. It was very funny as we're standing there chatting, I didn't have a clue who he was but people kept coming up to our group asking for his autograph :) So the streets of Cartagena were partying Colombia style, and this means every single person is armed with a can of silly spray and love to spray you in the face. Especially gringos. At first it was fun joining in but after a while it gets annoying and we had to retreat to the hostel. We took a trip to the Mud Volcano which they say is over 2000m deep!! It's like a very deep mud bath, with about 10 other people in it, and the mud is so thick that you float! It is a very strange sensation and it's impossible to sink, we tried as hard as we could to push each other under and failed :) There are a few men who seem to work in the volcano, offering massages which was a bit creepy and some people lost their swimwear when they got out as the mud is so thick! Definitely a new experience :)
After a few days we decided it was time to start moving so headed further towards Venezuela to the little town of Santa Marta, a base for exploring the beaches in the Tayrona national park. Amazing - the beaches are hidden the other side of dense jungle and we had to take a bus, a kind of pickup truck and then walk a little way to get to Bahia Concha. The woman at the hostel told me it was only half an hour away. Well the journey was an adventure in itself - we were loaded into the back of the truck with loads of kids and locals, a few boxes of fish, boxes of fishing equipment, a motor (!!), a few gas cylinders and a few big knives, plus loads of boys kept chasing the truck and trying to jump on
. The road was through the jungle along a mud track so the whole time we were thrown around (and the benches we were sitting on were in no way attached to the truck) trying to avoid the fish, the knives, the gas cylinders and the motor and all the kids screamed. Eventually the truck got stuck in the mud and every man and boy got out to push it. Two hours after leaving the hostel we arrived at the beach and it was paradise. Warm sea to swim in, what a surprise after the freezing waters of Galapagos and only a few people around. We spent four hours there then needed to go back, the truck was nowhere in sight so we had to take motobike taxis back along the mud tracks - and I loved it!! I can now see why people go riding in the mud, it was brilliant! :)
Reluctantly it was time to leave the beaches behind, and we did two full days of bus journeys south to Villa de Leyva. First a 12 hour bus to Bucaramanga where we just slept at the hotel at the bus station then left the next morning, then 12 hours more or less to Villa de Leyva. We did intend to stop at San Gil but took one look and got straight on the next bus! The joys of spontaneous travel .... The last few days have been exhausting but well worth it. Basically however far someone tells you that somewhere is, double it. Villa de Leyba is lovely. It's like going back hundreds of years walking around the old plaza. Very peaceful, with police on each corner
. The police look like very young boys and I always ask them for directions. At the tourist information a nice friendly policeman in full uniform with a massive gun was standing behind the desk eager to help us in German and English! We took a jeep trip with Zebra tours which was one of the strangest trips I have ever taken. In a few hours we visited:
1 - some emerald lakes in the desert, very nice
2 - an ostrich farm, a bit weird
3 - the Colombian version of Stone Henge, basically about 50 stone columns intentionally shaped like penises in order to bring fertility to the land - need I say more?!
4 - an entire house made out of Terracotta - we met the man who built it and I have no idea why.
5 - a giant fish fossil - I'm not convinced.
All in all a very educational day!
After one more day of buses we arrived in the capital city of Bogota. First impressions - rainy, grey and a LOT of protests going on in the centre
. The Plaza Bolivar was impressive and the best thing is that rather than treating pigeons like pests they actually encourage you to feed them by selling you bags of corn! We spent a while having fun putting corn on our heads and getting as many of them to land on us as possible. Mary Poppins eat your heart out!! There were hundreds of people marching, I think it was a protest of students, but anyway decided to keep clear of it. I visited the Gold Museum which was a bit bizarre but interesting in it's own way - I have never seen so much gold!! Gold funeral masks, gold figurines, literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of gold.
For now we have moved to stay with some family of Carina who live in Bogota for a few days ... the plan was to leave on Sunday and head south for the Coffee region but they have just told us that the roads are blocked due to heavy rain and landslides, so may have to rethink that!! TBD ...
More photos here:
I have been in Colombia for about 10 days now and so far it is not at all how I expected it to be! Colombia's reputation for drugs and crime can be offputting but this is a beautiful, varied country from the Carribean to the Andes. I met up with Carina (who I first me in Indonesia) in the old town of Cartagena on the Carribean coast. Cartagena is a beautiful place, the old town is enclosed within stone walls as this was a fort. The first thing that hit me was the heat - I had just got used to the colder climates at higher altitudes and now it's mid 30's with unbearable humidity!! I spent a couple of days seeing the city, visiting the castle of San Felipe and wandering the narrow streets enjoying Colombian coffee trying to spend more money on the gorgeous jewelry and souvenirs :) I really like this place. This weekend was Independence day and the Miss Colombia competition was going on here. At the airport when I arrived I made friends with a woman who is a music journalist and she introduced me to the number one regaetton star in Colombia, 'J Balvin' and his manager