Enter our new friend Laura, a lovely young lady who lives in Baranquilla and offered to help us find our way.
Just getting to Barranquilla is somewhat of a challenge involving a bicycle ride from the docks to the clubhouse, a moto (motorcycle taxi) four kilometers to the highway, where we wait in the hot sun under the shade of an umbrella for the yellow and red bus which runs every half hour or so. There's a bit of road construction underway so it's about a 30 to 40 minute ride to the city. The bus is always crowded and it can be a challenge to look out the window through the crowd and find the right stop. The "air conditioning" is having the windows open, which works great until you are stuck in traffic. Several times along the way, vendors hop on and off the bus, trying to sell boxes of cookies, snacks or even ink pens. They have a tricky marketing strategy where they hand one to everyone on the bus, give their spiel and then take back the ones not sold. It's a bit hard to give back a box of cookies that only cost 75 cents... so it usually works on me.
We had plans to meet Laura at a the Exito, a huge supermercado, very similar to a Walmart. We looked at the mattresses they had to offer, but none were the right size. We walked a couple of blocks and had a great lunch in one of the nine shopping malls of Barranquilla. Laura encouraged me to try a dish local to Medillin which involved a lot of meats, rice with coconut, fried egg, plantain, beans and an arepa. It was a lot of food, but quite good... meanwhile Coleen had a Subway sandwich. We had fun learning new spanish words and helping Laura with her english (which is already quite good). Oh and that huge drink is a limonada, a great non alcoholic drink made with limes.. my favorite Colombian beverage.
After navigating our way a few blocks we came a section near Simone Bolivar square that had the fabric shops. Shop after shop filled with all sorts of colorful fabrics, others overflowing with threads and trims, and finally one with foam! They had all sorts of materials in that shop, vinyls, plastic sheeting, and various types of foam. We found what we needed for cockpit cushions, but nothing for a good sturdy mattress. I bought a large piece of 3 inch pink foam for $10 and they rolled it up and put on straps so we could carry it like a backpack!
I asked Laura about all the fabric shops and she said that it is much cheaper to buy the fabric and have clothes made than to buy ready made in store. We stopped in another shop where I got some netting for new mosquito screens for less than a dollar a meter. If I hadn't been so hot and pressed for time I could have spent hours looking around. Instead we stopped to buy an icy cold, fresh tangerine juice from a street vendor for about 30 cents a cup, and took a little respite in the shade near the Simon Bolivar statue.
We hopped in another taxi, stuffing our huge roll of foam in front seat and cramming into the back, for a twenty minute ride to a mattress manufacturer on the outskirts of town. They had a beautiful showroom, and we found exactly what we needed and for a much better price than the department stores. I bought two beautiful, pillow top, foam mattresses for about $85 each and with Laura's help arranged to have them delivered to the marina, with us riding in the delivery truck! We said goodbye to Laura who was off to university for an English exam where she had to play the part of a tour guide. I felt that after our afternoon together she would rock that test! She was an awesome tour guide and lots of fun.
I was so tired it was hard not to fall asleep as we rode home in the front seat of the delivery truck. Our driver tuned the radio to english music with spanish commercials as I drifted in and out of sleep. He looked quite surprised when had him dump our new mattresses on the dock. Somehow Coleen and I managed to get them down the dock and onto the boat. There was cheering and clapping when we managed to fit them through the companionway door! Mission accomplished!
Now of course these new mattress weren't going to fit our bunks without a little customization. So today I made a paper pattern for Coleen's bunk, cut down the side of the mattress cover, peeled it back, drew my pattern on the foam and carefully cut it with a very large knife. After several hours of hand sewing I had the cover back in place and Coleen had a new, custom mattress!
Meanwhile, little trooper that she is, she spent the afternoon hand washing her sheets and bedspread on the dock, so everything would be clean and fresh when she crawled into her new bed.