Gorgeous Guatape

We arrived at Guatape as usual starving! The closest restaurant looked busy so was an obvious choice for us. The view was amazing but the food didn’t really live up, the fish was so dry it resembled a flip flop. So after failing to start an auction amongst the tuc tuc drivers for a ride to our hostel we ended up paying for an overpriced journey in to the middle of nowhere to our hostel coincidently named Happy Buddha. The view was amazing from the hostel. Although we spent the rest of the evening staring at a tv screen rather than out the window, watching mind numbing cartoons hoping life would drain back in to us!

The hostel was overrun with loud drunk Colombians enjoying their holidays as we avoided eye contact too hungover to converse even with each other, and retired to bed early. After a lazy morning and a half decent breakfast we set off to find a rout to La piedra (the rock). On our way out of the hostel a car went to drive past us with two spare seats with our names definitely on them. The car was heading that way anyway so we jumped in and enjoyed our cheepest ride yet… free! 700 steps and a breathtaking view later and we headed in to the most colourful town yet in search for an Indian restaurant we had read about in the lonely planet.

After successfully following simple directions we indulged in some amazing curry’s! Followed by another free ride we got by simply being in the right place at the right time, and arrived back at the hostel! We were hoping to do some paddle boarding but found all the boards already rented out so instead we headed down to the lake so we could stare enviously at the paddle boarders hoping to make them feel awkward enough to give up the boards. Failing that we set off back to Medellin again on rout to Jardin.

Cruising in Cartagena

That nights sleep was awful as two Asians came in at 1am talking in their normal daytime voices, rudely awakening us two old ladies who enjoy our mornings far too much to abuse the routine imposed by our former jet lagg. As if that wasn’t bad enough they then woke up at 6am only an hour before our designated wake up time stealing our last precious hour of sleep. Throwing around their clothes, muttering to each other, going in and out the room, dropping various items from the top bunk on to my head and being a general nuisance. Now I like to think I’m a very patient sane person but at this point I fully wanted to loose my shit and was mentally composing all the different abusive sentences appropriate for this situation, but instead opted for seething silence with the odd sigh and angry glance. Finally realising it was better just to get up, have breakfast and head off early to our planned boat trip to Playa Blanca. The thing was a shambles from the get go as we waited at the harbour no idea which of the many boats was ours, turns out the smallest most pathetic looking boat with the broken life jackets was in fact ours. Proving sometimes your better off just paying the extra £2.50! But even so we naively piled on with the local Colombian tourists happy to have saved some change. A pervy looking guy clambers on saying hello to me and Daisy. I indiscreetly ignore him and turn to Daisy saying the word creep. Meet our tour guide, full of cheesy jokes and lingering stares. So first stop on the agenda some islands about an hour away, the journey went seemingly well lulling is in to a false sense of optimism! When we got to the islands we were informed that we had two options, pay £10 and enter an animal prison/aquatic show or go snorkelling which was not free as we had been led to believe. We chose the second option and reluctantly paid up. We drifted about in the waves with a horde of distressed excited Colombians all pointing awe struck at the few fish we hadn’t scared off. A pile up back on the boat and we headed off to Playa Blanca. This is where it all went tits up quiet literally as we felt like we were on a scene from titanic! A child sat right behind us screamed continuously the entire 40 minuet journey, the woman in front of us threw up over the side of the boat whilst me and Daisy exchanged disgusted glances and winced away our mouths pressed firmly shut! Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse the boat slammed down on a huge wave and the old lady up front fainted causing a wave of panic as the surrounding passengers squirted water in her face. Another child then decided this was the perfect moment to start being sick too! Arriving all in one piece Playa Blanca was beautiful but overcrowded to the point of being uncomfortable. The trip back was even more turbulent and the whole trip felt overrated and a waste of a tenner. Once back it was a rushed trip to the bus station where we inhaled some cheep food and bought the cheepest bus tickets we could find. Which meant we weren’t sitting together, we sat together anyway causing us great anxiety the entire 15 hour journey as we expected to have to move. We finally piled off in Medellin sleep deprived, with crooked necks and starving but having avoided any confrontation regarding the seat! Winner!

Christmas shenanigans in Santa Marta

So it’s been almost a week since Christmas and this is honestly the first time I’ve managed to gather enough brain cells to put pen to paper! The morning after the flamingo antics we set off to Santa Marta ready to check in to out Christmas house. The bus almost left without me as I frantically scoured town for some snacks. So greasy deep fried cheese balls in hand and I jumped on the bus that was now slowly making its way down the street looking out for a sunburnt white chic. On google the house looked close by so we jumped out the bus prematurely in a traffic jam and were instantly driven in to the shade by the mid day sun. Working out our next move the smell of a chicken shop nearby made my mouth water, so believing we were a short walk from our destination and starved as the greasy cheese balls and mayonnaise flavoured crisps were as unappetising as they sound, we grabbed two whole chickens for under a tenner. Now 6 starving sunburnt gringos with a mountain of bags and a bag of chicken realise google maps is a liar and we are actually at least half an hour away! So we load on to a already full bus rather than pay the £5 taxi and stand awkwardly in the aisle loaded up like donkeys waiting for people to get off so we could park our bums in some seats. Asking the locals which stop we had to get off proved a group activity as they all got out their phones and discussed amongst the whole bus the best rout to take. When we finally all tumbled off the bus on to the side of the motorway we set off in the wrong direction walked about a bit over heating and then walked back to almost exactly where we were dropped off and found out house. Winner!! Finally able to devour the chickens that despite being dragged half way round Santa Marta were still amazing. We then headed to the local supermarket and grabbed the essential beers and breakfast where I managed to negotiate the borrowing of the troller to get us home. Despite this a guy followed us the whole way back believing we were on the rob. The boys who had gone to play football at the beach with the locals came back one by one with a variety of red faces and sandy backs. Looks like they had really been put through their paces. We head to the beach to try and catch the sunset but having faffed around missed it and instead sat on the beach until it got dark and we were sufficiently eaten by mosquitos. Another early night meant an another early morning where we went for runs and did some exercises on the beach. All before the rest of the house stirred. We then set out for the most stressful supermarket trip of our lives where we spent two hours trying to navigate our trolleys through the chaos of frantic Christmas shoppers stockpiling a months worth of food for the one day the shops would be closed. Now with a trolley full off bbq stuff and another full off booze we once again borrowed the trolleys followed closely by the same guy who clearly had nothing better to do. Finally home we unpacked to find we were missing 1 very large chorizo! This annoyed me more than it should of and was all I spoke about for the following hours, until bored of lying around procrastinating about a bloody chorizo I decided to go on the hunt for sun cream. But easily distracted me and Daisy ended up returning home manicured, pedicured and with inflatable Christmas presents. Some fajitas and beers at home and we decided to see what Santa Marta had to offer on Christmas Eve. After falling asleep on the bus and wondering around aimlessly looking for more food we were almost ready to call it a night as I fell asleep dribbling on a bar pillow. But a few rounds of tequila shots bought spirits back up and a few of us headed off in search of a good club we could all go too. We followed some locals to a busy square where suddenly a fight broke out as two groups began to attack each other. A knife was drawn and we realised this probably wasn’t our kind of party! Now considerably sketched out but away from the area we danced with the locals until it was time to take the party home. Now black out drunk I fell asleep by the pool outside verbally abusing anyone who tried to take away my drink or move me out of the sun. A quick power nap and I woke up Christmas Day an absolute mess! The few of us that managed to pull ourselves together realised we didn’t have a bbq for the planned Christmas feast. So we cooked the weirdest mixed cuisine spread ever. It consisted of an over cooked mushy potato salad, teriyaki salmon with more bones than fish, chicken and onions Mexican style, pasta pesto, salad and over cooked beef stakes so chewy they resembled beef flavoured chewing gum! So with no energy or hope left for the day we slept away our Christmas but rose still hungover and brain dead. Another crazy unproductive day and early night bought us to check out where we all said our goodbyes and me and Daisy headed off to Cartagena sad to be leaving out friends but happy to leave behind our hangovers!

Crazy collectivos to Camarones

So with Palomino not having much more to offer than lazy days at the beach we decided to head to a flamingo lake we had heard about. So an early start and we set out solo rather than booking an over priced tour at probably 50p more. This being the most authentic Colombian experience yet and by that I mean cramped, sweaty and sketchy throughout. So a 20 minute trip in a locals bashed up car with a smashed windscreen, no hand break and a hanging off gear stick. Four in the back and three in the front. We arrived at the closest town with a cash point, where I’m pretty sure a woman tried to rob me and Daisy. After the usual unsuccessful hunt for suncream we flagged down a collectivo (the locals chosen method of transport) where we squished over 30 people in a cramped pick up style vehicle. With people hanging from the outside and on the floor, we were feeling like illegal immigrants crossing the boarder as we passed the police and the seven people hanging from the outside launched themselves in so as not to be spotted. After an hour of sharing sweat with the locals we were dropped off in Camarones, where we were instantly bombarded with people auctioning off their boat trips to us. We picked one and headed of on our mission to see flamingos. The sail boat we were sold turned out to be a small wooden boat with a large tarp tied to it to catch the wind. Resourceful! The voyage was super chilled and once again we kicked ourselves for being so unprepared in the snacks and beer department. We saw a flock of flamingos a lot smaller than any of us expected and quiet frankly a bit underwhelming. But none the less a nice experience. After a disappointing fish lunch that consisted of a tiny red snapper with more bones than meat, an overly fishy shrimp rice and chewy lobster we all doubled up to make three each to a bike and headed off back to Camarones to try and find a regular bus back to Palomino. But failing that and keeping to our spontaneous ways we flagged down what we thought was a simple collectivo. How wrong we were. The driver had no idea of pricing and seriously undercharged us, seemingly picking a number out of thin air. Thinking we had struck an amazing deal we all jumped in ready to endure another sweaty cramped trip. After 40 minuets of driving the driver asked if we minded if we did a quick detour to his house to drop something off. We innocently agreed and ended up driving through a ghetto looking area where the driver, an old man and a twelve year old boy pulled the vehicle apart pulling buts and buts of what appeared to be petrol from secret stashes all over the car and in the seats. They even syphoned over 60 litres from the car itself and removed a suspiciously heavy cool bag. It was in this moment we realised this was no collectivo but a man with a car on a dodgy deal who saw an opportunity in us gringos and picked us up as a decoy and got conveniently waved past every police stop. We naively laughed the whole way back as they drove 20 minuets out of their way and dropped us off exactly where we asked, and with cheeky smiles on their faces collected £2 from each naive gringo. We left feeling like we had just been paid to be accessory’s to the mafia. But a half price journey at £2 instead of £4 we were all winners! That evening we set off to 7 Mares for an early dinner guaranteeing ourselves a table. The fish burger was divine and the curry tasty. Walking back out at 9pm where every table was now full we felt a sense of accomplishment.

Unprepared for Palomino

So after two little local busses we have arrived in Palomino, although we were none the wiser as we were ushered off the bus on to a dusty street so insignificant we could have driven passed! So we were here, no hostel booked and no internet only the knowledge that there is a hostel called Casa Giada somewhere. A hostel that we chose because it has the same name as our third musketeer from back home Giada. So starving hungry we decided the wisest move would be to stop for food piggy back on their WiFi and google some directions. A relatively nice looking place had a set menu for £2.50, winner winner fish for dinner! Only it wasn’t, first to come out was a pond water looking soup with various unidentifiable bits of fish and beans floating in it. As unappetising as this looked to save face and not look rude I spoon by spoon soldiered on but even I, who never leaves a plate unfinished could only stomach half! It was without fail the worst soup I have ever eaten! And my mum used to make nettle soup! Next was a fish dish so over cooked it turned in to some sort of flakey sand in my mouth, served with a sickly sweet brown rice and arepas (corn cakes) swimming in grease. I should have known then that a trip to the toilet on the way out would be as disgusting as the food. There was no door, toilet roll or space to enjoy my wee. I noticed a shower above the toilet proving this was also where the poor souls who inhabited this hostel washed! So happy to see the back of the place and now armed with directions to Casa Giada we set off hoping this experience would fade rapidly to a bad memory. We passed so many run down looking hostels that had looked like lovely places online, slowly growing fearful that Casa Giada would be the same. We walked with rucksacks sweating to our backs to where google maps suggested the place was. Only to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere on the other side of a large hedge to the hostel. A quick unsure trip through the barren woods found us once again apparently outside! After ditching Daisy on a dusty track with the bags. I set off to find this place once and for all, all the whilst hoping it would be our sanctuary in this shitty place! I asked some builders working on a property near by, where they looked at me as if I was asking for their shoes! That’s when a women popped her head out the building directly in front of them explaining this was Casa Giada. Not much from the outside but with a familiar friendly feel and name about it. But most of all cheep dorms with empty beds, probably because nobody could find the place!

Pristine Parque Tayrona

The national park was something else, absolutely beautiful! After about half an hour of the guide doing what he does best and explaining in great detail the rout we should take to get to camp we picked the opposite direction and headed off (once again in search of a good view). We were successful and navigated through the jungle weaving our way through branches and Jurassic looking rocks to a beautiful viewpoint. After a quick photo shoot, we decided rather than head back on ourselves and get to camp the way that was explained we would take a shortcut along a beach. Every km or so there was a sign warning of alligators but we didn’t let that deter us and continued on until there was no more beach to walk on and we headed back in to the jungle. A not so quick detour up some very misleading never ending stairs, that 20 minutes later bought us back out near the beach where we started! We decided to ask for directions and headed off in what we hoped was the right way, so eventually 4 hours after we set out we arrive at camp overheated and ready to check in to our tent. A rushed over priced lunch and we headed to the beach feeling extremely proud that these bimbos had successfully navigated our first jungle without a hitch! That night we were tucked up in bed watching the Inbetweeners on our tiny phone screen at 8.30pm. Only to be rudely awakened in the middle of the night by what can only be described as what sounded like a broken down tractor, but was in fact out neighbouring tents competing for the snore awards! Another day another early start where we checked out of our tent avoiding eye contact with our now sworn enemy neighbours! The beach Cabo San Juan was up there with one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen! But was soon followed by a titanic like scramble to get on a boat back to Taganaga, where we fitted over 35 on a boat made for 26! The sea was rough and those at the front which included us were violently attacked by the waves, one guy tried to take a selfie over the side of the boat, lost his phone in the sea and proceeded to cry the entire way back. So wet, sunburnt, two hours late and feeling like we had just escaped a desert island we squelched our way back up to Nirvana for another night in Taganga.

Tasty Taganga.

The night bus to Santa Marta was a killer where lacking a pillow I woke up with my book propped under my head and a seriously crooked neck! We didn’t even leave Santa Marta terminal and just jumped straight on a bus to Taganga where we stayed for two nights at Nirvana hostel the sister of the hostel in San Gil meaning discounts!! For two days we blended in to the sun beds and embarrassed ourselves playing pool with our new Aussie mates, where we sank more beers than pool balls. The food has been amazing here the first day we went to Babaganoush a Turkish restaurant with the most amazing view and beautiful food! The following day bored of small talk and feeling pretty unsociable, we instantly regretted agreeing to go for a bike ride with the Aussies so instead snuck off in search of a place high up to view the sunset. We walked up the closest mountain but always seemed just one more corner away from the perfect view, after walking for a while some police on bikes stopped us to inform us that we were walking towards a very dangerous area! Sounds like we dodged a bullet and turned back content with a half view but still in possession of our cameras and bags. That night we had a very indulgent dinner in Pachamama a french restaurant at the end of the road! The food was amazing and we were serenaded by local musicians throughout the meal! We then went back to the hostel revived and ready to drink some beers and play some cards. We taught our Aussie friends how to play Irish snap and spoons but after a few rounds and some seriously bent spoons we realised we were all too aggressively competitive to continue so we retired to bed excited for the national park tomorrow!