before the land of Bachata!
21.12.2014 - 10.01.2015 35 °C
So as those who I speak to regularly already know, lately I have been quite bored. I think I miss working and had gotten quite used to it up in the mountains. Also, I have already travelled and seen this part of Colombia and so I have basically just been waiting until my flight to the Dominican Republic – which is now in less than a week and I am very excited! 5 months is a very long time for a backpacker to spend in one country, and as much as I absolutely love Colombia, I am more than ready to move onto different shores and get that rush that comes with being in a new place. To ease the boredom a little, I have made a few friends locally through couchsurfing. I have gone to see movies, been out for dinner and drinks with new friends, and gone to rivers/ waterfalls. It hasn’t completely banished the boredom, but I have had a couple of wonderful days that made my being here more than worthwhile.
I made a friend named Mauricio who took me tubing one day at a river called Buritaca. He picked me up super early in the morning on his motorbike and we headed out with his two friends Yuca and Claudia for breakfast. It was horrendously early as we had been out until 4am the night before, I think I got 2 hours sleep, I am not sure how much he got but I know we were tired! We rode for a couple of hours, past Tayrona national park with the most beautiful view out to the Sierra Nevada on one side and then out to the Caribbean on the other. We finally got to the river and then had to hike up higher through the jungle so that we could have a longer float down. When we arrived we had to blow up the tubes on the side of the river.
It was so hot I had a swim while the boys did their part. It was a really strange feeling though when a couple of ladies and their children arrived where we were after walking for 3 hours down from the mountains. They had arrived to bathe themselves, their children, and their clothes. And we were there to float down the river, talk about perspective.
They were lovely people and we chatted to them for a while before heading down on our tubes
The view on the way down was stunning, beautiful clear water, rocks, limestone cliffs, mountains in the distance, and eventually the Caribbean sea on the other.
We found a spot where of course I had to jump off…
We found a river side makeshift café where we pulled over to eat fried banana with cheese – actually tasted better than it sounds!
Then as we were making our way towards where the river met the sea, we saw a crocodile! I have since been told he is actually a Cayman, but whatever he was – he was so so cool! And he was just tanning on the side of the river, I think we must be soul brothers!
But I was terrified, and I think I may be the only person in the world who has managed to float down a river while standing/ kneeling on their tube in an attempt to be above the water!
We passed banana plantations and kids spear fishing in the river, we saw beautiful birds, and we laughed the whole way down the river.
Once we got to the beach, the water had cooled us down so much my fingers were numb from the cold and we had to sit and eat fresh mango and tan for awhile to warm up again.
Of course, in 35 degree heat, warming up never takes too long and it was then time to swim again. I asked the boys if they knew of a cool place to jump off more rocks and waterfalls. The boys are both pretty outdoorsy and love mountain biking and trekking so I knew they would know a cool place… and did they what! Mendiguaca is now one of my favourite swimming holes in the entire world! You have to bike down this dodgy as path to get there, then climb through a barb wire fence and through a muddy dirt track through the jungle to get there, but boy is it worth it!
Not a single person is there, and there are huge rocks to jump from!We stayed there until dark and I was only able to be dragged away when Mauricio promised to take me back for my birthday!
I have been editing a lot during my time in Santa Marta and going to the beach a few times. I went to the beach with a friend I met from Venezuela, Glencora. We had a lovely day at a beach area called Rodadero, possibly the most awful beach I have ever been to in my life – full of rubbish, gasoline in the water, and a million vendors bugging us. When we first entered the water, we found a condom floating beside us! We screamed and moved immediately about 300 meters away. It was such a bad beach, you could see the oil tankers out off shore and the sand was just hard and dirty. But we started playing this game with the men selling ceviche. Every single one that approached us, we would say we weren’t hungry yet and then ask for a taste tester of their ceviche. Over the time of an hour, we had eaten so many free taste testers of ceviche that we actually no longer required them! We had told them all to come back in about an hour, so we ran away before they surrounded us. Sometimes, when in a gross place there really is nothing else to do than have some fun. It certainly beats complaining anyway! We couldn’t understand why the beach is so famous, it really isn’t pretty. We figure because we are both blessed with such stunning beaches in our respective countries that it just seemed terrible to us – either way, it was lovely to make such a great friend. I am really hoping she will come and join me for some part of my travels as she is wanting to travel more. She is a monkey vet, how cool is that?
After enjoying lots of sunshine in Santa Marta and the surrounding areas, I took a bus to Cartagena to meet Mama Kat and Ari for Christmas celebrations which were so much fun. We ate wonderful food, drank lots of whiskey, opened presents at midnight, and just had such a lovely time.
I ended up staying from Christmas Eve until January 2nd, and we had such a lovely time. We were staying in their friend’s apartment – Pacho, Marielvis, Marce, and Francisco. They showed me such wonderful hospitality and I felt so lucky to be accepted into yet another amazing family here in Colombia. We went out shopping, went for drinks in the evening, went for lunch on the beach with friends of theirs, and stayed up all night talking about how to save the world – my all-time favourite conversation!
They have the most amazing apartment and we went up to watch the fire crackers from the rooftop helipad on New Years Eve. Before Ari and I went out to the old part of Cartagena to see what adventures we could find. Most parts seemed to be quite quiet but we did find the Carlos Vives concert where he was singing on top of the old wall that surrounds the city. So we danced and sang along and found that exciting.
The other thing that happened in Cartagena was I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, where I was supposed to meet a friend - he never found the restaurant. When I got there it was closed, but the lovely lady 'saw the love of mexican food shining in my eyes' so she made me a giant plate of my favourite food. I was so happy! And I got a limonada de coco with it, so it was my favourite Mexican flavour accompanied by my favourite Colombian flavour! It was such a treat!
I fell in love with the view from the 27th floor so I forced Francisco to take me up (everyone else was too scared) before I made my way back to Santa Marta. I wanted to get some pictures sitting on the edge, because you really can see the castle of San Felipe, Cartagena old city, Boca Grande, and of course to the horizon of the Caribbean. The building we were in is the tallest in Cartagena and the photos do it no justice, as always!
I woke up early on my birthday after a long trip back on the 2nd, to my friend Mauricio outside and rearing to go. We went back to Mendiguaca and had such a wonderful time. Of course since I had already been, I was busting to go exploring. So we scrambled up the waterfall for a couple of hours to where we found lots of secret little tunnels and caves, mini waterfalls, and swimming holes. It was just magical.
We jumped from the big rocks, we tried to find the snake we had found the previous time but he wasn’t there.
And then he dropped me to see my friend at Rancho Relaxo. Turns out that two other friends of mine who I had met in the mountains were also there so my plans changed… I had only meant to stay for 20 minutes… well that became a crazy drunken birthday party night and then a three day stay in the jungle…
Rancho Relaxo is a beautiful spot and is kept amazingly clean and organised. It has its own private waterfall for swimming, although they are still in the process of digging in a natural pool too. They cook the best food to be found in Colombia and they are all so relaxed, chilled out, and happy to sit and chat. Not only do they have the best grounds and huts/ cabanas, they also have the best collection of movies in the world, including the labrynth to watch at 5am after drinking 3 bottles of rum on my birthday – BLISS!
I only left because I really needed to take my asthma medicine, as I hadn’t planned on staying at all I had absolutely nothing with me and I was also starting to feel dirty. At the waterfall though I met a military guy who was stationed in the area and he loaned me his soap and we had a bath in the waterfall, it was pretty cool! But very strange to be bathing with a massive gun next to us just lying in the dirt, so of course I had a photo!
I have now been back in civilization a few days and I can’t say I am enjoying it to be honest. I got my hair fixed even though it went green first. The hair dresser tried telling me that was what I had asked for, and that is what the Colombians like so I should just accept it. I told her that my hair was about 7 different colours like the sea in San Andres and she laughed and did her best. I guess that is why hairdressers here are so cheap, and why we never go to unqualified salons at home. However, it got there in the end with me putting a box colour over the top of her mess!
I just don’t enjoy city life, especially when I don’t have many friends to make it enjoyable. It’s hot, smelly, dirty, polluted, and just far too full of people – all cities are, not just this one! I am working hard on the book and getting ready to fly to Bogota on Tuesday before the Dominican Republic on Thursday. I absolutely cannot wait to be there, to be dancing Bachata, to have real Caribbean blue beaches to spend my days on, to explore new sights and rivers and waterfalls, to meet new people, and to be working in a location where we can see whales from our balcony! I also get my very own treehouse (with electricity and a double bed) to sleep in! EEEEEEK! Bring it on I say, I love you Colombia but like it was to leave New Zealand – time to fly!