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Published: January 27th 2020
I did finally figure out how to add photos on my last blog, and spent an hour downloading and writing captions...only to find out that I could not re-post! Arrrgggghhhh! But, think I’ve got it nailed (thank you Lynn, for your guidance and patience) and hopefully you’ll be able to fully enjoy this blog on COLOMBIA Part 2.
After leaving the densely packed resort town of Rodadero, we drove about 1/2 hour over a mountain to the beautiful town of Santa Marta. Upon arriving at our Air B&B, the BOUTIQUE HOTEL CACTUS SUITES, we realized we had forgotten to take our passports and cash from the safe in Rodadero! Drove like a bat-out-of-Hell (or, like a local) back over the mountain to get them, stopped on way back to Santa Marta at cute local cafe for breakfast and then once more over the mountain.
Upon getting back to the Cactus we were told room was not quite ready, so we walked to find money changer. It was HOT! Really HOT! But not as humid as Cartagena, which was nice but since there was very little breeze it felt sizzling hot. After changing the money we found
the charming HAVANA CAFE with outside tables shaded by trees in one of the towns many parks. We met the owner, an Australian from NYC married to a Colombiana, who opened a Cuban food restaurant. You can sure meet some really interesting people while on the road!
We went back to Cactus and were taken to the third floor (yikes! no elevator) where the only room on the floor was the PRESIDENTIAL SUITE! Walter had booked it on a whim ($60/night) and OMG! the room was spectacular! Large, open, modern with private balcony and pool. And the attention to details was incredible; luxy linens, towels and pillows, small cooktop, furnished kitchen, large refrigerator fully stocked, walk-in rain-head shower and so much more! I said I didn’t want to leave for a month! We quickly changed into our swim suits and hit the pool where we cooled down while listening to some slow, sexy Caribbean music.
The lovely Jeanna, our hostess at the Suites, recommended OZUO for dinner, a Greek fusion restaurant Iocated in the Park de Novia (Lovers Park) area. This beautiful park is surrounded with restaurants, shops, musicians, street artists, jugglers, dancers and tons of tourists happily
mingling with locals. And the menu was pure gastronomical delight! When our appetizer arrived (calamari in sauce of mango, maracuya and habenaro) the people next to us asked what it was, and this started an hour long conversation on just about everything with this lovely young (28) professional couple - Camille and Paola - from Paris, France. We ended the dinner with hugs, an exchange of contact information and a promise to keep in touch.
The next morning we headed over to the marina for breakfast before meeting our boat Captain (Luis) for the sailboat trip to Tayrona National Park. Luis had communicated the night before that his 50 ft. Maple Leaf had stripped it’s propeller shaft and did we mind switching to his friend Shannon’s 40 ft. Taiwanese sailboat. It was a bit tight as there were additional guests but after introductions we all became comfortable with one another. This was mainly due to Luis’ veeeery charming personality, with his friend Shannon being the perfect complement to him, calm and competent. And both were extremely attractive, Luis (50) with his Venezuelan accent, love of life and the beautiful women (a real-life Romeo, for sure) and Shannon with her
fiery red hair and twinkly blue eyes, the spitting image of the movie star, Emma Stone. Shannon is 38, originally from Jersey, and is sailing to wherever the winds take her...by herself and her big, grey pit bull! Impressive to say the least!
Also on board was a couple and their 2 young daughters, Drea, 8, was quiet and an observer and Shea, a 3 year old talker, risk taker and ball of energy. And they were from Torino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. And Susana (48), a tall, attractive blond from Koln, Germany. She had just broken 2 vertebrae in her back Paragliding near Nice, France and was on flying restriction so she decided to backpack thru Colombia for a couple of weeks....by herself! Another intrepid and strong woman!
We spent the day swimming, lazing on the beach and eating a tasty lunch of Corvina (white fish), patacones (fried plantains or bananas) and coconut rice, all made by the local Indians. We washed it down with ice cold Aguila (Colombian beer). We made Shannon promise to keep us informed on her adventure and to please come visit us!
We sailed home at sunset, a perfect end to
a perfect day.
When we got home, we took a shower and then headed out for dinner, only to find the place we wanted to go was closed! We wandered around for about 45 minutes looking for a place that was a bit more quiet than Lovers Park and came full circle to the restaurant next door to the original one! And what an amazing evening/ dinner/event that became. We were the only patrons in the place (Basile), run be the diminutive, but BIG personality, French trained owner/chef, Margarita! We ordered her recommendation of salad bleu cheese for the both of us, a blue steak with morel mushrooms in a merlot reduction for Walter and for me a sesame seed crusted Ahi tuna. FABULOUS!!! She gave us two lovely glasses of French wine and the most exquisite Flan in lighter-than-air carmel sauce, both gratis. Neither she nor her sweet Venezuelan head waiter spoke English but they both spoke fluent top-notch food and service. Needless to say we were beyond satiated and exhausted when we got home at 11:00 PM!
We slept in, ordered up the Cactus breakfast and pretty much stayed around home, doing laundry between dips in
the pool. That evening we went back to the resaraunt that was closed the night before. A very cute place...but THE WORST PIZZA we have ever had. It was, quite frankly, gross! So glad we had experienced Basile the previous night!
Up early the next morning, dreading the drive back to Cartagena, but much to our delight it was a great drive with very little traffic...and we didn’t get lost in Barenquilla! But upon returning the rental car we learned they were keeping our $600 USD deposit in case the electronic speed readers caught us speeding, to which they will pay the tickets out of the deposit! Wish they had mentioned electronic surveillance prior to our heading out...and we were one of the slow drivers but we were speeding most of the time (unless stuck behind black-smoke belching trucks🤢).
Arrived at our new digs on the 17th floor in Boca Grande, the Miami Beach of Cartagena. Place was modern and clean, albeit very sparse in furnishings. But, who cares? The view was SPECTACULAR from front room and bedroom. We can see old town Cartagena which sparkles and twinkles at night. Morning coffee and wine at sunset, sitting on
the balcony enjoying cool ocean breeze...I could stay here a month! (Starting to notice a theme? We are LOVING Colombia!) Grabbed a late lunch, did some light grocery shopping, came back to apartment to unpack and settle in and then headed out for light dinner at the local hamburger joint, which was awesome!. We were asleep by 9 PM!
The next day we were up early and at the pool by 10 AM. The wind was blowing pretty hard so we just sat poolside and listened to our Spotify music on earbuds and people watched. It was a nice lazy day. For dinner we walked to Hamachi, a Japanese/Peruvian Fusion restaurant, where we each had a large bowl of the most amazing ceviche we have ever had! That’s it! No carb’s, just cubes of fresh fish and onions in lime, coconut milk, tamarind...and we were stuffed!
We had to be up early the next morning (it’s now Saturday, January 25th for those keeping track, because we sure arn’t), for trip to Rosario Islands. We passed on the party Islands and instead booked our trip to Isla Bandita, a small, formerly private island that only takes on 80 people
a day. The island provides day beds and lounge areas discretely sprinkled along the shoreline. The center part of the island had a large open air dining area and included in our $60 USD/person was an incredible lunch of fish, chicken, two kinds of rice, patacones, salad, dessert and pop, water or juice. Also had a bar that made very potent drinks🤪. The day started out grey and windy, with weather forecasting thunderstorms. The 1 1/2 hour trip was on the open sea and it was was rough, splashing water and soaking all the people on the portside of the boat, which was me!! But everyone on the boat all started laughing and friends were easily made. Walter and I were only Americans/whites and while Walter speaks Spanish fairly well and I speak only the most basic, like Baños (bathroom), cerveza (beer) and quanta questa (how much)...the most important ones! But everyone was very helpful and the ones who did speak English wanted to converse with us. We became friends with a Chilean mother and daughter, who did not speak English but we managed to communicate with sign language and laughter. We also met 2 young men (late 20’s) from
Argentina, a civil engineer and a dentist, who wanted to talk politics, and a lovely couple (mid-30’s) from Venezuela who now live in Medellin, Colombia. David is the CEO of an investment firm focusing on technology and his wife is into organics and told me her favorite organic farm was called Flora, in Skagit Valley, Washington! Small world!! And finally, there was Pablo, a gay Argentinian who was traveling alone and was very helpful in translating our boat guide’s long history lesson. He also LOVED Walter’s matching cabana set. We all exchanged hugs and contact information before getting back on the boat to head home.
But before heading back, we swam, ate, had rum drinks and took naps and the weather was perfect! Clouds had disappeared and it was beyond beautiful. We were told on the way to the island that due to impending thunderstorms the sea would be very rough heading home and we were going to have to take an alternative route through the river instead. Weather had turned beautiful and the captain decided to still do river return...and so glad we did as it was truly magical. Lush green jungle, flowering trees with vines trailing in
the water, white egrets and jumping fish. We get grounded on a sandbar entering the river but some local men waded out and pushed our rather large and packed (40 people) boat into the channel. All in all, it was quite the adventure, one to be remembered for a long time!
For dinner we went out for highly recommend pizza...and it was the SECOND WORST pizza I have ever had. Oh well, the day was too perfect to complain. I asked for a to-go box and gave it to the first street urchin I saw asking for money!
Some random observations: Cartagena is a growing city, with a population of just over 1million, with many young people. And new modern buildings are springing up everywhere due to a large, growing middle class. With so many new buildings comes the latest/greatest technology and Hauwei, the Chinese telecommunications company, is everywhere and 5G is here! We found the people to be open and friendly and rather surprised that we were traveling Americans, as they said they see very few people from the USA. We were surprised by the women, VERY stylish and completely comfortable in sexy clothes, plunging necklines and
thong bathing suits...head up, chest out and big smiles....and we’re talking about some really BIG gals! No self-esteem issues in this country! Another surprise for us was all the refugees from Venezuela, many were selling penny candies on the street (we occasionally gave to people with small children, but we usually gave our left-overs to which they were very grateful). But, from all appearances it seemed as if the Colombians supported them being there and tried to employ or help as many as they could. The mingling of cultures, ages, sexes, races and socio-economics was very inspiring.
Monday was blog day and packing. We head out today for an overnighted in Bogota and then a 3AM wake up for a looooong day of travel on Tuesday to Peru! Colombia has captured our hearts and we can easily understand why it is ranked as the 3rd Most Happy country in the world (Costa Rica #1 and Mexico #2).
AND SO THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES...
Hope all is well with everyone and you are loving life!
Cindy and Walter
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