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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just another day in Colombia

We had an adventurous day here in Colombia today.

Eric and I started out by taking a survey of the area outside the channel. We're anchored in, or very close to, a navigation channel near the Coast Guard station here in Tumaco. The Port Captain has said that we can't really stay where we're anchored, but since we are no longer going ashore at the CG station (it's restricted) no one has come out to remind us that we should move. It looks like there's plenty of depth available east of the channel so we can move there and still be in visible range of the CG station. There's something very comforting about half a dozen olive drab Boston Whalers with 50 caliber machine guns mounted on them.

Next, Eric and I checked out our landing possibilities. Since we can't use the CG dock we checked out an old tuna cannery. There is a rusty old staircase leading up from the water, and a rusty old boat tied to the pier. The rusty old staircase held my (John's) weight long enough to get me to the top to find a rusty old locked gate. A smaller person could fit through the hole in the rusty old fence, but since the hole was surrounded by rusty old barbed wire we decided to check out the rusty old boat.

Eric managed to get aboard the boat (no easy feat since the deck is 5 feet off the water) to see how to get from the boat to the pier. It turns out you have to straddle a 4 foot high rusty steel wall, put your foot in a rusty hole at the base of the wall, then step onto a rotting old piling and then step across about 4 feet of empty space to the pier. Oh, I forgot to say the piling and pier and rusty wall with the hole is about 20 feet above the water. Definitely no OSHA requirements here.

We checked out other landing places, mostly muddy sloughs with houses built on stilts on either side and decided we couldn't trust leaving the dinghy in one of these neighborhoods. That and the fact that we'd have to walk through the mud. So the boat it was. We went back to Nakia and Sarana to collect the girls and take them ashore 'in style.' Sherrell got across okay and Linda made it after a little coaching. Then it was off to the beach restaurants for lunch and our first taste of Colombian beer. Well worth it.

We hopped a bus into town. Linda, Eric and Sherrell went to the super market and I went down the commercial street to price outboard motors. Finding that outboards cost about the same in Colombia as in the States I headed back toward the super market, checking the other shops as I went. I was in a plastic house wares shop when a woman ran down the street screaming. The shop owners looked at each other and madly started closing the steel doors to the shop. They were dragging stacks of buckets into the shop and things were piling up so I started moving stuff too. If they were that serious about being inside the shop when whatever was coming got there I sure wasn't going to go out on the street - I was going to help them barricade all of us in the shop. They got one of the steel doors closed and seemed to calm down a little. I asked what was happening and the best I could piece together was that a band of protesters were marching the streets and these bands can turn into looting mobs very quickly. It's best to put some steel between you and them if you can. Great, here I am in a plastics shop with Linda, Eric and Sherrell in the super market. I didn't remember exactly how far it was to the super market or if I could make it there before the protesters arrived, but the shop owner seemed calmer and assured me that it was only a block or two and I would be safe to go that far. I quickly walked to the market to find the last of the steel doors starting to close. I got in at the last second and they closed the door behind me. Then... nothing happened. No mob, no protesters, not even a police car. We bought our stuff and they opened the steel doors for us to leave. Actually this is what was happening when I got into the super market, they were letting someone out. We walked down the street to an internet cafe to surf for a while, the steel door partially down and at the ready. When we were done we asked about a bus, but they weren't running because of the protest so we caught a cab back to the pier.

The last adventure of the day was to get back across to the rusty old boat and down into the dinghy. After the threat of facing a looting mob this seemed pretty benign. The worst part of the day was having to clean out the rusty flakes that had rained down from the rusty old boat and into the dinghy.

John and Linda