped on, a cool satisfaction happened, the boat was air conditioned. Now I have to pleasantly worry about the cold not the mosquitos. I have been bitten so many times on this trip I just don’t like itching my skin.
We stopped at many small villages and ports to drop off and pick up people. The Amazon is so big many rivers flow in to it and it just gets bigger and bigger as it gets closer to to the Atlantic. I made many bracelets and once I found out I had Brazil colors I made many more. I gave one to this Colombian guy I was sitting with he was excited to get a bracelet.
The guys from England on the boat were fun and loud. They were really excited for the England game going on the day we arrive. Sleeping on the boat was hard. It was a sold out boat so there was little room to sprawl out. I even got kicked off the floor, how is that possible? The next 12 hours were hard we got woken up for breakfast at 7 am and fed bread and butter and really sugary coffee. The last time we had really good coffee was on our bike tour in Bogota. We finally showed up at the port in Manaus. It’s football time now! It is also Portuguese time, I am really getting familiar with Spanish and now we switch! It’s time to use our hands and feet really to talk. We flag a taxi and get about a kilometer from our hotel before the traffic gets really thick after sitting at the same light four times through we decide to get out and walk the rest of the way to the hotel. Our hotel is surprisingly nice, it’s really relaxing to feel safe I didn’t think we would. Everyone has told me about pickpocketers and crime that will surround the games. We will still try to be safe but the rumors haven’t been true. We marched down to the stadium and the first round of road blockage we made it through but the second round they really did want our tickets to let us get any closer to the stadium. We turned back around and were heading towards one of the many bars we had seen before that were showing the game. We pass this large red barn that had looked like it was once a business. They were selling beer and showing the game in the back yard. We passed by slowly and looked at the screen. We continued to walk and then we heard a guy yell something in Portuguese. He was inviting us to watch the game, we slowly moved into the back yard area and found a distanced seat.
At half time we walked and picked up some cookies and soda for me. When we returned we sat in more of the circle of the screen and people. I couldn’t believe we somehow made it into some Brazilian folks back yard, watching the game only a kilometer from the first World Cup game in Manaus. I still feel like we are in Colombia for some reason. After the game was over Italy beat England. We went and got some pizza in a good location to watch the crowds flow out of the stadium. This was our first time ordering from a menu and we had no clue how to read and our sever didn’t speak a lick of English or Spanish. We ordered a pizza half one type half another blindly and hoped for the best. Our pizza came out half covered in roasted garlic half covered in ham, egg, and vegetables, this was the Portuguese special. As we walked down the main exit road away from the stadium, there was not a taxi in sight and the ones we could see are going the wrong way and into thick traffic. There they were, two moto taxis waiting for us so we both put on helmets and got on the two motorcycles and had them take us to the hotel. It was strange riding behind someone other than Mateo. Swerving in and out of traffic, we made it back to the hotel safely and quickly. We finished our night dancing in the hotel pool.
I wish noon would show itself faster, hopefully we have our tickets for the boat.
We go to breakfast at the ‘house of bread’, recommended by our hostel owner. Best breakfast and cheap too, the bakery was more in the local area. We found a Internet cafe and dove in for a while, I needed to email our hotel to notify them we would be late arrivals. The internet is so slow here, luckily emails send quickly. The game is at 3 and opening ceremony start at 1, I like soccer but I don’t find it as entertaining on television as the real thing.
Sitting in the stands celebrating with the people around you, booing at the bad calls. Instead of waiting on our tickets we make our way down to the ticketing booth, to see if Carlos was able to pick up our tickets. As we approached he smiled, he was able to get the tickets, sigh of relief! In addition to getting our tickets for the boat he had a bit of a refund for us as well! We tipped him extra money, we have to be in Tabatinga tomorrow at 7, the time changes right as we cross the border by an hour. We viewed the Amazon for the first time, it was wide and murky. A delicate brown color, many boats where floating around dropping off people and picking them up. The rain had started and it was raining really good. We had a tuk-tuk deliver us back to the hostel to avoid the rain and to deliver a gift our hotel owner Thomas’s son Danny, he informed us when he met us that his birthday was only a couple of days away. When we were in town we perchessed him a World Cup soccer ball, this option would last his longer than a Colombia jersey. He was so stoked to get the ball, and just before the start of the opening ceremonies. We found a local bar and settled in do the duration of the game.
The only thing we have to concentrate on now is that alarm that will go off tomorrow morning to get us up to go to the boat, also known as lunccha. Thomas will call a taxi to pick up up, my favorite mode of transport is tap taps, they are so much fun.
Our feet left the ground for the first time today. We caught a taxi to the airport at 7am for our 9am flight to Leticia. Leticia is a small town only accessible by the Amazon or plane. It is the part of Colombia that meets Peru and Brazil.
As soon as we step off the plane we are hit with heat we haven’t felt before. In the air we passed over the equator, and now we are right against the Amazon river. The airport is small, we watch our luggage come in from the plane. We watch a cute happy golden retriever smell every package, suitcase, and bag that come off the plane. This the land of cocaine and illegal drug activity. Colombia’s other exports are flowers, coffee, and bananas. There are a mass of people who look like they are here finding themselves in this small port town that hardly any one has heard of for one spectacular event, the World Cup. A good handful wear jerseys supporting different teams. Mateo gets asked if he is English because of his jersey he wears that is red and white striped much like the England team. USA is just not known for football like Europe is. The line for getting our passports stamped out is long, we must stamp out passports out here at the airport and go and get our passports stamped in at the police station just across the border in Tabatinga, Brazil. Our guy that runs the hostel, where we will be staying is meeting us here at the airport. He brought his friend that helps run a business that schedules boats to run up the amazon to the city of Manaus. This is what our plan is, to take a fast boat to Manaus on the Amazon. You can only schedule in person with cash in hand, and there is a slight chance we are thinking what everyone eles is thinking to make it on that boat. There is a slow boat that takes three days but it would not get us there in time. We go and take the proper amount money out of the ATM in town. It seems like the price has gone up since we looked online at the prices, nearly doubled. There really is no other choice, there are airplanes that go from Tabatinga to Manaus but it is double the price of a boat ride. This is a last option. The guy at the tour agency is going early in the morning to go and pick up our tickets. We will find out tomorrow if it was possible or not possible.
I’m nervous about this, I wanted him to go and do it this evening or maybe Mateo and I do it on our own. I don’t understand the wait, there is also much I don’t know about the situation. We go to Tabatinga to get our stamps. This is our first time in Brazil, the police man at the station stamping our passports had to double take on Mateo’s photo, his beard has grown significantly since we left LA and he hasn’t trimmed it at. He just brushes it with his hands. After returning and eating something we wander around the town and eat some ice cream and relax in the park. Another thing that stresses us out is there is no internet in our hostel, it is down at the moment. We won’t need it until tomorrow, we used it earlier for Mateo and I to transfer money in our accounts. We get some snacks and go back to our hostel for the night and just hangout and read until we sleep and find out the outcome tomorrow.
We headed to Bogota in the most comfortable bus we have stepped foot onto. The ride was long but I ended up sleeping most of the way there. We will only be here two short days before we catch our flight south. It will be weird to get onto an airplane. We love figuring out the busses in most cities, when needed. It livens up our trips. Bogota is huge meaning the bus system is huge as well. The population is at about 10 million. Most of those people ride the bus from what I have seen. We are staying with John, one of Mateo’s friends who is teaching elementary school for two years here in Bogota. Goal for today find his apartment, sleep more, take the bus and eat something sometime. It was nice to meet John, he is a cool guy and it is so awesome to be hanging out with somebody who speaks some English. It feels like home to in a brewery and hang out with Mateo and one of his friends.
We found an awesome bike tour to go on while we were in Bogota! An amazing city with history and art.
We booked a hostel for the four us called Black Sheep. It is run by an Australian guy who I find entertaining, and he is really nice and helpful getting us around the city. Medellin has the best transit system in all of Colombia. Awesome for Mateo and I, we will be here a couple days and I really love taking the metro. Today we will take the cable car system up to a park and do some hiking! It is colder here, still hot, but not death. The cable car system was installed for commuters that live up the hillside. I would be putting in a gondola on Queen Ann. Its much quicker than the busses that run back and forth in traffic on the hillside going a short distance. We arrived at the top as we were given wonderful high views of the city. it took us a while but after finding the trail we hiked around. It felt like Washington with the evergreen and cool air.
Our Walking Tour
One of our days spent in Medillen was taking our own walking tour of the city. My lovely fat sculptures there all located in one part of the town by an incredible church.
There is an England football game this afternoon, Mateo and I rally the troops to go find a good viewing point. Many many people we have came across traveling are going to the World Cup, mostly São Paulo and Rio games. They are the biggest and most common cities to go to and most accessible. A few people are going to Manaus like we are. The most unique travelers are two brothers that have driven a land cruiser from North Carolina, shipped their car from Panama to Colombia and took the sail boat with us. I think they are crazy to have driven this far in two weeks. They plan to drive 12 hours a day, from Colombia to Ecuador, to Peru, to Bolivia, and then into Brazil they have two weeks to get there to meet ther mom for the opening game this mean the car must go on and have no break downs.
What crazy boys, they make Mateo and I look sane. We have persuaded the boys to take us to Medellin after they pick up their Cruiser from the port, they are hoping to have it out by this evening and we will all pile in the car and leave tomorrow morning at 4:30am.They are more than happy to have us along for the ride and not have it be just the two of them for a bit. It’s a 12 hour drive to Medellin through the mountains of Colombia. There is never any telling with google maps if that time is accurate. After the game we go back into old town and find the museum of modern art.
We find ourselves some coffee and have planed a farewell meet up at 7:30 at the hostel. Most of us will be parting ways from this bloody hot city tomorrow. What an experince in a short five days on a boat to meet so many great people from so many areas of the earth. We all met for a last supper and said our farewells just as planned, we will not be going out for the birthday celebrations tonight but going back with the boys to their hotel to leave bright and early. Getting their Cruiser through customs went smoothly so we will be leaving as planned. I’m excited to ride in a personal car, not a taxi or a truck or a chicken bus or a greyhound-like bus but a car where you can say ‘I have to pee’ then we find a place to pee or get refreshments!
We wake up early early, we no longer will be comforted by the air conditioning on the drive, we will be in an arm pit again. Yet we will be in car, ahh music and music that comes not from a headphone but stereo speakers. While we were walking to the Cruiser we found we were not the first ones awake in Cartagena. The coffee street venders were preparing their carts to sell coffee to people on their way to work. Many of them were posted on all the main corners as we walked. Mateo and I fell fast asleep in the back seat, I can’t explain why this back seat is more comfortable than any bus so far, the hum of the car put me fast to sleep, oh and the Cruiser has shocks, unlike the busses we have taken they feel like they have no shocks. I feel the brothers resemble Mateo and I in many ways, David is excellent at directions and Grant drives. I’m horrible at directions and need the map glued to my face while Mateo can glance at a map, orient himself, and be where we are going without another glance at a map. I like seeing the brothers together, I haven’t seen any travelers that are siblings.
Cartagena, Colombia is bloody hot, I would just like to spend another day in the air conditioned room. That won’t be happening, we met up with Ben, a guy from our boat and venture out into the city walls. Old town is pretty, I don’t feel I fit in here, everyone is classy and in heels. With us traveling as light as possible we have left any of our jeans and I left my only dress behind. Dressing up is not possible, I did shower this morning and put in my contacts and applied some eyeliner. Wearing clean clothes and makeup, I call that dressed up given the situation. We found the north end of the city’s walls where you could walk up on top of the walls. We walked in the heat along the city walls.
Old town is painted with colorfull storefronts plenty of places to eat and shop. In addition there are these ladies dressing in banana outfits on many of the corners selling fruit. We found another sight to see, there was a large fortress built, it was built by the Spanish during the colonial era.
We walk behind the fortress and all around it. I’m thankful we did, on the front side it was very clean and welcoming for tourists, you could go inside and tour but we stuck to the exterior. Around back it just got dirtier and dirtier. Then in the shade of the fortress were many groups of all aged kids practicing baseball. We stop and watch them, some of the kids gave us big smiles and waved at us. I assume they don’t see many tourists on this side of the fortress, many other countries idolize American Baseball.
Tonight we will get into the open sea! I’m excited for that, I like the way the boat moves about and the salty air. I also like being able to look all around and just see horizon. Many sets of dolphins have come along side and in front of our boat while we are moving. They swim so fast, and do little jumps out of the water. It is spectacular to watch they travel in pods an come up for air. We will depart at 2 am, it s a 30 hour trip in open sea. Salty Dog has informed us that if the weather is good we will get into port early and get through customs because the big Cruse ships come in early and clog the customs.
The Salty Captain has had our passports since we stepped onto the boat, the crew takes care of the entire immigration process. They will deliver our passports to the main Hostal Mamallna, the next day. The motor cyclist won’t be able to get their bikes back in untill tomorrow, today is a holiday, everything is shut down. We played on the islands and I have tried to avoid the sun, I don’t like sleeping sunburned and I did get a slight sunburn yesterday.
When there is no wind the shade even feels like some form of torchur for me, to just lay there in my sweat. It is hot this is the hottest I have felt, and this sun burn makes it a bit worse. So swimming even with the saltiness of the water is the best option! I spent about half the day in and out of the water. Mateo and even blew up our sleeping pads and brought them in the water to float on. They where a hit, almost the whole boat enjoyed taking turn floating on them even after we were out of the water. If I hike to a hot lake agin I’ll be using my pad a float! I had a rough time once we started moving, the winds kicked up and my motion sickness medicine that I was using as a sleeping pill soon wore of. We left at an awesome 2 am. The mass above us was slapping it’s pole. This is the first sail on the boat go up. It is for stability and then we just move forward with the motor. After my sleep not sleep I was up early at 6am, I meandered around the boat stepping over bodies for many hours as I moved about. People awoke up on and off throughout the morning. I fell back asleep and continued to sleep in and put all morning until I turned on a movie at 11am. Most people slept most of the day due to the heat rocking and motion sickness pills. So many people woke up and found they were sick. Mateo and I stayed well with no motion sickness, Mateo stayed on his pills and didn’t flirt with not taking them. At 2pm we stopped the boat and everyone jumped into the open ocean for a quick dip in the ocean, it lasted about thirty minutes. It was cool to be in the big waves that didn’t crash on the shore. After a long day at sea we all felt asleep. Tomorrow we will arrive in Catarana, we have heard so much about it. Super beautiful city, with giant walls surrounding the historic distric.
I woke up early again, only this time I could see boats all around, we were in Colombia! Well we were in Colombian waters that is. It took a few hours to get onto dry land. It is a different feeling when you walk on land after a few days at sea. We made it to the hostel and got a room with ac, after that long sweaty salty boat ride it was time for ac! The ac rooms in a hostel are more expensive but worth the cost of a good night rest. We are meeting up with our boat family tonight to hang out. We didn’t really leave the hostel all day except for the necessities like pizza and to grocery shop. Five of us girls took advantage of the hostel kitchen and made a giant meal for everyone, I can believe we all still want to meet up after the five day long boat ride. Yet we all enjoyed the night and eat together.