It’s another early start. I rise at 06:30.
And that’s as far as I got with my notes on my Columbia trip. No day-by-day account this time. Which makes sense, as this wasn’t a beer trip. Well, not in the usual sense.
“You’re crazy, Ronald.” That’s become Dolores’s catchphrase when I tell her my travel plans. She did have a point this time. A mere 46 hours after getting back from Brazil I was on a plane bound for South America again.
That wasn’t the original plan. The holiday was to celebrate my mate Mikey’s 50th birthday. The intention was to go to Thailand. So at least I wouldn’t have been travelling back on myself. We’d even booked tickets.
The rules for entering Thailand were pretty strict. A test before departure, one on arrival with 24-hours quarantine, another test and 24-hours quarantine after five days and a final test just before departure. Lots of faffing around. We decided we couldn’t be arsed.
Where else could we go? There were two simple criteria: it had to be hot and cheap. While Mikey was on the KLM site, a suggestion for Cartagena popped up. Would I be interested in going there? Course I fucking would. It’s a new country and in South America.
We cancelled our Thailand tickets and rebooked for Cartagena. I sent Mikey come info I’d found about the city. Which could have been a big mistake. The bit about crime and safety freaked Mikey out a bit. I eventually talked him down by sending him even scarier information about Florianopolis, somewhere I’d visited just a couple of months earlier. And had found perfectly safe.
Nerves settled, Mikey was very enthusiastic. Found us accommodation right in the centre of town. Great! Saves me lots of trouble.
Mikey went out a couple of days before me. Leaving about when I returned from Brazil. Just before I was due to leave, I received an email. “Buy rum in the duty free. There’s an election and no alcohol is being sold.” That’s a bummer.
Being a decadent bastard, I got an Uber rather than the bus to the airport. I also wanted as much time as possible in the lounge. Where I had a mini breakfast and several whiskies. They won’t serve doubles, so I always just buy two at a time. One Scotch, one bourbon. No ice, of course.
The flight out was long. Over fourteen hours. With around four of those on account of going via Bogota. That bit was great fun. Everyone had to get off the plane, with those carrying on to Cartagena herded to one side. Someone with a clipboard crossed off the names of the connecting passengers.
But, clearly didn’t catch everyone. As after we had been herded a hundred metres or so down a corridor, they came around again with a fresh list. What was going on? I’d expected to be guided to a transit lounge.
Every 10 minutes or so we shuffled forward 50 or 100 metres only to be stopped and held again at some random point. Eventually, we were ushered towards the security check. One of the ground crew shouted “Puerta cuarenta y cinco” and quickly fucked off. We were left to fend for ourselves.
Yes, we had the fun of going through security again. Just as well I’d kept the receipt for that duty free rum. Otherwise, it would have gone in the bin with my bottle of water.
I checked a monitor and gate 45 was indeed where our flight was. And 400 – 500 metres back in the opposite direction to which we’d just walked. Did I mention that I was gasping for breath the whole time? Bogota is at 2,600 metres. Around 1500 metres to high for my crappy lungs.
I was tempted to nip into one of the bars I passed for a quick rum. But managed to resist. Just as well, as the flight was already boarding when I got to the gate. All told, around 90 minutes of pissing around, just to get back into the same seat.
The remaining flight was pretty short, around an hour. We landed at Cartagena just before dusk. In delightful South American style, I was ushered into the priority queue and walked straight up to an immigration booth. Where a nice young lady looked at all my documents and stamped my passport. That was nice and quick.
Mikey had also arranged a taxi pick up. As we raced into town a fat red sun was just dropping into the sea. The city’s ramparts full of tourists taking in the fading glow. That was a good start.
I was boiling hot when I plonked my luggage down in my room. And set the airco immediately to Antarctica. A change of clothes later and I was banging on Mikey’s door. Duty free rum in my hand.
After a few rums we wandered down to a nearby square. Where we were able to score a couple of shots in a pub. They didn’t seem to be taking the whole dry for election day thing totally seriously.
A few more rums in Mikey’s room and I was ready for my bed.