Colombian Carnaval

12 Feb

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A group of 7 of us – Grace, Mark, Rachel, Tehmani, Chris, Liam and I – have just spent the last 3 days in Barranquilla, celebrating Colombia’s version of Carnaval.

Originally we had a hotel booked for the 7 of us, but Rach, Mark and Grace met a guy called Bruno Party on the streets of Taganga who said he had an apartment with a kitchen and laundry for us where we would be staying around local families who would show us all the great parties. Turns out Bruno oversold a little which meant there were about 25 odd people staying in the same apartment that we were supposed to be in – we actually ended up staying in the apartment above, which was the family home, with Grandma, her daughter, and two grandkids. They all crammed into one room while we took over two bedrooms and the lounge room. At first it wasn’t ideal, but it turned out that the family, especially the grandmother Nora, were absolute legends. I also befriended all of the little girls from the neighbourhood by playing elastics in the street with them- the next day they were standing in the street yelling my name to come and play. When I came down the stairs they literally screamed and waved and ran to the gate to hug me as I came down. Very cute.

The streets around our place – and all of Barranquilla for that matter – were filled with the pounding of Cumbia music…. EVERY. SECOND. OF. THE. DAY. I seriously don’t know how more people don’t have hearing problems. Even small toddlers would be sitting next to massive amps turned up full blast with the same repetitive tune playing over and again. Our neighbours also seemed to have an obsession with that horrible Ganganham Style song. Torture.

Our first night in town was Rach’s birthday, so everyone but Liam (who was sick) headed out to a bar called Club Colombia which was packed full of very drunk Colombians dancing and pouring buckets of water on each other. Good fun, despite the fact that none of us understood any of the songs, which varied from traditional Cumbia to heavy Colombian dance music.

The first day we donned our special Carnaval costumes and headed in to the parade, but unfortunately Bruno forgot to mention that the tickets for the grandstand were around COP$200,000 (AUD$110) so none of us had bought enough money out. We also got there too late to cross the road to the cheap stand which would have been only about UD$25 each… turns out Bruno wasn’t the most organised of chaps. We wandered around for a few hours and found another parade which was free to watch – not as good but still entertaining all the same.

The next day we actually made it to the parade which was good fun- some great costumes and entertaining characters, though I imagine it was nothing compared to Carnaval in Rio (another adventure for the future). Bruno was trying to redeem himself and took us in at about 11am, but unfortunately the parade didn’t start until 3pm so we had a few hours of sitting around. That night we ended up staying at the apartment and playing cards and slaps until about 5am with a very cool bunch of people that we’d met – not too cultural but good fun all the same.

So Carnaval was fun for a few days, but we were glad to escape Barranquilla after a bit too much party rocking. Last night Tehmani, Chris, Liam and I caught the overnight bus from Barranquilla to Medellin and are now waiting to check into our hostel. We’ve only been in Medellin for a few hours but it already seems like a very cool city. Tomorrow we’re going to go on a Pablo Escobar tour and the day after we’re going to check out views of the city from a cable car and head to the science museum. Kel spent a few days here in Medellin and is currently in a town a few hours outside of here called Guatape, getting his fill of adventrues with some rock climbing – we catch up with him on Thursday and celebrate Puppy’s birthday. I think we might stay here for the weekend and then head across to Bogota or Salento (coffee region). I’d say we’ll be in Colombia for a few more weeks before heading to Ecuador, but who knows what will happen – I think there’s quite a few adventures to be had here.

Mucho amor de Medellin xxx

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