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    Archive for February, 2009

    Day 1.056 – The Beauty of the Pacific

    Saturday, February 28th, 2009

    Palmar Norte -> San Isidro de El General
    Distance (km) : 103
    Time on bike : 5h 42m
    Brutto time: 09.00 – 17.30
    Avg : 17.9 km/h
    Max.speed: 69.1
    Total (km) : 42.771
    Altitude: Ca. 500 m
    Difficulty: 3 of 5

    Breakfast with Enrique in Palmar Norte, Costa Rica.

    Bomberos Costa Rica...

    Me and Enrique, the fire fighter with the golden heart...

    At the fire station in Palmar Norte, CR.

    Near Tortuga Abajo, Costa Rica's Pacific coast...

    Beautiful Playa Uvita on Costa Rica's Pacific coast...

    La Vida Dulce! Playa Uvita on Costa Rica's Pacific coast...

    Tropical cycling in Costa Rica. Bird song's everywhere!

    Playa Uvita on Costa Rica's Pacific coast...

    Main square in San Isidro de El General

    San Isidro by night...

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    Day 1.055 – Bienvenido a Costa Rica!

    Friday, February 27th, 2009

    David (PA) -> Palmar Norte (CR)
    Distance (km) : 148
    Time on bike : 7h 16m
    Brutto time: 10.10 – 19.45 (Panama time)
    Avg : 20.3 km/h
    Max.speed: 55.0
    Total (km) : 42.668
    Altitude: 20 m
    Difficulty: 4½ of 5

    Brekkie at the Purple Hostel in Davíd, Panama...

    Fairly disgusting roadside decorations near the Costa Rican border...Panama, February 2009.

    Bienvenido a Costa Rica, WT-country #32...

    Rio Claro arvo drink stop - Costa Rica

    River Crossing, Costa Rica East

    2 m croc in river. Near Palmar Norte, eastern Costa Rica

    Sunset over the Pacific, near Palmar Norte - Costa Rica.

    Enrique, the fire fighter from Palmar Norte, Costa Rica, giving me a spin around the block in the massive machine...

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    Day 1.054 – A Brutal Heat & A Cool Aussie (UK)

    Thursday, February 26th, 2009

    W of Tolé -> David (hostel)
    Distance (km) : 96
    Time on bike : 5h 09m
    Brutto time: 07.15 – 14.45
    Avg : 18.6 km/h
    Max.speed: 83.6
    Total (km) : 42.520
    Altitude: 30 m
    Difficulty: 3 of 5

    Front yard camping at Ernesto in western Panama...

    I’ve only been awake for 90 minutes since I got off the bike last night, when – at 07.15 this morning – I say (or rather try to sign language communicate) goodbye to Ernesto, the kind campesino. Am sweaty all-over, crotch sore. Will spare you the details of the state of my bum…

    Lucky Luke in Panama...

    It’s another brutally hot day in western Panama…

    It was to be another superhot day cycling in the Panamanian, tropical lowlands...

    Tune of the Day: Come Inside – The Chemical Brothers

    Pork and beans straight from the can - a different brekkie!

    Am focused, concentrated, and professional again today. Conveniently enough, my thoughts and legs all want the same thing: Progress! And moving toward my Danish friend who’ll arrive in a few days in San José, Costa Rica – and finding internet in the town of Davíd for the first time since I left Cartagena, Colombia some 9 days ago…

    My way

    Smooth and uncomplicated cycling in western Panama...

    Countryside, Panama.

    In Davíd, I check into the Purple Hostal (yep, all is purple apart from the dog which is just rude!) and run into Claire, a really cool fellow-cyclist from Western Australia. Naturally, there are lots of good anecdotes from the roads to share (in a neon-lit, forlorn – but otherwise tasty – Chinese restaurant, of all places. Taste we do have) and it feels great to meet a like-minded after the mad cycling days lately…

    Unfortunately, we’re going in different directions on our bikes, but I do take a mental note of Claire’s plans about cycling around Australia in the future…

    Aussie Claire and I in a Chinese restaurant in Davíd, Panama...

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    Day 1.053 – Ernesto, es mi brother! (UK)

    Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

    Aguadulce -> 6 km W of Tolé (free camp)
    Distance (km) : 156 (!)
    Time on bike : 8h 0m
    Brutto time: 08.15 – 19.00
    Avg : 19.5 km/h
    Max.speed: 63.6
    Total (km) : 42.424
    Altitude: 100 m
    Difficulty: 4½ of 5

    Cemetery, Panama.

    One of today's many river crossings...

    The thinnest bike lane ever?

    Solitude...

    I’m thirsty pretty much all day. I drink and drink, but the sponges in my throat and stomach just keep drying up. It’s a long and hot cycling day, exactly 8 hours of pedalling, that ends beautifully in my tent under a great, Central American starry sky, in the frontyard of two local farmers, Ernesto (deaf-mute) and José (just a quiet man), who let me camp next to their wooden ramshackle house…

    Typical cycling along the Panam Hwy in Panama.

    Me, pre-noon.

    I see lots of beautiful indígenas kids in the small settlements in the minor mountains along the highway today here in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama.

    Me, post-noon (hothothot, i.e.!)

    Tune of the Day: Clark Gable – The Postal Service

    Spiky fella', not sleeping...

    Nice hills in western Panama.

    Free camping with local campesinos near Tolé, Panama.

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    Day 1.052 – Playa Coronado -> Aguadulce (pension) (UK)

    Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

    Playa Coronado -> Aguadulce (pension)
    Distance (km) : 118
    Time on bike : 5h 59m
    Brutto time: 07.10 – 15.30
    Avg : 19.7 km/h
    Max.speed: 60.3
    Total (km) : 42.268
    Altitude: 50 m
    Difficulty: 3 of 5

    Roadside delicacies. Panama.

    Tune of the Day: Freedom Rock – Frank Black (and a big thank you – again – to Miss Bird in Adelaide for that great Teenager of the Year album, back in November 2007. Mr. Black saved my day :-) )

    Flat cycling along Panamanian concrete blocks...

    Bush fire on the Panamerican Hwy, Panama.

    Bush fire on the Panamerican Hwy, Panama.

    Santiago, 35 degrees celsius. It felt more like 45 on the bike!

    Liquid intake of the Day: Approx. 12 litres

    Nicolai, tired.

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    Day 1.051 – The Canal + A Night at the Fire station (UK)

    Monday, February 23rd, 2009

    Panama City -> Playa Coronado (fire station)
    Distance (km) : 84
    Time on bike : 4h 08m
    Brutto time: 12.50 – 17.50
    Avg : 20.1 km/h
    Max.speed: 61.5
    Total (km) : 42.150
    Altitude: 20 m
    Difficulty: 2½ of 5

    It’s a full-on second day for me here in Panama:

    Pre-brekkie sightseeing (quick-and-dirty style) in Panama City’s partly dilapilated, partly charming Casco Viejo (old, colonial part of town)…

    Local bus to the Panama Canal (coffee and bread on-the-go), wondering at the engineering masterpiece – very impressive…

    Back to my room to fix my flat rear tire…

    Getting escorted out of town by two local police men on bikes (“Es muyyyy peligroso aquí, señor!“, they told me, though I didn’t see or feel any danger leaving Panama City – but I guess I/the escort made the cops feel more important doing their jobs…)

    A nice and mad afternoon 84 km stint on the bike…

    Setting up camp and crashing at the local fire station in Playa Coronado…

    Lots of sleep despite 28 night degrees Celsium inside the tent…

    Casco Viejo, Panama City...

    City bus in Panama City...

    The Panama Canal...

    The Panama Canal Railway...

    Constructing the Canal. From the Panama Canal Museum...

    Nicolai at the Panama Canal...

    The Panamanian Balboa which equals the Yankee dollar economy...

    These cool locals handed me an even cooler beer when I passed by...

    This is where all the delicious cashew nuts come from...And no, it's not actually a nut!

    On the road again! Hot cycling along the Panamerican Hwy in Panama...

    Upon leaving Panama City I got escorted by the local police for security reasons, on bikes too...

    Free camping at the fire fighters in Playa Coronado, Panama.

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    Day 1.050 – Cartí -> Panama City (hostal) (UK)

    Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

    Cartí -> Panama City (hospedaje)
    Distance (km) : 87
    Time on bike : 4h 32m
    Brutto time: 10.00 – 17.30
    Avg : 19.1 km/h
    Max.speed: 47.7
    Total (km) : 42.066
    Altitude: 3 m
    Difficulty: 2½ of 5

    Cartí Island, San Blas - Panama.

    Back to mainland Central America!!!

    Panama and my fifth continent on the trip so far...

    Difficult cycling in Panama!

    Muddy trails in Panama...

    Crossing of Rio Crocodilo, Panama. And yes, the river hosts crocs but that, I didn't know...

    Being back on the paved Panamerican Hwy east of Panama City makes me bubble and dance inside.

    Panama and North America, is my 5th and second last continent on the WT expedition.

    Great and hot cycling along the Panamerican in eastern Panama...

    In the shower in my hostel in downtown Panama City, I suddenly feel the post-effect of spending the last 5 days on a sailing boat. My inner equilibrium is screwed up as I try to get rid of numerous layers of sweat, sun screen and generally accumulated dirt from the last days on the boat. Having sea legs in the shower is funny…

    Local Panamanians splashing around on a Sunday afternoon...

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    Day 1.049 – A Cultural Injection

    Saturday, February 21st, 2009

    The crew on the boat trip from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama...

    Kuna family on Cayo Chichime, San Blas Islands.

    Cayo Chichime, San Blas Islands.

    Cayo Chichime, San Blas Islands.

    Kids on Cayo Chichime, San Blas Islands.

    Kuna people in a dug-out...

    The end of the weird airstrip on Porvenir Island, Panama.

    Porvenir Island - Panama. February 2009.

    Cartí, San Blas. February 2009.

    Cayos Chichime, San Blas Islands - Panama.

    The indígenas Kuna people of the San Blas Islands...

    Toilet in village Wichubwala - San Blas Islands - Panama.

    Handycraft in village Wichubwala - San Blas Islands - Panama.

    Village Wichubwala - San Blas Islands - Panama.

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    Day 1.048 – Cayo Chichime & The Golden Downer

    Friday, February 20th, 2009

    Cayos Chichime, San Blas Islands - Panama.

    Cayos Chichime, San Blas Islands - Panama.

    Guillermina and Toon (Belgium) on Cayo Chichime, Islas de San Blas.

    Sunset over the San Blas Islands, Panama.

    Sunset over the San Blas Islands, Panama.

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    Day 1.047 – Paradise found (UK)

    Thursday, February 19th, 2009

    If one photo says more than a thousand words…

    Then sixteen photos say it all…

    Cayos Hollandéses, Islas de San Blas, Panama.

    Cayos Hollandéses, Islas de San Blas, Panama.

    Cayos Hollandéses, Islas de San Blas, Panama.

    Sundog over the Cayos Hollandéses, Islas de San Blas, Panama.

    Lunchtime with the crew...

    The crew in the dingy...

    Kuna girls on Cayos Hollandéses, Islas de San Blas - Panama.

    Guillermina (Belgium) and I on Cayo Hollandés, Islas de San Blas.

    Dug-out on Cayo Hollandés, Panama.

    Kuna family...

    Kuna dress + puppy

    Hermit on San Blas.

    Nicolai, the Crusoe-wanna-be?

    Colours of San Blas...

    Sing-along around the bonfire...

    The bonfire...

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    Day 1.046 – Sea Legs (UK)

    Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

    I’m feeling seasick all day. Sleeping the day away seemed to be the only logical thing to do. Waiting for the San Blas Islands to appear, which finally happened after 33 nightmarish hours at sea.

    Never again, Nicolai, never again, I promised myself…

    Sleeping on the deck on the sailing boat...

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    Day 1.045 – Leaving South America

    Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

    The note that an Aussie sailor put up in the Club Nautico in Cartagena to try and help me get a boat ride to Central America...

    My bike all set for the cruise on the Sacanagem sailing boat to Panama...

    My bike on the Sacanagem sailing boat to Panama...

    Leaving Cartagena...

    Leaving Cartagena...

    Leaving Cartagena...

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    New Photo Album from Colombia…

    Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

    It’s been 38 days since I checked out of Ecuador and crossed the border in to Colombia, on January 9th.

    Tomorrow, February 17th, I’ll board the Sacanagem sailing boat – along with Brazilian Captain Federico and 11 other travellers – and leave mainland South America for the San Blas Islands and (on the 22nd) arrive in Panama, Central America.

    In a nutshell, Colombia has been a real highlight of my journey so far (scenically, gastronomically, socially), and I hope the photos in the album (slide show) below will illustrate why.

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    Day 1.044 – Before Leaving

    Monday, February 16th, 2009

    Apart from mentally and physically preparing myself for tomorrow’s departure, I spend a few hours with my laptop “at home” making a new video/mini movie: The Milestones.

    Tomorrow is the big day. Leaving Cartagena and South America by sailing boat, heading for Panama, Central America and continent number 5th on the bike. In the evening, I meet up with the captain, Brazilian Federico, and the 11 travellers that I’m going to Panama with. Exciting stuff.

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    New WT Movie: The Milestones

    Monday, February 16th, 2009

    Inspired by the link I posted the other day about a guy that’s photographed himself every day for 6 years, I’ve made my own WT mini movie, The Milestones.

    For the regular WT-reader, this might be old wine in new bottles.

    Nicolai (Cartagena, Colombia)

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    Day 1.043 – Jacuzzi and BBQ

    Sunday, February 15th, 2009

    I have been feeling extremely satisfied with pretty much everything here in Cartagena – for reasons stated earlier. Apparently, I’m not the only Dane feeling just like that…

    Satisfaction with Life Index

    It’s another great, great day on the island Barú with Janet and friends. Leaving this place will not be easy.

    The Summer House

    In the jacuzzi on Isla Barú, Colombia.

    "We don't fuck around with our barbeques" Janet doing magic at the BBQ on Isla Barú.

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    On Supporting WT – A Happy Project.

    Sunday, February 15th, 2009

    I got a comment today from Lisa in the US as a response to this diary entry.

    Because of it’s relevance to the WT-project, I’m posting the comment and my response:


    Hi N,

    Oh please, allow me to play armchair psychologist! Your naysayers are jealous of your good forture. This is psych 101: by putting others down in their up times, they feel better about their a) lack of drive; b) fear of the unknown; c) inability to make a plan and commit to it; d) sorry ass life; or e) all of the above.

    On a separate note, I do not know how many people send money to your project, but as I have mentioned to you before, if people who are viewing this link appreciate photography, art, architecture and/or going to museums, then they need to cough up a little cash to show some appreciation to the artist and hard work that goes into a project of this magnitude. I have wanted to say that for a while.

    All you people reading and viewing need to support this! It is art and beauty!! Let go of your jealousy and revel in the fact that someone is actually doing what you don’t have the cojones to do (not you, ladies).

    Enough said.

    Cheers,

    L

    …to which I responded:


    Dear Lisa…

    I love it when you sit down in that psychology chair of yours! Don’t move from it and please keep spreading your wisdom. :-)

    Just to clear out: My note about the (possible) WT-naysayer was based more on a personal feeling that some people might get tired of all the ever-positive blablahs.

    But what can I do, when this is how I perceive life, the things in & around me, and that’s how I want to represent it. Through my eyes. Unplugged and unfiltered (well, there might be a filter here and a deliberate omission there). ;-) I do hope that I manage to plant a few seeds of motivation and goodwill in the lands of doubt and hesitation.

    Curiously enough, my website is enjoying more hits now than ever. And the fact that WT gets around 10.000 hits a week these days, suggests that I should just forget about these ponderings and just keep rocking.

    Maybe the reason to this feeling is deeply manifested in me, and in the Danish psyche in general. Dunno. See this for more. But I never really liked or believed in that concept, the Janteloven (in Danish).

    Lisa, I appreciate (of course I do) your take on WT as a cause worth supporting.

    As for the supporters of the project, I do receive a lot of moral support, and for that I am very grateful and I quite literally couldn’t do without it.

    When it comes to the kind of support that gives me butter on the bread, as we Danes put it, the financial support that is necessary (and even more so now after I decided to extend WT with a whopping 2 years until 2010) for me to continue and see this 4-year RTW-expedition to an end, well, it leaves much to be desired, to be honest.

    Yes, it is a lot of work keeping WT up-and-running and I dare not think about the thousands (sic!) of hours I’ve spent nursing the WT baby since its conception in the winter of 2006. Yes, I am living my dream these years, and I do enjoy every single minute of it, but still, it’s a dream project that needs support.

    This is an egoistic solo project and I’m doing it for no one but myself, but since I’m sharing the adventure in words and visuals, I sometimes wish that the economical support was just a trifle more consistent with the effort that I put into it.

    Thanks for bringing it up, Lisa.

    Enough said! :-)

    Nicolai

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    Day 1.042 – A Pug & A Night Out

    Saturday, February 14th, 2009

    The Pug.

    Me, Paula, Janet, and Carlos in Cartagena...

    Cartagena night life...

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    Art

    Saturday, February 14th, 2009

    As you’d know, I’ve been taking a photo for every 1.000 km cycled on this trip.

    That’s nothing compared to this guy in the video below, Noah, who, for 6 years took a photo of himself, every day! It’s art as I see it. Check it out!

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    Day 1.041 – Would You Leave the Kitchen? (UK)

    Friday, February 13th, 2009

    I would fully understand if some of the WT-readers out there might have left the party due to all this “oh-life’s-great-and-I-feel-so-lucky” rubbish lately. I do understand.

    But I’m still keen on posting a) insights into (parts of) my WT-experiences, b) my takes on the world, and c) personal reflections, thoughts, perspectives. Be it in times of hardship or in times of living in a whirl of pleasures.

    I do sometimes wonder: Well, why do they (i.e. you, highly esteemed reader :-) ) care, Nicolai, if you did this or that, felt so and so? Up my arse.

    I do believe though, that if you don’t like the heat, you would have gone out of the kitchen years ago, wouldn’t you?

    Cartagena plaza by night...

    Tonight I meet up with my Swiss friend, Marc, that I met back in La Paz, Bolivia for the first time, and then later in Cusco and Lima, Peru last year. There’s a lot of catching up to do, and what better excuse for a row of beers…

    Nicolai with the massive 3L beer at the German beerstube in Cartagena.

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    From South -> Central America (and a map) (UK)

    Friday, February 13th, 2009

    Dear all,

    On Tuesday 17th of February 2009 I’ll be boarding the 50 foot yacht “Sacanagem” that will take me (and some 11 other travellers) from Cartagena, Colombia to Puerto Lindo, Panama (near El Porvenir). It’s a 5 day trip with the first 2 days sailing across the open Caribbean waters, then 2 days exploring, relaxing, snorkeling etc. on the San Blas Islands (politically and juridically part of Colombia, geographically closer to Panama), before hitting Panama (and Central America!) proper on the 5th day.

    I’m very excited about this boat ride.

    Am less excited about the outcome of my bowel shakings once we hit the open sea, which was really rough last week around Cartegena but seems to have calmed down considerably the last few days. Fingers crossed and sea sickness tablets packed. I’m not a strong sailor (Danish readers: see more here).

    I’m equally less excited about the 350 USD payment for the trip. I guess, that with all food, accomodation on the boat, transport included, the price’s not that bad. But it is a big chunk of my budget for this month nonetheless. Thank God I’ve been able to save on the expenses staying with Janet here in Cartagena.

    Some things – like breaking up with loved ones – will always be painful… ;-)

    Central America (and my 5th continent (as CA is part of the N. Amr. continent) in WT history) here I come!

    Nicolai

    (Click just below the map for a larger version)


    Vis stort kort

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    Day 1.040 – A Lost Cause (UK)

    Thursday, February 12th, 2009

    8 km dayride.

    It hasn’t rained in Cartagena since I got here 9 days ago. Full-on sun all day. Temperature is around 29-33º C during the day and doesn’t go lower than 26-27º C at night. Humidity is pretty high (around 75-85% according to the world-wide-weather), but the constant sea breeze makes it quite comfortable, even around noon. The Danish climate has so much to learn – but honestly, I think it’s a lost cause.

    Cartagena City Wall...

    Running out of sunscreen in February – when my fellow countrymen and -women back home in Denmark are experiencing white-outs and temperatures around 30º C lower than me here in coastal Colombia – is a funny thing.

    Tune of the Day: Hang Me Up to Dry - Cold War Kids

    My mom sent me this photo of their house – my childhood home until the age of 22 – today. Seeing the house, all dressed in white, again was quite emotional (there he goes again, the whimper) for me and filled with nostalgia and childhood memories.

    My parent's house (and my childhood ditto) in Middelfart, Denmark.

    I walk into town to do some errands. Sunscreen was one (and, being a real Nazi when it comes to finding the best bargain on the usual price/quality scale, it took me 5-6 shops before the Banana Boat SPF 30 was mine!) checking about the sailing boat to Panama another and slightly more important one. Turns out that 9 out of a maximum 12 people have already signed up for the boat ride scheduled to leave on Tuesday (in 5 days), so I get my passport copy fixed at “home” and cycle back to the hostal in town, pay my deposit to secure my seat on the boat.

    Looks like I’m finally going to Central America!

    Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

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    Day 1.039 – An Anthropological Insight (UK)

    Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

    My stay here in Cartagena has been an interesting, eye-opening insight into life at the other, exclusive end of the socio-economic continuumn than what I’ve been used to over the last nearly 3 years of low-budget roughing it through the world.

    We’re probably all familiar with the occasional urge to get away from it all (the comforts of western, modern life), to get out there, get down to basics, see those African mud hut villages or some indigenous people of some remote rainforest dwellings. At least I know the urge.

    Travelling by bike you do get to see many of these exotic, rarely-visited places. When travelling by public transport you tend to hop from one sight/city to the next, from one so-called highlight (according to the litterature) to the next.

    One a bike you actually spend most of your time travelling between sight/city A and sight/city B, which implies two things: 1) Travelling is a lot slower (surprise), and 2) you get a great eye-to-eye level feel of the places/countries you’re travelling through.

    After 1.040 consecutive days on the road, I’ve become very used to this sort of grassroots travel, and I’ve learned to feel comfortable in the most basic, Spartan settings, in the most rural/isolated places.
    Thus, my super comfortable de luxe days here in Cartagena with Janet and her family have turned all that I’m used to upside down, and the stay has provided me with an unforgettable glimpse into a life style that I find quite compelling and exotic.

    As a social anthropologist as well as a private person, all niches of life, life styles, humankind hold a distinct intrinsic interest to me.

    Tune of the Day: Butterflies and Hurricanes – Muse

    On the way to Isla Barú...

    Janet’s got some errands to do “on the island” (meaning her second house on Isla Barú) and I happily tag on to her knowing that it’ll be another great day on the water…

    The speed boat!

    Nicolai - in luxury.

    Because life’s not all just hedonistic, I go for a little run (8k) once we’re back in Cartagena in the afternoon. Legs are happy as puppies to get a bit of exercise again. Soles of the foot not so – my (new) sneakers turns out to be more of a show-off than a real sports shoe and the little run leaves me with a nasty + watery blister.

    Evenings here are mostly spent relaxing in the house, doing lots of internet stuff on my laptop, catching up with the world around me, chatting with Janet, Tony and Danny, looking at maps, reading the daily paper etc. It definitely has an element of routine (that my normal nomadic bicycle life is totally devoid of) and I do love it!

    Every minute of it…

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    Day 1.038 – The Mud Volcano (UK)

    Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

    One of the natural sights/highlights – as opposed to the colonial delights in the centre – on the tourist track here in the Cartagena area is the El Totumo Mud Volcano. Loads of tourbusses go every day, but I’ve become hysterically allergic to these animals these days, so I planned on going by public means yesterday.

    But since Janet hasn’t seen the volcano herself, and since the private chauffeur cum bodyguard, Ernesto is there anyway, and plainly because she’s a lovely person, she suggested we all go together today. No problem with me :-)

    Apart from a police speed radar tracking us down in the middle of nowhere (we weren’t even going that fast), the drive to the volcano some 50 km northeast of Cartagena is rather uneventful. I would have been furious at the speed ticket but all I ever saw/heard from the front seats was laughter and shoulder-shrugging.

    El Totumo - the strange mud volcano, 50 km NE of Cartagena - Colombia.

    The next few hours at the mud volcano are weird. Very weird. Next to an otherwise flat(ish) meadowy marshland this 15 m mud cone rises from the shoreline of Ciénaga de Totumo (Totumo Swamp). It’s a very exciting sight, and knowing that soon I’ll be swimming in the muddy crater of the volcano makes me excited as a dog in a slaughterhouse.

    The Mud Boy.

    Some different-looking species walking around…

    More mud people...

    El Totumo - the strange mud volcano, 50 km NE of Cartagena - Colombia.

    At the end of the slightly rickety staircase there are hordes of tourists splashing around in the mud. When most of them have gone, it’s our turn to get messy.

    On the top of El Totumo - the strange mud volcano, 50 km NE of Cartagena - Colombia.

    It’s hard to describe how the mud feels like. Temperature is luke warm, but what makes the experience weird is the texture and the gravity-defying nature of the mud. According to the local guys here, the “mud vent” goes an amazing 2.300 metres down below the surface of the Earth, but we’ll never find out as it is physically impossible to push yourself completely under the mud.

    Getting in the gravity-defying El Totumo mud volcano

    You sort of just sit or stand there in the mud, without touching anything below your feet (strange feeling, I tell you) you don’t sink, you can’t walk or swim in the clayey mud soup. All you can is relax – which is not hard, especially when the “official mud guys” start massaging you all over. Blissful.

    Me floating in the gravity-defying El Totumo mud volcano

    It was one of the weirdest experiences being in the mud volcano...

    Ernesto, Janet, and I (aka The Martians) on top of the El Totumo Mud Volcano...

    Ernesto, Janet, and I (aka The Martians) on top of the El Totumo Mud Volcano...

    After the mud show some ladies are waiting down by the water’s edge to give us a good wash down, pants off and all – agates submerged throughout.

    Muddy Me.

    I highly recommend the mud volcano experience to anyone coming this way. We all grab a quick and refreshing beer afterwards, it’s the full-package deal, mind you. The price of all this, I never really figured out as – you guessed it – Janet to care of that part. Being a WorldTraveller these days is both great fun and very easy on the wallet.

    Erosions near the mud volcano...

    Deadline’s coming up at the Danish paper MetroXpress that I’ve been writing travel columns for every fortnight over the last nearly 3 years. My writing motivation is not great tonight, I just feel like relaxing in my room with cable-TV and wifi, but I get cracking and around midnight I finally hit the Gmail send button.

    Lunch in Cartagena with Ernesto and Janet.

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    World Sunlight Map

    Monday, February 9th, 2009

    This is a live view of the sunlight in the world, as of 09FEB2009, 5PM Colombian time.

    Just click the link below…

    Asleep or awake?

    A world map showing current sunlight and cloud cover, as of Feb 09 2009 21:00 UTC.
    This is the hemispherical projection.

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    Day 1.037 – A different kind of slap in my face (UK)

    Monday, February 9th, 2009

    Though the adventurer inside of me is hanging to get to Panama and start spinning again – up through Central America – the news that the next scheduled sailing boat is (still) on 17th of February, wasn’t really all that bad when I called the Casa Viena Hostal, which is in contact with most boats going to Panama.

    Janet has made it clear to me that I’m welcome to stay as long as I please (and God bless her). That I have to “wait” for another week for my boat wasn’t a slap in the face at all, but more like: “Nicolai, we have to inform you that you have to extend your vacation in the most amazing surroundings until next Tuesday…”

    Think I can just about deal with that fate.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    It’s definitely less horse power today. I go for a long walk downtown, for a bit of sightseeing, soaking up the atmosphere of the Old Quarter of Cartagena.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Tune of the Day: A Lack of Colour – Death Cab For Cutie

    Plaza San Pedro Claver, Cartagena.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Inside the Cathedral of Cartagena.

    The colonial centre never fails to impress.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    The moon reaches its climax tonight and it sure does look fat and proud from Cartagena. It is my 36th fullmoon since I left Denmark in April 2006.

    Lunchtime for the working people in downtown Cartagena.

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    Day 1.036 – Speed boat + dream house (UK)

    Sunday, February 8th, 2009

    Today is going to be a(nother) day that’ll stick to my memo chambers for a long time. We’re going to Janet’s holiday house on nearby Isla Barú with her kids, Tony (14), Danny (18) and their girlfriend/friends.

    But first things first, so Janet and I go to the supermarket to get supplies for the day. And it (as everything else around here) is done in style. Extravagant style. In other words, a new Mercedes E320. The WT-reader will know that I’m a big fan of cats, tennis, and cars (in no particular order) and the little spin around the blocks give me the horse power fix for today (little did I know that this was just the HP beginning of the day).

    Shopping in Cartagenas in Janet's Mercedes E 320...Great stuff!

    This is where I’m staying in Cartagena. In style. All of the 6th floor is Janet’s.

    Edificio Casablanca - my comfy home in Cartagena, Colombia.

    A little later the private captain docks right next to the apartment and picks us all up in a brand new 38 foot speed boat with some amazing power underneath it: 2×250 HP Suzuki outboard engines. That’s a lot of muscles.

    The speedboat's ready!

    The photos here seem real enough, but most of today I was in this dreamy bubble that made it hard to believe that this was really happening, that I was actually cruising in the southern Caribbean in the coolest speed boat, under the fierce sun, with great friends and a totally untroubled heart.

    Heavy machinery! 2 x 250 Suzuki HP...

    (Cursor on the photos for that little text box pop-up, remember)

    Caño del Oro fishing village just 10 speed boat minutes from Cartagena downtown.

    Fuerte (fort) San Fernando at the Bocachica entrance to Bahía de Cartagena...

    A mi me gusta!

    Caribbean speed boat cruising!

    See if you can spot the location of the dream house here.

    The wonderful holiday house on Isla Barú.

    I go all wow-wow-wow for the first several minutes when we arrive after the 30 min boat ride over to the Isla Barú. It’s a truly amazing place Janet’s got here. Everything’s been taken care of, the details, the bigger picture, the rocks.

    The wonderful holiday house on Isla Barú.

    Back to the horse powers. Tony’s got his own little toy here. A Yamaha 700 ccm quad bike, and I don’t hold myself back when I’m offered a spin. It’s a devilish 4-wheeled power house. The power of my 2-wheeler doesn’t really compare. I guess I get a bit carried away when I see a signpost saying “Playa Blanca” that I happen to have read about.

    Me on the aggresive 700 ccm Yamaha Quad on Isla Barú, Colombia.

    Playa Blanca, Isla Barú - Colombia.

    A local guy tells me it’s 3-4 km down the dirt road, not too far, so I head off towards the beach. Turns out to be double that distance, but I finally get there, take my beach shots (it’s an awesome beach), and head back, thoroughly enjoying the power ride on the Yamaha.

    At the Playa Blanca, Isla Barú - Colombia.

    The wonderful holiday house on Isla Barú.

    In the afternoon we cruise over to a nearby coral reef and go snorkeling. It’s good to be back under water (last time was on Moorea in July 2008), though the visibility is not all that good, probably due to the brisky seas of the last few days. Impressive coral “heads”, sea urchins and some colourful fish (No names. I ain’t no marine biologist, sorry) is down there.

    The wonderful holiday house on Isla Barú.

    What have I done to deserve all this beauty/luxury/kindness
    , is a thought that pops up now and again during the day. The answer? Don’t know, but I will be back if I ever find out…Promise.

    Birthday gathering in Cartagena. And Jesus was invited as well...

    It was a full-on day for me with lots of sun, horse power, happiness, friends, food (the real stuff and the mind stuff) – most of the ingredients that make up a nice dream.

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    Diary updates…(UK)

    Sunday, February 8th, 2009

    In between sightseeing, joyful moments, boat cruising, chilling under the Colombian sun, and waiting for a sailing boat to Panama here in Cartagena, I’ve now filled in the 2009 gaps in the diary, with photos and text (Danish or English).

    Please take my hand…

    WT February 2009
    WT January 2009

    (The links above might take some time to load on slower connections. You can enter the most recent diary entries from the front page (just scroll down) and from there surf through the days, one by one, by clicking the appropriate links above the title of the day).

    Nicolai

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    Day 1.035 – Equus Caballus & Cabalgata in Cartagena

    Saturday, February 7th, 2009

    The luxury apartment complex where I’m staying with Janet here in Cartagena is equipped with swimmingpools, jacuzzi, a sun deck, and a little playground in the front yard that I use as a work-out station. Free and open-air training. Life’s not bad around here.

    Enjoying a bit of rays at the pool area. Castillogrande, Cartagena

    In honour of the Virgen de la Candelária, los cartageneros – the people of Cartagena, obviously – annually celebrate the Cabalgata, which is a long and carnivalesque parade with around 600 cowboys on horses, 130 horsecarts and some 80.000 spectators, according to the news.

    Cabalgata in Cartagena.

    Cabalgata in Cartagena.

    Cabalgata in Cartagena.

    The parade goes from the naval base just a few hundred metres from “my” apartment and all the way into town, some 4 km in total. It goes without saying that this is the biggest conglomerate of equus caballus I’ve ever seen. Pretty animals. Horses.

    Cabalgata in action in Cartagena.

    The city of Cartagena de Indias has a few monikers, some of which are (from Wikipedia):
    - The Heroic City
    - The Door of the Americas
    - Capital of the Caribbean
    - The Mother City
    - The Walled City
    - The Key of the West Indies
    - The Fort of the Kingdom
    - Best Fortified City of the Americas


    The City That You Don’t Really Wanna Leave
    , isn’t one of them, but it would be, if I ruled the place.

    Cowboy details.

    El Vaquero and Janet in the kitchen (below). The sombrero vueltiado was a present I got today from Janet. Kindness abounds.

    Me (with the sombrero - a  present from Janet) and Janet in the kitchen...

    …and to top off the day:

    Desert of the week! Janet's waffle with the works...

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    Day 1.034 – La Bellezita (UK)

    Friday, February 6th, 2009

    Last night at the Cartagena Film Festival inauguration I was introduced to Giannina, a 25-year old lawyer (a very pretty one at that). We talked and talked, and somehow I lost my focus on all the glamour and the film festival things around me. Sitting this close to La Bellezita had a certain impact on my otherwise steady heartbeat. Mind racing, but trying to keep it cool.

    Castillogrande (quarter) in Cartagena.

    Through the God-blessed Facebook we set up a coffee deal later today. Meanwhile I go for a walk around the neighborhoods, the nice and kind of posh Castillogrande and Bocagrande, with bubbling summer feelings inside (it was another hot and sunny day here in Cartagena ;-) ).

    Mobile bakery in Cartagena.

    Giannina and her (surprise) friend Victoria pick me up at 5.30 pm and take us downtown for a nice walk in the old town that looks even more beautiful at dusk.

    Victoria and Giannina in sepia Cartagena

    Tune of the Day: A Lack of Color – Death Cab For Cutie

    Me and Giannina in Cartagena...

    Teatro Heredia, Cartagena - Colombia.

    Cartagena's Cathedral.

    Government building in Cartagena.

    Street performers at the Parque Bolívar, Car

    Cartagena's Cathedral by dusk...

    Later the three of us grab a few drinks at a bar/resto next to Parque Bolívar. The evening breeze is soothing just as the company of my new Colombian friends. Jorge, Giannina’s fiancée (yeah, that was a heartbreaker for me too :-) ) join us later for a drink and a chat before Giannina drives me home to Castillogrande.

    Having a stubby at the Monte Cristo Bar with Vitu and Giannina. Cartagena - Colombia. February 2009.

    Cartagena night street scene...

    At home, Janet and her friend Paula, await me with some killer mojitos and good times. A few drinks later we grab a taxi to the city and find a bar/disco that quickly gets packed. Unsurprisingly, they all love the latina tunes here (me not so much), but it’s a fine night nonetheless – and I actually venture on the dance floor for a few not-so-hot-and-groovy moves.

    Applause please!

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    Day 1.033 – A Convent, a Castle, a Dinner, and Chaplin’s Daughter (UK)

    Thursday, February 5th, 2009

    Phew, that’s a lot of photos for today. No room for words. Gotta put 2+2 together to figure out how the day was. Ernesto, the private chauffeur took me to the Convento de la Popa and the fortress Castillo de San Felipe – both highly recommendable places just outside the city walls of Cartagena.

    The evening photos are from the inauguration of Cartagena’s Int’l Film Festival – where I met (but didn’t speak to) Jane Chaplin, the daughter of the good ol’ Charlie…Funny, that. Like father, like daughter, is all I can say.

    Plus from a delicious and extravagant dinner with Janet at the San Pedro restaurant in a beautiful colonial building in the old part of town. I’m being spoiled like there was no tomorrow here in Cartagena. And I must admit that I could very easily get used to all this… :-)

    Anyway, here goes my day…

    Bailey, the Pug...

    "My" bathroom in Janet's (my host/friend) great Cartagena apartment...

    "My" room...

    Me and Ernesto, the private chauffeur...

    Cartagena from Convento de la Popa.

    Convento de la Popa, Cartagena.

    Altar at the Convento de la Popa, Cartagena.

    Convento de la Popa, Cartagena.

    Convento de la Popa, Cartagena.

    Convento de la Popa, Cartagena.

    The Zapatos Viejos Monument in front of the Castillo de San Felipe. Cartagena, Colombia.

    Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    Bandera colombiana at the Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    Subterranean passages under the Castillo de San Felipe.

    Me at the Castillo de San Felipe, Cartagena.

    View from the 6th floor apartment where I stayed in Cartagena, Colombia.

    Me and the India Catalina - the local "grammy" award at the Cartagena Int'l Film Festival...

    Janet and I at the superb Restaurante San Pedro, Cartagena.

    Interior at the superb Restaurante San Pedro, Cartagena.

    Heaven at the Restaurante San Pedro, Cartagena.

    My friend Janet (centre) and Jane Chaplin (right, daughter of Charlie) in Cartagena, Colombia.

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    Day 1.032 – Turbo in Cartagena (UK)

    Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

    It’s still hard for me to realize what kind of a place I’ve come to here in Cartagena. I’ve got my own supercomfy de luxe room with a bed that dreams are made of, ceiling fan (+A/C if I fancy), view of the Bahía de Cartagena, a big bathroom (with a shower head that has 144 shower nozzles) the size of the low-budget rooms I normally stay in, Sony flat screen with cable, wifi, and great company in Janet and her sons, Tony (14) and Danny (18) (daughter Natalia is doing an exchange in Switzerland).

    The great view from "my" 6th floor apartment in Cartagena.

    Maris & Miledis, the house maids, have the breakfast ready even before I realize the hungry spot in my stomach. It’s all pretty overwhelming to me, the transition from roughing it on the roads to this sheer 5-star luxury, and (again) I find it little hard to fully express my gratitude, but I’m sure Janet understands.

    Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Cartagena - Colombia.

    Ernesto, Janet’s private driver/handyman/friend, drives us into town where I’m dropped off in the centre of Cartagena’s Centro Histórico – armed with all my electronic gadgets and an appetite for getting to know this city that’s claimed to be the prettiest in all of South America.

    Museu de Oro (Gold Museum), Cartagena.

    Parque Bolívar, Cartagena.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    My thongs/flip-flops are turbo-driven over the next 5 hours and flip-flop me through most of the sights in the old quarter of town. And yes, it is an incredibly beautiful city, Cartagena.

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Cartagena's City Wall...

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Cartagena's Centro Histórico...

    Marley chilling...

    Las Bóvedas, Cartagena.

    Statue in front of Iglesia de Santísima Trinidad, Cartagena.

    Statues in front of Iglesia de Santísima Trinidad, Cartagena.

    Avenida del Arsenal, Cartagena - Colombia.

    When I later pass a sastrería (tailor) I ask the maestro if he can fix my torn/worn pants on the spot. No problem and so we settle on a fair price, I strip, he does his job, and I leave the shop 15 minutes later with 3 holes less in the butt of my beloved pants.

    The local tailor fixing my worn pants in Cartagena...

    The local tailor fixing my worn pants in Cartagena...

    I pop in at the Casa Viena Hostal where the owner Hans (Austria) has contact to most of the sailing boats that regularly take travellers from Cartagena to Panama, thus passing the roadless wilderness of Dárien on the Colombian/Panamanian border.
    I want to know approx. when the next boats will be leaving. Bad news is that the next scheduled boat will leave around the 17th of FEB which is a bit late to my liking since I’m going to meet up with my good friend from back home on the 1st of MAR in Costa Rica. Good news is that an additional boat might rock up depending on demand.

    Museo Naval del Caribe, Cartagena.

    Late in the day, my feet are not nearly as enthusiastic and happy and they convince me to take a city bus back to the Castillogrande neighborhood where I’m staying – some 3 km south of the Old Town.

    Cartagena city bus.

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    Day 1.031 – San Juan -> Cartagena (private luxury)

    Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

    San Juan -> Cartagena (private luxury)
    Distance (km) : 98
    Time on bike : 5h 02m
    Brutto time: 09.15 – 15.00
    Avg : 19.5 km/h
    Max.speed: 70.1
    Total (km) : 41.956
    Altitude: 6th floor apt.
    Difficulty: 2½ of 5

    Text to come…

    Dry and tropical vegetation south of Cartagena - Colombia.

    The crossing of the Canal del Dique, just south of Cartagena - Colombia.

    The crossing of the Canal del Dique, just south of Cartagena - Colombia.

    Rural settlement at the Canal del Dique - Colombia.

    Nicolai just after arrival in Cartagena!

    View from the 6th floor apartment where I stayed in Cartagena, Colombia.

    Our giant neighbour next door!

    Night view from the 6th floor apartment where I stayed in Cartagena, Colombia.

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    Day 1.030 – Sincelejo -> San Juan (hotel)

    Monday, February 2nd, 2009

    Sincelejo -> San Juan (hotel)
    Distance (km) : 102
    Time on bike : 5h 22m
    Brutto time: 09.15 – 16.00
    Avg : 18.9 km/h
    Max.speed: 73.6
    Total (km) : 41.858
    Altitude: 50 m
    Difficulty: 3½ of 5

    Boys riding a donkey...

    Rural housing in northern Colombia...

    Cooling myself off!

    Rain water really can wreak havoc!

    Nice and hothothot cycling in northern Colombia, south of San Juan.

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    Day 1.029 – My Own Private Mr. Wet T-shirt Contest (UK)

    Sunday, February 1st, 2009

    Planetarica -> Sincelejo (hospedaje)
    Distance (km) : 121
    Time on bike : 5h 52m
    Brutto time: 09.30 – 17.00
    Avg : 20.3 km/h
    Max.speed: 65.3
    Total (km) : 41.756
    Altitude: 200 m
    Difficulty: 3 of 5

    Planetarica local...

    Nothing too much to enlighten the beloved WT-reader about today. Another fairly long day at the office. It’s hot and humid and sweaty and my chin drips like if it’d had a leak.

    Hot 'n humid cycling north of Planetarica, northern Colombia.

    I didn’t manage to withdraw money from the local ATMs in Planetarica this morning (Planetarica obviously meaning Rich Planet, but the place’s not rich enough to hand out some much needed Colombian pesos this morning). Have got only 30.000 pesos (14 USD) left and more than 300 km to Cartagena, so I have to rely on people’s kindness or hope that luck is on my side in Sincelejo later today. Not too worried about it…

    Nice cycling in northern Colombia.

    Before I left Planetarica this morning I had my own private Mr. Wet T-shirt Contest in my hotel room. It’s so offensively hot here in the tropical lowlands and wetting my head and cycle shirt keeps me cool(er) for the first half hour.

    Desperate trees

    Over the last 23 cycling days since Máncora in northern Peru, I’ve clicked 2.400 km, primarily the mountaneous variety. On a roll. Feels good.

    Landscape's getting dryer as I get further north towards the coast. North of Sincelejo, Colombia.

    A rest. Sincelejo, Colombia.

    Sincelejo cathedral.

    Sincelejo night food stalls...

    Sincelejo night food stalls...

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