Back to Cartagena…and beyond


A few weeks ago, our daughter Megan asked us if we wanted to join her and a couple of friends on a week-long trip to the Colombia coastal destinations of historic Cartagena, the mountain village of Minca, and the beach town of Santa Marta. We said, why not? We’d done it before in the mid-‘80s when we led adventure tours to South America for several years.

When I mentioned this upcoming trip in April to a radio show host who had recently interviewed us, he wondered what we were doing going to such a dangerous destination. Actually, Colombia was far more dangerous in the ’80 at the height of the drug wars and the growing presence of FARC, an armed revolutionary movement. The drug trade still exists but more  low key, and the revolutionary group has finally made peace with the government after decades of fighting. In our tours, we never stayed anywhere for more than a few days before moving on or returning to the States, and we never had any problems—not in Cartagena, Bogota, Santa Marta, or the Colombian Andes (Boyaca).

The only place we did encounter some trouble was on one of our three trips into the Upper Amazon traveling from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru in a converted rubber boat. Interestingly, what happened to us also involved a fascinating and unlikely synchronicity.

Here’s the story.

Everything began well. We had a group of seven or eight people with us. The sleeping quarters we tiny and we had to double up, but it was an adventure. Each day we would take side trips in the rain forest with a local guide and we stopped in a couple of native villages. It was the third day of the trip and we were all below deck watching the movie, Fitzcarraldo, when we were nearly thrown from our seats as the ship hit something. It was the dry season, the river was unusually low, and we’d struck a sandbar. We were stuck, unable to move. Ironically and synchronistically,  it happened we were at the point in the movie where the rubber boat carrying Fitzcarraldo—which was also traveling in the Upper Amazon—struck a sandbar!

In the movie, the crew had to drag the ship through the jungle to another tributary.
Fortunately, we only had to get out of the boat and stand in waist deep water with the piranhas while the crew pushed the vessel off the sandbar. I recall it took at least a couple of hours. Fun times. No one was eaten by piranhas and no blow darts were shot at us from the jungle! Another synchro: our converted rubber boat was the sister ship of the rubber boat was used in the movie!

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2 Responses to Back to Cartagena…and beyond

  1. Darren B says:

    There is no way that you would have gotten me into that river voluntarily.
    I wouldn’t be able to stop wondering what was swimming around me as I was standing in that water.
    Sounds an interesting adventure, but not for me, I’m afraid (and I mean that literally, too).

    • Rob and Trish says:

      I think that at the point where we stood in water, there was more mud that water. I believe we were on the soggy banks, watching all this.

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