14.10.2011 - 17.10.2011
So after 3 restful days in Tayrona National Park we decided to move on to Cartagena. We had high expectations of this city - it is meant to be one of the hightlights of the country. We arrived and made our way to our hostel 'Media Luna' in a cool part of town which felt vibrant and lively. The hostel was in a huge, beautiful, old colonial Spanish Building with a bar that had a balcony over looking the street and amazing views from the roof. It was however very young and full of gringos! So by 10pm we felt like we were in Magaluf so we swiftly made our way outside to find the real Cartagena and we wasn't dissapointed- Beautiful architecture, amazing colours, helpful and charasmatic people, amazing restaurants and bars with live music and latin dancing!We spent one night in a bar listening to a cool Colombian band and the day just wondering the streets of the old town.
We then decided to make our way to Playa Blanca for a last hit of beach time before Peru. We ended up being talked into taking a tour there - big mistake! We found ourselves squashed onto a boat with 500 Colombians, on a floating Spanish Butlins they where Salsaing in the isles, Kariokeing and creating there own 'Colombias got talent.' The weather turned to rain and the air conditioning was set to -10. With Mojito hangovers Craig and Leia thought they might not make it- much to Jo's amusment! The journey was all worth it though as after 6 HOURS (we were later told it should have been 45 mins) We reached beautiful Playa Blanca, a gorgeous stretch of beach on the Carribean coast. We found some hammocks to rent at Hugos Place right on the beach and spent 2 days and 2 nights chilling, topping up our tans, swimming in the warm turquoise sea and chatting to fellow travellers. Bliss!
We finally plucked up the courage to leave paradise on the Butlins Boat and made our way to Cartagena bus station and onto Medillin! Again the bus ride was very comfortable and we slept like baby's all night, 13hrs later we reached the huge, modern Colombian City.
Medillin is less pretty than Cartegena, Santa Marta and Bogata and has very little colonial architecture left. It is much more modern with a metro service that runs though the city, lots of shopping and office blocks. It was a Colombian national holiday when we arrived so it was busy and there seemed to be things going on everywhere, we looked- cool old guys playing guitars in squares and markets selling all sorts of things. There were sooooo many bars and clubs to visit too - this was once the Cocaine capital of the world and the party vibe is still very much evident. All in all Medllin was much more cosmoplitan than any other place that we had visited in Colombia but we kinda missed more basic, old style Colombia that we had fallen in love with.
Leia and Jo decided that they wanted to take a day trip to Guatape, which is a small town about 2 hours from Medallin, with a large stone (Penol), which once climbed by means of hundreds of steps has amazing views over the surounding hills and lakes. Being the world travellers that we are, we decided to make our own way to Guatape (without booking a trip). Which was perhaps a little over confident with our levels of knowledge of the Spanish language! So Leia and Jo made their way to Guatape, which in the end took about 4 hours. The town of Guatape itself was pretty, with brightly painted Spanish style buildings, but the "El Penol" was no where to be seen! After asking a few locals in very broken spanish we kinda realised that we needed to get another form of transport to Penol. But didn't realise that there was also a town called Penol! So we ended up on a coach going past the big stone to the town called Penol then having to get a Jeep back to the stone, so after about 5 hours of travel we actually arrived at the big stone and my God was it big! By this time it was about 5 O'Clock and it was also beginning to pour with rain, but as we are Wolrd Travellers we made the rather foolish decision to climb the steps of the Penol to check out the view from the top. As we started to climb the rock we began to realise that we had made a mistake with our decision. The steps were VERY steep with no rail to hold onto and the increasingly heavy rain was making them very slippy! We reached the first viewing point after about 15 minutes of climbing, both of us shaking with fear. So after taking a few pics we decided to make our way down (and skip the view from the very top). By this time the light was really fading and so at times we could barely see where we were going as we decended the steps - it was very very nerve racking! Leia said it was like she was living her worst nightmare. But we somehow made it down in one piece- both of us shaking with fear and the cold (we were soaked). We were pretty tired so decided it was time to make a move to get back to Medallin - but were then told that all the buses back were full until 8.30 (over 2 hours later)! We could not beleive our luck! There was no choice though so we sat eating a greasy dinner of different fried meats, fried egg and rice, with a bean soup on the side. Nice! We made it back to Medallin by about 11 OClock, very cold and very tired. But it was definetly an experience, which we will both remember.
We spent our final day in Colombia going up the cable car, which provided us with amazing views over the city, defintely a highlight of our stay in the city.