Wednesday, February 18, 2009

pura carribbean

has been some time since i´ve done the whole bloggy blog thing so here we go!
From Bogota towards the north coast is a long trip, about 15 hours by bus, but first stop was Medellin, once home (and why not still) to the infamous Pablo Escobar cartel. It used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but in the past ten years has become one of the safest and modern in Colombia. It has a completely different feel from Bogota, a lot less soul and a more metropolitan feel. The pride of most Colombians anywhere in the country is the metro of Medellin. That and the women. In fact the first things i heard when i crossed the border was, ¨wow the women and the metro.¨I must have heard that a million times before actually getting to the city. But, the metro is in fact nice, fast, cheap, and gets you from point A to B, and the women there are incredibly attractive. It is shocking actually the ratio of super good looking women to non. But there is somewhat of a fad there to have fake boobies and buttocks. People say it stems back to the Escobar days and has never slowed. There is an absurd amount of silicone walking the streets of Medellin. Who ever heard of a fake ass?
My favorite part of Medellin was the Botero sculpture park. Fernando Botero is probably the pride of Colombian art. He´s known for doing everything in a fat way. People, animals, fruit, everything. I first saw his work at the Botero gallery in Bogota, but there is mainly his paintings. His sculptures are incredible! Huge bronze pieces dot the park with lots of people basking in sunshine and milling around. He has this way of making fat very fun and the giant sculptures really come to life. The city all in all didnt really do it for me, so off to the beach we went.

First stop Cartagena. This is a city that i first started hearing about in Nicaragua. It is famous for its beautiful colonial walled in zone of the city, and for being the port where many travellers from central america enter the south. Zach and I found a relatively cheap and clean place to stay just outside the walled in heart. Everybody and there mother must have been travelling through Cartagena, it is that touristy. Bus loads of old tourists file through the narrow streets and lush fountain filled parks following guides like good sheep. Sheep with video cameras. It was an odd sight to see so many tourists and a little unerving.
I get this selfish sence of entitlement often that demands entire cities be for only my enjoyment. I cringe at the sight of other backpackers walking in hordes, their packs big on the back, beers in hand, sun tinted skin no longer so pasty white. The gringo trail is always growing, im not making it any shorter, and i loath it. I make it a point often to avoid as much as possible the backpacker born places down here, but im finding it somewhat hard to do, especially here on the carribbean side. There are ass loads of travellers here, really.
Cartagena was a little to boutiquey for me, very expensive, and too tourist, so we took off after only two nights. Santa Marta was our next stop, another ocean front city known for its laid back atmosphere. It is a good place to relax and and catch a breath for a while. We found a hotel where we could camp on the roof for about the equivalent of a dollar and 80 cents. It was ocean breezes and booming music all night.
We took a trip out to a small town called Aracataca which really doesnt have that much to offer. We went because we found a guy on couchsurfing with a house there. The description he gave was of a farm with large garden, a pond stocked with fish, and horses. To stay for free all we had to do was help out in the garden a little. We got there and this ¨farm¨was a pretty shabby house with a large overgrown yard, a mud pit pond which served as a mosquito breeding place to the extreme, and not much else. For farm work they gave us a machete and a kitchen knife and told us to go mow the lawn. It was pretty rediculous and we gave ourselves some good blisters before boycotting the stupidity of the situation. Aracataca is famous as being the birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who writes about Macondo (his code name for the town) in most of his books. The best part of the two days at the ¨farm¨was the rope swing into the Aracataca River. We were happy to leave.

One of the highights of the past 9 weeks of travel was Tayrona National Park. Unreal beaches with huge boulder fields and pure jungle, sun, wind, and more coconuts than anyone can count. Amazing, amazing. We easily could have stayed longer than the four days we did. We camped with some great new friends from Brazil, Spain, Argentina, and Chile and cooked our meals family style over open fires under incredible stars and bright moon. It felt amazing to be camping out of a city! Up until that point I was feeling a real lack of nature and a huge overload of city life.
From Tayrona, me, Zach, and Lucia our friend from Spain decided to make to journey farther east to La Guajira which is colombia´s desert region near the border of Venezuela. All we knew was that it was desert and that there is a large Wayuu Indian population there. Not knowing more than that we began the long trip by bus out that way.

The sun and the wind got together and decided that they were going to kidnap the three of us and hold us hostage on the beach for a couple days. They tested us to see how much we could take before crying mercy. It only took two days of the brutal weather to do us in and we made the trip back to Santa Marta sunburned and mentally fried. It is mind boggling to think that people can live their whole lives in the extremes of weather. The energy in that place was not for us, we felt unwelcome by both the weather and the people in the region. The best part though was the super cheap lobster! I bought a lobster from a Wayuu man and cooked it over a fire on the beach, super good.

Side note from this trip. Lucia, Zach, and I were very low on water so we thought we should try cooking with sea water. We had some rice and some cans of tuna so we figured a little extra salt wouldnt hurt. MISTAKE!!!! Dont cook with sea water if you want your food to taste like anything other than salt.

Now i sit here in Taganga which is a small tranquil place just in the next bay from Santa Marta. This is the backpackers haven of Colombia, a bit over the top with travellers and artisans. It is the artisan, beach bum, hippy, crusty punk, and sorority girl capital. A bizarre mix of dreadlocks and platinum blond. But it makes sense why everyone comes here: tranquility, beach, cheap weed, plenty of hostels and beach front bars with hammocks taboot, and fish right off the boat.

It is Carnavale time! Things are starting to pick up now and the whole coast is starting to quake with the anticipation of the ruckus to come. Barranquilla is where the main party takes place; four days of insanity in the streets. I could go... but i have made the decision to start my journey south starting tomorrow. I dont feel like i need huge crowds and a few hangovers right now, what i want is mountains baby! MOUNTAINS!!! So im going to the heart of the Sierra Nevada to do some trekking for a few days up at 14,000 feet. I will need to come across some supplementary gear to ensure i dont die up there, but ill take care of that when i come to it.

I have been in colombia for 5 weeks and the total trip around 9 weeks. The rest of the days will pass by super quick im sure and before long ill be gettin down to Trey´s face melting guitar solos down at the phish shows in Virginia. It has been a great trip so far and i think that my remaining days will be a highlight. I am very excited to start the next leg of the journey though; three months in the middle east. Thinking about it, i have really been travelling since last august. It all started with the canadian border patrol...

It´s a treadmill this whole travelling thing. But i have these little electrodes taped to my nipples and as soon as i stop running im going to get shocked. The belt is spinning faster than ever, but my legs know what to do. Im in great shape for it.

This is Me, signing off.

The pictures are in no order but they include: Tayrona Nat´l Park, La Guajira, Medellin, me cooking a lobster on a stick, etc.

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