Hola de Colombia!
I am sitting in a tiny courtyard in our hostel in Medellin waiting for our city tour guide to arrive at 2pm. The weather is hot - about 30 degrees, with a shower forecast (typically) to coincide with our walk this afternoon. But its a very welcome relief after the stifling humidity of the coast this past week.
It's incredible to think that this time only last week I was back in the UK, running around trying to sort out last minute hitches and deciding if I could get away with another pair of shoes in my backpack. Then the taxi picked me up, on time, at 11.20pm, to take me where my amazing adventure would soon begin - that is, Birmingham coach station!
From that exciting departure point, I arrived at 3am at terminal 5 (thinking better be early than a last minute dash for my 6.20am flight), only to find check in opened two hours later and the airport was deserted except for a few other numpties like me. Why don't they warn you of these things?!
So 24 hrs later I finally arrived (via 4 airports, dodgy taxi and the dawning realization that I remember roughly 5% of all the Spanish I've ever learnt) in Cartagena.
Cartagena is a beautiful old colonial city on the Caribbean coast, with a small historical centre tucked up within walled ramparts. These were built to protect the city back when it was one of the most important ports in South America, used by the Spanish to transport gold and silver in the Americas back to Europe.
We stayed in an area called Getsemani on the outskirts of the walled centre, full of lovely colourful streets and houses, many of which were in the midst of being restored. Its a world heritage site which means that the architecture is preserved, and now so popular with foreigners that the property, so the tour guide told us, is among the most expensive real estate in the country.
The heat here had hit me immediately when I stepped off the plane at 10pm; and with the heat and humidity came mosquitoes that are proving immune to any kind of insect repellent I can get my hands on! It was too hot to eat much but I can honestly say I haven't had a bad coffee yet. Looking forward to Manziales next week, where we stay on a plantation with as much coffee as you can drink!
After two days in Cartagena we moved on to Playa Blanca, where I slept in a hammock and fought mosquitoes all night (a battle lost), then on to another beach at Covenas, camping and resuming the same losing fight throughout a(nother) sleepless sweaty night. Last night, after a 15 hr ride along every pot hole and speed bump we could find, and about four near-breakdowns, we finally arrived in Medellin; the second city of Colombia and famous for being the epicentre of the country's drugs trade until very recently. It's looks very different from Cartagena and, being surrounded all around by mountains, is also much cooler. Woohoo :-)
Looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful and diverse country before heading to Cusco in two weeks. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and send me your news!