I have never shared a room with anybody longer than I have with Chris – 4 weeks  in our house together in Minca, and now we have made the decision to travel together for a while. Travelling with another person is totally different than travelling alone or in a group – and we are a man and a woman (and in our case TOTALLY different) – so little arguments, misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to occur, (I mean come on, you know me). But we have the skills to spin straw into gold, using all these little personality clashes to write this story.

We’re writing about travelling together, writing about the same situation from the differing perspectives of a man and a woman.

So here we are on the northern coast of Colombia, with the carribean stretched to the sky in one direction, the rugged Sierra Nevada lurking in the clouds in the other. Its June 2011, our new destination is Palomino, we arrive seperately, one day apart, and this is the moment where we crash together.

Author: Chris Cooke and Jenny Jakobeit

I arrived in Palomino yesterday, a day before Jenny because she wanted one more day to say good-bye to her beloved Minca. I’m looking forward to travelling with her, we got along great in the house, but woman are complicated creatures. I found a nice hostel and sent her directions to find it, so everything should be sweet…

I arrive to Palomino in the dark, all I have to do is follow Chris’ directions: “cross the street, walk 100m and stop at a big tree”.  But surely this can‘t be the right place? I had imagined a lovely sandy path, what greets me is far from it. It’s a busy, bussy main road – no character, no charm, just a noisy, smelly highway town.  Ok, now where’s this tree. I saw myself living in the shade of a mango tree again. But this tree? This is no big tree, its hardly a tree at all, it is a sad and lonely, pathetic excuse for a tree. And to top it all off, he’s not even here! Welcome to Palomino – I miss the house.

I’m awoken from my hammock-swinging slumber by yet another bus roaring by. I look at my ipod, 8:00 and Jenny’s still not here. Maybe she’s coming tomorrow, at least it gives me another chance to look for somewhere more comfortable. The hostel is cool, I like it – a good crowd, it’s got a kitchen, and not so many rules. On top of that it is cheap, a private room with shower and toilet for 10,000 pesos ($5). Not bad. But I’m still not totally sure if Jenny will like it. I walk into the lounge and somebody calls my name, it’s Jenny.

“A pretty nice double room with bathroom”- I had to ask myself, how did he manage to find this for just $5. It sounds good, and for some strange reason I expect a TV. Of course there is no TV, (there’s not even electricity…) and furthermore no windows (not in a nice ‘at one with nature way’ like at Oscar’s, this has more of a jail cell feel) and no view.  It’s a dark, small and dirty hole, all you can hear is the street-noise and – the cherry on top – we have no drinking water.What the hell am I doing here? I miss Minca.

She misses Minca, I know this because she told me. Again and again. It’s hard to tell what she thinks of the hostel, it’s more crowded than last night and there’s been a power cut. When I show her our room, the first thing she notices is the lack of windows. Ok… but apart from that everything seems ok (so far, this is Jenny…).

Ok, I have to get out of this room, let’s go for a short walk to the beach. It’s only 10 minutes away and the moon’s just past full. Sounds nice, right…? Wrong!

In fact it’s the opposite, it’s terrible, really terrible. The road is pot-holed, wet and muddy, we’ve been walking for over 10 minutes and there‘s still no sign of the beach. I don’t even think he knows the way, but of course he can’t admit to that, he is a man, men never get lost. Alright, that’s it. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to walk, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to see the stupid beach anymore,. I miss the mountains.

Wowowow, where did that come from? Here I am, enjoying a pleasant stroll  to the beach, under the full moon and surrounded by the sound of a million chirruping frogs, when all of a sudden, Bam! Jenny stamps her foot. “This is a shitty way!” It seems the winds have changed, as they often do, so “we”decide to return to the hostel and cook something to eat. For some reason, the way back seems to take longer than the way there.

12 hours later…

“Are you crazy?” Uh-oh… I drank from Jenny’s expensive water bottle. Since last night we have had a bit of a drinking water shortage. I admit, it was absent minded of me not to buy a big bag of drinking water from the tienda next door, but then I really threw the cat amongst the pigeons. The story goes as follows: Jenny only drinks a particular brand of water, (the most expensive). This particular brand was not to be found in Palomino, therefore: no water for Jenny. I opted for the cheaper brand, which Jenny wasn’t too pleased about. “Are you crazy?!” – What have I done this time? She was upset that I was buying water which she couldn’t drink. Ok, ok I can kind of see where she’s coming from. So anyway, in the end she bought a bottle of the finest for more than double the price of a bag.

Later on I walk into our room, it’s hot, I see her bottle of water on the table and I drink some of it.

I can’t believe it! – I honestly do not understand it – is he provoking me?! Did he really drink the water from MY bottle. I mean, this is not about me not wanting to share my water- it’s just that Chris couldn’t care less how his water tastes, so he buys Colombia’s most horrible bag water, a water called “Brisa”. A strongly chlorinated, super cheap brand which tastes like plastic. I am not about to drink this so-called “water”. So we search five different tiendas trying to find water for me. After this kind of pre-breakfast, pre-coffee (!) stress, I am now relaxed and happy, resting assured by the fact that I have my water and he has his.

But I am a little bothered that he benefits for his unhealthy taste in water by paying less than me. Travelling has made me stingey, so I bought just one, very small bottle. Not much, but I am hopeful that water will be returning to our hostel soon, then I can brew some tea (for free!). After a nice breakfast, everything seems fine, it’s getting a little hot,  I’m pretty thirsty, so I go looking for my water-bottle and (…)

Whaaaat!? –  he did! Here I am, standing with one measly little sip splashing around in the bottom of my bottle, and he’s saying (with a belly full of my water!) that I’m being selfish?! Ridiculous!

Later, with water returned to the hostel and everybody adequately hydrated, the tension eases. We decide to walk down to the beach. This time we take the direct route. By now the water issue has passed well and truly under the bridge, (or as Jenny put it “that cheese has been eaten”), and we walk and chat happily. It’s a beautiful day, a cool breeze blows down from the mountains, a high layer of cloud softens the sun’s bite, and the village streets are alive with Saturday afternoon activity.  “This is a beautiful way to the beach.” She needn’t say more.

This is IT, it’s beautiful, lovely, amazing  – i walk barefoot next to Chris, feeling a little guilty for being so disappointed and maybe a little unfair yesterday. We pass a couple of horses grazing in the shade cast by the big banana tree leaves – everthing is green and lovely – after 10 minutes (!) I smell the salty, fresh breeze from the ocean. After passing through a really nice hippy-camping place we arrive. THE BEACH! … oh how I love it, kilometers of empty sand, it seems more natural than the clcihe classy carribean beaches of the gringo trail-  it’s the first beach which really reminds me of home.

I dig my feet into the sand and let my eyes drif with the current sweeping down the beach. Jenny lies beside me, content in the sun. It’s great to be back by the ocean, especially here at a real beach, with real waves. It reminds me of New Zealand.  It took a little while, but after a rough start Palomino has revealed her true colours. I hand Jenny her water she smiles and tells me she doesn’t miss Minca any more.