Colombia

Cartagena at Sunrise

A few months ago, the stars aligned, and led me to win a free Jet Blue ticket that would take me anywhere in the continental US and a few places in Latin America. All I knew was that I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before, and as far as the tickets would get me. For a while it seemed like the tickets would go to waste, as vacation plans just seemed to be falling through. Then the stars sprang into motion again, lighting a path to the home of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar: COLOMBIA.

I landed in Bogota to a cool rainy night, cranky from 14 hours of travel, wishing for nothing but a hot meal, and a warm bed. After a brief adventure in being homeless on the rumored yay-ridden streets of Bogota, we found shelter under the roof of higher end hostel: Casa Platypus. Booking in advance was not the name of the game on this trip. The hotel/hostel featured an adorable staff, a healthy and hearty breakfast, and some of the most interesting people you’ll probably ever meet in your life.

Within a few hours of waking up and a brief trek to Casa Museo Quinta Bolivar, we were jet-setting to the coastal destination of Cartagena. A town sitting on the Caribbean sea, deeply infused with Afro-caribbean culture, and an architecture that served as the sensuous backdrop for Love in the Time of Cholera.

With the original intent to settle for an AC and window free Hotel Familiar, a quick stroll through the steamy streets of Gestemani led us to quickly upgraded to the quaint, and cooler La Casona.

Looks can be deceiving: Paella @ La Cevicheria

Our first night in Cartagena brought us directly to the obvious tourist dine out of La Cevicheria. A ceviche spot consecrated by a visit from No Reservations host, Anthony Bourdain. Maybe we made a bad decision by ordering the paella at a place known for its ceviche, but while the food was edible and quite tasty, the chewy lobster, and squid, left much to be desired. Our post dinner exploration took us through various plazas of the Old City, and eventually to Cafe del Mar an outdoor bar, sitting on the 16th century wall built to protect the city. The bar fittingly played lounge music, to accompany its mellow crowd enjoying the cool breeze and panoramic views of Cartagena.

On day 2 we found ourselves stuck in a monsoon on the beautiful Playa Blanca. As we were new to the whole booking tours thing, we found ourselves on a 3 hour boat ride to the Isla del Rosario, with a drag race and a Michael Jackson impersonator for entertainment, who’s gratis lap dance I fell victim to. As we arrived on the coast soaking wet, we were hardly able to appreciate the beach’s beauty as we were too busy gobbling down our now wet, but delicious lunch that we came to find out was included on every tour package, and was the same every time: grilled fish, maduros, coconut rice, and veggies we never touched.

La Playa Blanca: Still beautiful on a rainy day

From the minute we got on the beach to us leaving we were swarmed with locals selling everything from scuba gear, to massages which I gladly indulged in at $4 bucks a pop (and by massage I mean lotion rubdowns, and yes I know I took advantage of the system.)

It was kinda cool attempting to have a conversation with the locals even though the language barrier interfered.

Baby Volcano: EL Volcan Del Tutomo

Day 3 brought us to the first thing that initially drew my attention to the country. El Volcan del Totumo. A baby volcano that according to legend was once filled with lava, and apparently the devil’s digs, until a priest would come and splash holy water into it, and then poof, the lava turned to mud, which in turn drowned Beelzebub, turning the volcano into a hot spot where tourist come and soak in the mud and all its minerals.

Once in the mud, we were privy to another Cartagena style rubdown from the affectionately termed mud people (I came up with that), and after about 30 minutes of trying to sink to the bottom, and splashing unassuming strangers, we were sent of to the lake at the bottom, to be washed off by some women, and bathing suits did come off.

One with the Mud Peeps

At night we turned to our Lonely Planet guidebook and stumbled across Restaurante El Santissimo. A beautifully decorated casual dining place that pairs meals with a variety of wines and that also gave me one of the best dining experiences ever. For about $55,000 pesos (roughly 26 dollars) we got an appetizer, entree, and dessert along with 3 hours of open bar. The highlight of my entree was the Obatala, which is a beef cooked for a couple hours in its own juices and a number of spices I couldn’t recognize. The delicious carcass was served up with caramelized bananas, coconut rice (of course) and an avocado and tomato salad. My mouth just started watering again.

Obatala: Sent from heaven.

El Santissimo: The best deal I've ever had

Day 4 brought us back to La Playa Blanca with a blazing sun. Check the difference:

Sunshine @ La Playa Blanca

I call this the Calm

Upon our return, our attempt to take a rejuvenating nap in preparation for one last crazy night out, ended in a 6 am wake up time, lol. Which wasn’t that bad. We ended up taking advantage of the empty streets of Cartagena discovering the Old city, breaking bread at the Sofitel Santa Clara with a toucan bird, checking out a Seminary at the highest point in the city, and giving a self guided tour of the Castle San Felipe.

Breaking bread with the birds

It was definitely sad saying by to the warm Carribean breeze of Cartagena, but I wasn’t mad at cooling of in the streets of Bogota. Upon our arrival we made our way to Musicology Hostel. Some super friendly digs, with happy hour specials (strictly rum, vodka, and random bottles of Johnny Walker Black) with each room named after a genre, and residents serving as workers. After settling in we decided to hit the town. We found ourselves at what I believe was the Bogota Beer Company. Super crowded  and high energy, despite us getting there really late. In a place where hip hop isn’t the norm at bars, your next favorite genre quickly becomes dance/techno/anything with english words (see: David Guetta.)

I became obsessed with this song, and danced to it like it was the jam!

One of the coolest/most gruesome things I got to do, was the event that took place the next day at Plaza del Toros. My last day in Colombia was comprised of watching a bunch of bulls get slaughtered at a bull fight. I really thought the bulls simply passed out, I didn’t realize they got hacked to death. The scene was out of a movie, but there was only so much we could take.

Toroooo!

The event made us hungry for hamburgers, go figure. We headed over to the gourmet version of the Colombian burger chain Gourmet Hambuguesa Del Corral, where we had to pick from FIFTY different types of burgers.

There’s so many other cities in Colombia I’m now curious to visit. With Colombia currently trying to revamp its rep from Yay-heaven to prime tourist destination, ticket prices are super low, so if you ever wanted to take a walk on the wildside (its not that wild) then Colombia it is! Viva Bolivar!

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5 Responses to “Colombia”

  1. Runtonamaste Says:

    Great report Nos! I am jealous of both your eloquent writing and fun times in Columbia.

  2. selenawrites Says:

    Ahh looks like so much fun! Did you have any good cocktails? ;-)

  3. nosag Says:

    Thanks jewelz!

    @Selena, drinks of choice were cuba libres and mojitos, and they made em STRONG!! Yum yum.

  4. Ames Says:

    uh, you watched a bull die and then you ate some meat! I like the bird.

  5. uchenna Says:

    I am really jealous. This is the kind of places I would have to visit. Start making good money so that you can take me on vacation. I like your spirit. I know you will definitely go places. Continue the good work. Love you.

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