I just got back from my first Rotary-sponsored trip! From february 24th until March 2nd, all Rotary Exchange students from Cali, Medellin, Pasto, Buga, and Pereira had the opportunity to travel to the Caribbean coast. About 15 students took advantage of the trip. This trip highlighted the two BEAUTIFUL cities of Cartagena, and Santa Marta. These two cities are the most tourism-driven cities in Colombia. Cartagena, historically, is one of the most important cities in Colombia, and is home to the old walled city (ciudad amurallada) and the Castillo (castle) San Felipe. It is also (in my opinion) the cleanest and most beautiful city in Colombia.
The first day of the trip, we stayed in a small city called Tolu. Because we arrived around mid-afternoon, we didn't have anything special planned for the day. We spent the day at the beach, and at night went out to a discoteca with our guide. The next day we woke up early and took a bus to Cartagena.
Cartagena was my favorite city to visit, because there was so much to see and do. The first day in Cartagena we spent on the beach outside of the hotel. At night, we took
Beach in the national park of Santa Marta. We couldn't swim here, the waves were to high!
a Chiva tour throughout the city. A Chiva is a "party bus." The Chiva we took was open, and had 8 benches that could each hold 5 people. In the center of the bus, was a merengue band playing music and singing. At the front of the bus, there was a guide who was pointing out various historic locations throughout the city. In between each site, the band would play. We got back to the hotel around midnight.
The second day in Cartagena, we went to visit el Castillo San Felipe, a Castle open to the pubic. We got a special tour and spent all day exploring the dark paths of the castle, as well as the towers and castle walls. (Will upload photos) At night, we walked down the coast to la ciudad amurallada, an old, walled city containing many historic cites. To me the city felt old and european. There were no cars, only horse drawn carriages, the streets were extremely narrow, and there were plazas of restaurants and small shops. (once again, will upload photos) It was a beautiful place.
The next day, our group took a short, 50 minute boat ride to the Islas
Castillo San Felipe
Two Danish friends and I in front of the Castle of San Felipe in Cartagena
del Rosario, a famous group of islands of the coast of Cartagena which contain coral reefs and sea grass and mangrove ecosystems, and especially bright blue waters. We toured an outdoor aquarium and had the opporunity to see the wildlife of the islands. Afterwards, we took a boat to the most famous island, Baru. There we spent the rest of the afternoon at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. The sand was pure white, and the water a bright teal. The waves were especially small at this beach, and the water especially warm, so swimming there was awesome.
That night we spent once again in la ciudad amurallada.
The next day we left Cartagena early in the morning for Tayrona. We stayed in a hotel which was located on a private beach (this is important becasue all the public beaches are FULL of people trying to sell things to tourists) off the national park of Tayrona. The rooms of the hotel were individual huts spaced out throughout a jungle-like area off the beach. The hotels "lobby" was a huge kiosk with a dining area and an area with couches and boargames and musical instruments. Outside of
the kiosk there was a sand soccer field and a volleyball court. Closer to the ocean there was a bonfire pit and an area with hammocks. It was the most relaxing place I have ever been.
The next day we left the hotel and walked throughout the national park of Tayrona-Santa Marta, encountering tons of wildlife and meeting a few indiginous people from the area. We ended up eating lunch on one of the parks beaches, and walked back to where our bus was, to begin our trip to Santa Marta.
In our two days at Santa Marta, we stayed in a hotel which had its own discoteca, (we took full advantage both nights :) ) and was, once again, located very close to the beach. Both days in Santa Marta we spent on the beach, or relaxing by the pool at the hotel. We also took a short 3 minute boat ride to Playa Blanca, a beach just off the coast. The trip ended there in Santa Marta, with our flight back to Bogotá, and then, Cali.
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