Monday, November 15, 2010

A return to Colombia

Days were counting down until my flight to Colombia and no call from Air Transat. I was completely unprepared to leave as I was sure I would receive a call just like the 2000 other people. My mind had been on this job as well as the walking tours I was making and I had failed to realize that I was flying right into a huge carnaval in Colombia. Of course there is a carnaval in Colombia! I didn’t book a hostel because I knew Cartagena and where to go but now that there is a huge festival I may be screwed! I’m usually on top of these things, usually my whole reasons for traveling is a carnaval.

Even though I was unprepared with an accommodation I had all my documents ready to enter the USA where my flight was leaving from, unlike last year when I was almost denied entry. I had six hours to kill in the Detroit airport, then a flight to Fort Lauderdale in which I was placed beside a couple who fell asleep locked in an embrace Romeo and Juliet style. My second flight and the last leg of my journey I sat beside a really nice American guy who was going to Colombia for his grandfather’s funeral. We chatted the whole way over a noisy bachelor party group behind us. They were off to Colombia for 5 days of drinking, partying, celebrations and the Miss Colombia beauty pageant which was just one of the attractions that was going on. From Nov 10th to Nov 15th Cartagena is the focus of this country which is obsessed with beauty. Plastic surgery, fashion and glamour thrive here. The other event going on during the same time is the independence of Cartagena.
I had been awake for almost 30 hours but was enlivened by the energy in the city. I could see the dancers in brightly coloured costumes as our taxi zipped by. It finally dawned on me, I am back in Colombia!

I hadn’t written about Cartagena before on my last travels and I finally remembered why. I liked the city and there is a lot to see and do. Previously I took a trip to the mud volcano, hung out on the beach at La Boca Grande, toured the old city, a little dancing and a lot of drinking. I returned to the hostel I stayed in before because it had a pool and I remembered how hot the city gets. I seemed to have forgotten the type of hostel it was, a party hostel. I do love a good party don’t get me wrong but you find these type of hostels all over South America...actually you can find this hostel with the same people in any city in the world. They were all speaking English, getting drunk, doing drugs and listening to English music. They are completely oblivious to the country they are actually in. I had one girl suggest a certain bar to me because it won’t be playing Latin American music. I am in Latin America of course I want to listen to Latin American music. Music is all a part of the experience. How can you get to know a country and its people without one of the most important cultural elements? That was the thing; a lot of people do not really want to know the country. They want to see a site, have a good time and say they have been to that country. Fair enough but that is not how I travel. I want to learn the language, the music, the people, the politics, the dance, the food. I want to try and taste it all.

So while the other travellers were drinking in the hostel bar discussing where they should go. I grabbed my gorgeous Brazilian roommate and went down to the Club Colombia beer garden where they were playing Latin American music.

The beats of salsa, cumbia and reggeaton dragged me in. It was twelve thousand pesos to enter ($6.40usd) which gives you 6 beers and the best party in town. People where dancing everywhere with buckets of beer. The music was pumping and it was hot in all senses of the word. The atmosphere heightened when it started to rain with soaking wet bodies gyrating to the music. I even noticed a couple dancing on top of an old podium for a fountain. The Air Transat job and all my unnecessary worries were the furthest thing from my mind. The rain got harder and harder forcing me and my Brazilian to find shelter then make a run for it in ankle deep water on the street to our hostel.

I have returned to Colombia to relax, visit friends, see more of the country, and let the passion of this vibrant place start me off on my South American adventures.

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