Published: July 16th 2010July 16th 2010
Sunset at the wall.
Cartagena has a huge defensive structure around its old town. By now it's popular to go there in the evening and to enjoy the fresh breeze and the views.
Yes, we're still in Colombia. And yes, we are alive. Our noses are still clean, even though we did not give any signs of life in the last 3-4 weeks. There is a good explanation though...
Cartagena de Indias
We spent a bit
more time in Cartagena than we planned. The initial idea was one week: Chris attending an intensive Spanish course, me playing the beach bunny. Well, at the end, Chris went for 2 weeks Spanish, and I spent the same time with learning Spanish from a study book, made for Swedish people... interesting self-study. Must admit, our Spanish improved significantly, but after 2 weeks - 4 hours a day we had enough. We made some time to visit Cartagena itself, as it´s a really really pretty town with dozens of colonial buildings in perfect shape, coast with beautiful sunsets and hot Caribbean weather. Perfect for strolling around, sipping cafe tintos or cold lemonades from the street vendors.
I took an afternoon off for myself and went to visit the Inquisition Palace. It has a nice collection of torture tools, but as I understood, none of them was used in Cartagena itself. The major inquisition site in
No clue what it means...
but we do like aguardiente....
South America was in Lima, and in Cartagena only 2 persons were sentenced to death, and they simply were hung... But I could learn now how to identify a witch with simply asking the right list of questions!!!
After Chris had survived his masochistic 2-weeks Spanish, he had a free choice of activity, so we visited the nearby Volcan de Lodo El Totumo. No, it ain't the world largest termit mound, but it definitely looks like a miniature vulcano. Instead of spewing lava it has... MUD!!!!
It´s a lovely ~20 meters high mud vulcano, where you can enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. No matter what you try, you can´t sink, just float in the heavy massa. Chris tried hard, but failed. A pretty funny sight though... Less funny though: it took us almost 4 hours to get to the vulcano with a combination of public transports, however, on the way back, we got back to Cartagena in 1 hour. Apparently there are 2 roads which you can take, and the local buses (recommended by LP, which we are using less and less....) take bumpy back roads, while some public minibuses use the efficient new highway... So on the way
Street views in Cartagena
Old streets with loads of cute houses, nice to stroll and wander about.
back we decided to get into such a minibus, but actually we were luckier than that as we got a free ride from a nice Colombian couple driving to Cartagena for the weekend.
Parque Nacional Tayrona: a.k.a. the best beaches of Colombia
Next day we took a bus to the Caribbean coast, to Taganga. Taganga is more like a small fishing village with ~5000 inhabitants and the same amount of backpackers. The vibe was pretty much hippy like: laid back, drinking on the streets, people just chilling on the streets. In Taganga we found out that Jordi (a Spanish guy who we met in Villa de Leyva) was also hanging out there, so all was good.
The main attraction of Taganga is actually just next to it: Tayrona, a national park with the 'best' beaches in Colombia. The three of us went there for 2 nights. And indeed the beaches were GOOOOOD!!!! Ok, some were too dangerous to swim in, but the best part was that in case you don't like a certain beach (hard to imagine, but still)
, then just walk to the next 200 meters further... easy going. Clear waters, some ok for snorkeling and
So, which Demons did attend your wedding????
The Witch-Questionnaire. I wonder whether they could laugh in case you answered:"Only one demon, my mother-in-law!"
loads of space.
No alcohol could be brought in. We were actually wondering what the soldier at the entrance of the park would do with all those confiscated bottles of aguardiente and rum... Jordi got all his bags checked for alcohol and drugs, upto the holders of his glasses, while in the background I put my small bottle of rum in a safer place :) But then again, apparently I looked credible enough when I stated "No, no alcohol in my bag, Sir.", as I wasn't checked, thankfully.
The camping where we stayed was a bit weird: in case we asked where the bathrooms were, they always referred us to the toilets of a nearby restaurant... The second day we did find the showers, but they were closed with padlocks... Guess they didn't feel like cleaning them.... But ok, later on they were open in the evening, but by then we already decided that we would indeed use the toilets + showers of an other campground as there they were much nicer and at least clean... The restaurant closes at 20.30, and the "shop" at 21:00. Not many people, enough mosquitos and a small bottle of rum. So
we played Solo for some time and said goodnight. All ok, until the lady in a tent next to us started screaming "COCARACHA!!!!" and used a f#cking huge torch to look for the critter. We basically had a private light show in our tent and after 10 minutes the special effectS were improved by bug sprays. That girl and her b-friend sprayed so much shit in their tent that we could smell it as well. They started couching like hell and had to open their tent in order to breath. Knowing their tent was open and their torch was still on I really do not know how many more bugs / flies were attracted to crowl / fly into their tent.... We slept well after this incident, they moved their tent to an other spot...
Ah, before we forget: Yes we also watched the 2 semi-finals there, which indeed didn't lead to any surprises for me and Jordi: Both Holland and Spain won and got into the finals...
The Lost City
After the park we figured out that we still wanted to do the 5 days jungle trek to the Ciudad Perdida
, the Lost City. So we
A Tinto lady
Street vendors selling coffee (tinto´s) and candies.
headed to Santa Marta, booked the trek for the next day and off the went. The Lost City was also called Infierno Verde
, the Green Hell. When we got to the departing point by 4WD after almost 2 hours bumpy ride in the jungle, we figured out why it was indeed called the Green Hell: basically everybody that we saw coming out of the jungle was covered with big red bumps, especially on the legs. In other words: it´s a mosquito's paradise...
You trek uphill for 3 days through lush green hills with river crossings, sleeping in hammocks and enjoying the natural 'swimming pools' on the way. The city was actually discovered around 1976, although the local indigenous people always knew it was there and still consider it as a sacred place. On the fourth day we did the final 1300 steps up to the former city built between 600-900 AD, where some 2000 to 4000 people are believed to have lived. Normally the guides take you to the city on the third day, but as it's now the rainy season, it always rains in the afternoon. So going up to the city on the fourth day in the
And yes, we were near the Caribbean...
Local ladies preparing food for the church festivity.
morning and having only the afternoon of the 4th day and the full 5th day to trek back to the starting point was pretty tough (we did 42 kms in total, OK, no altitude, only up to 1200 m but still), however you don't have a choice, so you just do it. The city in itself is in ruins on top of the hill tops. Still it's pretty impressive and nice. It's definitely worth the trek.
About these indigenous people, they are the decendents of the Tayrona tribe who built the city and they still really have their own customs and traditions. Due to the tourism to the Lost City, the shamans are really worried whether these traditions will survive. Settlements close to the trail are now basically confronted on a daily basis with tourists and guides and certain traditions do weaken. For example:
- The shaman in whose 'region' the trail and the Lost City is, spends now more and more time telling about the new hardships of the local people and tries to 'channel' these influences in a more or less acceptable way. As a consequence he can't dedicate enough time to his own spiritual development and his
'connection' to Earth. He thinks that he already lost more than 40% of his knowledge of nature and its powers compared to his predecessors.
A second Oro-museum
Once more gold-gold and more gold. This time in the gold museum in Cartagena.
- Chemical medicines are crowding out natural medicines.
- The goverment / NGOs are pushing for education in this region. The local people are hesitant as more education will mean more assimilation to 'normal' civilised life.
- The sacred institution of their houses is diminishing. Traditionally in a family settlement there are two houses: one for the man & sons of 8+ years and the second one for the wife and daughters. A couple doesn´t have sex in either house as they are sacred, instead they do it in nature. However, this is changing as well, couples sometimes share houses and have sex at home...
It´s interesting to hear stories about their local traditions. Once a boy reaches adulthood, he´s initiated, including a 'session' with an experienced lady, in order to know how to have sex: Practical education. They also get their first coca leaf chewing experience, which becomes their daily habit onward. Girls can get married once they get their period (13-14 years old), then they are 'expected' to have a child basically every year. Babies
The mud vulcano....is it real?
who are born with severe disabilities are sacrificed. The shaman makes the baby drink a lethal potion. It does sound hard, but then again: The life in the jungle is also hard, so taking care of babies / kids with large disabilities puts too much strain on the community, they say.
And relating to the Green Hell I mentioned earlier: I was ok, and Agi managed too. Apparently she found the only effective bug repellent in Colombia... so happy. Good trip.
By now we made it already to Medellin. We took the night bus from Santa Marta to here. The laundry has been done by machine which was really needed...
Ps, as some of you might know of me, I am almost the biggest football fan in the world.... So what did I do during the final Holland - Spain? Playing cards and chess!!!! In the bush-bush there was no TV and the small portable radio wasn't audible due to the torrental rain. Probably the fundamental lack of Spanish language knowledge on my side was also a factor. Did you ever try to follow Spanish speaking football commentators? The only thing you'll likely understand is GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!
There are more photos below