Archive | February, 2013

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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El camino a La Ciudad Perdida

6 Feb

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We made it back from our 5 day trek to The Lost City a few days ago- well rested (from partying), well walked, and well & truly ready to be back in civilisation. All in all the walk was around 50km return, which doesn’t seem too bad over 5 days but when you factor in uphills, downhills, rivers and steps, it was more than enough walking for us.

We started off with about 4 hours of walking on our first day, beginning with a walk along the river, a fairly tough hour long uphill battle and a steep downhill to our first nights camp where we spent the night in hammocks. The walk itself is fairly pretty, overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountain range – really green and the top of the mountains are covered in cloud. Every now and again you take a break from lugging yourself up a hill to appreciate the view (though I spent a lot of time looking down, willing my feet to keep moving). Kel and a bunch of the guys moved at a rate of knots, attacking the hills like there was no tomorrow. Poor Liam got a blister from his shoes that first day and had to do the rest of the trek in thongs.

Our second day we ended up on a 16km walk with some fairly intense hills to make it all the way to the camp just before The Lost City, stopping along the way for lunch and a swim in the very cold river. That was a looong day, starting at around 7.30am and not making it into camp until around 5 or so. Most of us were in bed straight after dinner at around 7.30  (paaaaarrrttyyyyy!).

Day three we woke early again and made our way to The Lost City ruins, 1km and 1200 (very steep) steps from our camp. Apparently the ruins weren’t discovered until 1975 – we figure that’s not through lack of trying, but because most archeologists would have started walking up the 1200-odd steps, thrown in the towel halfway up and headed back down to the river for a swim. The ruins themselves are not that impressive, but the setting that they’re in is pretty spectacular and made it all worth it. We spent a few hours wandering around and catching about a tenth of the explanation of the history thanks to our less-than-impressive Spanish skills.

The last few days of the trek were fairly cruisy, only walking for a few hours each day on our way back and spending more time relaxing, swimming, reading and playing cards. The last day was mainly downhill, which we managed to do in 1.5 hours rather than 4 as we ran down the mountain rather than trying to walk slowly. All in all it was a fun five days, though I feel pretty safe in making the call that we were all happy to be back.

Kel, Puppy and Pete all left the next day for Medellin- heading to Cartagena for the day and then catching the night bus to Medellin (they’ve made it safe and sound). They’ll be sticking around there for a few days, heading to the Coffee region and then onto Bogota in search of some rock climbing and adventures. Liam and I have caught up with Mark, Grace, Rachel, Tehmani and Chris and will be heading to Carnival in Barranquilla – Colombia’s most important folklore celebration and one of the biggest festivals in the world (actual PAAAAARRRTTTYYY!). After that we’ll head down to catch up with Kel and Co in the south of Colombia and onwards into Ecuador.

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Introducing Puppy…

5 Feb

He gon’ kill you…

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