So I finally made it to Colombia. Now what, I thought to my self. My first night had been as good as I could have
hoped. I had arrived safely and gotten to my hostel in one piece, all without being robbed. I sat on the side of my
bed and thumbed through my Lonely Planet travel guide looking for something to do; it was full of all sorts of
museums, bars, places of “historical interest,” and some other useless facts. I had never really liked traveling with
guidebooks it seemed to me like it was planning my trip for me. Going to the same museums and restaurants as all
the other tourists or going to the same restaurants to get a hamburger and fries didn’t seem like something I
should be doing half way around the world. I ripped out the city map grabbed a card with my hostels address on it
and headed for the door.
Usually hostels, hotels, and pretty much anything involving tourists are in the safer, more glamorous parts of
town. I felt generally safe, maybe it was the Colombian army standing on nearly every corner armed with automatic
weapons, or maybe I was just delusional. It was about ten in the morning and the fog that had encased the city the
day before had lifted and turned to bright sun and blue sky. The city was surrounded by lush green mountains
capped with snow off in the distance, the jungle almost spilled down to touch the towers of the tall buildings below.
The streets were crawling with people some in business suits talking loudly on their cell phones others in colorful
native clothing selling freshly squeezed orange juice on the sides on the street. The street vendors were grilling
their food giving off the strong sent of burning wood, charcoal and simmering meat.
Its funny what helps you remember sometimes, when I travel to different places I can take a thousand photos or
write enough to fill ten journals but the thing that brings back the most vivid images is the different smells. Whether
it is a street market in Asia filled with the smells of strange spices and fruits or the salty air of fish markets on the
beaches of Cape Cod. When I am home and smell a strong spice or fruit drifting in the outdoor air, I am immediately
transported back to a street market in Chang Mai, or the strong odor of low tide I’m back walking through
I put in my headphones and put on some Credence Clearwater Revival and started walking. I walked around for
a good hour taking in the different landscape, people and letting myself get lost within the city. I stumbled across a
large crowded street marketplace I thought it would be worth checking out, and maybe get something to eat. I
made my way across the street and looked inside; it was filled with hundreds of what I assumed were counterfeit
soccer jerseys, bags, and all sorts of different clothing.
As I walked through different hawkers shouted and waved their poorly made t-shirts at me, I smiled and shook
my head while I continued to walk forward. I heard more than a few people laughing and yelling “gringo” mixed a
few other words I couldn’t quite make out. I got the feeling that I was not putting myself in the best of situations,
but I didn’t feel unsafe.
A few minuets passed and I had made my way to the food. It was about noon and the entire area was packed. I
started to walk through to find something I could or would want to eat. The stalls were set up along the walls and
had cheap plastic tables and chairs with plaid plastic table covers weighted down by dispenser that held waxed
napkins. The food for sale did not look too appetizing they were selling everything from pizza to fried frogs on
string. I thought to myself my stomach had not fully adapted to the food just yet to take a chance here.
I kept walking and glanced at a rather old obese woman sitting in front of a stall, I smiled and tried to make my
way to the door. From my side I could hear someone loudly try to clear their throat almost instinctively I turned my
head to look back. Just then I felt a enormous gob of mucus hit me in the right in the back of my neck, I had never
been so repulsed in my entire life. I wanted to vomit I was in so much disgust.
I noticed the whale like older lady started to laugh and point her finger at me I assumed it had been her. A
younger woman came up to her and started yelling at her, while three or four people came to me and tried to help
me clean up. They gave me a handful napkins and some dirty water, I angrily muttered “gracias.” I had decided that
I had had enough of the market and needed to go back and take a long hot shower.
I got out to the street and jumped in a taxi, I gave him the card with my hostel address on it. I sat back in the
seat to think about what had just happened to me, unbelievable I thought to myself. As we approached my hostel I
reached in my back pocket to get my wallet, I felt around and quickly discovered it was not where I had left it. My
stomach dropped and I felt sick again, I couldn’t believe that I had actually been robbed and spat on in the same
I had 15 pesos in my front pocket left over from breakfast, and my ATM card in my locker in my room. I figured I
might of lost all of forty dollars. I handed the rest of my money to the taxi and got out. I assumed that the entire
incident at the market from the spitting to the three “helpful” Colombians had all probably been in on it. All for forty
dollars, why didn’t they just come at me with a knife? I thought to myself, I have got to get out of this city.
I walked up stairs took a long hot shower and fell into my bed. Following in my plan to leave the city I opened my
guidebook and looked at cities to the south, one stood out in particular, Cali. That’s where I was going to go. I
would go to the bus station the next day and get my ticket. After a long and terrible day I headed down to the bar
to get a Andina cervesa and tried to find someone going in the same direction I was.