03.02.2013 I came back to Colombia from Venezuela, went to Julian´s house in Bucaramanga (Colombia first time. Volunteering) to pick up my laptop charger and have lunch with the family. Managed to get a few hours sleep and then another night bus to Medellin to meet Dwayne coming from New Zealand.
Went to Parque Arví in Medellin, got rained on pretty good while on a walking tour in the park..but it was expected. Roamed the busy streets of the center and El Poblado. I realize now I have no photos from Medellin, have to fire my photographic team :).
Went to Guatapé for a couple of days, a lovely colorful village, famous with La Piedra del Peñol. I really liked it, you can tell that from the amount of photos I have. The second day even the weather was sunny and nice!
|La Piedra del Peñol|
|Yeah, its pretty big|
|Dwayne went to the top but I refused to pay the 10 000 COP fee so meekly waited for him to come back|
|From the top of the rock|
|Love the drawings everywhere|
|Dwayne chilling in the sun|
Hiked through the wild to the waterfall, not very big but had a small pool under the falling water which is the only thing I like about waterfalls (after seeing so many in every country).
|The trail to the waterfall|
|Chilling in the hostel|
And then we split ways, Dwayne went to the carnival in Barranquilla and I went to Pereira to get an eye laser surgery. I was pretty nervous, its my eyes after all but they reassured me that everything is good and at the same time next day I would see perfectly. Everything was going perfect until 10 minutes before the surgery when I was told I´ve got a rare disease called Keratoconus so not only that I would never see perfectly and can´t get an eye surgery but my vision will get worse and worse. The only solution was to wear these very expensive rigid gas permeable lenses (600US$) which would stop the growth of my cornea so at least I could stick with the prescription I had. It explained lots of things actually – my eye allergies, sensitivity to light, my constant head traumas – hitting objects that looked further that they actually were and of course the constant vision deterioration. I don’t have to mention how disappointed I felt and how alone. That was maybe the first time on this trip I wished I had someone who cared about me by my side. Not when I broke my hand in Argentina, or twisted my ankle in Ecuador, or got stung by the sting ray in Peru or got run over by the motorbike in Ecuador I felt that alone! Luckily Genny´s family was there and they were very caring and supportive. Genny came with me to the clinic for the surgery cause I needed to have a companion but obviously it wasn’t needed. She really tried to cheer me up by taking me to some places (like a gay club anniversary she used to work at J..was fun though). Her parents were also lovely, almost felt like my mum was there (I was forced to eat 3 times a day like in good old times).
While waiting for my new rigid lenses I used my travel insurance to go to a dentist, after a year and a half on the road, I needed to have a check and some repairs, wasn´t that bad actually.
|Alejandro (my first couch in Pereira) and his grandparents|
|Having lunch in Florida (30 min from Pereira up in the hills)|
|Zebras con "C"!|
|Genny and I|
|The youngest member of the family|
|My host family in Pereira|
|Bulgarian or Elena´s moussaka|
Back to Medellin just for a night, I thought it´s time to meet some people after the isolation and bad news in Pereira so I went to a party hostel: Pit Stop in El Poblado. It was Friday night again and together with some people from the hostel went to Parque Lleras and a reggae bar. Took a bus to Cartagena next day (108000 COP or 65 US $), I finally made it to the coast after almost 2 months cruising around the mainland.
|Strawberry smoothie on the way to Medellin|
|Parque El Poblado, Medellin|
The colonial walls of the old city have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so. Walking through the old city has a very magical feeling. Pounding drums beat in the distance as street performers entertain the crowds; an abundance of bright flowers hang from the colonial balconies that have been a part of the old cities’ architecture for centuries, and the sound of horses’ trotting hooves echo on the stone paved streets as they pull a carriage of visiting tourists behind them.
I stayed with Angie who had her own restaurant and planned to do her round South America trip in a few months. She was receiving lots of couchsurfers recently and was always up for party. We met up with group of guys I met at Pit stop in Medellin, they were staying in a hostel, in Getsemani, right opposite the famous Media Luna hostel, so occasionally huge street parties would break out with all the backpackers and travelers dancing and drinking on the street. They all were off to Playa Blanca next day so I decided to join them.
|I should´ve posed under the sign|
|With Angie, Paul and Shamless|
|Had a real argument with this idiot, cutting his nails on the bus next to me (cause he doesn´t have time to do it at home!!)|
Playa Blanca is beautiful, despite the beach being completely full and overrun with tourists and local guys hassling you to buy oysters the minute you step off the boat, even though you say no about 20 times, but still they force them into your hand and then try to charge you the equivalent of $5 USD…anyway its very pretty. The sand is white and the water turquoise blue. Just like they said.
I went there with my harem of 6 guys and even though I planned to stay just one night I couldn’t leave them alone J and stayed the second one two. It took us a while to get there – a bus to Pasacaballo (1600COP), then ferry (2000COP) and then mototaxi (8000 COP) but on the way back we just took a speed boat for 15000 and it took an hour to the port in the Old Town. Slept in hammocks the first night (7000 Pesos) and made a fire on the beach playing games and smoking spliffs but the second one we upgraded to a cabin with mattresses for all of us but 3 of the guys slept downstairs in hammocks. Food is expensive but you still can find a decent fish dish for 10000 Pesos.
|Found a cave on the beach|
|EEven the dog got touched by the sunset :)|
|Last photo before leaving the island|
Went back to Cartagena and Angie convinced me to stay 2 more days since the Cartagena film festival just started so we went to see some films. Saw one amazing film, another ok one and two pretty bad ones. It is all free but you still have to queue up for a ticket and they run out pretty quick.
Aracataca and Macondo
It is so off the beaten track. Only if you know who Gabriel Garcias Marquez is and have read Cien años de soledad (100 years of solitude). It´s crazy how you can see the story everywhere in the village (called Macondo in the book) – from the train station to the chestnut trees and his house-museum. It is haunted by Gabo´s spirit and Cien años de soledad.
I stayed in Gypsy Residence, the only hostel in town and met the owner Tim Buendia, who was quite a character (he changed his name to Buendia after moving to Aracataca). The only other guest in the hostel was Cecilia from Argentina, obsessed with Marquez, even had his face tattooed on her shoulder. The local priest got her a copy of Marquez` birth certificate and she burst into tears. Actually she did that all the time – visiting the telegraph station where Gabo´s father used to work, when the locals got her a special edition book…every little detail made her so emotional and happy, it was incredible to see someone so passionate about something.
|Obsession I call it|
|Typical - 100 pesos for a minute|
|The legendary train station|
|The yellow butterflies will take you to the hostel, just like in Cien años de soledad|
Santa Marta and Taganga
I had 3 couches in Taganga or Santa Marta waiting for me but I ended up staying in a hostel for the whole time I was there. I got there pretty late and misunderstood that the German guy who was supposed to host me lives in Taganga when his house was in the outskirts of Santa Marta. There was no way to take the bus back so I headed to Ocean Reef Hostel (the cheapest one in hostel bookers). The hostel has a really good vibe with lots of common area so it´s very easy to meet other travelers. There were hammocks, barbecue and a shop attached to the hostel (beer for 1600$) so I ended up staying there much longer than I though and doing lots of fun stuff with people I met there - fish barbeques and drinking on the beach every night.
|Look what I caught|
|Buying some fishies|
|More drinking beach time|
|Adam, Melina and Jose|
Taganga is known for being one of the cheapest places in South America to go scuba diving. So that I did. Dived with Oceano Scuba Taganga, 2 dives for 100 000 COP, wasn’t bad at all even though the visibility wasn´t that good.
|Scuba diving in Tyrona|
Went with Melina, Adam and Nacho to Minca for one night..Stayed at Casa Loma, beautiful house on top of the village. When I got there I realized that back in December I sent them a request on Workaway to volunteer there, they accepted me but I cancelled it later since I had no time to make it there before Christmas. Probably better because the sand flies there were evil and furious, my delicate ankles wouldn’t survive longer that 3 days. Did quite a walk to Pozo Azul and then to the coffee farm Victoria and ended up walking back to the Casa Loma in the dark just with the light of the head torches. I slept in a hammock which fortunately had a mosquito net but the guys had tents. All the time we kept stuffing ourselves with row garlic hoping that would stop the sand flies…not sure if that stopped them but none of us made new friends J.
|My hammock was right there in the backpack|
After Minca I hitchhiked to La bomba in the outskirts of Santa Marta and then I caught a bus to the park. The entrance fee is quite expensive (37000 COP or 7000COP for students but u need ur student´s card and passport). I decided to walk instead of taking a mini van (2000 COP) cos it´s just an hour to where they drop u off for another hour to Arrecife beach. Stayed in a hammock at a campsite (12000COP) and next day explored the other beaches. Despite al the backpackers one can still find a deserted beach with only few people or completely empty. It was definitely worth the visit, as short as it was. At Cabo San Juan I met Paul, one of my German harem I had at Playa Blanca :) and hung out with him and his friends for a bit.
|Walking through the jungle to Cabo San Juan|
|Cabo San Juan|
Back to Ocean Reef hostel in Taganga, another barbecue and drinks were in full swing. I was still trying to resist drinking cos was scared of losing my lenses, it´s been very difficult for me the last 3 weeks dealing with these little monsters (lost them 4 times already but always found somehow) and quite painful too. Would love to be able to wear my lovely soft ones but I´m not allowed anymore :(.
On the 3rd of March I went to Palomino, where it is supposed to be really beautiful and chilled. Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad so it has to be another time I enjoy the loveliness of the beach and the river flowing into the ocean.
|Buying some fish for dinner in Palomino|
My visa was about expire, as traveling on Bulgarian passport I can´t get it at the border and I assume extending it would be another mission (took 3 days in Quito and lots of paperwork the first time). As always I was leaving a country not being able to see everything I wanted. Biggest regrets: Cound`t see Capurganá and Darian National park or Cabo de la Vela. Cabo de la Vela is a unique landscape in La Guajira (touching Venezuela) where miles of flat, barren, desert land spread vastly across the peninsula, meeting with turquoise green waters of the Caribbean Sea to the North and the borders of Venezuela to the East in one of the most northern region in all of South America. I guess we have to leave little bits and pieces in every country, it is good reason to come back too. Just the list is getting longer. So despite all ups and down I went through in Colombia, it´s a beautiful country and I would go back for sure.
Crossed the border at Maicao on the 5th, the last day on my visa (Venezuela part 2. Chavez dies while Im crossing the border).