I almost didn’t make it to Cartagena. Missed my flight from Peru to Colombia and spent an extra night in Cusco wondering if the trip was really meant to be. If the universe was conspiring against me. If the expectation of a good time in Colombia was destined to be unmet and the reality of my situation was a better bet.
But it always works itself out.
It was an awkward ride from the airport in an Uber. Uber is illegal in Colombia but the app still functions, so it works? If asked by a cop what I was doing in the car, the script was to be read, “Él es mi amigo.” It was wrong but the opportunity never presented itself to play the part. A part on the set of the evening sun making its way down the coastline of the 90A while zipping through traffic towards the old city. My mind tried making sense of my surroundings. Am I in Miami? Is this what Cuba looks like? Did I buy the wrong plane ticket and land in “Cartagena de Indias” instead of Cartagena “proper”?
Cheerful reception when I met my friends at the Mistyc House Hostal, filled with smiles and how are yous and let’s do thises. Another trip, another adventure with these chicas.
My first impressions of Colombia: people of all shapes, colors, and sizes, a different language, Spanish architecture, fruit carts, beautiful sunset, a city apart.
It was perfuming oneself (you, me, us) with Off! to fend away the little flying monsters and doing the slappy dance when it wore off.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
Tapas in Plaza Santo Domingo while being sold everything but the kitchen sink, surrounded by entertainers and loads of tourists and plastic. Argentinian empanadas and street arepas made with choclo and queso by Pedro. Seen but not eaten.
A free walking tour with a bunch of name calling, name-dropping, and sightseeing. Cartagena is La India Catalina! Cartagena is Simon Bolivar! Cartagena is La Heroica! Cartagena is las palenqueras selling fruit and their bodies and their culture on the streets. Here’s your postcard.
Cartagena was a restaurant recommendation turned alternative suggestion turned taking a chance on new friends turned lunch date with said new friends. Members only. Is it Coroco? Wait, Corronco? Oh, El Coroncoro.
Speaking of food, it was La Paleteria, La Esquina de Pan de Bono, the empanada spot by Mistyc House Hostal. Speaking of drinks it was coffee at Caffé Lunático, Beiyu, Folklore Colombian Coffee, and libations at KGB (yup, that KGB) and The Beer Lovers. Speaking of dance, it wasn’t. Well, it was but I can’t comment on that.
Pope Francis is on his way.
It was a dangerous walk to Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. With lots of conversations had and water purchased and pictures taken (badly) and… let’s go back for that afternoon shower.
It was Sunday spent on Playa Blanca and Isla Rosario with locals, piecing together my new Spanish language to confirm the cost of everything. And EVERYTHING costs. Snorkeling. A bottle of coke. A seat on the beach. A massage. A necklace. A stack of sombreros. A lobster. A new hairdo. Freedom.
Cincuenta mil and one pesos.
An impromptu photo shoot as the sun went down for one last time.
It was a rolling blackout not once, but twice in the same night. And possibly more black but completely unnoticed because closed eyes caught zzzzzs and wrestled jetlag or travel-lag or life-lag instead.
Cartagena was fun.
My favorite place in Colombia by a long shot.
In all honesty, it was my least favorite location of the three I visited during that 10 days (also, Medellin and Bogotá). But it WAS NOT unworth it. Not unworth the time and the heat and the extra $450 spent on a make-up flight out of Peru. Not unworth the sweat and the laughs and the fried everything. Not unworth the new friends and adventures with my chicas.
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