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November 17th, 2010 - Stuck in Colombia

First I would like to thank James South, Lynn Minthorne, Gregory Quinn, Rich Jordan and Ahti Peura for their support and generous donations. You guys are part of this expedition as much as I am, and to this day I’ve been amazed by your support and generosity and humbled by your selflessness. Big corporations have not shown us much love, as apparently feeding little kids is not their business idea, so we’ve relied on public support to carry on our mission.

I’ve personally invested everything I had in this non-profit organization, and if I find a penny on side of the road I still put it towards the cause. But one man’s wallet is not big enough to take on a project like this effectively (Bill Gates is a rare breed). Thanksgiving is in a few days and while the times are still tough for many back in United States, you’d be amazed what your spare change could buy for the kids down here. I’m not asking for anything for myself, I’m just asking you to consider making another family in need happy with a spare dollar bill that won’t buy you anything in US. Enough begging now, let’s get to the story.

Tuesday morning found us aboard a short and uneventful flight on the COPA Airlines, from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia. You can either take a boat or fly from Central America to South America. The boat ride is around $250 depends on the captain, and the airfare is somewhere around the neighborhood of $300. Since we were told that the container will get to Cartagena in 3 days, we took the short 40 minutes flight rather than going on a 5 day long ocean journey (big mistake). From the second we came out of the airport, I was relieved to see countless motorcycles, all in the 125cc range whizzing around, because at least I could find bike parts in this town. We settled just across the peninsula from El Centro in the Manga district in an apartment that Claudio rented and were glued to the balcony every night watching the spectacular sunsets across the water.

It soon hit us that our stay in Cartagena wasn’t going to be as short as we thought, as the container never made it on the ship in Panama as scheduled. Cynthia and I had taken just our laptops and one change of clothing each as we had anticipated arriving in Cartagena and getting our things from the boat in a few days. As Claudio likes to say, we were living in hope, and that lasted for 17 days. We were stuck in Cartagena.

Even though we had more time in beautiful Cartagena, we didn’t go around as much as one would think. This is in large part because we aren’t on vacation, but are on a volunteer mission which involves endless hours of work between the two of us, and also, because we simply don’t have the money. We did enjoy walking around the Centro (the historical walled old city) at night a few times, and had a chance to explore the Spanish Castle, the largest standing Spanish fort in South America after asking for a reduced rate to get in. Best of all, I got to do my favorite activity in the world, going all over the city hunting for bike parts.

Since I broke the turn signal switch in Nicaragua, I set out to find another and I lucked out. I bought a new signal-light-horn combo switch from another bike for $12 USD. It has an on/off for the headlight, and it’s built like a tank. The downside was that it had 16 wires coming out of it with no instruction, and it took 2 hours with a multimeter to figure out what was what. I also bought two new marker lights $1.50 each, two spare relays, spare clutch cable (just the cable), two new tubes for the tires and a new H4 lamp for the headlight as the Chinese lamp I bought in Panama was absolute crap. I could do nothing with all this stuff since the bike was still missing somewhere on the Pacific Ocean. So we waited and waited and waited some more.

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