I spent three weeks in Cali, in total. I didn’t leave for home on the 5th of February as planned; for reasons I can’t be bothered to get into (I’m a knob), I moved my flight home back a week, to the 12th of February out of Bogota.
Our little boat moored one hour upriver from Leticia. The opposite bank of the river is Peru, and that’s where we climbed ashore. From the boat, we had to climb a muddy series of ladders to get up the bank. Alain (the Goblin) told us this was because the river, in its eternal ebbs and flows, was currently eroding this bank and depositing the silt on the other side; one collapses, the other widens into a new sandbar. With heavy rains recently, each day new great chunks of the bank were crumbling into the river, taking with them entire trees, and eventually, people’s homes.
I was nervous when I woke up. I lay on my bunk and thought about the ten thousand things that might go awry in the jungle. Bites, parasites, broken bones, falling branches, plus a thousand other horrors I couldn’t even fully form drifted through my mind. When I’m scared I always tell myself the same thing: this is what an adventure feels like. This is part of it. You can never be sure of what will happen. Do it anyway.
On my last day in Cartagena I was out having breakfast with my friend Elo in a square splashed with warm Caribbean colour. We were sitting in the sweltering shade outside a cafe, and had just finished our food when a young American man came and sat at the table beside us with a sigh.
I arrived in Cartagena in the early afternoon. The outskirts of the city are tall white apartment buildings, a bit too Miami for me, but further in is the old town, surrounded by an ancient stone wall. My bus dropped me outside the walls, so in the afternoon heat I meandered between tall vacation apartment towers and beneath the great stone gate leading to the old town.
A hungover-looking Juan picked me up in the jeep after a shower and breakfast (rice, arepas, plantain) and we drove deeper into the desert. The first day of the tour was, to be sincere, a load of old dicks. The second day was much better. Well, better might not be the word. Mystifying is more like it.