© 2013 . Alle Rechte vorbehalten. "sightseeing" in Cartagena


Our first stop in Colombia is the city of Santa Marta. We spoil ourselves with the beautiful dreamer hostel. Although we hadn’t booked in advance we get the last two beds, a private bed, because whoever booked it hadn’t shown up. Turns out they do show up twenty minutes later and have to sleep in the TV room. We stay for two nights and do nothing but chill at the pool before we go for the Lost City hike. The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida as it is called locally, has only been discovered in the 1970s because of a deadly war between rivaling marijuana farmers who were looting the ruins and some poor dude decided to involve the military because he was frightened for his life.  The bus picks us up early in the morning and after a two hour ride along the Tayrona national park we get dropped off at the starting point. Our group is 12 people strong plus two guides and a cook. One of our guides is only 11 years old but as it turns out the most motivated person in the entire country. We hike for approximately six hours every day and we have the best of luck with the weather. Although it does rain in the afternoons we get spared from any major rainfall but the cloud cover protects us from the worst heat. The hike itself is one of the most beautiful I have ever done, a mixture of Lord of the Rings and Rambo. We have to cross rivers, “climb” mountains and wade through mud. Mosquitos penetrate every unprotected and even protected inch of skin, they do not seem to know what DEET is for and keep on biting until it looks like the group is suffering from a major measles outbreak. Just worse. Tons of chicken and cows line the trail which, according to our fellow, beloved Peggy, are some of the most dangerous animals on this planet. To this day I am haunted by her “MICHAEL” screams. Love you Peg.

(almost) the ciudad perdida family

Ciudad Perdida

The group dynamic is pretty much the same every day. Michael and Peggy, our new Irish friends, and me run ahead, somewhat closely followed by Birte, Alison and Belinda (yes you are my new favorite Australians), and belonging to either of our two groups Gris and Helen. Two Canadians and a Colombian girl who are traveling together are lagging behind by roughly two to ten hours every day. Might be because one of the Australian must not let go of the Colombian girls’ hand. At one point he CARRIED her through a river. It was nauseating. For five days they were one person and their poor friend would not leave their side. Altogether it was one if not the best trek I have ever been on: Great and lots of food, comfortable beds/hammocks and a fun group. After the trek our group stays together and we find a nice hostel with a great pool in Taganga, a small fishing village and backpacker destination. Here we have one of the most fun parties of our trip as well. It is a rooftop party overlooking the entire bay and when the club finally closes we move on to the next location until the lights go on.

Colombia theme 2012: Lovemaking

The next day the Laura, Birte’s best friend from Barcelona, arrives. Unfortunately, when we do try to party again that night, everything seems to be dead. We stay in Taganga for a couple more days until Birte and Laura decide to go Tayrona national park where they are supposed to have one of the nicest beaches in Colombia. The rest of us stays behind and joins a boat cruise. The local guy sold it as if we were going on a yacht, but when we reach the port we see that it is nothing more than a small lancha. Half of who wanted to go (pretty much the entire hostel), decides to skip this adventure and go to the beach and our Lost City crew remains. We go fishing and master fisherwoman Gris catches a fish after around 35s in. The laughter is great but it seems that we have run out of luck and don’t catch anything else for the remainder of the day. Instead I go spearfishing. Sounds like a lot of fun, actually is a lot of fun, but I am probably the worst assassin in history, I just cannot kill Nemo. There were simply no other fish to find but those cute, tiny, colorful Nemos. When we are done fishing we relax at the nearby beach. It is actually part of Tayrona national park as well, but the beach is not supposed to be as nice as the one Birte and Laura disappeared to. I don’t know.

More love in Tayrona

The next morning all of us leave for Cartagena. Our bus breaks down midway and the ride takes six hours instead of three. But at least we fare better than Laura and Birte. They arrive late in Santa Marta and leave with the 18h bus. Somewhere along the way they arrive at a road block where all cars are lined up. Their bus driver decides to pass all those waiting cars and get right to where the action is. In this case the action means some town was too poor to pay the electricity bill and the entire city is pitch black. Of course this does not go well with the somewhat criminal juvenile population so obviously one decides to block all roads going through town and start harassing passenger on buses. For the first hour or so Birte and Laura did not really mind, but when Colombians on their bus started crying and some rowdies outside tried to break into the luggage compartment while their friends started picking up bricks to throw in windows, you do get worried. Fortunately at this point even the police had disappeared and the bus drivers’ attempts to bribe the local population had not worked out. Miraculously the lights did turn on before anything major happens and the girls arrive 4 hours late at two in the morning.

“sightseeing” in Cartagena

Meanwhile, after having waited for the girls for forever and since I cannot do anything anyway, the rest of us goes to the big Media Luna hostel party. We arrive quite late, it is already past 12, but Hector, our new Peruvian friend, bribes the bouncers and we skip the hour-long wait and go straight to the rooftop. After another fantastic party we go back to our hostel, where I find out that Birte and Laura have arrived but are fast asleep, and we continue the party in the others private room. Of course I am of no use the next day and cure my hangover by staying in bed as long as possible and then stroll around town with the girls for a bit. Unfortunately Alison and Belinda had to leave right after the party for their flight to Argentina. The next day we have to get up early again. We are going to mud bath! It is pretty much self-explanatory. A small hill, officially a volcano, has a “tub” on top which is filled with mud. Sounds pretty gross, looks pretty gross, but once you have floated in it you never want to stop. We are having a great time, especially when we find out about Laura’s floating butt. No matter how she turns (which is pretty difficult since it feels like your in space), her butt turns up at the surface five seconds later. Afterwards old women in the nearby lake wash us off and I have to ask somewhat awkwardly when “my” lady demands my trunks to be taken off, but when I look around everyone else is doing the same in the muddy waters.

Mud baths near Cartagena

We stay in Cartagena, a beautiful colonial historic center by the way, for one more night before we fly to Medellin. At the airport, a lady approaches Birte and asks for a picture with her because she has such nice hair. Then she asks me because I am tall. She totally ignores Laura who gets shit from us because of it for the rest of the day. It is Dec 2 and the day before all the Christmas decorations have been turned on. The entire city is enlightened in green, red, blue, white and whatever other color could be found. From this blog entry it must sound like Colombia was one big party, but, to be honest, it was one giant party. Medellin is supposed to be the party capital but for some reason we enjoyed other parties better. Still nice though. We stay for 3 nights in total and one of the days take the Pablo Escobar tour. We get to see the place where he lived, some of his buildings and, of course, the places where he was killed and buried. After the tour we explore the cable car and get ourselves our tickets for the overnight bus to Bogota.

Pablo Escobar’s grave

Some of you might have read parts of this on Facebook already, but I have to repeat it here. Our bus leaves at 10.45 at night so we want to catch a cab at 10 to get there on time. So I go to the receptionist and ask for a cab. He looks distracted and is unwilling to call one for us. We are confused and wait for five minutes before we ask him again. He still does not want to call a cab. Instead we see a cab arriving at the hostel and it drops it passengers off. But although the cab is empty and not going anywhere the driver does not want to take us. Even more confused we walk to the main road and get one of the craziest cab drivers ever. I counted roughly five almost deadly accidents on the way to the bus terminal. Meanwhile, a few minutes after we have left, (we have to guess a little bit here, most of it is definitely true) two Colombians who were staying at the hostel get their guns and open the front gate for their friends (from our taxi?). All of them go from room to room with guns loaded and force everyone to open up their lockers and hand over their valuables. Fortunately no one gets hurt, but for us it was a close, close call, especially since I am not carrying any electronics.

Birte and Laura at Andres Carne de Res

Not knowing any of this we arrive in Bogota. While at first we are afraid we might have to many days in Bogota, we end up doing basically no sightseeing, but do get to see every club in town. The smoking area, about 2 square meters big, is turned into the party cage. Here we start pre-drinks every night with our “crew” and afterwards go to whatever is big that night: An electronic music club owned by the military in the 30th floor for example. One night we go to a bar and afterwards Birte asks some old fellow where we can have fun at this time. Naturally he brings us to a brothel. Doesn’t matter, we just party with the girls! On Saturday night we book the party bus to Andres Carne de Res, Colombia’s most famous club. It is nuts. It starts with dinner (which we obviously skip because it is crazy expensive) and turns into a massive party. The décor is so over the top, you cannot even describe it anymore, it is incredibly crowded and the building is so unbelievably crooked and turned that you won’t find anyone anymore when you come back from the loo. When have to people are passed out on some table the bus takes us back to the hostel.

Future church rave location

Birte and I actually manage to go sightseeing one afternoon. Sabrina, a friend from back home, takes us to the salt cathedral, an old salt mine (naturally) turned into a church, about two hours away from Bogota. It is laundry day and so I have to, although it is definitely not the right temperature for it, wear a t-shirt and my trunks. Bogota tourist style it is! The cathedral is wicked. My Christian friends will call out blasphemy but there is not a place in the world more asking for a church rave than this. Maybe someone will have a big festival here someday. I would definitely go! Besides the cathedral we don’t do much except go on a graffiti tour on which a local artist explains all about the many, many graffitis in the area around our hostel.

Party cage!

Also I do get my first haircut in six months. It cost me $2.5 and almost made me cry. I walk into the shop, show the lady a picture of what it could look like, she nods and points to a seat. She starts cutting right away, chunks of hair fall left and right and tears fill up my eyes. Not because I love my hair that much, well maybe I do, but because my (nonexistent) six year old cousin would have done a better job than her. Fortunately it only takes her three minutes to “finish” my “cut”. Could have been worse, she could have cut it all, definitely could have been better. One side 4cm longer than the other (unwillingly I have to say) does not win you any prices. At least one can see my neck again.

Sam is not impressed with Salento’s coffee selection

From Bogota we take a bus in the nearby Coffee area to a small town called Salento. Our hostel is a 20 minute foot walk away from town and more a hacienda than a hostel. You could also call it a drug haven. Every weekend they offer Ayuhasca experiences, a strong hallucinogenic that the indigenous tribes use to find their spirit animal and that sort of thing. We skip this experience and do a coffee tour and some hiking instead. One night we watch half of the hostel brew some magic mushroom tea and trip the entire night. Keith Richards would be so proud. Quite close to Salento is a small national park where the national tree, the palm wax tree, grows. We want to get there early to avoid a full cloud cover and are said to arrive in town at 6:30. Obviously we arrive 5 minutes too late and have to wait for another 50 minutes for the next bus. When we jump into our jeep Birte mentions that a woman looks like Peg who we hadn’t seen since Cartagena. We take a second look and it is Michael and Peggy! Family times in Salento :)

Wax palm trees everywhere

Next stop on our list is Cali, the salsa capital of Colombia. Good thing none of us can actually salsa so we try to avoid this kind of dancing as much as we can. Cali is also the hometown of Laura’s and Birte’s classmate Catalina who I met in Istanbul last year. The first night we spend in a hostel but the next morning we get picked up by Catalina’s sister (Catalina herself is only flying in that night herself) and they take us to their house. To call this beautiful mansion a house should be a crime punishable by law. For the first time in forever we have our own room, a proper shower and to top it all a pool. It was Catalina’s birthday a week before and the family is in preparation of a big BBQ birthday party. When Catalina’s dad realizes that I don’t wear any shoes (my thongs broke in Salento) he goes and gets his own flip flops and gives them to me. “You can actually keep them, he does not need them anyway”, Catalina tells me later. I actually try to talk to her parents in Spanish, but they speak faster than my mind can ever comprehend and my usual reply to their question is a stupid grin on my face. At the party I indulge in what can only be described as a meat feast. I must’ve eaten an entire cow by the end of the night. At some point during the party, the music system breaks down, but this is no problem in Colombia. The estate is big enough to drive a car around the house, position it right next to the bar and we have a new, mildly improvised system at our service.

Laura, me, Catalina and Birte

The next day everyone is pretty hung-over and Catalina’s parents take us to a late, late lunch. Have I mentioned they are awesome? Apparently I repeat the three-entire-chicken-meal from Guatamala City’s airport (with everyone’s leftovers) because Catalina’s dad tells us we are very welcome to visit them any time we want, but next time he won’t be able to feed me again. That night we go out again, but after what must have been like two bottles of Aguadiente, the local liquor, memories are blurry and probably better be forgotten as well. Unfortunately we have to leave Catalina on Sunday. Laura to fly back home, Birte and me to fly to Cusco to go on the Inka trek and meet our parents.

Ze German triumvirate