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!

Cartagenian cuisine

A bus journey that should have taken four hours took 6 and we arrived in Cartagena starving as usual! A quick trip to Arsenal rum bar where we were presented with some rum to taste but hastily downed in true Brit style. We ate some lovely fish dishes that were tasty but too small and overpriced for us ravenous cheep skates. After a walk along the harbour we fell in to bed early. Next morning we were up at 6.30am for a run followed by a quick free breakfast and we set off on a free walking tour. The tour was good but I couldn’t help the inner child in me feeling like I was being dragged around the Alhambra for the 50th time. The guide was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to hear about the history although at the end when he did a quiz we couldn’t answer any of the questions and just fired out random names to the wrong historical story’s. We threw a couple pound to the donation pot and scattered off guiltily. A stroll through town to kill some of the many hours in a day and Daisy spotted a chocolate shop offering free tasters hallelujah! 20 minuets and a serious amount of chocolate later we practically rolled from the place, having tried chocolate in every fruit, nut, spice and skin product. For lunch we went to a place called Espiritu Santo advertiser in the lonely planet as a local gem and boy were they right! The place was huge but every table was packed with locals sat in front of overflowing plates of goodness. We asked for recommendations and ended up with a banquet of fish, rice, salads and chips so good they reminded me of home. One of the fish dishes had a sauce that tasted exactly like salt and vinegar crisps! A walk to find a good view of the sunset and to walk off our indulgent afternoon and we bumped in to a girl we had met in San Gil and her companion. After the sunset the girls suggested dinner and We already knew exactly where to go! A ceviche place we had heard about so we set off in search of it. We were followed the entire way by various musically talented street performers serenading us. When we arrived we found a que out the door proving the food must be good and giving us valuable time to work up an appetite over a beer. The food was everything and more at La Cevicheria we ate peanut octopus and a mixed ceviche with a lovely bottle of Italian wine and some great company. This is also where the blog was born as our new found friends encouraged our silly stories!

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.

Powering palomino

Another day another tan line. This time an awkward neck burn caused by shit sun cream application. There is more skill involved in this apparently simple task than meets the eye. So our first evening here in palomino welcomed the first of a series of blackouts that have happened throughout our stay. Meaning no lights, phone reception or WiFi! So after walking through an apparent ghetto, looking for a better rout to town than through the woods we found a nice bar with a back up generator so we pitched up there to wait for our friends from back home. Hoping that they would be drawn in by the music and lights. We were in luck a few hours later we recognised their silhouettes and signalled them in. A nice dinner later with our very jet lagged companions where at least one person was starring off in to space at any given moment and we all retired to bed exhausted but optimistic for tubing the next day. Another early start and we waited on the beach for the others to arise. Then we all set off in the mid day sun with giant tubes balanced on our heads on an uphill sweaty trek. We expected some sort of rapid adventure but instead it was the most chilled lazy river ever, where we marvelled at the surrounding beauty for the first 10 minuets then spent the next hour with clenched bladders and complaining about the lack of food and beer. When the river finally washed up on the beach, six very hungry sunburn Brit’s rushed back to civilisation for some falafel wraps and beers. That evening we passed by a restaurant I been recommended “7 mares” it was completely empty and my so called comedian friends sarcastically joked about making a reservation. Karma hit us when after a few cocktails we tried to return for dinner to find every table full! So after a few walks up and down the street staring desperately in willing the people to eat faster and leave, we decided our bellies could wait no more and settled for pizza.

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.