Colonial gems, Caribbean beaches and the Lost City


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South America » Colombia » Cartagena
December 30th 2013
Published: February 11th 2014
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Colombia has fascinated me ever since 2006, when I met a lot of guys during my previous travels who were originally supposed to go for 2 weeks and ended up staying for 6 months, citing that all the girls looked like Miss Universe wannabes! It's little wonder that J. Lo's ass is worth millions given the number of girls with plastic-enhanced saddles, that you can balance a bottle of beer on, halfway up their spines.

Whilst Colombianos are the friendliest people around, it's a crying shame that their cuisine has generally been the lousiest that I have encountered in South America thus far. Everything is so over-fried, over-sweet and over-salty; that I've piled on the kilo's like a typical Caribbean mamma. Best bet is to stick with the yummy and exotic fresh fruit and juices instead.

First stop was Cartagena - I landed just before New Years Eve, and had an excellent time bringing in 2014 on the city's historic ramparts. Cartagena is the stunning colonial gem of Colombia and a Unesco World Heritage Site, however the surrounding beaches were pretty disappointing and very polluted.

In search of the famed Colombian beaches, I went to Taganga on the
having a chathaving a chathaving a chat

Plaza de los Coches
Caribbean Coast. Travelling in the thick of the high season, when not just Colombia but all of South America is also on holiday, was bloody mayhem. Ventured into Tayrona National Park for a couple of nights, and was lucky to find a spare hammock and tent to rent. Spent my time trying to dodge the massive crowds by snorkelling the offshore reefs, which were surprisingly good but not as beautiful as the Great Barrier Reef (of course I have to say that being an Aussie!); and hiking to the local village of Pueblito in the hills. There was a lot of gossip going around that tourists were being robbed at night during this busy period, and that the local police had been paid off to turn a blind eye. Later on in Medellin, I met a couple of Dutch girls who had been mugged by a group of 6 local boys in Taganga. Just as well the Taganga night-life held zero appeal for me and I was more interested in the juicy filet mignon steak, fruit crumble with ice-cream, and delicious mango smoothie on offer at my hostel instead (the best meal I have had in Colombia).

Colombia is
horse and carthorse and carthorse and cart

A total tourist trap, but admittedly a romantic way to see this beautiful historic city whilst clip-clopping along the cobblestone streets
also one of the world's most bio-diverse countries, so it was great to round off my first fortnight with a 5-day trek to La Cuidad Perdida (the Lost City), which I absolutely loved. The Lost City is not as stunning as Machu Picchu, but the site has a great energy to it and you can picture what it must have been like in its heyday. The walk itself was interesting, challenging and rewarding. Sweating buckets from the 32+C temps and almost 100% humidity, the best part of the day was being able to wash off the grime by swimming in the natural pools and rivers.


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sunsetsunset
sunset

Pre New Year sunset beer on the old city walls of Cartagena
Street partyStreet party
Street party

Getting the party started with my hostel mates from Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Germany, England, Denmark and Austria
what a showwhat a show
what a show

Watching the fireworks on the old city walls near Cafe del Mar
menu del diamenu del dia
menu del dia

Typical lunchtime fare (this was chicken stew) with plantain, beans, salad and rice for 7000 pesos (equivalent $3.75).
Cabo San Juan de GuiaCabo San Juan de Guia
Cabo San Juan de Guia

The best beach in Tayrona National Park, and also packed to the rafters with holidaying Colombianos
hamacahamaca
hamaca

My hammock rental at Tayrona with mosquito net. The novelty wore off quickly after a bloody uncomfortable night's sleep, and I quickly changed to a tent with mattress instead.
La PiscinaLa Piscina
La Piscina

You need to swim 150 metres off the beach towards the breakers for the best snorkelling reef spots
boulder hoppingboulder hopping
boulder hopping

1.5 hour walk to Pueblito above Tayrona
PueblitoPueblito
Pueblito

traditional hut used by the local indigenous people
surprise!surprise!
surprise!

capuchin monkey


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