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Reisverslag Carribean flavours, jungle and Lost Cities
11 juli 2015
Carribean flavours, jungle and Lost Cities
It´s been a while since I wrote a blog, but new trips bring new experiences that I´d like to share with you, and write down to remember them myself aswell.
Bueno, I had a rocky start, missing my flight connection in Heathrow; partly my own fault, (1.5 hour for an international connection on such a big airport is not the smartest thing to do), partly the pilots fault, who had been slacking during his previous flights. So I started my adventure in some hotel near London Heathrow, to head back to the airport first thing in the morning to fly to Bógota via Madrid.. impressive airport they built there! After 20 hours of being on the road I didn´t even really care anymore and just kept myself going till I got to Cartagena, where I arrived around 01:00 local time. I reserved a room in Pachamama hostel, which turned out to be a really good choice! The staff was very welcoming and made me feel right at home.
Thursday-sunday is kind of a blur in my memory, for it was too hot to really do anything, 35 degrees and sun all day everyday! So I spent my time moving from hammock to couch, couch to chair, chair to hammock, hammock to the store to get beers, and back. It was truly nice not having to worry about anything, hurry to anywhere or feel guilty about being so lazy: the heat is a perfect excuse for everything.
On monday my little lazy holiday came to an abrupt end, when my Spanish classes started @ Centro Catalina school.
I was placed in a class with 5 others, Sean, Sonja, Alex, Frank and Tomas ( 2x US, 2x Swiss, 1x France), and our lovely teacher Lineth, ah yeah and ofcourse Bruja, the school cat who prefered our classroom for company (meow). In the afternoon class it was just me and Sean, with teacher Cindy; so extra attention for us.
During my 2 weeks in the school, Sean and I had lunch everyday, in different restaurants. The first week accompanied by Frank, the 2nd week by others. A typical lunch looks like this: menu del dia for 12000 COP ( 4 euro something) consisting of 1. fishsoup, 2. plate of fried fish/chicken, arroz con coco (coconutrice, delicious!!), some salad and lentils, 3. Jugo del dia: fresh fruit juice, and with fruit I mean Papaya, passion fruit, Lulu (still don´t know what it is, just know it´s yummy), or pineapple.
But Cartagena has more to offer: ceviche, crepes, hamburgers and pizza of high quality for less than 5 euro, so I reckon I gained a few pounds here. At night the city really comes alive, when the heat drops slightly: still 32 degrees so the aircon in Pachamama was very welcome.
Plaza de Trinidad in the up to 5 years ago not so safe neighbourhood of Getsemaní is where locals and tourists all come together and blend in at night, enjoying the flavours of fruitcocktails, Club Colombia/Aguila beers, streetfood hamburgers (for 2 eu) and admiring the skills of the streetartists: breakdancers, flame torch jugglers (who could also balance a mountainbike on top of his head and walk across the square) or simply some drunk old man trying to walk in a straight line.
This is a really magical place for me, for it´s quite unique and impossible back home.
For everyone who still has an image of Colombia as a dangerous, torn apart by war country: it´s not. Most places are completely safe, and I haven´t felt in any way unsafe so far. Well, there was this one incident that left a deep scar in my soul... I was walking down the street in broad daylight, when a woman approached from the other side, looking somewhat like a streetwalker. I just kept it cool, because you know, Amsterdam has them too. When she passed by me though she grabbed me, in my.. private areas :O. Naturally I fled to my hostel, where I wrapped myself up in a blanket and cried silently for a while, before realising that this was the place for crying nor blankets (still 35 degrees).
Apart from this incident I have been fine so far, knock on wood. I just noticed that this story is getting waaay out of hand already, so I´ll try and speed it up a little. One more thing on Cartagena: the rumba´s! Every week there is a rooftop party in Media Luna Hostel, where anyone can enter for a few COP´s. Every backpacker in town knows about this, and goes there so it´s not really for blending with the locals, but nevertheless tons of fun! Sean, my American friend, has a habit of ordering bottles of dark rum nd cola, rather than to wait in line for the bar all the time so this made for some interesting nights.
And then my last evening in Cartagena, we went out with almost everyone from Spanish school 4 of our teachers: Karin, Lineth, Cindy and Juliette! Gathering on the Plaza Trinidad, buying bottles of rum for 5 eu in the little stores and afterwards a night long of salsa, merengue, reggaeton and mezclas of those in Mister Babilla (or Señor Babilla as we liked to call it) made for my best night out in times! It was once again proven that my talent for dancing is not enormous, but I made up for that with loads of motivation and making an ass of myself.
Sleep depraved and slightly sad to leave Cartagena, I went to Santa Marta the day after. This city is rather boring, and used by tourists merely as a basecamp for visits to the Lost City, Tayrona national park or other nice beaches. Had some decent ceviche though, and slept alot to get ready for my 5 day adventure in the jungle
La Ciudad Perdida
On monday my adventure started, when I was picked up early in the morning to gather our group and head to the starting point of the hike to the Lost City. This is a name that doesn´t really apply cause obviously it has been found, while there are many other cities, once populated by the Tayrona indigenous people, that are still lost (the indigenous people who remain do know where it is though) and will hopefully never be found. In 1976 this particular ´pueblo´ was discovered by a Colombian anthropologist, and 5 years later it was openend for public. In 2003 a few tourists were kidnapped from here by the FARC, so for a while it was unsafe to visit. In 2008 however, the government cleared out the entire Sierra Nevada, and nowadays it is once again safe to travel here.
The first two days of the trak were not thát exhilarating, but already quite tough. There are almost no flat parts, so everything you walk goes either up or down, mostly on rocky, slippery paths. The camps on the way consist of a few buildings with provisionary kitchens, and roofs but no walls. So you really feel like you´re sleeping in the jungle, including all the sounds of birds, crickets and perhaps even monkeys in the vast darkness that surrounds you.
Breakfast was at 5.30 everyday, so the hikes started early in the morning. After a breakfast with fresh fruit we would walk for four hours per day the first three days, and 5-6 the last two days, because we visitied the Lost City on day 4 (so we had to walk the same way back in two days instead of three). Arriving in a new campment at around 11, it felt like three in the afternoon already. Luckily every campment was accompanied by a natural pool, with waterfalls, jumps and lovely refreshening water, pouring down from the highest points in this Sierra at 5500 meters.
On day four, we got up extra early to beat the crowds in visiting La Ciudad Perdida, and with succes! For nearly one hour we were the only ones there, our group consisting of guía Alberto, Dutch couple Lisette and Vinz (living just around the corner from where I work in Amsterdam, small world) and Lior from Israël. We enjoyed the views, and the overwhelming silence. It is hard to put to words what this place looked like, so I´ll upload some photos soon. I do remember sitting on an edge, overlooking the city and feeling so peaceful! After a while I reallised I could not think of a single thing that had crossed my mind the previous 15 minutes.
After this magical morning, we had to walk back in 2 days the distance we had walked the three days before. With a persistent blister on my foot this prooved to be a challenging and quite tough hike. But hard work does pay off I guess, because the food tasted extra good afterwards, and we were rewarded with a campment all to ourselves, to really enjoy the silence and sounds of the jungle (without groups of tourists shouting enthousiastically over a game of cards or w/e), which was nice. I was the last one still up at 20:00, sitting in the complete darkness except for the fireflies surrounding the campment. One even landed on my foot, to impress me with his skills I presume.
Of course it wasn´t all fun and (card)games: the mosquito´s were for real, once your clothes got wet they wouldn´t dry (and everything got wet and sweaty) and the beds were not the most clean ones I´ve seen. But all this added to the charm, and made every bath extra nice, and every meal muy extra rico.
After this exhausting but very worthwhile trip I´m heading to Palomino, a laidback beachtown today.
There is so much more to tell, but I think my photos will take a big part in this, and I have already drawn alot of your concentration span thusfar (respect if you´re still reading!) so I´ll round up now.
Thanks for reading and hasta el próximo!
Besos and brohugs, Paul
11 juli 2015 21:02 | Door: Henk
Mooi bericht Paul, ik wist wel dat je er wat van zou maken! Xx papa
12 juli 2015 01:58 | Door: Eline vd Hoven
Super leuk om te lezen!
12 juli 2015 10:40 | Door: margreet
Prachtig verhaal. Het maakt me ook erg nieuwsgierig naar Colombia, inderdaad toch niet het eerste reisdoel waar ik aan zou denken. Ik wens je nog veel mooie (reiservaringen) en gooi die foto's maar snel het net op!
Liefs van (tante) Margreet
12 juli 2015 13:22 | Door: Oma PLoeger
YOur leter was very impressive. It seems you don.t have eyes enough to see so many impressive things around you. Good te read that you met different traveller friends. Have a nice time with less than 35 C!! Much love, oma Elly.
12 juli 2015 14:02 | Door: Marlous
Haha zo leuk om te lezen!! Señor Babillaaaaaaaa, buenos recuerdos!
12 juli 2015 14:25 | Door: Margreet
Wat een leuk dat je zo uitgebreid vertelt over je bijzondere ervaringen! Ik ben benieuwd naar je foto's en het vervolg van je reisverslag. Liefs van Margreet