Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cartegena, Colombia- new sights and new experiences

My first trip to South America takes place in Colombia. Frank and I are in Cartagena with our friend Patrick, who flew down to meet us. Cartagena is a town of a million people on the Carribbean coast. I obviously have my preconceived notions about Colombia. Would they be confirmed, destroyed? Both as it turns out. I must admit I was more skeptical to go to this country as its reputation of danger and drugs is (unfairly) pretty strong. Cartegena blew my mind. Bogota opened my eyes. More about Bogota in a later post. Cartegena is hot- South East Asia sticky hot. But as our hostel owner said "Cartagena is magic." Most of the city has been so beautifully preserved. Every street is a feast for the eyes of colorful, colonial buildings, flower baskets, Spanish lanterns, complete with the sound of horse hooves clacking on the cobblestone streets. We walked around the streets and enjoyed some fresh juice when we could no longer take the heat. We dined on arroz con coco and fish on a balcony overlooking one of the more local plazas. Towards the end of the night we heard the roar of drums and saw an impromptu dance show of men and women decorated in vibrant costumes. There is no way not to feel the energy of this country. There were a lot of vendors- so many in fact that we made a game out of it. We counted 53 vendors that approached us in one day- so getting good at saying "no gracias" is of utmost importance. This was especially true of our speed boat ride to the island of Playa Blanca- a beach with sparkling Carribbean water and plenty of "Coco Locos - a yummy cocktail out of a coconut" to get you through the day. The spread boat was something out of a movie. Put inspecting tourists in a 'boat' and we will think it is safe. Let's say we had tons of fun pounding down with the speed boat on the waves- some of them so big that the driver thankfully slowed down at times. One of my favorite parts was walking through the city just after work got out for most people. We walked through shops, outdoor markets, flower stands. We sampled street food- meat and veggies on a stick and Empanadas. The people love to be outside, amongst each other. They don't just rush home, but enjoy being with others. I'll never forget my time in this magical city.