Tuesday 14th June 2011 – Update from Colombia
It’s a strange feeling leaving Colombia, we can’t believe our 9 weeks are over in South America. Our last few days were based in Bogota and we were definitely having a wind down. We slept in most mornings and took ages walking around trying to find food. Saw the gold museum and the Botero gallery (famous Colombian artist known for the cartoon like painting of a chubby Mona Lisa) and tried to do a bit of souvenir shopping. That’s about it in 4 days. We went out one night too, to a crazy massive bar and steak institution called Andres Carne de Res. Don’t really know the best way to explain it but there was a real eclectic mix of mess hanging from the ceiling and everywhere and crazy reggae-ton music playing and thousands of people dancing. It was about 50 mins out of Bogota so we joined a hostel bus trip there with 40 boozy backpackers and had an good time. Got home at 4:30am!
The rest of our time in Colombia was up on the Caribbean coast. We got our flight from Sao Paulo (Brazil) to Bogota (Colombia). Then we were a bit crazy and booked a flight very last minute online, to get us up from Bogota to the Carribean coast instead of a 20 hour bus trip. So after we arrive in Bogota we’ll wait 4 hours then fly up to Cartagena and arrive at midnight. Stupidly long day considering we got up at 4am to get out of Rio de Janeiro on a connecting flight. Total of 22 hours travelling is a tough life, though if this is the biggest thing we have to deal with for a while it´s ok 🙂
We started in Cartagena, it’s the main port on the coast and it had a distinct separation of the old and new. In some parts clearly there was lots of money around, and there were huge yachts moored (bound for Panama) and high rises reminding us of the Gold Coast.
We stayed in the old town though, which had much more character and charm. The area is an old fort and the walls and cannons still remain around the town which was cool. Apparently the walls were built after the city was continually attacked by pirates! The beach was not so nice, and it rained most mornings but it always cleared up so we could enjoy the day from late morning onwards. It was so hot here too, about 35 degrees or more, so lots of ice-cream and fresh fruit and juices from street vendors. I’m going to miss that the most I think, fresh cut mangoes, homemade lemonade, or a local taking the top off a coconut and handing you it with a straw. Damn that was good. I love coco water!
Went out for a day trip to Playa Blanca (white beach) from Cartagena. It was all day in the sun, on a boat, on the beach, fresh fish for lunch and bobbing around in the crystal clear water. A local could even smell my desperation for a piña colada and strolled up with his wheelbarrow of coconuts and made one for me while I was swimming. Heaven. I was a very happy girl and couldn’t stop grinning. Could not stop thinking of the amazing moment I was having and where I was.
On from Cartagena, 5 hours east by bus was our next stop Santa Marta. Most people only stop there to base camp before heading out to Tayrona National Park, but we had an awesome hostel and both really enjoyed the our time there. We organized ourselves from there for our following days out in a semi remote camping area in Tayrona for 3 days. Left our big backpacks at the hostel and took the bare minimum plus food as we had a bit of a journey before finding our accommodation.
Further east along the coast for one hour by bus, plus one and a half hours walking through shin deep mud, plus a half hour along beach, plus another half hour under the shade of coconut palms – we got there… along with the rest of the days influx of like minded backpackers.
We booked our spot for the next two nights in hammocks high on a hill overlooking the Caribbean and between two coves. Not much to report there apart from full days in the sun and lying like a beached dolphin (i prefer it that way) with the water lapping around my legs. The water honestly glistened with tiny gold flecks in the sand and it was like a bath. No hesitation getting in and perfect enough that it kept you cool from the intense heat of the sun. Super sun smart Rohan ensured there was no sunburn, but I must admit that I haven’t been this tanned since my high school days.
After 2 full days of nothing to do but be in the water, we decided to walk back out of the national park. I was being a girl though and refused to walk the mud part again, so we hired 2 horses and trod out of there. Neither of us can remember ever riding a horse so that was an experience in itself for a first time horse ride.
From the park entrance we snagged a bus to Palomino, another hour east. This part wasn’t planned so we had no info and just had to risk it. Thankfully the driver told us when to get off on the highway and we then ran into a Polish couple who told us where to walk to the beach. It seems the further east you go the less tourists so we were very lucky to run into them. About an hour walk and we found a family who had a homestay type accommodation right on the beach for A$35 per night which was awesome. Mumma made us fresh mango juice on arrival too which was completely unexpected. Relaxed and watched the sun set over the water then had some noodles left over from camping for dinner. No shops here. Only fresh fish from local fisherman but we didn’t have enough cash with us.
Next day we ate the very last of our food for brekky, cornflakes with powdered milk and a mandarin. We would have liked to stay longer but I was suffering without food and another girl moment of having to wash my ratty hair took precedence. Ate some boiled lollies for energy and managed to stay on the beach long enough to watch the local fisherman bring in their nets and all the women and children fight for their share. It was the whole community taking part, about 50 people on total. Very glad we hung around for that, as it was non touristy, no other white people in site, and such a reality check for us.
We walked in the heat of the day, hungry and thirsty – kinda like in cartoons when they are lost in the desert, dragging our feet back to the highway. Got some food on the side of the road then a bus ride back to Santa Marta to collect our bags, and then get a cab to a little fishing village 15 mins away called Taganga. They describe it ad a ‘small village that doesn’t know what hit it’ and it’s so true. Pretty much a backpacker party town. Not much to do. And we realized on our first night that we were over staying at hostels and joked we were too old for it. People being really disrespectful and noisy, didn’t sleep much and moved out in the morning to a hotel down the road.
Taganga wasn’t what we expected and even when we went for a day trip to Playa Grande and walked around some headlands to find the ‘lovely’ beach, it wasn’t lovely. Litter floating in the water and dirty sand.
A little disheartened we walked a bit further, and then found a really quiet and clean cove where it was just us and one other couple (which left soon after we arrived) and a guy that lived there with his cats and dogs and chooks. It restored our faith in the place, and we had a wonderful afternoon. Still can’t believe he lived there, how do you acquire a spot like that. Hmm…
One good thing about Taganga though is that there is so much fresh fish. We had dinner one night along the waterfront and the chef actually walked out on the sand in front of where we sat and scalled it right there. Really yummy grilled fish and a massive feed all for under 10 bucks! I’m going to miss that in Canada. After Taganga we caught a bus to Santa Marta airport and said goodbye to the crazy heat which we probably won’t experience again for a VERY long while, and got on our flight to Bogota.
So that’s pretty much all we did in Colombia, lots of beach, and a small amount of city. But it was a relaxing and a great way to end the trip. The people were so welcoming and any preconceived idea of badness… Forget it. We had absolutely no problems and was a highlight of the whole trip.
So here’s to the new adventure that is ahead for us… CANADA!