The Beginning

Cartagena Colombia (Aug 8 - 12)

I arrived in Cartagena completely overwhelmed that after months  of planning--the trip was finally underway.  I had a general route mapped out for the first 6 months of the trip, but due to a great deal of product testing that had to be completed before my departure coupled with a wonderful few weeks spent with old friends and family, I’d done embarrassingly little research on Cartagena.  Consequently, when I arrived at the aiport and reassembled my bike, I found myself riding around directionless for a few hours.  I stumbled upon the BocaGrande section of Cartagena which is filled with high end beach resorts that were out of my price range, and so when it begun to get dark I decided to beeline out of town, thinking to camp somewhere on the outskirts.

After some 45 minutes of riding in heavy traffic, I realized that I was unlikely to find an unpopulated area to camp securely before dusk, and so I wound up taking a room at a truckstop hotel for $12 for the night.  I fell asleep to an array of paniced reporters trying to make sense of the 550 point, one drop in the Dow Jones Industrial.  When the 2008 Global Financial Crisis Hit, I felt right in the middle of the whole thing—enrolled in business school, studying finance and economics—this round couldn’t have felt further away.

The next morning I had a full day of sunlight to work with and was ready to take advantage of it.  I set out early, riding through a beautiful convent cemetary garden, and touring the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, before checking into a hostel in the Old City.

The Cartagena old city is truly magical.  It is comprised of narrow cobblestone streets, numerous plazas filled with old men playing card games and street venders selling fresh fruit.  Houses and shops are built one next to the other, each distinct in architectural design and color, but one common feature of most were the elegant balconies sitting right overtop of the streets below, and the beautiful gardens which decorated them.  However upon checking into El Viajero Hostel and reconnecting to the internet for the first time in weeks, I had to come to terms with just how behind I was with my work.  I had to get bicyclesouthamerica and up and running immediately, document all my gear for the website, and develop a system which would allow me to have the information I needed for each town I visited prior to arrival.  Accordingly, I spent the next 4 days working online for 15+ hours each day in the hostel, earning me the nickname Soletario.

In all of my travels, I had never once stayed in a hostel prior to El Viajero.  I’m a huge fan.  Not only are they perfect for my budget and online needs, they act as incredible sources for information about local tours, activities, and restaurants, as well as future destinations.  They also made me feel like I’m doing something incredibly normal.  Nearly everyone I met was in the middle of a grand international adventure, and it was so comforting to know that this community existed and would exist for me through much of my travels.  I met a guy from Detroit that does travel writing for the BBC who I immediately took a liking to, a bloke from London who works for a Christmas retail shop that is only open for 4 months out of the year, allowing him to travel the world the other 8, two beautiful girls from Buenos Aires and another from Santiago that I hope to meet again down the road, and a lovely, intellegent young lady from down under.

On Saturday night, while packing my gear and having a final round of drinks with my new acquaintences, I met Noacir and Christiane, a young couple from Brazil.  They’d been bike touring for the past 9 months, covered 7,000 kilometers, and as luck would have it, were planning to leave the following morning for Barranquilla, and traveling on to Santa Marta, just as I.

So it appears I will have 2 new companeros for the next week or so.

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