As Andrew says above, we were definitely feeling reflective, among many other emotions. Ending our 15 month trip around the world is a strange feeling. The closer the trip came to an end, the more ready I felt for it to be finished… Yet, at the same time it’s one of those things that I never really want to end. It’s a jumble of feelings. We tried to capture what we were feeling as we sat down for waffles and ice-cream in Cartagena’s Old Town on our last full day of our trip.
We’ve been relatively lucky throughout this trip. No serious health issues (aside from stomach bugs in India, Andrew’s leg infection in Mozambique, and my reaction(s) to malaria meds in Uganda). No crazy transportation malfunctions (not counting our bus accident in Tanzania and losing our luggage for a week in Turkey). No wild robbery stories (except someone lifting my Polaroid camera in Nepal and someone taking Andrew’s camera that was forgotten in a hotel room in Prague). You may be wondering what’s wrong with me, for thinking we were lucky. But all of our hiccoughs along the way seemed trivial compared to stories we heard from friends, or friends of friends, or even what I envisioned happening when I was feeling particularly nervous.
And then, we get on a speedboat this afternoon to go back to Cartagena, and I find myself thinking This is it… This is when our boat falls apart and we’re stranded in the water, bleeding and sharks come to get us while our passports sink to the bottom and even if we are rescued, we miss our plane and then can’t apply for passports because all of our identification is at the bottom of the Caribbean… Because I’m pretty sure it was our “captain’s” first time driving a boat, and I’m pretty sure we were going entirely too fast. Either that, or he didn’t know how to drive a boat, because it was scary. I even asked Andrew where our passports were and then contemplated securing a life-jacket around the one backpack just in case… When we magically arrived back at the dock in Cartagena, we could hear passengers on other boats clapping and thanking their captain for their safe arrival. Everyone on our boat gave a meek “gracias” and scrambled off the boat as fast as they could. Or maybe that was just me… Either way, I was grateful for our arrival.
Playa Blanca is a beautiful white sand beach on one of the Rosario Islands off the coast of Cartagena. Per everyone’s advice, we skipped the aquarium/island tour en route, and went straight from Cartagena to Playa Blanca. At least, that’s what we asked for. Multiple times when we were buying our tickets to Playa Blanca. Waiting at the harbor for the right boat was confusing, for everyone it seemed, except those walking around with clipboards and lists of names.
Once we finally got on what we were told was the right boat (and we did see our names on the list) we discovered we were with a tour group going to the aquarium. Fortunately, after the thirty minute boat ride, we were dropped off first at Playa Blanca. Again, we heeded advice given to us and immediately began walking down the beach (to the left of where you get dropped off) to get away from the vendors and day visitors. We settled for a cabana steps from the ocean, slipped into our suits, and pulled chairs under the umbrella and didn’t move for the rest of the afternoon.
And that’s exactly what we did. More of the same from the day before. Walked around the old town. And, again, were the only two who showed up to the group lesson at Crazy Salsa. At night, we went back into the old town to a salsa club that one of the guys working at the hostel recommended. We must have showed up too early, because while there were a lot of people milling about, none were dancing. We left to walk around the old town at night, stumbled upon an outdoor concert wrapping up, and then back to the club. When we returned, there was a bit more dancing, and some older Colombians took pity on me dancing by myself next to Andrew who was trying to pay attention to all of the fancy footwork on the little dance floor. After several dances with the same two sweet Colombians, we left to catch a little sleep before our boat to Playa Blanca in the morning.
Did you know salsa (the dance) originated in both Cuba and Colombia? I didn’t. So when we nixed going to Cuba, I was pleasantly surprised that I would be able to improve my salsa skills in Colombia before the end of our trip. We signed up for a group lesson with Crazy Salsa and then bummed around the old city until our class started. I think Andrew was a little relieved when we were the only couple who showed up for the group class. I love salsa dancing. Andrew tolerates salsa dancing, but he knows I enjoy it, so he wants to learn (at least that’s what he says). He surprised me in Seoul and took a few lessons in Korea (in Korean) and didn’t fare as well as he would have liked. I was hoping our lessons would go a little more smoothly in Spanish. They did, I think, but we still need quite a bit more practice!
Cartagena is hot. It’s not only hot, it’s humid. Our first stop? Giant glasses of fresh fruit juice a block away from our hostel. Another guest informed us the juice was better (and bigger) there, rather than at the hostel itself. Once we were slightly cooled off, we set off for the old city. The old city of Cartagena is a walled-in city full of beautiful colonial style buildings. All of the guide books recommend walking around Cartagena’s old city for days on end. It’s the thing to do, and as you can see below- for good reason. Every street was full of character, sitting in the park watching the birds and the children feeding (or trying to catch) the birds was entertaining, even when it rained, a rainbow popped up over the walled in city. Beautiful. No other word for it. We walked around the entire day, stopping only to cool off in an air-conditioned store or ice-cream shop.
Horseback rides out of half of Tayrona National Park today was a must. Had we more time, we would have stayed an extra day to relax longer in the park, but with only a week left of the trip, we were a little anxious to get to Cartagena. We woke up to rain, and lounged early in the morning. Dozing off, reading, listening to the rain. It was lovely. Once the rain stopped, we headed for the horses and bypassed the even muddier ravines (due to the additional rain last night) by foot. I have never been so grateful to be on a horse in my life.
Instead of taking what felt like two hours the day before to cross the muddy trail, it only took about twenty minutes. While we were on horseback, a handler ran along side of us hustling the horses along. I was impressed (and jealous of his rain boots) at how fast he moved through the ravine. We trekked out the rest of the way, then hopped in a bus back to the park entrance, another bus back to Santa Marta, then a cab to El Rodadero, while we waited for yet another form of transportation; a shared taxi to Cartagena.
When our shared taxi was over an hour late, the company decided to inform us that they had canceled the trip that night. (I thought Andrew was going to lose it.) We figured out another way and once our taxi arrived to take us to a different bus station, our plans changed one more time and we decided on a third way to get to Cartagena (thanks to our taxi driver) and hopped in another shared taxi a few blocks away. Halfway to Cartagena, we stopped off the side of an expressway, were told to hop out, and ushered to another shared taxi heading all the way to Cartagena. At the beginning of this trip, this would have worried me. At this point, I’m completely unfazed. And then, not three minutes after checking into our room in Cartagena, the electricity went out on the entire block of the city. Because, at that point in the day, why wouldn’t it?