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Cartagena to Taganga

COLOMBIA | Tuesday, 24 January 2017 | Views [903]

I'm on a diet.

No, no, it's not what you're thinking. To the contrary, actually. In fact, the food in Colombia is mostly fried, crunchy, and not without some kind of meat. What's more, I ate my first street food today-- an Arepa. These steaming cheese cakes can be found on most city street corner, the vendors flipping them over hot coals while casually calling out “arepas, arepas!” in advertisement. Though I'm not exactly sure what I ate (it was stuffed with meats and sauces beyond my Americanized pallate), after the first steaming hot bite, I fell in cheesy, meaty, wander-love.

But yes, back to the “diet.”

Since arriving in Colombia over a week ago, my brain has split in half. I can only exaggeratedly describe and diagnose my mental state as that of a “language diet.” So...If English is the decadent sixteen tiered quinceañera chocolate cake with a cherry on top...speaking Spanish is the kale sandwich with kale stuffing...dressed with kale purée.

I came to South America with the intention of building on the beginner/intermediate Spanish conversationalist level I held. And like many other travelers I've met, I thought I knew A LOT more than I actually did before leaving. When I arrived to Cartagena i was immediately humbled by the fact that hardly anyone spoke English. I met one person in four days that spoke English- and that first bite of hearing my own language across the room was so delicious I wanted to cry. Though it's instantly gratifying, what I really want is to be humbled by the leafy green language that is español .

Right now I'm staying in a Swedish owned hostel in the mountains of Taganga- a small coastal city on the northern Caribbean shore hugged by brown cactus dotted mountains. Though the city is quite Colombian, there's no lack of English in this hostel. Heck, right now I'm sitting on the balcony overlooking the bay with “Lady in Red” playing behind the bar. This hostel is chocked full of Swedes, Australians and Americans. For reference as to how English speaking this joint is---last night everyone got really drunk and listened to everything from Bruce Springsteen, to Metallica, to Nickelback. I winced at the garb while i did yoga on the patio.

It feels nice to indulge in my own language after five days of miscommunication, exasperation and whipping out the google translate app. As comfortable as it feels, I'm excited to begin creeping hard on local conversations and occasionally butting in with my nasally American accent once I move along from this place. One thing I have going for me? I don't have fear to ask questions...even though my Spanish is mas o menos. The locals have been nothing but amazing. Very kind, patient, and overly willing to use hand gestures and repeat words I don't understand. Many times I do understand. And I walk away grinning like a freshly opened flower after these encounters, the scent of success enveloping me for hours.

For a short recap of my intinerary thus far...We (my Nebraskan friend Brian and I) started out in Cartagena de Indias. We spent five days in the bustling & upscale walled city exploring the brilliant architecture, food and beaches with Argentine friends. (There are so many here! & in my opinion, defy the stereotype that Colombians are the most beautiful in the world). What's most memorable about Cartagena was the 2 day trip to the white sand beaches of Isla baru.

We left for Baru with our Argentine friends in the morning, hailed a cab and smooshed like peas in a pod in the back. On the bumpy hour long ride, I sweated like a piglet while gazing at large petroleum fields, the natural gas ablaze atop towers. Not a very pretty sight. Falling apart towns stood on their cracked concrete foundations looking pekid but nonetheless colorful. Outside the city reminded me a lot of Africa- small concrete (could you call them houses?!)... houses with rusted out roofs dusted In dirt kicked up by shuffling feet in alleyways.

We arrived (not without difficulty-the small taxi overheated and couldn't make the voyage so we switched out at a gas station) and were greeted by locals peddling tents and trinkets.

Similar to a beach in Hawaii I remembered, the brilliant blue contrasted by brilliant white was breathtaking… and how warm the water! My midwest accustomed skin fried under the Caribbean sun as I took turns between the tent, the water, and yoga In the shade.

After the sunset disappeared, Brian and I went on a plankton bioluminescent tour, for both of us, 25,000 pesos. I met someone named David from Argentina and we spoke with difficulty on the 30 minute choppy ride (el ascento de Argentina es difícil a entender). Arriving to the spot under the stars and jumping in the bioluminescent water was an experience that overwhelmed everyone's language barriers. Everything sparkled- our skin, our hair. Though none of the 12 people on the boat spoke English besides Brian and I , I said “soy Harry Potter!” While swishing the glowing water, and it became our ongoing joke.

After staying the night in hammocks on the beach, we spent another day on the beach before parting with our Argentine buddies en route to Taganga. We took the Marasol shuttle from Cartagena to Taganga with zero problems which comforted me.

Now in taganga, still I've been frying my skin and dipping my toes into new worlds of cuisine, conversation and codes of conduct. Early this morning, Brian and I went scuba diving for 200,000 pesos each (so cheap!). Due to an awful case of claustrophobia, i began crying once I put on the wetsuit. But after some deep breaths and repeating “confianza” over and over, I jumped in the water and faced my fears- AND multiple five foot long green & spotted eels!

Tomorrow we are headed to Tayrona National Park for its hiking and crystal blue waters with the intention of staying one or two nights. I can only hope that the rest of my trip will unfold as uncomfortably and beautifully as it has thus far.

Until next post, Adios, Parceros!


Tags: beaches, cartagena, taganga, travel

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