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The journal formerly known as ...Latin America

The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay...

COLOMBIA | Monday, 1 November 2010 | Views [1696]

As we were sailing through the San Blas islands and I was thinking that things couldn’t possibly get any better, we landed in Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena is a place of beautifully restored colonial building, where the color to wear is white and the weather is hot and sultry. Pizza and pasta restaurants are everywhere you look and the dance floors at the night clubs heat up to salsa music. The Old Town area of the city is completed enclosed by a wall that was built to protect it from enemies and it is also this area that has undergone most of the restoration. Brett and I stayed just outside this area in the Getsemani neighborhood. Although it’s a bit shabbier and more rundown, it also has an appeal of its own.

Brett and I decided to take a tour bus around to the sites of the city. This is probably the most touristy thing we have done on the entire trip, but we had a good time and we definitely saw a lot the city. The city is built up along the water and as you follow the water away from Old Town you come to a newer area of town called Boca Grande. This is where we met up in the heat of the day and loaded up into a colorful, open air bus with about 20 other tourists. Just as we hopped on board, the cerveza sales lady walked by and we bought a couple of drinks for the ride.

One of our first stops was the fortress, which is built up on one of the hills in the city. When we walked to the top, we got to enjoy the music of a trumpet player while enjoying incredible views of the city. At every stop along the way, we were bombarded with souvenir salesmen. You could honestly turn and make a full circle and see people surrounding you from every direction. Kind of intense, but I guess they’ve got to make a living and I give these people credit for being incredible hustlers. Later that night, we met up with our friends Lina & Martin from the sail trip. We all headed to Old Town for dinner in one of the beautiful plazas where street dancing and vendors are abundant. Later that night, we went to one of the popular salsa spots in the area where we danced off our dinners.

From Cartagena we headed to Bogota. This is a portion of the trip that we had been really looking forward to, because we had been planning to celebrate Brett’s birthday by spending a few nights at the JW Marriott. Before we could enjoy the luxury awaiting us, we had to make the “20 hour” bus ride to get there. 20 hours quickly turned into 27 as the road was congested with traffic and construction that we literally drove at 5 miles per hour for some portions of the trip. We were going so slow that we were able to get out of the car, find food, buy it and then walk down the road to get back on the bus.

Bogota sits at an altitude of 2400m so we went from the humid, heat of Cartagena to the crisp, winter-like chill of the capital. It was a really pleasant change. At the bus station here they have people wait in line for a cab. A new concept as we are used to being approached by 15 taxistas the minute we step foot from the bus. Lol. We arrived to the hotel and from the very first minute, it was another world that we haven’t been a part of for a while. Because of Brett’s platinum status at Marriott, we were given a room on the concierge floor with full access to the lounge. This means two free alcoholic beverages a day for each person, a full breakfast and dinner snacks and desserts in the evening. We spent our first evening on the terrace with a drink and Colombian cigar (for Brett’s birthday celebration).

We got to Bogota just in time for Halloween and until we got there we weren’t sure if they’d celebrate like we do it the States. Posters lined the streets with advertisements for all the parties. Brett was a pirate and I was a pirate’s girlfriend. He threw on his patch and I put on my green wig and we headed out to Zona Rosa for the celebration. Zona Rosa is an area of the city packed with bars, restaurants and discotecas. Tons of people were dressed up and every place was packed. We started the night with sangria and nachos at one of the restaurants and ended it with microbrews and shots of tequila at another bar. While we were searching around for a dance club, I ran into one of the restaurants to go to the restroom and while I was gone somebody attacked Brett with their fake chain saw. Apparently the guy came up and got him in the back. Brett thinks he was attacked because he’d given the guy a dirty look for doing the same thing to other people. Lol.

There’s nothing like a little Latin American soccer to put you in a good mood. We went to go see an evening game at the El Campin stadium. I can’t express in words how much fun it was to watch Colombians watch soccer. These people enjoy the sport with so much passion that high fences have been built up around the field to protect the soccer players from angry fans who try to climb over and attack. Even with the fences, we saw fans attempting to make the climb. “Hijo de puta” was the most common criticism yelled by fans, everyone was dressed in red to support the team and it often looked like the stadium would collapse from all the jumping fans. Armored police held up shields to protect the players making corners kicks so that they weren’t hit by one of the many objects sent down to the field by friendly fans. From what we saw, I think it’s safe to say that choosing not to sell booze at these events is probably a good thing.

Some video footage of the soccer game.

On our last day in the city, we had the entire day to hang out before catching our 12 hour, overnight bus to Cali. First we snuck in one last workout at the hotel gym, packed up our things and said goodbye to the hotel. It was a sad departure, but it was time to get on the road. Before leaving we wanted to visit Monserrate, which is a point at the top of the Andes Mountains that surround Bogota. There is a train called the Funicular that takes you to the top. Unfortunately, our camera died and we weren’t able to get any pictures of the views from the top, but they were incredible! All in all, Bogota is a really great city with a lot to offer. We liked it so much that we are thinking about it as a possible place to settle down in and find jobs.

That is all for now! Thanks for reading. It makes it a lot more fun to write when you know that there are people out there reading and enjoying our adventures. Until next time… Lots of love... Sophia

Tags: bogota, cartagena, colombia, getsemani, jw marriott, monserrate

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