Two Good Wheels

                       The landing gear opened with a bang; we were descending. The rich green forests and empty beaches got closer and closer to us as our duel prop behemoth made its final approach. I could see the houses below and we finally touched down. When I said touched down, I really meant the pilot smoothly glided until the last second when he slammed the plane to the runway and hit the brakes hard. He used every inch of that runway.

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                       I had arrived in Bahía Solano, Chocó, Colombia. I knew I was in for something different than the mountainous Antioquia and the hot Caribbean that I knew. Upon leaving the plane the humidity instantly hit, although it wasn’t nearly as hot as I had expected. I didn’t have checked bags so I walked past the soldiers and into the airport lobby. Bear in mind that this airport is a small, single runway, open-air facility.

A taxi driver came up to me and asked where I needed to go. He seemed to know the hostel well so he told me to wait while other passengers got their bags.

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The whip

                  I walked past the two gentlemen holding M249 machine guns and waited in the tuk tuk, the little three-wheeled taxis. It had a huge crack in the windscreen and the back seat was falling off. I expected to only wait a few minutes. This is a remote region in Colombia, at an airport airstrip with a hangar, I should have known better than to just wait a few minutes.

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                   I decided it was 5 o’clock somewhere and grabbed a beer and a bottle of water at an restaurant across the street. I waited there for about forty five minutes. At this point living here, I expect to wait long for things, but this wasn’t normal. After a while I saw the other passengers on their way. They stuffed themselves and their packs in the back and I sat in the front “seat” with the driver. We were definitely over capacity. It was a 35 minute drive to the hostel.

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Open bar, dude

                  The road was muddy, bumpy, and winded around rainforest and large empty fields. After a bit of driving we could see the beach. I got along pretty quickly with the other passengers. Amanda, Benjamin, and Elisa are cousins traveling together from California. 

                Our pleasant conversation was interrupted when we had to stop and check on the back left wheel of the tuk tuk. It wasn’t flat, but it was wobbling quite a bit as we moved. I could tell the rim was separating into two pieces. Most of the wheel was rusted out

                We drove further up to the flat area and stopped on the side of the muddy toad. We grabbed the spare, which to be honest, looked just as worn out as the one we were replacing. We lifted up the tiny vehicle on its side and our driver quickly changed the wheel. Before we knew it we were back on our way.

We all laughed at what we were doing. When the reviews on the Internet said the trip to the hostel was tricky, they weren’t exaggerating.

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Benjamin talking to the driver

                 We continued through to the town of El Valle, a remote pacific village right by Bahía Solano. The streets were muddy with shacks on both sides. Chocó is one of the poorest regions in Colombia, and it was strikingly obvious as we passed through the town. Many of the shops in the town were closed down and boarded off, while the rest were significantly dilapidated. 

                  We turned left around the bay and saw a group of kids playing fútbol. The best part is that their pitch was in the bed of the bay and was only available during low tide. I didn’t get a chance to get a picture of it, but it was impressive nonetheless.

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Outside of town

                Our tuk tuk putted along and we reached a more open beach area. We splashed along in our over-capacity trike. There were rocks on the edge in the water. It reminded me of the Goonies rocks you’ll see along the coast of Oregon and Northern California. To the other side there was just thick rainforest.

Our driver took us as far as we could go without sinking into the wet sand. We walked the short distance that remained.

                 The hostel was a bungalow type house that faced the beach. It was a quiet, rustic spot near a small waterfall and not much else. It was in a secluded corner past everything else. All of us had reserved hammocks towards the back of the hostel. We were still close enough in the hammocks to hear the ocean while we slept. We wasted no time setting our stuff down and immediately went out to explore what the Pacific side had to offer.

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Looking out towards the beach from the breakfast table


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