Archive for the 'Columbia' Category

Published by Linda on 13 May 2009

Cartagena & The U-Turn…..

Sorry, been bold, haven’t blogged in a while, so where was I….. ya had a few days after Tayrona and then left Taganga behind and headed for Cartagena. Cartagena is a real touristy spot, massively advertised all over South America. It is also the spot where you can catch a boat to Panama for about US$350/$400. So I planned to spend a couple of days in Cartagena and then head off into the sunset. The boat takes about 5 days and you cruise around the San Blas islands. By the time I reached Cartagena, the boats leaving on the dates I needed were all booked up! Feck it anyway, but at this point time is running a lot shorter than I’m happy with so unfortunately San Blas will have to wait for another time, boo :-(  But I guess you have to leave something for the next trip!?

So here I was in Cartagena, Lindy-planless (pretty much a rarity) and also minorly concerned about getting into the US via Mexico, which is where I pick up my round the world ticket. Decisions, decisions, whatcha gonna do? Well go out and rip it up with some Irish lads apparantly. Feeling a bit seedy from the night before in Taganga but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Willie and Kenny, you have a lot to answer for!!! Had good fun at a bar in the old town……

……… lots of salsa dancing. The following day, after a very lazy start, decided to check out the old city with Alister and Kildare lad Kenny…….

 

…….who reminds me so much of Tommy Tiernan so we’d good old craic. The old town in Cartagena still has it’s original walls dating back 500 years.

It’s a really pretty place…….

…….and you can even walk the walls in some places. Had a good old stroll around and bonus, stumbled across some dancing in the local park, seriously energetic stuff!!! Check out this video for more Dancing in Cartagena Old Town 

Back out on the town that night and we found a couple of bars and had another big night out.

The following morning was not so good. Made my decision to head back to Taganga with Kenny and John who were headed that way. It’s the first time I’ve backtracked my whole trip but chilling out on the beach is all kinds of good and it’s more or less what I had intended to do anyway before I got distracted :-)

Back I went and it’s weird but kinda comforting to go back the same place. It’s kinda nice when people know your name and the like. I decided to do my advanced diving course, because of course I say I can chillax and completely intend to but the reality is I need constant distraction or I go a little crazy! The diving course was great, no exams or any of that, you just do different types of dives. Got to use these scooters…….

…..James Bond or wha? :-) Also did a couple of night dives which can be a little freaky, especially when we turned off the torches at the end – pitch black until we waved our limbs around to activate the plankton. Awwwww so pretty!! Got up close and personal with this puffer fish…..

No, I didn’t crush him with my giant manhands, don’t worry!! Also saw some giant green morays…….

……..Awesome!! They are a bit evil looking though – they watch you too closely, hmmmmmm. This really is a good spot for fishies and the company I went with were great. If you’re looking for a genuine recommendation, with small groups and great equipment, then try Vida Marina.

Other than the diving, I did relax mostly. Even read a couple of books – can you believe it!!! Had a few more big nights…….

 

and so glad I went back as I got to meet up with a few people I met along the way in South America, Cork lad Darren who I meet everywhere…….

Also Leeanna & Jason and Emma who I met in Buenos Aires. Great to see her again :-) Lastly I met up with Albert, from way back in Patagonia, so it’s true everyone who travels in Columbia seems to get sucked in by Taganga at some point. 

All the while I was quietly freaking out about this being the end of the road, or at least the roadtrip. Awww I’ll miss South America so much, the colours, the smells, the music, you get used to it so quickly and it seems like you’ve never been anywhere else. Still though, I’ve had a blast and I’ve made some genuine friends along the way. I also can’t forget that I have a few days in Chicago and my cousin’s Julie’s wedding in Louisville, on the way home.

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617530611309/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617797880501/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617891557599/

Published by Linda on 01 May 2009

Beach Bum Bear

Left Medellin on an overnight bus to Santa Marta. Headed straight for Taganga, which is penned as a little fishing village outside Santa Marta. It is nice place to live as a beach bum for a a week or two (or a month or three for some people!) So I have been hanging out here for a while. Relaxed? Well kinda, my first few days, I thought I’d crack up from the doing nothingness of it all, even though i was staying in the nicest place with hammocks everywhere.

Decided to do a bit of diving, why not and I thought it would ease me into re-lax-a-tion a bit better :-) The diving here is pretty good as you go to sites which are part of Tayrona National Park. Was a little nervous as I haven’t been diving since December but it all went swimmingly (pardon the pun!!) Pretty nice down there………..

 

……….as it should be, I am in the caribbean parish now!! Still managed to be freezing by the time I got out though! Saw some nice corals, sponge(s?), crayfish (mind those claws now!!) a weird brown eel with white spots and loadsa fishies of course.

Piles of stuff to see so after a post mortem and a snack we ventured down again. The water here is beautiful, and although the visibility was just at about 15 metres, I reckon given the right conditions, you could see forever. Met a scotty called Marty in Taganga and he was my dive buddy that day……..

 

……..and we hit it off. Decided to head off to Tayrona National Park. Headed out to La Garaje the night before, great old spot, a favourite here on a wednesday and I really enjoyed it. 

 

It ended up being a pretty heavy night which finished off on the beach in the wee small hours. Extreme devastation the following morning after little or no sleep, was hoping Marty would bail and we’d head for Tayrona the following day. No such luxury, he turned up at my hostel (early) and ready to rock. After a bit of faff, we headed to Santa Marta where we faffed even more trying to find the post office. I was in a little world of my own so didn’t really notice time passing. After all was in order at the post office – incidentally in South America (well Peru and Columbia anyway) you get finger printed if you don’t have your passport…..

 

i kid you not!! So EVENTUALLY we reached the park entrance and begin the trek to the beach. Nothing taxing, just a 45 minute or so very pretty walk…….

 

……..to the first beach. People rave about Tayrona and it was so built up I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to it. Well it’s just that people rave about Taganga and it is lovely but not without it’s flaws. The beach can be kinda mank in places. Anyhoo when we reached this sign……..

 

…….we knew this was going to be all kindsa goooooood. The beaches here are amazing. (photo overload forewarning) They kind of have this pre-historic look about them, with great big boulders……

………..and you feel like you’re the first person to discover them.  The boulders kinda remind me of Abel Tasman in New Zealand, we saw lots of split apple rocks around the place……

The first couple of beaches are fab to look at but probably more suited to surfers, not a fraidy-cat like me. Stroll down a little further and you find waters more suited to swimming and snorkelling with beach that had palm trees for shading under……

Had a great couple of days. Slept in a hammock up on this hill behind me……..

…………….doesn’t it look like a holiday brochure!! Lazy days on the beach, dodging death by falling coconuts but they tasted good, thanks to Marty……

….and just generally wandering to find the next beach. You find yourself completely alone on these beach and it really is just amazing :-)

Took a bumpy(!) boat back to Taganga and it was another place I was so, so sad to leave. There’s something so unspoilt and dramatic about it but mostly it’s just the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. This is undoubtedly my favourite spot so far, magnificant, overwhelming, awesome. 

Even the odd military helicopter flying overhead doesn’t spoil the mood, it simply adds to the notion that you’ve entered Eden on borrowed time. Well all good things must come to an end :-(

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617365244546/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617406442188/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617365307312/

Published by Linda on 22 Apr 2009

Bet Pablo Escobar didn’t have to climb 649 steps…….

….hmmmm anyway we trundled up El Penol, this amazing rock which just juts out of the ground.

It’s likened to Sugarloaf mountain in Rio but I think it’s even more dramatic as there are no other mountains, to speak of, for miles and miles!! It’s got some great colours going on through the rock……

and, as I said, it’s like someone dropped it there outta nowhere. However, with these steps they’ve installed, it’s no the prettiest thing you’ll ever clap your eyes on, unusual yes, pretty, well, not so much! But the rock itself is not really what it’s all about, it’s the most beautiful view once you climb those steps……

…this video captures it a bit better (El Penol view) It’s just masses of tiny islands, some with houses and linked by bridges. Seriously, this was just gorgeous and some where out there was one of Pablo Escobar’s joints!! Weird huh? We spent quite a few hours up there and it was just perfect, weather was great and it’s pretty much undersold by the travel guides but I can say it’s definitely worth the visit.

Back in Medellin, we decided to have some lazy time, interspurced with a look around the city. It’s not an especially pretty place, but there are a few unusual bits here and there…….

 

Columbia is like this though, you get these huge elaborate sculptures every so often, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities and it’s kinda nice to happen across. Wasn’t too sure about this one…..

……but something to ponder on nonetheless!! We eventually found this barefoot park, which was something of a let down after we had heard a bit about it. It  was meant to be a park full of pools where barefooted city walkers could soak their feet. And that’s kin-da what we found…….

…….. it was pretty non-descript though, two pools for bathing, blink and you’d miss it!! We still had a soak there but wondered why the city didn’t promote the Botannical Gardens more, much more to see I reckon. Big social scene in Medellin’s Zona Rosa too but we were there mid week so there wasn’t heaps happening then.

Decided to seek our thrills elsewhere outside the city. So if I was asked “if Stuart jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?” And yes apparently I would!!

Yep, harnessed up, ran off a mountain and did another paraglide. Awesome, really could get used to it!! Not the most graceful take-off but have a look at my video anyway Paraglide Medellin The scenery was not quite as nice as Sucre, Bolivia but pretty good all the same. Told the guy it was my second time out so he spun and dipped us around, great rush, oh my god it was fantastic!!!

It was pretty funny though, as in paragliding you finish where you start (if the winds are with you) but the hill where we took off from was pretty tiny so he had to be quite exact and lowish coming in. I was a bit OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO CRASH INTO THE MOUNTAIN!!!!! But he just laughed and landed us in so worries :-) Loved it though and second time over I still reckon it’s definitely got great rushes going on, especially with the little tricks they can do. Bargain too, cost just 23 euro – sweet!!!

So it was here I said goodbye to Stuart, she was a great travel buddy. We’re both in the (ahem – shush!!) twilight of our trips so both very chilled, yet wanting to see as much as possible. She’s off to meet her Dad but we might meet up again on the coast some place.

As for me, I really did debate going to another couple of places but nothing massively appealed so it’s off on a night bus with me. Headed straight for Taganga, a little fishing village just outside Santa Marta. Relaxation begins there (at least that’s the theory, I’ll let you know how it goes!! Am I the only person who gets nervous about relaxation??)

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616811537757/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616902016750/

Published by Linda on 20 Apr 2009

Bogota & Zona Cafetera

And so, much to the horror of my loved ones at home, I arrived in Columbia. I met an english lady on the plane who has been living here for a year. She freaked the feckin pants off me, I must admit, but 24 hours later I realised that Columbia was as safe (or as unsafe) as pretty much anywhere else in South America. People give South America such a bad name, honestly I’ve never felt restricted or in danger here whatsoever.

Now to be fair, there is a strong military presence here, at ATMs, in the airport and checkpoints throughout the countryside as you travel on the buses. It is a little strange but I guess it leads to a place being safer.

Anyway got into Bogota and my plan was to spend a couple of days there and then head for the coast to do nothing on the beach for my last couple of weeks. Now I was told that I’d probably never be able to sit still that long but that was my plan to make me relax because I’m pretty tired now and apparently look about ten years older than I am – grrrrrrrrrr :-(

Bogota really shocked me. There’s money here in Columbia, much more so than I had expected or experienced anywhere else in South America. Myself and an American girl, Stuart (yes like the boy), I met in the hostel headed off to see the Gold Museum. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a museum like this. The exhibits were displayed like pieces of art but sort of floating in the display case…..

 

…….really beautiful, I was totally impressed with it and it cost just under a euro to get in – sweet. Gold’s cheap it would seem, at least to view it, unfortunately you weren’t allowed take any home :-) Hit Bogota coming into Easter weekend and celebrations were at large on the streets……

…… a real party atmosphere going on with street performers, clowns and stalls selling pretty much everything.

Anyhoo, I fell at the first at the first fence of my relaxation plan and decided to visit the Coffee Plantation (Zona Cafetera) on my way north (it’s totally on my way so it doesn’t count) and Stuart said she’d come with me. All good. Our first stop was Salento, home to Valle de Cocora, this amazing steaming valley which was so green, it kinda reminded me of home, apart from the humming birds and giant palm trees!!

Such an ususual landscape and it was pretty bizarre so see cows grazing under these palm trees!! We did a 10km hike over many scary bridges like this one…….

in what I would call very VERY muddy conditions!!! You know when your foot comes out but not your boot, that kind of muddy!!

Still though we got to do it in our rented wellies, which I grew rather attached to and kept them on the whole time we were in Salento. Nothing like wellies for going to the local pub!!

Oh yeah! Tee hee, hee :-) Well I’m not going to be able to do it at home, now am I??

Easter time was still at large but there was no such thing as everything closing down on Good Friday, god no, the streets were hopping here. It was like a festival, I guess how it’s supposed to be, right? No easter eggs though, boo.

Next morning a bunch of us from the hostel decided to go horse-riding.

There was some great scenery of the region…….

 

……..and unlike the horse-riding I’d done in Brazil and Argentina, we got a good few gallops in so it was good fun.

On to Manizales we headed for some more coffee, which I’m seriously struggling with but trying to appreciate it while I’m here. So another bunch in our hostel decided us to join us for a tour on a coffee farm……….

………which was pretty in depth, we learned a lot (and i mean a lot) about coffee. We finished with a really “holy crap that’s strong” coffee and a lovely lunch, oh and now we’re certified coffee experts!!

Hmmmmm we’ll see, think my coffee drinking days are over now. Phew! It was a nice day and we got back into town standing up on the back of a jeep which was great fun, if not just ever so slightly dangerous but it’s all good when you survive, right :-)

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616559766480/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616602015881/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616733768186/