Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My trip to Colombia

A few weeks ago Stevie and I were very lucky to travel to Colombia. We were invited by our friend Juan to come and give a talk about our film at the local Siggraph Chapter.

I always wanted to travel to South America, and never got to it, so when this opportunity came, with an advice from a good friend, I knew I have to extend my stay and travel around for a while. So my five day trip got extended to 3 weeks, which were absolutely amazing. I thought I’ll share some of my experiences here. Enjoy!

Flying above Colombia upon arrival, I could already see that the scenario is going to be very different from anything I’ve ever seen. Miles of green jungles were spread beneath. It was beautiful.

When I got to the airport in Bogota, Hernando was waiting for me. I think it’s the first time in my life someone held up a sign with my name on it at the airport. I felt so special J

We made a quick introduction…

And it wasn’t too long before we were out and about, having some drinks.

Hernando was teaching me some basic (very basic) words in Spanish, as well as giving me some advice for the road, as I was about to be on my own the next morning. I made sure to write it all down in my little journal.

The next morning I arrived in Cartagena, on the northern shore of Colombia. The Bus station outside of the airport was HECTIC!!

When I finally found the bus to take me to the city center, the ticket collector was already yelling from inside the bus, telling me to hurry up.

I sat down quickly squeezing into a seat in the packed bus. There was no room to move, and it was steaming hot!!

I noticed that the ticket guy is starting to collect money.

At that point I realized I have no idea how much is the fare, and even worse, what kind of bills I have and how do you call each coin.

When he asked for the money I quickly handed over a bunch of bills which carried the lowest value of 50 (the rest were 10000, 20000, etc…)

What I didn’t know at the time is that the 50 was actually 50,000. The Ticket guy looked confused.

He had so much money in his hands now, and for a glimpse of a second he had that crazed look in his eyes.

As if he was thinking: “I could quit this damn job right now!!! The hell with this stupid bus!!”

Luckily his conscious was on its better side that day, and he corrected my mistake.

That was very nice of him as that was most of my money for the main part of my trip : going onto the Ciudad Perdida – The Lost City, a 5 day Trek into the jungle!

A little Wiki: Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for "Lost City") is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Sierra Nevada, Colombia. It is believed to have been founded about 800 AD, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu.

Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1972, when a group of local treasure looters found a series of stone steps rising up the mountainside and followed them to an abandoned city. When gold figurines and ceramic urns from this city began to appear in the local black market, authorities revealed the site in 1975.

When I told family and friend I am going most of them were joking that I should try not to get kidnapped by the Guerrilla groups who used to be in this area in the past.

But to be honest, the thing that scared me the most, were the mosquitoes

You see, the day before I flew, I met with a friend at Daphne’s Café in LA.

He started to tell me all those stories about Bot flies which live in South America.

Bot flies are those nasty little flies who lay eggs underneath your skin. After a while a little larva hatch and… well you get the idea. Not cool.

As a kid I was terrified of flies. They used to bite me on the most annoying places… And I would blow up to massive proportions.

The next day at school was never fun.

So I did some research and figured out I should get some DEET.

DEET t is a chemical that was developed by the US Army back in WW2 when the soldiers were getting eaten alive by bugs while fighting in the jungles.

It’s really nasty stuff… I am pretty sure it’s the same thing that killed the joker at the end of the original batman….

The DEET did a pretty good job and I didn’t get too many bites… At least not as many as this guy:

THE ITALIAN was one of the guys who did the trek with me. After doing this trek a few times he gave up on chemicals to prevent getting bit. In exchange he was constantly inhaling some other chemicals that I bet helped to ease the pain J

His back looked like this.

On the first day of our trek it was POURING rain.

All the notes and tips I got from Hernando when I just landed in Colombia got washed away.

I started to think it was probably a better idea to go all Prison Break on it, and tattoo the notes on my body!!

The hike was breathtaking... In the most literal sense of the word.

It didn’t seem too bad to the two lovely European girls who traveled with me. They skipped up the hill like gazelles.

When I finally got to the top and had a moment to catch my breath…

The group was already ready to move on…

When we got to the "Lost City", I just couldn’t believe the view and all the ancient ruins . It was absolutely stunning.

On the way back we were absolutely dead, and got somewhat of a satisfaction seeing the new groups walking into the jungle, not knowing what is awaiting for them ;)

Finally, we all squished into the Jeep that that took us back, enjoyed the great smell of each other blowing in the wind, and were ready for a new adventure!


Dor Shamir said...

Avner, this is just great!
lovely storyboards

Daniel said...

Incredibly entertaining. Keep it coming! :)

Juan Andrés Castañeda said...


Cliffy said...

Fantastic, Avner! I loved this - it seems you had yourself a wonderful adventure that you'll not soon forget. You should surely thank your friend for his advice to use the chance to explore. It brought back memories for me, though not of Colombia. I'll have to make it there one day!

The drawings are fantastic and I literally laughed out loud on more than one occasion. I love your comparison of DEET to the stuff the joker gets into. And the picture of the mossy tumbled stones leading to a tree-like gateway is... well its beyond breathtaking. Thanks for sharing!

Take good care of yourself. Talk to you sometime later on!

Michael Yates said...

your trip sounds amazing! And your boards are great aswell!

Charles Valsechi said...

Wow, great post. Sounds amazing!

Javo said...

haha, this is amazing. I really loved your documental illustration. thanks for sharing this experiences. Cheers from Mexico!! :)

"pah-O-lah" Paulino said...

So entertaining Avner! More stories! Mores stories!


jriggity said...

AWESOME Illustration of the adventure man!! Pure Joy to read.


Shane Cauchi said...

Hahaha Marcelo! Great work!!

Sarah Hatooka said...

Amazing :) !!

Quentin Lebegue said...

Fantastic boards and drawings !

Wayne Parker said...

Avner friend, forget animation Join me in a life of comicbook creation ha, ha. That was awesomely well done. I agree with mah Gurl Pah-O-Lah, more stories please :)

Avner Geller said...

Thank you so much for all you wonderful comments everyone! I am really glad you had fun joining me in my adventures :) more to come!!

Kendra Melton said...

Hehe, bot flies :P
These are awesome! You so talented :D

Marcelo Vignali said...

Who ever told you about those bot flies is a real jerk! Um, he looks sorta familiar. (*Blush*)

I'm glad you had a wonderful trip. Wonderful drawings too.

Luis David said...

Fun story and drawings!

Rob Chandler said...

These story posts are really great Avner, really funny and entertaining

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Dogmation said...

You'll always be welcome in Colombia! I enjoyed very much your lecture, I congratulate you on so much talent.. :)

Nikhita said...

Wow the Lost City looks gorgeous! Haha the boards are hilarious. :)