Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day 2 in Paradise

Angie's photographic tour of the kitties of South America continues...

After a less than restful nights slumber, we walked down a muddied track to another campsite. The trail was littered with horse manure and holidaying Colombians- enthusiastic dads trailing sweating, fed-up mothers swarmed by screaming, skinny children. Interestingly, a large proportion of the womenfolk here were struggling under the load of humourously bulbous breast implants, apparently all the rage in this corner of the world. On arrival, a tent metropolis nightmare greeted us. Going to one of Colombia’s premier tourist magnets in the middle of the Christmas holidays was proving to be a foolish caper. Acres of garish domes were dropleted beneath the loaded coconut palms, little blotches of psychedelic dermatological oddities on the face of the goddess Venus. Paradise was overbooked.

We set up our tents in a tight spot next to an extreme case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Our neighbour, middle-aged and obviously a member of the finance community, had created a perfectly symmetrical campsite of meticulous harmony. The centrepiece was large blue dome tent with orange trim, which set the colour scheme for the rest of the temporary masterwork. A pair of colour-coordinated camp chairs mirrored each other on each side of the tent, while matching thongs stood precisely aligned at the door. To properly define the frontiers of his plot, a ring of coconuts sat in a semi-circle, in an alternating pattern of green and brown spheres. The dual gateway into the compound was signified by a break in the ring of coconuts, which were replaced by lines of white sand, signifying the exact locale of the threshold. A decorative candle and some vertical stakes formed a centrepiece and midpoint of symmetry, as well as providing the visual proclamation that this was a place of aesthetic order, a world apart from the disarray that lay beyond the thin line of beachsand and fruit. When we arrived and began setting up next door, our neighbour, after considering the implications of four haggard gringos on his balcony views, suggested that we might like the site ‘over there’. We declined, but it didn’t matter. A much more drastic threat to his camping experience was coming his, and our, way.

This sign warns against going in the water. The black cross is Colombia's universal symbol for a place where you have an above average chance of dying.

An overcast afternoon followed. After the heat of the march, a swim was well needed. We wandered through the treeline and onto the beach. Unfortunately, the beach was patrolled not by lifeguards, but by gun-toting policemen who periodically appeared to shoo (shoo, not shoot, but I’m sure if one was stubborn enough not leave, it may come something that drastic) everyone from the water. Instead of risking arrest or worse, we caught up on sleep lost in the confines of our children’s tent the night before, snoozing happily on the sand until the grey sky began sprinkling on us.

By dinnertime, the sprinkle had developed into ferocious torrents of camping misery. The tonnes of falling water were accompanied by fierce winds whipping in from the ocean, all making for a rather pleasant, but typical, outdoorsy experience. We dined in an open-air restaurant attached to the campground. None of the eateries in the area had walls, so there was no choice but to bear the brunt of the tormenta over dinner. A sign next to the kitchen mocked us. Printed in a soothing italic font the words ‘You are in Paradise’ glared down at us. The sign was being hurled about violently by the wind; it’s faded unicorns and cheesy proclamation ridiculing our paradisiacal preconceptions. The tablecloth slapped at our faces as the downpour developed into distressing proportions.

We left to find another venue for the evening, a place of shelter to ride out the storm, somewhere less reminiscent of a disaster movie set. We found such a place, and spent the evening playing poker and drinking disgustingly overpriced beer. By closing time the downpour was still brutal, but we had no choice other than to sprint through the sheeting rain to our saturated tents. Reaching inside I found a discarded Doritos packet half filled with water and various puddles scattered throughout our home. We slept on the hard, damp ground, trying desperately not to touch the sides of our narrowly spaced walls. Ah, camping.

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