Diving and Driving

After Cartagena, we’d planned to drive into the mountains and spend a few days walking the Camino Real, a network of stone paths between colonial villages near Barrichara. Taylor did a bunch of research, and one of our friends sent us a very detailed email chronicling their experience a month or so before.

The Camino Real was one of those arbitrary goals we set for ourselves. It looked like a beautiful area and seemed like it would be a really great experience, hiking village to village on cobbles worn by hundreds of years of regional trade. We were also excited to gain a little altitude and get out of the stifling heat of the Caribbean coast.

Naturally, in true Running From Monday fashion, we changed our plans to something completely different only a day or so before leaving Cartagena. We’d planned another milestone months earlier for Honduras: finally getting our PADI Open Water SCUBA certifications. Our truncated timeline from Guatemala to Costa Rica though, didn’t leave us any time for diving.

We’d met several people in the recent weeks who raved about what great experiences diving had added to their own Pan-American trips, and we then learned that just a few hours up the coast in Taganga was one of the most popular places to learn SCUBA diving in South America. When we found out three days of training would be only $300 each; we decided to take advantage of our dwindling time near the warm waters of the Caribbean and spend some time below sea level instead of climbing to cooler weather above it.

Three days start to finish turned out to be pretty intensive, but it was nice to have a structured schedule again, if only for half a week. Our Chilean instructor Patricio and the whole staff at Oceano Scuba did an excellent, professional, (bi-lingual) job.

Each morning we’d arrive at the dive shop, coffee in hand, and go over the goals of the day. Then we’d all pad down to the docks in a motley assortment of half-donned wetsuits, swim trunks, and pearl-snap shirts before clambering into the boat and racing off to the morning’s dive site. We’d spend about 40 minutes in the water, just Patricio, us, and the sea life, then meet up with everyone else on the boat to have lunch under a private palapa overlooking the bay. The afternoon was filled with another dive, then the boat ride back, and finally video lectures accompanied by well deserved beers.

Our friends The Long Cruise even stopped by to share the tiny parking lot of our hostel with us, so each evening we’d cook and eat dinner together, and also help each other through the withdrawals we were all suffering after leaving our air-conditioned apartments in Cartagena.

Since our plans had changed, we were given another opportunity I thought we’d miss- The chance to drive a highly-recommended route to the top of Cerro Kennedy. I’d asked online a few weeks earlier for good 4x4 tracks in Colombia, and the road from Minca to the experiment station at the top of the 7500' peak was by far the most mentioned.

The “road” didn’t disappoint. Three hours of rutted, washed out, 4-Lo driving got us to a camp a bit after dark, where we found The Long Cruise had already made it! We shared one final dinner (for now) together, then convinced each other that a 4:45 am hike farther up the mountain to watch the sunrise was a good idea. It was.

Our drive down the mountain was just as long the next day. While we’d have loved to stay in the cooler weather above the clouds another night or two, we needed to get ourselves halfway across the country to Medellin. Our third visitor of the trip, my brother Jordan, was meeting us there in just a few days..