`Archh ... what is that silly boy doing?' The boat is already loaded and people are getting on. Grant and I got two weeks off from work. Grant had been stroked by some bacteria with ADHD, which literally opened all the locks, sometimes even all the together. After a trip to the Panama hospital, a few injections and Christmas alike package full of medication he is fortunately better.
Which could have been a happy ending if not he would have past the whole feast to me, while I was guiding a group on my own. Under the guise of `motion sickness`, I got my loyal Guna captains bringing me to a clinic (which fortunately was better than the previous one, see my blog `pissed`) and after a delightful shot in the bum and some powders of the shala (political and spiritual leader of the Guna community) I was good as new. Luckily this was so appreciated by the boss; `Sanne, a trip run so smoothly that none of the guests noticed that you're as sick as a dog, that deserves a holiday. Think of it as a work order, you are taking two trips off.`
And now .... in all the excitement, he had forgotten to stamp his passport into Colombia. Just before we had to board the boat to Necocli. He had quickly ran off to the migration office around the corner, but it was still early, and in Capurgana, people do not like early..... How many times I had assisted desperate tourists getting mister customs man out of his bed, so he comes down in his gracious SpongeBob pajamas to stamp a passport with some peso bills folded inside. Grant does not like this kind of practice. Grant loves honesty. But that doesn`t always work in this country. So I'm nervously waiting on the dock. Suddenly Grant comes around the corner with a passport in his hand. His face says it all. “He cannot do it now, something is wrong with the system. In Necocli there is supposed to be an immigration office where I can stamp in.” he says, still panting from his sprint. “I know nothing of an immigration office in Necocli. If you ask me this is just an excuse not to get to work.” I answer raising one eyebrow in the air. “It's all right, otherwise we go to Cartagena and I`ll get stamped in there.”
Once arrived in Necocli, there appeared, as expected, not be any office. Then just a quick bus to Cartagena. The most romantic and picturesque city in Colombia, located on the northern coast, so ah ... we should not complain.
Delightfully armed with a book in the hand, I parked my bottom in the bed. My social skills have played overtime during the last months, so I decided I behaved as antisocial as possible during this holiday. Grant is at the migration office in Cartagena. A good excuse to talk to nobody today. With plenty of food and drinks (within reach of the bed, so I don`t need to get out) I thoroughly enjoy my day. At the end of the day, Grant returned. Unfortunately without success. As he crossed the border at Puerto Obaldia (proof of this is unfortunately in his passport), he must stamp in within three days in Capurgana. Fortunately, one of the employees of the migration office was so helpful to call the office of Capurgana to get the story, but to no avail. Our great friend over there stood his ground and denied any fragment of the story. End result, Grants only option is to either return back to Carpurgana and get stamped in or pay a $200 US fine.
“Let's go out to dinner, mr. handsome. Let`s just emptied our minds and worry about all of this tomorrow.” I say with the most uplifting tone that I'm forcing over my lips. “But it's his responsibility!” Answered Grant frustrated, “He should pay for the fine, not me!” “I know honey, you're absolutely right, but that is how things work over here unfortunately. That's frustrating, but by getting frustrated you only disadvantage yourself. Mr. hypocrite in Capurgana will not wear his SpongeBob pajamas any different because of your frustrations.”
We walk past the front desk of the hostel and I see Deeps sitting, a former colleague of San Blas Adventures. “Hey Deeps, que mas?” I say. “Yeah goes well, tranquillo. How did you guys go with immigration today?” She asks with a typical receptionist smile. “Grant does not want to talk about it. Unfortunately, the visit was without any success.” We tell her the whole story. “But if you get stamped at the end of your vacation you`ll get a fine of $250. Whether you`re right or not. I do have a `friend` that can help you. A small tip required by you of course. He is a strange fellow, but he knows people here in Colombia, he'll get your passport stamped.” I glare curiously. “But you don`t know it from me. You won`t mention my name, nor the name of this hostel. You have received this number from someone of the San Blas Islands and you forgot the name.” We thank Deeps for the phone number and assure her that we will not give away any detail. We decide to put the issue aside and first enjoy the holiday.
Cartagena is stunning. We do a tour through the historic part of the city. The culture is mixed. The influences of the indigenous population, the Spaniards, and the descendants from Africa-derived slaves, everything is reflected in the architecture, art, music, dance and the scenery. We decide to leave the hip and vibrant Cartagena after a few days in exchange for a small remote village on the north coast. Here we literally walk from our hammock, to the sea, to our bed, to the shop around the corner, to the kitchen and back to the hammock again. Every afternoon, the locals play volleyball on the beach. An activity that get taken very seriously. Every mistake of a team member or a decision of the arbitrator shall be answered with a full-throated debate. In the beginning we were afraid it would lead into a slugfest, but we soon learned that this was simply part of the village culture. People seemed to have a lack of stress here, so every point of frustration was unleashed during daily volleyball sessions.
After a few days we had our batteries recharged and Arturo (the manager of the hostel) arranged a boat for us to `Casa en el Aqua`, which translates literally into 'House on the water.` Convenient, because in this way, it needs no further description. It is literally a house in the blue Caribbean Sea. Here we enjoy cocktails, nice conversations while being carried along by an air mattress and we do one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life. Snorkeling between bioluminescent plankton. The boats take us into the night towards the mangroves and one by one we dive into the water, armed with a snorkel. Immediately I'm in another world. My whole body is turned into a starry avatar. Around me I see other stars in the shape of human bodies swimming past. It's like I'm in the middle of the galaxy floating through the Milky Way. Like an uncontrollable child I start turning pirouettes in the water, I dive down, and up again. Everything to maximize the trail of stars I leave behind me. Suddenly my playing is interrupted my shouting’s from the distance. I pop my head above water and gaze in the darkness. The faint shape of the boat with everybody already in there appears. “Oops, sorry!” Quickly I swim back to the boat. After dinner, I quickly I crawl into my hammock and dream yet equally delicious more of these (literally) heavenly experience.
We go back to Cartagena. `Adelaide` are playing against Bulldogs this weekend, so excellent WiFi is essential. In addition, the pride had taken place for reality and we decided to contact Deeps` her mysterious friend for a stamp in Grant`s passport. “Hello? Is this Mr. Bauer speaking?” I ask once the phone is answered. “Yes….. that`s me. With whom do I have the pleasure?” I hear on the other side with a German accent. I introduce myself and explain to him our situation. “Who gave you my number?” He asks suspiciously. “Ow someone we met while working on the San Blas islands. His name I cannot remember, but he said that if someone in Colombia could help us, it would be you.” (Of the many things I learned during my trip, it's that men are extremely sensitive to a woman which rely on their help, so I thought it would be smart to throw out the final quote. It seemed to help, his voice changed from distrustful pride.) “Take a taxi tomorrow morning at 9:00. Dial my number on your phone and give it to the taxi driver. He will drop you of at my apartment. About the price, we negotiate tomorrow, but it will certainly be more favorable than the fine you otherwise have to pay.” I thank him and hang up. This is by far the most `dodgy 'that I have ever done in my life and (hopefully) will do .....
The taxi driver stops in front of an apartment complex. The doorman awaits us and shows us the door of `Mr. Bauer.` The door is already open and a white, small, long-haired poodle runs barking at us. Once inside, I spontaneously get a deja vu from my time at home care. The house is full of stuff, plants, old furniture and ornaments everywhere. “Take a seat!” Sounds from the kitchen. Seeking a spot among the stuff on the sofa and Mr. Barker the cuddling white poodle jumps next to me for a cuddle. Mr. Bauer shuffles into the living room. It reveals a severely obese man, born and raised in Germany and dressed in a long sun-bleached shirt, which he wears as a dress. As Grant and I take an immediate interest to the curious world we suddenly find ourselves in, Mr. Bauer obviously enjoys the fact that someone takes the time to listen to his stories.
An employee of the immigration office limps inside (identified by his outfit with the word `migracion` embroided on his breast pocket. Grant whispers, “that`s the guy that said he couldn`t help me the other week!” Mr. Bauer goes on in Spanish, not knowing that I can understand quite a bit. “Hey Michael, how are you?” Michel puts a plastic bag full of cigarettes on the table and listens attentively to Mr. Bauer, as he switches his gaze between me, Grant and his German friend. “I understand this is normally a costly affair, Michel, but please, let me remind you that next week a contact of mine that delivers lithium batteries at the harbor. They are worth a lot of money. I can make this couple very happy and would like to keep things polite.” Mr. Bauer continues in Spanish. I put my miss smile on and pretend I understand nothing of the whole conversation. 'Bueno` says Michel to Mr. Bauer “I was not here, I have nothing to do with their passport and officially they are stamped in Capurgana. If you explain that to them firmly, I`ll do it for $80.”
A few handshakes and $80 later, we leave with a stamped passport. `Herzlichen dank Herr Bauer!`. Mr. Bauer laughs and eagerly switches into German `If you ever need a friend, you are always welcome.`
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto