Wheels Down Cartagena

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.


9 responses to “Wheels Down Cartagena”

  1. Love it . . . very excited for you guys! I can’t wait to hear more!

  2. Carolyn Avatar

    I’m so excited for you too! What a great opportunity and so glad you guys are doing it.

  3. Glad y’all arrived safely and are feeling better! And I hope you plan to extend the honeymoon portion to make up for those lost 18 hours of fancy eating and relaxation!

  4. I am shocked you had to worry about onward travel for Colombia. I think the only time we were explicitly asked for it was when we applied for our Bolivian and Brazillian visas. I didn’t even realize there was a requirement for Colombia. Regardless enjoy Cartegenia and all of Colombia, it’s a great country and the people are super warm.

  5. Stupid Spirit Air — no experience in other countries. They enforce a rule no one down there would ever think of enforcing.

    The only country I’ve seen or heard of enforcing the proof-of-exit required rule is Costa Rica, and there it’s a just scam for the Tico bus company. You’ll be fine. Remember, a $20 bill will probably take care of the problem if it comes up again 🙂

  6. You guys are real troopers! Things will only get much better from here….so glad you recovered and are finally starting to experience it all…crossing my fingers I’ll get to meet up with you guys at some point. Can’t wait to read more about your travels and live vicariously through you! Much love….Joyce

  7. Quito?!?!? Hillarious, I’m sure the trip will get much better. I can’t wait to keep up with your travels. Safe trip you two – also, I second Yochi “American $” in general goes a long way.

  8. sarah b Avatar
    sarah b

    oh my goodness! i am so sorry to hear you were sick right before you started off! 🙁 but hopefully now you’re back on track and enjoying things properly! looking forward to reading the ol’ blog…

  9. […] for the trip was a bit more difficult than we expected (especially the last 24 hours — fevers, vomiting, and no sleep on our last night were not how we wanted to send ourselves off!). It wasn’t necessarily stressful, but the months beforehand were filled with endless to-do […]

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