Day Zero

April 20, 2010

We begin our journey to Colombia today.

We discovered that with a 2-week or longer stay, it’s actually cheaper to spend the night in one of the airport hotels and leave the car in their lot. So we’ve left a day early. The result has been an extraordinarily mellow first day of travel.

We both had our hair cut today. It’s normally Barb’s day off, but she was a total sweetheart and fit us both in. We took our time cleaning up the house and packing — though Marta has been packed for several days — and got on the road by about 3:00 p.m. We stopped at the big Mall at 144th street, and had our dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery. It’s now barely 8:00 p.m., and we’re snug in our hotel room, settling in for an early rise at 5:00 tomorrow.

We’ll be with Marta’s family for two full weeks, arriving the evening of Wed, April 21, and returning home the evening of Thursday, May 6.

The ease of travel in this decade never ceases to amaze me. A few hours’ flight will take us to Miami, Florida, and only three more hours will carry us across the Caribbean and deep into the tropical mountains of Colombia.

What a grueling adventure this would have been century ago! A horse-drawn carriage would have brought us to a train stop, and trains would have taken us east and eventually south, probably to New Orleans. There we would have caught a steamship that would have stopped at ports-of-call throughout the Caribbean until it at last put in somewhere on the northern coast of Colombia, perhaps Cartagena. According to at least one source on the web, Colombia has never had many trains, so we’d have taken carriages, carts, and burros all the way to Medellin, high in the mountains. The trip alone would have taken weeks in each direction. We could not have contemplated such a journey without devoting months to it.

Tomorrow, it will take us only eleven hours, most of that spent waiting in an airport.

The areas we will be visiting, along the line between Medellin and Cali, are on Central time (same as Chicago), so at least we won’t be coping with jet lag. We’ll be at high altitude the whole time: Medellin is around 7000 feet, and Cali is around 3000. Since it is now rainy season, temperatures are in the 80’s in the daytime, and drop to the 50’s at night, with daily rainstorms. Since temperatures in Fort Collins have only occasionally made it above the 50’s this last week, we’ll be feeling very tropical, while the locals will be bundling up and complaining of the cold. We arrive at Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, and work our way south through the following days.

My Spanish is still ghastly, though Marta and I have been conversing very simply at dinner in Spanish to prepare me. I expect to mostly nod, smile, say “Por favor” and “Gracias” a lot, and occasionally shake my head and say, “No entiendo, la cabeza esta vacia… vacia… vacia….” I will probably omit the echo effects.

No photographs yet, though the first touch of green is furring the branches of the trees and the high plains are once again returning to life. To eyes that have been starved of the color green for months, it seems very beautiful. Colombia will be a shock.

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