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Published: February 6th 2017
not sleeping in the Bogota airport
Two weeks ago, I arrived in the country that I will be calling home for 2017. The flights went smoothly but spending my 8 hour layover on the airport floor in Bogota was less than enjoyable. Though it did make me look forward to my 6:35 AM flight to Medellin. Once I arrived in Medellin I was greeted by the smiling faces of my friend, Jaime’s, father and cousin. They brought me back to their finca (a house in the countryside) where I could finally recuperate the sleep I had missed the night before. Then after some fresh-made Colombian food we were off to El Poblado, an upscale district in Medellin where I would be staying the next few days. The hostel we stayed at, the Happy Buddha, definitely did not disappoint and shortly after I checked in my friends Aya and Jelena arrived, marking the true beginning of the next two weeks. We started the trip out by joining the hostel’s weekly Wednesday pub-crawl which turned out to be a great way to meet some fellow travelers, acquaint ourselves with the area and dance the night away.
The next day we walked through the beautiful city of Medellin from
View from Pueblito Paisa with my two favorite Danish ladies
El Poblado to El Pueblito Paisa, a reconstruction of a typical Colombian village on top of a hill, known for its panoramic views of the city. The next day we decided to go try the Metrocable cars that Medellin is famous for. It was strange to ride public transportation and call it a tourist attraction but the views of the neighborhood under us and the city made it clear why so many consider it a must-see. Once at the very top after quite a long ride through the forest we reached a national park that is nestled on top of one of the mountains surrounding Medellin. It was incredible to see the types of trees change in front of our eyes as we ascended up the mountain into the colder air. On the way down we almost had to leave Aya on top of the mountain with the pack of dogs that had adopted her but we fought and got her back. Once back in the hostel it was time to pack up and prepare for our early morning flight the next morning to the beautiful coastal city of Cartagena de indias. Afterwards, per usual we enjoyed a nice night
out in Poblado and the next morning came around way too early but we gathered the troops (all three of them), quickly ate breakfast and got into a cab. On the way to the airport I was convinced that we were going to miss our flight because the airport is located in the next valley over from Medellin about 40 minutes away and we were short on time. However, it turned out that after getting the cab driver to push his little 80 hp engine and rushing panicked into the airport that I had the wrong flight information in my iCalendar and that the flight was actually scheduled for 3:45 that day.
Since we (we meaning I) thought that our flight was at 11:20 we had a lot of time to kill. We didn’t feel like going all the way back to the city just to come back a few hours later was worth it so we decided to ask a cab driver what we could do in the area. Turns out there wasn’t much so he dropped us off at a shopping center where we became the gringo backpack hobos. After exploring the shopping center with
Aya's new best friends
all of our backpacks in a shopping cart we found a nice place on the grass next to the river and set up our gringo hobo camp. It was during these few hours that I first experienced the power of the Colombian sun as can be seen in the pictures. Finally, it was time for us to make our way back to the airport at the right time and catch the flight to Cartagena. The flight was nothing special – the girls slept and I was lucky enough to get a window seat to see the beautiful colonial city from the air.
After getting situated in our hostel we asked Jonathan (the guy who worked at the desk) to recommend a good cerviche restaurant which is exactly what he did. That night I had some of the best cerviche I have ever had. Unfortunately, during the rest of our stay in Cartagena, despite walking by before almost every meal the restaurant was always closed. When we got back to the hostel we met the 4th
guest of our 4 bed dorm, Zach, and got some much needed sleep. We spent the next day walking through the beautiful
Perks of being a white guy south of the border
colonial streets of the old city district of Cartagena. The walled city was one of the first in Colombia and is overshadowed by a massive impenetrable fort. Despite hearing mixed reviews about Cartagena it was one of my favorite places that we visited. We just walked around the streets for hours looking at the buildings, the stores, the sunburned tourists and infatuating locals. I honestly don’t think you can get bored in that city. Then at night we would explore the salsa bars, go to open air concerts or go on a street food safari. So after two days of open itinerary we (Aya) decided that we should plan an activity so we booked a boat to the Islas del Rosario, an apparent must-see in Cartagena.
So early the next morning we hopped on the bus and headed to Playa Blanca were the tour began. It soon became apparent that this tour was mainly a tour for Colombian tourists seeing that Aya, Jelena, a very nice Michigander named Dan and I were the only non South American guests. It also became clear that Playa Blanca was significantly further from Cartagena than we thought. After confused Dan asked,
“Are you sure this is the right bus?” about 6 times we saw a large dirt parking lot that the bumpy dirt road we were driving on terminated into. Now I knew that organizational skills were not a stereotypical Colombian virtue and after witnessing how this tour was managed I can see why. Our tour guide, Ana, directed us all from the bus without giving any clear guideline about what was going to happen. We then followed her through the “parking lot”, down a hill and to Playa Blanca. She tells us to wait at a restaurant without any clear explanation and then after a few minutes call us over to the beach where it looked like she was making a last-minute business deal with a boat driver. Once inside the boat we got to listen to a lot of Spanish humor (I just laughed when everybody else did) and a little more of poor confused Dan. Once we made it to the public part of the Islas del Rosario we could either sit in the boat or go snorkeling. Not wanting to miss out on any of the fun we went snorkeling which was without parallel the most hectic
Cartagena from the air
snorkeling experience I have ever had. Unlike in other parts of the world basic swimming abilities are not a prerequisite for snorkeling in Colombia so when I would lift my head from the pristine blue Caribbean water I would hear many cries for help and the constant ¡Vamos! of our tour guide. Luckily everyone made it back into the boat alive and we began to head back to the bustling beach of Playa Blanca where we did normal beach stuff. The next day marked the start of the start of an adventure that the 3 of us will never forget… La Ciudad Perdida but I am gonna leave that for another time.
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