The journey to Cartagena was difficult, I think the main reason was that there were 13 of us all travelling together. So we bartered for our own bus, only to be packed in like sardines. Then the bus "broke down" and we all had to transfer into another public bus. At our first stop, after 8hrs of travel we had to find a third bus which would take us all the way to Cartagena. Surprisingly Kim and I still had some energy, and when we bumped into our friend, Mat, who we had met along our travels we decided to go out for a drink.Who did we find propping up the bar (more like dancing on the bar!), Sarah. It was great to see her and we were staying in the same hostel.
Cartagena is a beautiful colonial city, surrounded by fortified walls, made by the Spanish to keep out the pirates, and it's also a bit of a party city. So we nursed a few hangovers with Sarah and really enjoyed our time. We did a party bus one night, which turned out to be a disaster but everyone stayed in a party mode and had a good time. Well apart from the guy who got busted for buying cocaine from a dealer. The cop took him to an ATM and made him withdraw $100 as a fine and supposedly gave the dealer his cocaine back. Funny!
A little crowd of us also went to Playa Blanca, about a 1hrs boat journey from Cartagena port. This turned out to be a bit of a siege, due to dodgy salesman and fluctuating prices (eg. Port tax). In the end the price we paid to get back was less than a third of what we paid to get there. The beach itself was beautiful, and the sea was soo warm. We slept in hammocks for $2.50 and ate fresh fish from an old woman called Maria who loved our custom.
Another activity we did was the mud volcano. This conjured up images of a massive creature filled with mud, that loads of people frolic around in. In reality it was a 27m high mud hill, with an 8m wide mud pool at the top. When we watched the first people going in, being man handled by the locals, (who insisted on giving them full body rubs not massages), we were hesitant to go in. But we did and we loved it. It's a very strange sensation; the consistency is like really thick melted chocolate, so you can't sink. It smells a bit but not too bad, and apparently it takes years off you! It was great fun just bouncing around in it, making funny noises and trying to stay level. The strangeness doesn't end when you get out, you have to fight off the local ladies who want to bathe you in the lake. Most people kindly refuse.
After we got all Sarah's recommendations for her favorite place in Colombia (Taganga), we said our hung-over goodbyes and headed to Santa Marta. We stayed the night and in the morning we headed to Costeno surf camp. We were pretty excited about this place, we had been recommended it 2 months ago and no one else had heard of it. The walk to the place was cool, through hundreds of coconut trees and we could hear the waves. Two Irish-Canndian brothers set up the place and are currently constructing some lodges so the place was possibly more unorganized than normal. We choose our tent, only for a herd of ants to choose it too. So we moved into a bunk room. Our Swedish friends, Christian and Johana joined us for some surf, but the size of the waves proved a bit too narly. This is the area that might be the downfall for the surf camp, there aren't any beginner waves. Certainly not when we were there. I surfed the next morning, which was hard work due to the messy break and then we headed to the infamous Taganga.
Taganga is a small fishing village which has definitely attracted the gringos. There are loads of accommodation options and some amazing places to eat, it's easy to see how Sarah stayed here for 16 days. We tried to pack in as many things as we could. The fillet mignon at Casa Felipe and Paca Mama were amazing, as was the food in Bonsai café. We didn't just eat, we had a night out at Sensations and our daily activity was lying on Playa Grande beach around the coast. A strenuous place.
After that we did actually do some exercise and spent a day in Tayrona national park. We hiked through the park to the coast for about 2hrs, looking at wood peckers and crazy insects. The best beach was the last one, Cabo. Again beautiful blue waters and some big waves offshore, with a great hammock area set up if you want to stay the night.
Our last destination in Colombia is San Gil, 12hrs south of Santa Marta in the mountains. A quiet little town, famous for its adventure sports: rafting, bungee, mountain biking, horse riding and rappelling. We hope to do a couple of these before we head into Venezuela, our last land border crossing….we won't miss those!