22/02/2014 - 04/03/2014 33 °C
Anticipation was high arriving into Colombia. Everyone we’d met who had been there LOVED it.
And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Cartagena was a beautiful city, well the old town where most tourists congregate anyway. My door obsession began here, the colonial architecture was just beautiful and lovingly maintained with bougainvillea sprouting from the balconies. The night life was certainly buzzing too, didn’t matter what night of the week it was the streets were packed with people – both locals and tourists. Many people tended to congregate in the local squares, buying beers & street food from roaming sellers and enjoying the lively people watching. And for those of you wondering, cocaine was aplenty. Literally every man and his dog was offering it for sale. Chewing gum vendors would offer gum, then make a snorting gesture for the other things they had on offer.
Roaming beer seller
We had a final night out with all our new boat buddies, then we split up and headed in our own directions.
We headed east along the Caribbean coast to the city of Santa Marta where we stayed in the nicest hostel of the trip, Masaya. Definitely more exy ($20 each in a 4 bed dorm with private bathroom), but it was sparkling & new, had 2 pools, a rooftop kitchen and bar, pool table, cinema room, you name it. I guess it was more like a hotel than a hostel. And the air conditioning was certainly appreciated as it was stinking hot & humid.
Santa Marta is a common tourist spot for those heading onto the famous Tayrona National Park. We left our luggage with the hostel and set off to the park with small backpacks. To reach the park you take a local bus to the entrance (about an hour or so) and from there it is all on foot to the various campgrounds. It’s a decent hike in scorching heat, but luckily most was in shaded jungle areas. We opted for the first campsite in Arrecifes about an hour in as it had great reviews. Most continue on another 40 minutes to the famous Cabo San Juan beach, although for 300 beds (either a hammock or a tent) there are only 5 toilets & showers.
The beach near our campsite is well known for its treacherous currents, with loads of people drowning. For that reason it’s now illegal to swim there, with security constantly patrolling up and down the beach. So the next morning we headed off to Cabo San Juan for a dip. It was a beautiful walk through the jungle and we encountered some cheeky monkeys craftily spinning coconuts until they’d drop to the ground and (hopefully) crack open for them to eat.
The beach was predominantly lined with Argentinian tourists (Colombia is their current hotspot destination), and many enviable bottoms in g-strings!
In general everything in the park is pretty expensive as it’s all carted in on horse/donkey, and food is pretty basic. The accommodation was a bargain though - we got a big tent with thick sleeping mats for a delightful $6 each.
After 2 nights we headed back to Santa Marta to meet up with some mates and plan a crazy day at the famous Barranquilla Mardi Gras Carnaval.
Second to Brazil’s Carnaval in terms of size (although a lot less glamour!), the whole country descends on this dry, hot industrial city on the coast to drink, dance & spray each other with foam. We formed a group of 10 with new friends from the hostel and arranged a private shuttle to take us there and back on the same day – about an hours drive from Santa Marta. To get a good view of the parade we paid about $10 each to get into a stadium, which included lunch and a few beers. The Chileans with us were certainly handy with the negotiations! The parade wasn’t overly spectacular in terms of grand floats, but they made up for it with effort & an array of interesting costumes. Apparently the opening day had a bit more eye candy with local celebrities part of the parade. It was scorching hot, and many of the participants actually came over to us begging for a drink.
The box of horrors. Truly horrifying.
She's balancing a bottle of aguardient on her head
Never one to say no to a dance
The highlight of the day was the street party we stumbled upon that night. An awesome mix of locals and tourists getting their salsa on, music pumping from every house, aguardiente flowing (the local Colombian anise flavoured spirit) and foam fights galore.