I’ve mentioned in multiple blog posts previously how amazing the fruit was in Colombia. Seriously, I miss it. And the sugarcane juice, and the coconut lemonade…. mmmm… ok I digress. Walking around the colorful streets of Cartagena it’s hard to miss the equally colorful fruit ladies. The women in color blocked mumus walked around carrying fruit baskets on their heads selling mangos, coconuts, and pineapple to tourists and locals in the historic quarter of the city. The people in Cartagena, and really all over Colombia, are really friendly and happy. Despite Colombia’s history of violence and corruption, the people are positive and love to celebrate. This painting is exactly how I remember Cartagena - colorful, full of fruit and joyful!
Dubbed the adventure capital of Colombia, San Gil is the place to go if you want an adrenaline rush. From white water rafting to hang gliding, this town has it all. We woke up early the morning of James’ birthday and met up with everyone who would be rafting with us. After a 30 minute drive, we parked and carried the rafts down to the river and got briefed on what to expect. The only time I’d been rafting previously was down a lazy river, so this was my first experience in class 5 rapids.
After doing a few drills on how to row and climb back into the raft we set off down the river. It was such an adrenaline rush navigating through the rocks and rapids. At one point we were pushed up against a massive rock and nearly tipped over. Our guide Ariel wasn't exactly the calm confident leader you would want for a situation like that, however were able to make it around at the last minute.
About halfway down the river we stopped and had a snack break of fresh pineapple and watermelon. (Colombia has the best fruit!) On we continued working as a unit to make our way down the river.
Since it was James’ birthday Ariel had him sit at the very front and hang on for his life while we went through a few of the rapids. Holding onto a rope as if he was riding a bull, James was thrilled and made it through without falling off.
When it was a bit calmer we all jumped and did flips off the raft into the river and swam and floated down the river on our backs. Upon finishing we enjoyed a massive lunch and beer by the river celebrating James and the amazing day we had. White water rafting in San Gil was one of the highlights of our time in Colombia!
One of my favorite memories from Colombia was playing with the neighborhood kids in Comuna Trece - a slum in Medellin. What was once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country is now an area frequented by tourists. Over the past decade the government has worked hard to recover from years of violence and clean up the slums. In 2011 they built an outdoor escalator system to help the residents of this area climb up and down the steep hillside more easily. After finishing the
of Medellin (which I highly recommend!), my friends Kent, Aaron, my boyfriend James and I hopped on the metro to Comuna Trece.
Looking Down at the Escalators
View from the Top
We rode the chain of 6 escalators to the top, checked out the colorful graffiti, and took in the view of Medellin. After walking around a bit we stumbled upon an outdoor slide where two little boys were playing. Immediately, my friend Kent ran to the top and went down the slide with the boys. They thought we were crazy, but after a few rides they were begging us to slide down with them. A group of little girls joined us and we all took turns sliding down together.
Playing on the Slide
After snapping a few pictures I began recording the rides on my iPhone in slow motion. I showed it to the kids and they thought it was the most amazing thing ever. They begged me to record them and then laughed hysterically at themselves. Anytime we spoke in English, one of the boys, Armando, would ask me to translate everything we said.. he didn’t like to feel left out. He told us about how he wanted to be an opera singer someday, and he and the guys bonded over video games. We stayed and played with these kids for hours until they were called home. I recorded so many slow mo videos my phone ran out of storage. It was so much fun being silly and feeling young on something as simple as a slide.
When my boyfriend and I were traveling around Colombia together we typically wouldn’t plan too far in advance on where we were going. We met people along the way and adjusted our travel plans based on what they recommended. That’s how we ended up in Punta Gallinas - the most northern part of South America. We heard from multiple people that it was beautiful and worth going to. We couldn’t find much information online but decided to wing it and make our way up there.
We took a bus headed for Venezuela and got off just before the boarder crossing at a stop called Cuatro Vias. We caught a collectivo - a shared taxi (which basically means any Colombian with a car) and made our way to Cabo de la Vela.
In this part of Colombia, the desert blurs into the ocean and after a two hour bumpy ride on a dirt road we finally made it to the coast. The wind was strong and the water was the most brilliant shade of turquoise I had ever seen.
The turquoise water in Cabo de la Vela
We settled into our hostel, grabbed a few Polars (Venezuelan beer) and relaxed on the beach. As it got later in the afternoon some local guys came out to take advantage of the strong wind and kite surf. Besides a few crazy tourists, they were the only people brave enough to enter the jellyfish infested water.
We spent the evening watching them rip through the water and soar dozens of feet into the sky. Besides the kite surfing, one of the best parts of Cabo de la Vela is the abundance of fresh seafood - especially lobster. That night we enjoyed two butter soaked lobster tails each for under $15 a plate.
On our third morning in Cabo de la Vela, we woke up before dawn to begin our tour to Punta Gallinas. We were joined by a Canadian couple and a Colombian from Bogota. We drove for hours through the desert on the bumpiest dirt road I’ve ever been on to a bay where two teenage Wayuu girls met us. They took us across the bay to the hospedaje where we were staying the night.
After a quick breakfast we continued our tour to the most northern tip of the continent.
The most northern point
The best part of the tour was visiting the sand dunes. It was basically a massive slide into the ocean. We spent several hours running down the dunes, playing in the water and walking along the beach.
We stopped at a few more scenic spots on our way back to the hospedaje, then cleaned up and watched the sunset. We spent the evening laughing, drinking Cherreche (basically the Wayuu version of moonshine) and getting to know the Wayuu people who ran the hospedaje where we were staying.
The next morning we woke up in our hammocks, heads spinning a little from the night before. We said a sad goodbye to our new friends and made our way back to civilization.
Several months ago, I spent some time on a catamaran in Cartagena, Colombia. The captain, his friend and I sailed out to San Bernardo overnight and dropped anchor in front of a small island covered with palm trees and surrounded by the clearest blue water I’d ever seen.
After making lunch, we selected a random spot to try spearfishing. We saw loads and loads of colorful reef fish and swam around for over an hour, but had no luck finding anything worth spearing.
Later that day we made our way over to Casa en el Agua, the notorious floating hostel (It’s not actually floating, but because it’s built up in the middle of water, it looks like it is). There, we met a local who agreed to take us spearfishing for snapper in the mangroves - at night. We returned to the catamaran and waited for the last light from the sun to fade away. The sky and water became pitch black, and there was no moon in sight. We met up with the guide and set out for the mangroves.
As we rode in the dark, the stars lit our way. There were billions of them. You could even see the milky way. The water glowed too, as bioluminescence floated on the surface. We maneuvered our way through the narrow waterways in between the mangrove bushes. Our guide directed us to a spot where we should find snapper. We hopped into the water and swam along the mangroves with our eyes peeled, in search of the fish. No dice. We all climbed back inside the dingy and went to the second fishing spot. Still nothing.
As we dropped into the water at our third location, the moon slowly began to rise over the island. It was massive, bright and full, a magical sight I will never forget. Swimming around one last time, we finally saw a large snapper. I loaded my pole spear and shot at it. I stunned the fish, but it easily shimmied off the spear, so I loaded up and shot it again. Unfortunately, the spear was too small to hold the fish. Being wounded but not dead, the fish quickly swam away. We all reluctantly climbed back into the dingy, a little disappointed and hungry, and made our way back to the catamaran. The moon was completely full in the sky now and shown so bright you could no longer see the stars. I looked up, closed my eyes and smiled. While it was technically an unsuccessful night, it was an experience I will never forget!