ho ho and a bottle of rum...
28.02.2012 - 04.03.2012
Cartagena is situated on the north coast of Colombia on the Caribbean. The city was founded in 1533 and the historic fortress is now an UNESCO heritage site.
I arrived in Cartagena after a 17 hour bus ride. The buses in Colombia are so comfortable that 17 hours goes past quite fast. It was interesting to just sit and watch the different scenes go by- people chilling on hammocks, banana trees, dusty, a boy riding a bike 10 times bigger than him, soccer, a mother washing her baby by holding her naked and pouring water over her, 2 hour road block, being serenaded by a reggaeton-rapper
I arrived at 9pm, and I was not in the mood to find out which bus goes to the centre, so I took the next best thing: a thrilling ride on the back of a motorbike with a dude called Jose who is so surprised I am from Sud Africa. It was money well spent- dodging through traffic, feeling the closeness as we zip past buses and cars. My helmet´s visor would fall down every time we hit a bump, so I had to hold one hand on the bike and the other on the helmet together with a gigantic backpack on my back and another in the front. Times likes these I really feel alive…
I found a bed and a friend in a dormitory hostel. It´s amazing how easy it is to meet people while traveling. I forgot his name, but he was from Germany and after a 17 hour ride it was nice to share an Indian meal and a beer with someone. In one plaza close to where I was staying, people hang out, drink beer or rum and just enjoy the night cool air. We also had some entertainment- singers, guitarists, jugglers, fire throwers. They are from all over South America and have come to Colombia to enjoy their life. They make some money performing/busking every day. One evening I found myself playing with a little girl and her shiny ball. I think her mother was glad to be free for a while.
The next day I walked around the old city which is walled (like a fortress). It´s a pity they allow cars and hooting taxis in there, because it makes walking around unpleasant. It´s also extremely touristy. But despite this, I still enjoyed taking in the scenery- bright coloured walls, colonial architecture and pretty balconies. I could easily imagine life back in 1500´s- with all the pirates… ;-)
There are many things to do in Cartagena, but they are based on going a tour. And from experience, tours just don’t do it for me. So I just walked around and on one day I rented a bike and rode around with a guy I had met (Colombian born, but adopted by a Norwegian family). Cartagena is divided into 4 areas which we covered in 3 hours. The city´s beaches are horrible- dirty beaches, murky water. From what I´ve seen in my travels- South Africa has THE best beaches!
I planned to stay for 5 days, but I got bored, so I took a bus to Santa Marta which is 4 hours north up the coast. I negotiated my bus ticket (saved $3- which bought me 6 beers later…everything is related ) and off I went. This bus was pimped out with green carpeting that continued up on the wall, green curtains which were all closed and some guy had a speaker (whats new?) which was blasting reggaeton. It felt like I had entered some lounge. I was kinda wondering where the tiger and whisky was…We took some detour because of a road block, which caused a mini riot amongst the ladies in the bus who started shouting at the bus driver. Was funny!
On the bus was an elderly couple from Slovakia. All my Czech has now gone from my head and I couldn’t think of one thing to say to them! They could speak a bit of English and Spanish, so it worked. We shared a taxi (my negotiating skills are getting good!) over the hill to a small fishing village called Taganga.
There are more foreigners here than locals. It´s called ´”gringos paradise”, which I can see why. It´s tiny, there´s a beach, the Caribbean sea , lots of sun… I would compare it to Thailand- people come here to escape reality and get stuck in a life of partying, alcohol and drugs. Taganga is close to where the coca leaves grows, so cocaine is available and I have heard is really cheap. The village is also dominated with police who love searching everyone at any given moment. I heard a story of a guy that was caught with a joint, he was taken to the police station, paid a $50 bribe and was let go. They even gave him weed back (not his, but better) so that they can catch him again…???
The first night I stayed in a”penthouse” loft at the top of a hostel. The only barrier from the external elements was a straw roof and some sheets forming a little fort. The wind that gushed through was hectic!! I had to hold on tight to my sheet and keep my legs straight to prevent the wind was flipping my mattress up in my face. I think I slept for an hour that night. But it´s ok, because I just catch up on sleep the next day on the beach There were some other girls at the hostel who I hung out with that day and partied with that night. Every night at a place called “Mirador” there is a party on a balcony which overlooks the glimmering bay below. Good times! Colombians really know how to party!
I also made friends with a couple of Colombians who are basically just travelers and make their money performing. Miguel has an interesting life- he was born in Colombia but when he was 10 moved to New York. He is now 20 and wanted to see his country. For the past 2 years he has travelled around, juggling to make money. His English is obviously excellent and it´s been cool hanging out with him and his hippie street crew. The others make and sell jewellery, drums or mini harmonicas. I “played” (I thought I wasn´t too bad) one last night and it´s easy to get caught up in it and never stop playing…
I´ve really had to use my Spanish, so it´s been good to be around locals and I still have sooooo much more to learn!!!!
I am still in Taganga, and waiting to hear about some potential jobs. So I will stay here for a few more days and then move on.
Last week I went on a 6 day jungle trek to the Lost City- the best and most difficult thing I have ever done in my life! But this adventure is for another day
Thanks for reading!!!