Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Colombia, Love at First Sight

Sea legs have suddenly become a reality, as we are finally off the sailboat and onto Colombian soil. The feeling like we are rocking is persistent and closing your eyes in the shower can nearly make you fall over, (the copious amounts of booze isn't helping the matter) but what the heck... We are finally in Colombia!!! :)

Room above a bar with an ocean view and hammock... Yes please!

Capurgana is a tiny town completely isolated from anywhere. It is a really cool place to hang out for a day and a night, 1 cause no roads lead in or out, meaning no cars, and 2 it is a secluded town literally IN the Darien Gap, making it just a really unique place to be. We get to town to find out that immigration is closed until late that afternoon, so we check out the town, and finally show up to immigration later with a pretty good buzz going on. The most relaxed immigration procedures ever! So far Colombia is everything we had imagined. We have a steller night in Capurgana, complete with a delicious meal at a tiny restaurant on the beach, called Donde Josephine, of fresh sea snails (we think) and fish... one of the best meals of the trip!

The only method for us to continue onward now is by boat. The Bloods of the Seas remain intact and after a night in town, we battle through a confusing fiasco of arranging the "should-be-easy" boat tickets and baggage (typical mass of backpackers trying to do things rationally in a system of unorganized madness) we all jump in yet again another overcrowded boat heading to more developed parts of Colombia. The boat dies in the water crossing twice due to engine malfunctions, and we cringe at the thought of being stuck on a boat AGAIN! Thankfully it was just a scare and we manage to speed off before any of the passengers vomit from the incessant rocking of the small boat in the pounding waves. Two hours later we arrive in some poor fishing village. From here, we pack on board a long bus ride all the way to Cartagena, stopping whenever the driver decides he needs a snack, music pumping so loud there is no chance of sleep, AC pumping so cold we are shivering, and finally arriving at midnight. Damn it sucks not having our own vehicle.

Backpacker status

We wake up the next morning way earlier then desired, and not fully recharged from the hectic day prior. Today we have a mission, it is Friday and we must begin the painstaking process of getting Lola out of port before they close for the weekend. It goes something like this for the entire day: scurry from office to office picking up random documents, splitting up to simultaneously get stuff done, Mallary to purchase car insurance while Chris met up with government inspectors to look over the car, and finally after a few more steps unworthy of being written here, we were driving out the port and onto South American streets by Saturday morning. A side note, Colombian processes and the port itself was so much nicer and seamless then it's Panama neighbor, and although it was a bit of a pain, everything was made easier due to Colombia being much more professional and organized than any other country we have been on this trip. We also have to make a shout out to our friends Michael and Veronika, who took the time to send us detailed helpful hints for the process. Had it not been for them, we would have started off at the wrong port because unbeknowst to our shipping agent, her instructions were mostly all wrong!!! :)

Chris ready to go inspect the car in port
She made it!!!

Now that we have Lola back, it is time to enjoy the city. We move out of our cheap room, and into a place with parking just a few minutes outside of the city center, which although not too expensive, is super deluxe for us! An added bonus was not being in the hostal packed Getsemani area which was completely inundated by drunk and drugged young tourists getting their party on. We head into the city and make our way all around Old Town Cartagena, an area ringed by almost seven miles of fortified walls. Getsemani is the oldest part of Cartagena, much of it still sporting buildings and styles from the 1500's that are beautiful inside and out, despite the fact that it is packed with hostals. Roaming the old streets was loaded with opportunities for us to taste local foods, pop in and out of the unending cute shops, peek into ornate churches, admire the street art, come face to face with the friendly Colombians, and enjoy everything this beautiful city has to offer. The cute colonial buildings and remarkably intact Spanish colonial walls of the city intrigued us enough to head to the massive 500 year old fortress, Castillo de San Felipe. We wandered the tunnels and most of all enjoyed the spectactular views of the contrasting historic old town and the skyscrapers of modern day.

The view from our balcony
The hottest thing on the streets of cartegena are these fake panama hats. Had to have one!
Amazing street art with some kind of chalk or coal.
Coctelarias everywhere serving up shrimp cocktail on the streets


On our side of town we are getting used to the clacking of horse drawn carriages going by our balcony... at first we thought it was just a tourist thing, and loved the charm it added to the colonial surroundings. But, on our side of town there were no tourists in the back of the carriages, just locals simply getting from one place to another. Everything about this city was just luring us in, even the city-hating Chris was falling for its charm. Cartegena was so picturesque, that we finally put our foot down and said "we are buying a better camera!" Ours just was not cutting it, and we were frustrated that we couldn't capture even a glimpse of the beauty we were seeing in real life. Of course electronics stores seemed impossible to find so we will have to wait for another city.

Our last night in the city we are walking along the old wall and getting lost in town, when we happen upon a corner with live music and fancy outdoor eateries. Despite being underdressed in our usual casual attire, we are so drawn into the scene that we decide to join the alway classy and stylish Colombians for a night of good food and music on the wall. The scene is so refreshing for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we have not seen a lot of this middle class type of culture in Central America. The culture is usually clouded a bit by the poverty in other places, giving it a different feel as a visitor/onlooker. The vibrant Colombian culture is here, and they could give a damn that a few gringos are hanging around.

A view from the wall, soccer, ocean, colonial town, and city scape... They have it all!
Good food and live music that makes you wanna shake your booty on top of the walls

Eventually we leave our fancy room and head along the coast to the peculiar little fishing village of Taganga. Although the crowded beach is not the prettiest, it is by far the best place for people watching and generally observing the happy Colombians that occupy it. We tried all the local Colombian street specialities, Chris falling in love with the arepas filled with cheese. We were both thrilled by the mobile coffee vendors found on the street, with tiny cups of strong and sweet coffee, who always seem to show up during that afternoon slump when you need coffee the most! We enjoyed daily sunsets over the water while sitting on the wall, beer in hand, right in front of the police/tourist station (oddly they are the same entity in Taganga). If you walk 20 feet in either direction from the police station you will undoubtedly hear a mumbling local with their head hung low saying "da weed, da weed, da coke, da coke" under their breath... Yep we are in Colombia on all accounts! Though we were more interested in the crazy cheap prices of scuba diving that had us drawn right in, and after waiting for the wind to die down for a day we had one nice day of diving. If you are a diver, we wouldn't neccessarily recommend Taganga, because although it is on the Caribbean, it is not your normal Caribbean diving... we had to wear 5mm wetsuits and were still chilly in the water, and the corals were not out of this world. We did see eels, turtles, and plently of fish, and for $28 bucks a dive, a day of so-so diving was still better than none! It probably didn't help that our last dive was in the beautiful Blue Hole so our standards were just too high!!

Taganga from above
Although we could have hung out in the budget friendly bummy beach town for longer, we were dying for a taste of cool crisp mountain air after nearly a month in straight heat and humidity. We didn't go far, but we went up... to Minca. There wasn't much going on in Minca, but the air was cool enough to put our car back together after shipping, and the view from the hammocks over the city lights of Santa Marta were well worth the drive, even if our stay was less than 18 hours! The rest of Colombia was calling our names though, so off we went to explore the best country of our trip so far!




  1. We've heard from multiple people that Cartagena is great city. Enjoyed your blog and photos as always. Love the sunset picture! Now that you have Lola back, keep on trucking! Mom & Dad L

    1. Thanks guys!! Definitely put Cartegena on your travel list!!

  2. Glad that the bureaucracy of Columbia is easier to navigate. Sorry for not posting a reply earlier, I accidentally saved one of the older posts over the home page in my favorites, so I kept coming to the site and thinking it was not updated.

    1. Well it was probably pretty accurate for a while since we are a month behind in blog world!!! :)