Published: February 25th 2012February 25th 2012
Sweet treats on the bus to Medellin
The coastal vacation started off with plans to spend soaking up all the joys paradise has to offer but turned out to be quite a crazy, death defying adventure. We basically found ourselves constantly playing with fire and somehow only coming out with a few burns. I seriously don’t understand how we survived them.
Carrie is another volunteer from England and had planned to travel to the coast on her last few weeks here in Colombia, it was the perfect chance for me to get there as I’ve been itching to go since my arrival. Plus the past few weeks have been filled with pointless, various drama with the administration here at the organization, which has caused much unneeded stress; ie they tried to charge me double rent (they’re constantly trying to find a way to screw over all of the volunteers). Needless to say, I simply just needed a break. The only hitch was I needed to hop the border to renew my visa during this trip to the coast. Venezuela was quite tempting and so much closer to the places we had planned to go, but is way too dangerous to dare try. Jumping over the Panamanian border
was the best option and just so happens to be paradise simply waiting for us on the other side. Winning! I definitely felt better after discovering this, since Carrie had decided to come all the way with me to Panama as well. The Plan:
We would take a bus to Medellin and spend the weekend there. Then bus to Turbo where you catch a boat to go across the bay to the small secret gems of Capurgana or Zapzurro, two undiscovered tropically gorgeous towns of Colombia, where you then take another boat to a Porto Obladia of Panama –to get those passport stamps. We then carry on our journey on another boat to San Blas Islands, from which my research made it sound so very close to the border, and then find a reasonably priced sailboat tour to take us around the islands and then off to Cartagena. Should there be not boats, then we just back track and bus from Turbo to Cartagena (roughly ten hours). Easy peasy, right? Yeah, not so much!
Before I left on our 10-hour bus trip to Medellin, I displayed my excitement on Facebook where my friend’s sister, who lives in Bogota,
saw my status and decided to join at the last second. I immediately told her all the other places we were planning on going so she should come prepared for some fun in the sun. But before she booked a flight out to Medellin, she asked some Colombian friends and was petrified to go to Turbo. According to her sources, Turbo is FARC headquarters and the town had been recently shut down because it was too dangerous. Now Carrie and I were re-thinking our plans; but I didn’t have much of a choice, I had to leave the country by Feb. 8th
, I had to keep going. So we asked around and none of the Colombians gave us an iota of worry, which they’re quite paranoid people so that put me at ease. But what really helped was when I met Pablo Escobar’s brother, Roberto, and his right-hand man in Medellin, I asked if it was safe to go to Turbo. They both blew it off practically laughing at me and told me not to worry. Roberto even added if I should have problems then just call him. Phew! Ain’t nothing like having an Escobar by your side in Colombia!
Shabam! Now only if he could just helicopter us over….
So game back on and I called Monica to let her know it was safe! She came late that Saturday night just in time to meet Carrie’s split personality: Dengue. Earlier that evening, after dinner, Carrie came down with Dengue Fever –like-symptoms and was out for the count the rest of the night. Since then she became known as Dengue, especially since the poor thing continued to have bad luck in the health department throughout the trip!
Sunday we sort of toured around Medellin, nobody was exactly moving too fast that morning, and we wound up on a gondola ride overlooking a good portion of Medellin. Now this normally sounds great, but it turns out Monica is scared of heights. She powered through anyway, and despite having some very minor freakouts, she was fine. What a great start for her!
The next morning we took off to face Turbo, where we had planned to spend as little time as possible. We were already joking around trying to figure out how to disguise our white selves as to not stand keeping us out of harms way, but the only solution
One of Escobar's houses, and where Roberto (his bro) resides. They were attacked last year and there's a bullet hole behind this picture.
for me meant chopping my legs off. As you can imagine, I didn’t roll with that option. Since the times the buses and boats depart, we were forced to spend the night there…why didn’t my man Escobar offer his cousins’, whom reside in Turbo, house to us?!
The plan was to get off of our ten-hour bus ride and immediately pop into a hostel where we would lock ourselves in safe, for the night. But before we could even face Turbo, we had to face the long bus ride. Now I’m constantly traveling on winding roads cliff-side paired with roadslides, but this was far worse. The mountain was also falling from above, landing on top of the road we were traveling on. Many parts of the road was filled with rocks, even some parts with fallen gigantic boulders, which luckily didn’t fall as we passed. This route seemed far worse than my usual; giant rocks, boulders and a sea of mud coming at you –no thanks! Either that or I’m just not used to that sort of danger yet. The bus ride seemed to take days, we were hoping to get there before nightfall, but of course, we got there
Pablo Escobar's desk which he once hid 2 million dollars in.
during the night. We popped in a nearby hotel, quickly went to a kiosk to grab some random food, and then straight back to the safety and comfort of our hotel room.
The next morning got a bit more difficult. Carrie seemed to have recovered by Sunday morning, but by this Monday morning, Dengue was back in full swing. What’s worse, is that she typically gets seasick and we were about to embark on a 2.5 hour journey across the bay, we were only on land and she was pretty much seasick already. I’m not sure how she was able to force herself up and out of bed, I thought for sure we would just have to meet up again in Cartagena and leave the sickling behind. But she made it, and we fought our way on board this motorboat that carried 40 people. Turbo and this particular dock was such a chaotic mess, but luckily, we knew the steps it takes to get ourselves on board. I also had to constantly remind myself “not to judge a book by its cover” so I wouldn’t get freaked out over the scary men that passed by.
During the boat
Esobar's secret hiding room equipped with an oxygen tank.
ride, I had both girls queasily enduring the ride on either side of me, both waiting for their seasick pills to kick in. We were towards the front of the boat, which was lifted up in the air, and kept banging on the waves. Since they both were not feeling so hot, it then started messing with my mind and I began to worry that the others sitting in front of us might get sick as well, thus all I could think of was needing to dodge a stranger’s flying puke headed for my face. Luckily, I was very wrong, but that fear stuck with me the whole 2.5 hours, which made things a little uncomfortable as you can imagine.
We made it to Capurrgana, such a cute and quaint little town. We got our exit stamp in our passports and I immediately and secretly wished we could stay a night there. So cute and not overly crowded with tourists. We then got thrown on a canoe-sized boat which would take us to Porto Obladia, Panama. Along the way, we had to make a stop at Sapzurro and Playa de Miel, both incredible picturesque, tropical villages –one day I’ll
return. Then it was just us three on this tiny motored canoe for about an hour until we reached our dreadful destination. There was no dock, so the man that drove the boat insisted on giving us piggyback rides to shore, so we wouldn’t get wet. I almost died laughing when it was my turn, I thought for sure I was going to take him down since I’m so freaking tall! The girls were quick to document this flurry while laughing at me –which they enjoyed pointing out my ridiculous height every chance they got throughout the trip!
We then had to go through security before going through passport. It was a little nerve racking, but turned out to be more of a hoax than anything. These men were super nice and friendly and their bag check consisted resting a hand on them. Then off to passport control where we learned that the actual name of Porto Obladia is really Porto Your F*cked. Turns out Panama grants people permission to go to the San Blas Islands, so they don’t even stamp your passport. In order to get your passport stamped, you must go all the way to Panama City
Me and Pablo Escobar, notice the bullet hole through the window.
or stay a minimum of three days on the islands. Should you fail to do either of these, you will have to face a hefty fine, which can only be paid for in Medellin. So in that instance, we lied and said we would be carrying on to Panama City to get that measly stamp, and they told us we had 24 hours to choose to get it cancelled before we would be fined.
Upon leaving the office, we stumbled up on a big handful of stranded travelers. Two stranded Swedes, who assumed this town would have an atm or accept major credit cards as it’s the only passport control point between these two countries, two big groups of Argentines, two Colombians, and a few other stragglers from other countries. They all got screwed almost immediately, either they had a stamp and was too late to cancel since nobody told them this rule, or they had no money, or they actually needed to get to Panama City but couldn’t for lack of boats. The boats that take you to the San Blas Islands apparently don’t go very often and one had already left that morning. Some local has a
More shots from a different raid in the Escobar house.
small plane and charges $90 USD a seat to Panama City (which is cheaper than the boat ride), but already left and wasn’t coming back for another 15 days. They told us the boats to the islands wouldn’t be going for another day or two. We immediately sought out to talk to locals to try to get a boat to the islands. It seemed like an impossible feat and backtracking to Turbo quickly seemed like a much better idea, only then I wouldn’t get my stamp. Monica thought about going back and just meeting us in Cartagena, but really didn’t want to have to deal with Turbo again, so decided to stick with us. We thought about bribing the passport control to keep my stamp, but then I was worried about the Colombian passport control and having to successfully bribe them as well –what would happen if one country didn’t accept my bribe?
So we haggled and found a guy that would take us on his boat. Monica would just borrow money from us since she was one of the few people without a dime on them. Luckily, Carrie and I were able to exchange our Colombian bills for American
dollars with some local. We had to stay the night and then we would be off the next morning.
Staying the night was interesting. The town only gets electricity at certain times and they’re only allowed to use the night electricity to put on the fan, not so much for light use. Our hostel was questionable and Monica was freaked out for bed bugs. There was no light in the toilet/shower room located outside our room, but luckily Carrie had her trusty headlamp to get the deed done –only the toilet didn’t flush and other foreigners needed to use the same toilet as well.
The next morning was a huge mess. Apparently, the guy that told us we were on his boat decided not to write our names on the list, which meant we were not supposed to get to go. All the foreigners, thus far, were on the same team helping each other out. But that unfateful morning, we had to fight against each other to board the boat. There was supposed to be two boats, but one was a no-show. We then tried to convince some guy to take us on his boat, but he wouldn’t
take only five people, his boat filled nine and wanted more people. The foreigners were all fighting with the men and passports were being thrown around, constantly changing who was getting to go and who wasn’t. *Backtrack: the night before, at the internet café, we purchased tickets through a Colombian website for flights to Cartagena, since we had learned that we weren’t going to find our dream Sailboat tour at this time. So now we had to be in Panama City for our Friday flight out -this fight became serious real quick. But after an eternity of fighting, someone found the loophole, which was so easy it was nearly missed. We would split up the first boat to put more people on the second boat and that way nobody was left behind! Amazing how adding one more person to some guy’s boat would make him instantaneously happy, why couldn’t he just say that to begin with? I felt horrible having to fight against my own people, let alone with the people that could take us out of there!
We somehow managed to get on the first boat (the other wasn’t leaving right away), but got stuck in the very
front. Did I mention this motorboat was just a big canoe, holding nine passengers packed quite tightly in? Mmhmm..yeah. Did I also mention we had to garbage bag all of our bags to protect them from all the waves that were about to engulf us? Mmmhmmm, yeah. So we went through security again, where we had to lay our bags on the ground so their dog, a Lab, could sniff the bags. This was quite hilarious, the puppy just wanted to play ball and hopped over and on some bags, maybe throwing a quick sniff or two in! Quality work right there!
So we took off on our five-hour journey. Now this sounds lovely and all but was quite the opposite: absolutely horrible! Everything I’m about to say is not even remotely exaggerated, and I now have quite a big fear for boats –which I used to love so very much. Since it was almost noon by the time we had finally left, the waves had built back up to an impressionable size, throw in the fact that it was threatening to storm, and you got bigger waves. We were constantly getting smacked and thrown around at the front
of the boat as our driver, whom feels nothing at the back, tried to fly over each wave. I was stuck in the middle and had nothing to hold on to but the ends of my bench, so I was constantly flexing every single muscle in my body in effort to cling on for dear life. Our bottoms were throbbing within the first 30 minutes of our departure. I tried to keep positive though and mentioned that maybe we would spot some dolphins. Both girls wanted to throw me off the boat after that remark, they were already sick of my constant positivity. You better believe “blame Canada” was in full effect since they were doing all of this for me, for my stamp (though in my defense, they volunteered to come, I never asked or made them!)! Within a half hour of me saying this, a pack of dolphins hopped along past us! I don’t think there was any better of an “I told ya so” moment than that one! The girls couldn’t believe it and then tried to be a bit more positive, which quickly wore off as the journey kept getting worse.
We tried playing games
to keep our minds off the pain our bodies were enduring and the scary waves roaring and terrorizing us out at sea on our tiny little boat, but none of them lasted long since we had to keep concentrating on defeating the waves; staying in the boat. At one point, one of the Argentine’s at the back of the boat cracked and started crying and moved to the middle (she was frozen and soaked, a trade off for sitting at the back with no violent bumps to kill your bottom). Luckily, we didn’t crack and Carrie and I joked throughout the whole thing. Monica would joke with us too every now and again, but she remained quiet for most of it –I’m sure returning to Turbo was the only thing on her mind at that point. I almost cracked at hour three though and told the girls I was “genuinely scared.” The waves just kept getting more gigantic and scary and I was in so much pain, I didn’t know how I could hang on any longer: my fingers were seriously locked in a life-clenching grip, I couldn’t even straighten them when I wasn’t hanging on to anything,
Carrie and I are obsessed with these cookies called Cuca, which also means vagina. We then got to our hostel in Medellin and they told us we were in the Puss Pink room. We're already killing ourselves laughing with eating vagina jokes, and now we got put in pussy!
plus it had started to rain. But my saying this made the girls even more shaken up as apparently, I had been what was keeping them hanging on. Carrie told me several times after this trip that she almost lost it when I told them. She thought: shit, if Kate is fearless and is in good spirits about it all, then I don’t really have anything to worry about. So I had to quickly conceal my fears and now be strong for not just myself, but for them as well. But luckily, I fully regained my strength back not too long thereafter, especially when we had short breaks consisting of flying by islands which had calm waters and views that made me think we were going through a Super Mario level!
At halfway point, we had to stop and not because we had motor problems, no that one had already happened (which I might add, he learned nothing from the motor dying due to the waves he tried to fly and crash over, since he continued to do this). After seven hours and night growing near, we had to stop at one of the San Blas Islands, which is
usually halfway point between the island of Carti and Turbo, (which roughly takes five hours). Luckily, the hotel was a bit better than our last and we enjoyed a yummy meal. The only fear was having to endure the pain all over again for another whole day –and what if the storm got worse?! I was already walking funny at that point, another day on that boat seemed impossible! We immediately plotted to snag the middle to last seats on the boat, I seriously couldn’t take anymore battering. The girls got it too, but not as bad since they at least had the side of the boat to hold on to, I had nothing. That night, we met three other boys stranded on the island. No matter your situation, it always gets worse. Turns out they ran out of money and didn’t know San Blas Islands is home to the Kuna Yali village people, they don’t have any atms and have kept things very village-life like. So the boys had to send a friend all the way back to Panama City, aka the closest atm, to take out enough cash to get all of them all the way to Colombia.
Notice how everyone is higher than I am, the boat's front end is out of the water.
The boys just had to sit and wait on this dirty island for a few days for their friend to return. They hadn’t even made it to Porto Your F*cked yet, and they were pretty much already f*cked. -Porto Your F*cked has some serious updating to do, and really such a great place any smart entrepreneur could make loads of cash on, even if it’s just owning a boat and rescuing all the poor foreigners!
The next morning only worked out to be two hours, thank God! Perhaps the boys lied to us with how long the trip would take, or maybe accounted for a storm and thus it would take a lot longer. But either way, I’m happy! We were able to snag the best seats on the boat and the weather was a lot calmer, so there wasn’t much booty slapping. However, our next obstacle faced us. There are cars that take you to Panama City once off the boat, but only at certain times. From the little we knew, it sounded like another fight to get a car and not be left stranded –there’s no town in sight at this point. So Monica and I schemed
that upon arrival, I would jump off the boat to beat the others and figure out transportation while she and Carrie would grab our bags. Luckily, this plan was unnecessary and there were a plethora of cars and people, all getting their turn. We hopped in our jeep with a few other passengers and were off! Now I was thinking this was a 45-minute trip, I have no idea how I came up with that number but instead, it was a three hour trip! Urgh! I literally have no idea how far we’ve come or what could possibly happen. All I knew at that point was I was just glad to be off that boat and on a semi-comfy seat half comforting my poor butt.
We had a few hitches along the way, like the driver forgetting his license at one of the many checkpoints and got caught at the next checkpoint for it. Luckily, his driver-friend wasn’t too far behind who brought it to us, so we didn’t have to wait too long. But honestly, out of all things, really? How could you forget your license when this is what you do day-in day-out?! I mean haaallllooooo??
When we finally entered Panama City, I noticed two bodies of water on either side of us and asked if it were those two famous oceans. Indeed, they were and I thought nothing of it until we checked in at the hostel and saw a map. I looked to see all that we had traveled and almost collapsed when I found out that we had just traveled halfway up the country of Panama and drove clear across the country, not to mention we had come by bus from Medellin –a good ten hours away from the boat starting point. I almost fainted, I couldn’t believe it! Definitely know nothing about Panama! And all the research I had found didn’t make the islands to be so far away either! Wtf?! I just couldn’t believe it! I felt horrible I dragged these girls all the way up with me!
Panama City was spectacular though! I want to move there! It reminded me a lot of Miami, and Monica and I immediately felt like were in America. After that horrible boat ride, it felt like a homecoming which was much needed at that point. Our first stop was a pharmacy, so I
could obtain some prescription drugs without the prescription (gotta love Latin America for that one). I figure why be in pain when there’s pills to take it all away in mere minutes! The girls weren’t in as much pain as I, but as I’ve said before, I had it a lot worse than they. So I got some strong medication and I ended up taking medication for the rest of my two weeks vacation. As it turns out, my ass fell off, literally. Not only did I wind up with two bruises on my behind, but a lesion as well which I discovered almost a week later. I don’t think you quite understand the gravity of this situation here. It was bad. Now I typically have a high pain tolerance; for instance, I’ve had a staple go through my toe once without feeling any pain. But with this, my friends, I felt pain like never before. When I would sit down (not drugged), I would have to sit down like I was pregnant doing a weird wobbly shimmy to get down onto the seat; and being on a hard seat let me tell you, was no fun either. I even
had a Reiki massage in Cartagena to help my aching body out. (Thankfully, Reiki massages aren’t like a normal massage, so I wasn’t sore like I would have been after a nice deep-tissue massage!).
Friday comes around and after exploring our kind neighborhood and finding cans of Heineken and Guiness for an American 80 cents (did I mention I love Panama?), we decided to print our plane tickets for the next day. *Enter next obstacle. Turns out this Colombian website we booked through (Monica had told us about it), didn’t accept our international credit cards and told them to call them, which of course we weren’t near an internet, so had no knowledge of this beforehand. So we tried calling them and another disaster was unleashed. I’ve never had such horrible customer service in my entire life! After an eternity of fighting with various people, we lost the battle, but luckily, were only charged for the time on the phone with them. Then we had to find the next flight out. So we used trusty Orbitz, and Carrie and I quickly found the same flight. Only we were booking at the same time and I managed to finish just
before she did, where upon I snagged the last ticket! Great. So now she had to find another ticket. She ended up finding one with the same first flight, but not the second and would get in to Cartagena a bit later. (Monica was still deciding what she was going to do, go home or continue defying death with us). When that was finally all booked, we decided to reserve our seats next to each other. She first chose a seat and then I logged on to choose mine, only this empty row she chose was now all taken. What?! That can’t be right! Wtf?!
So we investigated a little more and realized we were reserving our seats for our second flight, one we wouldn’t even be on together! But our first flight (together), didn’t even allow us to choose our seats! So strange considering we just checked in well over 24 hours in advance to our second flight! So we thought we would just go to Ocean Air’s website, our first carrier (partners with Avianca), and book our seats. Well Ocean Air happens to be a cargo plane, specializing in boats. I wanted to die! We were laughing so
hard in disbelief, I mean honestly!! So we left it at that and told ourselves we weren’t really going to be next to our beloved boats on the way to Bogota!
We left way, way
too early to the airport the next morning (leaving behind Monica), and joked we saw more of the airport than the city. The guys at the hostel didn’t know what they were talking about and we ended up having to wait forever in the airport. So we were going around and applying cream to our windburned faces at all of the sample points in the duty free stores until it was time to go. Carrie was convinced I was dressed like I was going for a run, and I was convinced she was dressed to be the next India Jones; combined with our faces, I’m sure we were quite a sexy sight! (Monica had decided to stay in Panama City a little longer and book a flight to Cartagena, connecting in Bogota, in case she wanted to hop off and stay at home).
Cartagena welcomed us in open arms. I didn’t have to wait long for Carrie to make it in and we
went out for a celebratory: we made it dinner and drinks, treating ourselves to expensive sushi. Well this tiny little restaurant must have felt our glory as they gave us huge, insanely strong drinks on the house! Then we proceeded to go to a club where upon we stumbled on some more free drinks! Towards the end of the night, we met this awesome yet wasted couple and spent the rest of the night with them. They took us for pizza when the club closed, which happens to be located in a secret club! Awesome combo! I’m not sure how we made it back to the hostel that night; I don’t even remember giving him my number to meet up with them in Baranquilla for Carnival the following weekend! This is also a good place point out that Monica might be the heckler in this vacation, not Canada. Everything went swell until she showed up the next day! Hehe! Carrie and I secretly agreed it was all her fault!
The next day was slow moving and not just because of the heat. I happened to snap back like a rubber band though, but Dengue was back in full throttle.
I was excited to be embraced by all the charm that embodies Cartagena. The walled section of town is colorfully filled with colonial-style buildings and lots of horse drawn carriage rides touring the city. The first day we took off to go basque in a nearby volcano, or “hot mag-ma” I should say, well because you know, we seem to have a knack for defying death. We even joked about it along the way when we realized none of us knew much of the details about this excursion! It was the oddest and funniest sensation ever! I now can say what it’s like to be in space! You have no control of your body and you just float around twisting and turning in every way! Since my legs are so long, they kept floating to the surface of the clay and others had to keep pushing my legs down for me, since I literally couldn’t! There’s absolutely no gravity in there! So cool! We were killing ourselves laughing. Afterwards was even more of a trip! So you wash off all the mucky clay in the bay and there are women standing in the water with small buckets hassling you to
wash you off. One lady just wouldn’t take no for an answer and proceeded to wash me. As she tilted me back pouring water over my head, she ever so quickly and swiftly untied my bikini top, leaving me half-naked in public! I was so stunned and bewildered, all I could do was laugh and ask her what the heck she was doing! She was giggling along while washing my bikini top as I held myself under-water waiting to get my top back. But no, she then took off for Carrie, leaving me stranded and topless! I had to wait for her to finish washing Carrie before she would give me my top back! Insane! She seriously had it off faster than a blink of an eye! Incredible!
The next few days was spent going to the islands near Cartagena. Isla de Baru, for example, is home to Playa Blanca, the epitome of a tropical beach. Unfortunately, it requires taking a boat to get to. I wanted to cry the first time we had to get back on a boat, and it didn’t help any that we got stuck in the front again. Luckily there were only a few
waves which we hit hard, but otherwise, us girls spent the ride with our faces in our laps too keep from worsening our windburns (poor Monica, you should have seen her nose with a giant sunglass line!). The locals on the boat must have thought we were insane! Another boat we took on a different day to another island for some incredible snorkeling was a lot bigger, only a lot worse. Of course, our motor gave out halfway there. The men messed around with the motor for about an hour as we crawled along the sea. Once again, we damned boats and then just carried on as per usual, eating our picnic we brought while the rest of the boat was getting quite panicked –they clearly hadn’t had proper training as we accidently had. -I’m pretty sure we’re ready for the Marines at this point, I doubt their training is even as intense. What’s worse was the time they took fixing the motor shed time off of our snorkeling time. Snorkeling passed soo fast, but I saw some amazingly colored fish that I have never even imagined existed! I was the first to be asked if I wanted to take
my lifejacket off in order to dive below for a closer look (the guide must have seen the past mermaid in me). Another guide even gave me some sort of plant the fish feed on! I dived under with it and then a bunch of fish came and surrounded my hand! So awesome! I also managed, however, to cut my foot on some coral. Surprise, surprise: always a foot story in my travels! At least it didn’t hurt (perhaps I don’t have feeling in my feet?). Luckily, I don’t have shark-attracting blood!
Our last night in Cartagena consisted of Dengue being back in action, so Monica and I decided to leave it in bed. We were wondering around looking for one of the many happy hour deals throughout the city where we wound back up at the Blue House Hostel. Carrie and I had already been three times before Monica arrived. It was near our first hostel and it has such a chill atmosphere with a café inside. We were going to take Monica when she first got in, but Carrie was already too embarrassed to go back! But Dengue wasn’t there that night, so we decided to go
in -they had some good deals on fruit Mojitos anyway! But the guy was out of alcohol from the night before, and then asked if I had any other questions. Now this place has such great onda, and I even said on our first time there that I would like to work and live in place like this; especially after pointless disaster after disaster in Ibague. The girls had already been bugging me to ask them about jobs there, but I was too embarrassed for having gone so many times in such a short amount of time (the girls knew I wanted out of Ibague and have been on the job hunt). But I figured this was my last night, so no pain all gain, right? So I decided to nonchalantly ask about where I should look if I wanted a job in Cartagena. The guy got excited, “you want a job? Great because I’m actually leaving and they need to fill my position!” Then this other guy sitting at the bar told me to wait as he went to go grab his girlfriend who runs the place. I was pretty much hired on the spot! I will be working
from 4-10, sometimes until 11, get to live there, get food, and get a small amount of money each month. Sweet! She asked me to come back the next morning to finalize the deal and clear up any other unclarities that might have arisen. Clearly, Monica and I celebrated that night away! The next morning, I returned and met the day-shift employee who also happens to be the girl’s cousin. Turns out their from Venezuela all want to learn more English. So during the day will consist of teaching the staff English, earning even more money! Hooray! The girls seem super and are really welcoming and friendly. They already told me it’s not just a place to work, it’s a family, it’s home. Cartagena has already enchanted me, but now I have this too, I’m really excited and looking forward to this change!
We were supposed to leave the next morning to Taganga, 2.5 hours away, but Dengue still hadn’t let Carrie come back to play. What’s worse, is we had decided to go to the opening of the giant carnival in Baranquilla that weekend, but that also meant shortening our stay in Taganga and Tayrona National Park. We
couldn’t really afford to have Dengue around. On top of which, we already had to switch hostels for lack of vacancy, and now had to switch again for the same reason for just one more night’s stay. We found a sweet hotel around the corner though. It was more money, but this meant Dengue could have a toilet and we all had a comfy bed, AC, and a flat screen TV in our room (for some reason Colombia caters to three persons per room, so it was quite easy to find)! Even though we’re not big TV watchers in our usual lives, but as soon as you take it away and live abroad, you get glued to it wherever you see it. Even in clubs, it’s hard to peel your eyes off it as you dance along to the songs! So we spent the entire day and night relaxing in bed, enjoying the cruddy TV shows. Sweet bliss!
The next morning, Carrie was more or less back and we took off for Taganga. Phew! When we finally arrived, however, we were coldly greeted with a hostel change. Apparently there was a problem with the hostel’s internet and a ton
of people had booked this particular hostel without there even being any vacancy! Luckily, they had called and got us a room across the tiny town in some other hostel. We weren’t stoked on this idea (who knows the quality of the place they stuck us in), but were thankful everything was taken care of for us. We wouldn’t have known where to look next, plus everything else was pretty much full! Thankfully, our hostel wasn’t too bad though, it worked for two nights. And Taganga was quite different than pictured. I had only seen pictures of the bay of this fishing town, which seemed absolutely beautiful, but the town itself is so cruddy! They only had one paved road, the rest are bumpy dirt roads, and the town is ridiculously windy! It’s actually quite a strange town: despite tourists crawling all over town, it didn’t get swept up in tourism like most others do. They have kept on living as per usual, not updating a thing and doing with very little, rather than reaping all of the benefits of making money off the plethora of tourists. It’s quite a unique combination, but bewildering to see functioning in this manner
nonetheless. Plus, we were using this town as our jumping off point for Tayrona National Park, so we wouldn’t need to spend too much time there anyway. That night, while out for dinner, we got convinced to go on a mountain bike tour to one of the Tayronna beaches, snorkeling included. The bike ride was supposed to be pretty easy and not hilly at all. A 90-minute ride to one of the least known and visited swimmable beaches, eat a delish lunch from a Swedish-run and owned café, hike to a golden snorkel spot, swim or suntan, hang out on hammocks on the beach, and a 50-minute ride back, biking along the trails through the mountains/country-side. This was perfect as we only had one day for Tayronna. Carrie and I signed up and said a little prayer for my butt. Monica decided that she would just relax beachside in Taganga for the day.
As per usual, they lied, but then again they’re pretty much professionals at this biking thing in the hot, hot heat. It was quite the mountain bike ride, with a lot of uphilling which trewe didn’t sign up for. Did I mention it was hot? I
mean these mountains were ready to burn down, even gigantic cacti covered the mountains! But the outcome was simply amazing and well worth the trek! The beach remained deserted throughout the day, which I’ve heard the swimmable beaches of Tayronna are always overcrowded, leaving us in tranquility rocking in the comfy hammocks. Unfortunately, snorkeling sucked in comparison to Cartagena, plus the water was also cold, so that activity didn’t last too long. Thank God for those hammocks! When we got back on our bikes my ass already felt the pain. I was surprised when we first got on at the beginning how comfy the seat was and how it was lacking pain; guess that didn’t last too long. The bike ride there was luckily the longer leg of the tour, so we only had about an hour ride back to where the truck picks us up. Only my gears gave out on the way back! At one point, I was pedaling as fast as I could and was getting absolutely nowhere! I had to yell for them to stop as they were only getting farther and farther away! When they turned to see me, they were in hysterics! Carrie told
me the next day that that must have been the funniest part of this entire trip altogether! I must have looked positively ridiculous, I sure felt it anyway! My guide sort of fixed the gears, and I was back to pedaling like a normal human being. Phew!
The next day we were off to Baranquilla for the second biggest carnival in South America, after Rio! Of course we couldn’t find a place to stay, so we decided that we would just take a bus there, party all night, and then take the first bus back to Taganga while Monica would catch her first flight out that Sunday morning. We met an Argentine on the bus who had the same plan, so he hung out with us. The set up of the Carnival was a mess. They have big tents set up alongside the road, so if you’re not in a tent and stuck with the masses behind them, you barely get to see the parade. But luckily, it wasn’t as intricate and big as the floats for the Rio Carnival. So at least we weren’t missing much! Just a normal parade that lasted forever with tons of people we
didn’t know dancing and waving at us. The good part though, is all the party is behind the tents. People are drunkenly spraying each other with foam or throwing chalk powder at each other in their silly costumes. One man came up to us dressed as a pregnant old whore, another group tried sticking us up with glue guns! So many people, so much going on, so much to watch out for! One girl took it upon herself to hang out with us since she was worried for our safety (she had a classic case of Colombian paranoia). Carrie and I agreed that because she’s young and Monica seems to attract all the youngsters, be it a club or restaurant or festival, that we get stuck with them since she’s too nice to get rid of them, even though she hates hanging out with them as well. At one point, we were the attraction of the parade as a huge group of 14-year olds stood around us in a circle, wide-eyed. I waved. I mean, what are you supposed to do, right? Awkward! So this girl stays with us For-Ever, bringing us to all the crummy places since she’s too
young to know where to go. We went for food and then found a street party, which would have been fun had this wasted guy practically naked and sprayed from head to toe in gold shimmery paint would have left me alone. The girls thought it was hilarious and only egged him on. At one point Carrie decided that water was necessary and he overheard and said he would go get it. Great! But then didn’t move! So I told him to go or I will, which he wouldn’t let me go, he wanted to. Then he said (in Spanish), “ok one water for her and a beer for you.” “No, I don’t want beer, just a water for her.” “Ok, so a beer for you and a water for her.” “No, I have alcohol thanks (showing him our giant bottle of Aguardiente in my hand), just a water for her.” “Ah ok, so a water for her and a beer for you.” “No! I don’t need more alcohol, look! I got a lot, thank you, we just need a water for her.” “Ok, so a beer for you and a water for her.” “No, only water please.” “Ok, so
a beer for you and a water for her.” “Yes.” “Ok!” And he left to go purchase the drinks. Omg!
After a while, enough was enough with this guy never leaving me alone, so I made us all leave. He tried to follow, but our Colombian body guard-ster told him off, even she was getting annoyed.
We wound up in the party-zone of Baranquilla and got a drink. Monica and Ezekiel slipped away after awhile, leaving Carrie and I stuck with our body guardster. The bar scene was a little energy drained, as were we, since everyone had been drinking heavily that day and were ready to pass out. But we had to keep trekking, but we couldn’t stand this girl that we were now stuck with. So Carrie and I decided to try to catch the last bus back to Taganga. This girl even followed us to the bus station! We had missed the bus though, so decided to go back to the party-zone. Finally, this girl must have met her bed-time and decided to go! Hallelujah! Game on! Carrie and I searched for a good place for dancing, but since everyone was still ready to pass out,
not much was going on. We finally happened upon one place but not too long thereafter decided that paying a lot of money for a cab all the way back to Taganga was way more worth than staying up the rest of the night to bad songs. Or perhaps we’re just getting too old for this all nighter thing….The club almost redeemed itself though, but quickly lost us after a few songs.
When we got back to our hostel, we didn’t have our keys and found out it wasn’t 24-hour desk service. Before leaving to Baranquilla that morning, we had to race and check in to this better hostel. Since we were running late, we threw our stuff in and left the keys at the desk since it meant bringing less with us to the Carnival. When we arrived super late that night with a slap in the face with a locked gate, we saw the outdoor patio was located right next to it and saw a girl who was in our hostel dorm-room in Cartagena. She gladly opened the gate for us. Next obstacle: getting in our locked rooms. The hostel had separated us, even though we booked
a few days in advance and even had to pay for our room in order for them to reserve us in the same room, they didn’t save our spots. Carrie lucked out, some guy in her dorm room was still up and let her in. Nobody from my dorm room, however, was there. So Carrie shared her bed with me until the front desk opened up, where upon I could grab my keys and go sleep in my bed. We were both prepared to sleep outside in a hammock of our hostel, so we were pretty happy we at least got halfway in! The next day Dengue was back in full swing, but it was a perfect day for it. We spent the entire day relaxing in the rooftop hammocks with a stunning view overlooking Taganga and it’s bay.
I’m not sure how we survived all that we did (I left out a lot more stories), nor why Monica chose to keep traveling with us! It was most definitely a scary adventure but one of the best yet! Carrie and I are already planning on more trips together, though it might be best we not, seeming as how things
turn out! I’m also pretty excited I’ll already get to see her in Cartagena next week. She’s still in Taganga where her boyfriend is going to fly out and meet up with her for a few weeks, before they return back to England. Apparently, he doesn’t like going to poor countries nor vacations that involve doing things (she jokes he’s the girl in the relationship), so it’s good she got that all out of her system before he comes! Plus, I’m sure she’s going to want her future vacations that suits his preference from here on out!
There are more photos below