A Travellerspoint blog

Cartagena, Day 3

Nothing beats the colour of the Caribbean sea...

sunny 29 °C

Today I took a boat with a bunch of other tourists (most of whom were from different parts of Colombia, though a few were from other countries and spoke Enlgish) to the Islas del Rosario and the Playa Blanca. The islands are beautiful, and while half the group paid $7 to go see an aquarium, the other half (I among them) paid $7 to go snorkelling and see all the wonderful fish and coral in their natural environment. I`ve seen a coral reef and all its rich and diverse wildlife before they go extinct! Yay! It was such a great thing to do. Later on in the day we went to the Playa Blanca where we were hoarded with vendors selling drinks and massages and jewellery. To get away from the pushy tourist area I walked further down the beach and had a nice bowl of fruit at a quiet spot. When we returned I had a couple beers with two brothers I`d been chatting to during the day. One of them, Chris, works for the UN and though he is from the Boston area, currently lives in Cali, Colombia, for work. He was very interesting. His brother Bern was just down for a two week visit/vacation. I didn`t ask what he did, but he seemed to know a lot about books. What a good day!

I haven`t decided at this point whether or not I will move on Barranquilla tomorrow or the next day. I have one or two things I`d like to check out here first, but the road to Barranquilla is only 2 hours so I could leave any time. I`ll see how I feel in the morning!

Posted by The Cat 16:26 Comments (0)

Cartegena, Day 1

Caribbean coast, baby!

sunny 31 °C

I have arrived in Cartagena safely and soundly, albeit with no sleep in me. I travelled all day yesterday and all last night and arrived at 8.30 this morning. Yes, I have been travelling at night as I said I wouldn`t, but only because it is safe to do so. Colombia is really not as bad as people still think it is: it is under much more control than it was 4 years ago, the guerrillas have been forced into the rural areas and out of cities and towns, and I haven`t heard of any problems with overland travellers.

It`s HOT here, man. As I was watching the landscape roll by in the morning light, I thought to myself: It`s a bit like the African savannah here on the Caribbean coast, with flat grasslands and strange sprawling trees scattered about. I feel like I`m in a different country the scenery has changed so much. It reminds me of the change in landscape travelling from La Paz to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, entering the tropics.

I haven`t explored the city yet and I was tired from the sleepless bus ride. I napped in my wonderful little cheap Hotel Doral - though my room is dark, the rest of the building is bright and has a courtyard full of plants and hammocks, read in a hammock for a while, and only now after 1pm am I wandering out.

And so, this was just to let you know all is well.

Happy birthday Mum and Patricia!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by The Cat 10:18 Comments (0)

Villa de Leyva, Day 1 and only

Avast hearties! Zorro is on the way!

sunny

What a wonderfully delightful little village! This is another place at which I regret to say I can`t stay long. This morning I got up to a hustle and bustle in the main plaza - everyone was dresed up in old fashion costume: dazzling ladies in their gowns and hats, men in top hats and smart suits, ragged peasants and children, a full mix! and a wedding going on in the church. Zorro was, however, no where to be seen; he must have been in his civilian clothes. I should also mention the camera crew I guess, though it`s not nearly so exciting to know that it`s all pretend. They were filming the New Zorro series, and apparently do this every month. I made friend with the whole damn town taking pictures and chatting with the various town members/movie extras with the promise that I`d send the photos via email when I got home. I also chatted to one of the film crews photographers a bit. This Zorro series airs on a channel called Telemundo here, and is shown all over the world, including Canada, so check it out! Maybe you`lll see some of my new friends - they´ll be all the extra people in the church in the wedding scene, whenever that is...

Anyway, this is such a pretty little town, with an impressive plaza, all sorts of cute shops and restaurants, and beautiful white-washed colonial buildings lining streets made of massive cobblestones. I climbed the hardest 1/2hr hike up a hill to the Jesus statue/lookout and took in a spectacular view of the place, went into the Casa Museo de Luis Alberto Acuña, a local artist, and now I gotta figure out what I`m to do for the rest of the day.

Tomorrow I´ll leave in the morning for Tunja, catch a bus to Bucaramanga, then from there to Cartagena. I have a lot of travelling ahead of me so I don`t forsee any internet time tomorrow. Caribbean coast here I come!

Posted by The Cat 11:08 Comments (0)

Bogotá, Day 4

Waiting for the bus to Villa de Leyva

Ahoy there maties! I don`t know if I`ll get on the internet later today so I thought it best to update while I can. I`m waiting in the bus terminal in Bogotá for the 2.40pm bus to Villa de Leyva. I wasn`t sure if there`d be other buses so I came a few hours early and alas, have to wait it out. I have my diary to catch up on and a good book to read though, so I can keep myself occupied.

I finished reading Nathaniel Hawthorne´s The Scarlet Letter a couple weeks ago, by the way, and loved it! The plot is relatively simple and there is not a lot of action in the story, but it is so well told, so exceptionally well written, that I was turning the pages like I was reading a thriller, not an old romance story.

Now I`m reading a collection of stories and plays by Chekhov and am thoroughly enjoying them as well. 640 pages of genius! His short stories aren`t so much stories as brief moments in people´s lives and they´re rather charming because of it.

I should get into Villa de Leyva by 7pm, and plan to stay only a day or two before heading onward to the Caribbean coast. How exotic does that sound!

Posted by The Cat 08:40 Comments (0)

Bogotá, Day 3

A wild slip of a city

semi-overcast 17 °C

Sorry I haven`t written about Bogotá sooner - everything is fine here and I´ve no problems in this supposedly very dangerous capital of Colombia. To calm the fears of mi familia, I should say that this city feels on par with Toronto in many ways (the most obvious difference being the ubiquitous presence of military personel with automatic weapons here): I´ve quickly re-adopted my Toronto attitude when walking down the street as a precaution, but I think as long as I keep my eyes open and stick to populated streets I will continue to be ok. My hostel is actually in quite a good location for walking home at night - the road takes me through all the important government buildings, so it´s well lit and there are always police and military guarding the way. I haven`t felt unsafe here like I did sometimes in Quito.

That said, I gotta say: man, I love this city. Bogotá is so full of character. I´ve only explored a few of its districts so far (even just the downtown section is huge), but from what I`ve seen it´s a city full of passion, rich with culture, diverse, and inspiring. The Candelaria area, the old historic centre where most tourists head for budget hostels, is colourful and quircky and full of beautiful old buildings just waiting to be explored. The central plaza, around which are all the important government buildings and the cathedral, is beautiful in a grander, fine way. The plaza itself is open with nothing in it but the monument of Simón Bolívar in the centre, but surrounding it is a wealth of architectural styles: at the south end is the Greek-style government palace; opposite is the more modern Palacio de Justicia; on the west side is the French-style governor´s office; and on the east is the Neoclassical cathedral and the smaller Colonial capilla. Walking north up Carrera 7 from the plaza, you walk through the commercial area with its fancy shops and cafes and a Dunkin´ Donuts every few blocks. This area, too, is wonderful to explore cuz there are so many people and things going on. Today I`m heading even further north to see another part of town.

In the past couple days I´ve stepped into a lot of churches to admire the decor and marvel at how deeply religous people are here. I forgot about Ash Wednesday until this morning: every second person I pass has an ash cross on their forehead. I´ve also been to a couple museums, the most impressive of which is the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), apparently the most important gold museum in South America. Some of the pieces in there are absolutely stunning, priceless for their brilliant handiwork. The arts, particularly theatre, seem to be thriving here as well - there are so many little theatre companies and posters for shows all over the place.

Yesterday evening I went to see a film, Blood Diamond, spur of the moment. It was in English with Spanish subtitles and takes place in Africa, dealing with the illegal diamond trade and the bloodshed it has caused over the years. As far as I remember, Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards this year so I wanted to check it out. It`s an excellent film and I can see why DiCaprio´s name is in the box; he has matured a lot as an actor.

Time a-ticking as it is, I think tomorrow I will move on to Villa de Leyva, a little town further north. I wish I could stay in Bogotá longer.

Posted by The Cat 06:47 Comments (0)

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