Wow. The last 48 hours have been a struggle. We spent most of them running around DC, taking care of the things that need taking care of when you're leaving home for a year, and trying to put our lives in storage. Last night we asked some friends to come to a send-off happy hour, and as we headed out for that, finally starting to feel confident that we'd be able to get everything done, and perhaps even manage to get some sleep before our 4:30 am departure time, we started to feel a bit queasy. We said our goodbyes and headed home to do the final packing, and we began feeling progressively worse. To save you all the gory details, some fluids were expelled, and we found ourselves unable to sleep under nasty fevers, complete with cold sweats, chills, and muscle aches. Did I mention we were sleeping on an air mattress?
Somehow we pulled ourselves out of bed at 3:00 am to finish the chores we were unable to complete the night before, somehow we got everything packed, everything stored, the last thank-you notes from wedding gifts written, and got in the car to go to the airport. Some googling from the car found the likely candidate for the cause of our sickness to be the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine we had received the day before.
Upon arrival at the airport, we were greeted with another surprise: the ticket agent would not give us our boarding passes to Cartagena without proof of onward travel out of Colombia. We had read about this restriction in our research; it is employed by some countries to ensure that passengers with one-way tickets are not trying to immigrate illegally, but all of the people we talked to who had completed long trips like ours had said it wasn't something to worry about. Our original plans called for bus travel out of Colombia, which we could not prove, and could not buy in advance, so we stepped out of line, fired up the netbook, and bought a pair of refundable Colombia-Ecuador plane tickets that we may or may not use. Upon showing the Spirit Air ticket agent our newly-purchased proof of onward travel, she promptly asked, "Quito--what's that? Is that another country?" Sigh. We're hoping this proof of onward travel requirement is only really enforced when flying into a country and that things are more lax when busing across a border.
That hurdle out of the way, we were finally able to get on the two planes that would take us to Cartagena. These flights were a bit of a blur; we slept in the uncomfortable economy seats and struggled to recover from our still very present fevers.
Once we landed in Cartagena, things went very smoothly: the immigration line moved quickly, our checked bag wasn't lost, we had no problems with customs, and soon we were in a quick cab ride to our lovely hotel. We spent our first 18 hours in recovery napping to the sounds of local music in the park and the occasional horse-drawn carriage that walks by. Today we woke up feeling like human beings again, had breakfast on the patio, walked around the city, and read by the pool. The exciting reality that we're actually on the road, that our lives for the next year will be spent in hotels and hostels, on buses, and walking around foreign cities, is finally starting to sink in.