Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Coastal Columbia

Dive in Taganga: Old Fishing Village Equals SCUBA! (Days 1-3)

After 24 hrs en route and a dubious taxi ride solo, I reunite with Sharlene at our hotel in yet another country, Colombia!
Ex-fishing village turned laid back beach town
First meal: grilled fish, coconut rice, plantains and fresh Lulo juice (no clue what our equivalent would be, but it was tropical and delicious!)
Arepa man! You know I love my street food.
Happy 2015 on a Colombian Beach! Not a shabby beginning

SCUBA: the world down under
The main goal of these travel is to get SCUBA certified. After careful research, we went with Poseidon for PADI certification. I studied all Christmas break through PADI e-learning. Go figure on my first week out of the fall semester, I'm madly doing grades and taking an online course. After 5 units, quizzes and a final exam, I'm pleased to say I passed! I was a bad student just looking for answers and I think I skipped all the videos. Oops. The important thing is I'm alive and certified. We went with Poseidon Dive Center which was professional, though our instructor wasn't the best.

Three day SCUBA plan:
Day 1: learn about equipment, practice exercises in pool
Day 2: review quiz (whew, also passed with a 24/25!), out to the open waters! 2 dives at 12 meters
Day 3: 2 more open water dives at 18 meters
(All were half day plans so we had plenty of time to siesta and explore Taganga)  

SCUBA buddies
 I need to work on my buddy skills (sorry for losing you Sharlene!)
Thank goodness for some land time between open water dives
Everything about this open water course was intense. In fact, my friend joked that PADI is Pay And Dive Immediately. Yes, that's what we want! On the last day our goal was to not vomit. It was barely accomplished. We pressed on. The waters were crazy rough so it was hard to even do buddy checks at the surface. Oh, to not have salt water in my mouth, nose, ears and everywhere.  I need to work on my buddy and my neutral buoyancy skills. It's hard to stay neutral. SCUBA cert wasn't the most fun vacation activity, but also not the worst. It was no Nepal monsoon trek. Totally worth but nonetheless we were glad to be done. now I'm excited to put SCUBA on the table for future travels! Who's in?

Typical street and homes in Taganga

Tayrona National Park: where Colombians vacation (days 4-5)
We spent two days and one night in a hammock here. It's a gorgeous coastal section with beaches and jungle in the background. We hiked an hour into the park then another hour beach hopping. It was traffic time in the coast so there were lots of stops for passing people and horses.

Cabo San Juan Beach: the picturesque place on the cover of lonely planet
Sunset at our Beach: Arrecifes
It was a fitful night of sleep in my hammock #18 out of 24. I tried to readjust and not fall out. The howling wind, and maybe animals (?) didn't help either. I was willing for the sun to rise. We were on the trail at 6:30 AM. No one else was up. Score. Beat the morning rush hour traffic. No hoards of Colombian families.

To Pueblito
Hiking in a jungle to Pueblito
We did this fun, challenging uphill hike scrambling up, over and under boulders. One of the best things was we had the trail practically to ourselves. After making it to the top, we chilled with a lukewarm Gatorade for 15 min, noticed we were way too early for the activities which were probably crafts. No thanks, I'll pass. Though the trails were fairly clearly marked I managed to loop ourselves in a circle and head back up the mountain. Oops. Note, this is why I should never lead a hike or go solo, which I may have done before (shhhh!).

Climbing boulders. I know it doesn't look like it, but we really did need this rope to go over the edge
Pueblito with traditional houses and people

Tayrona park accomplished! We hiked ourselves two hours out of the park, getting only a little lost again. Then hopped on a shuttle to the local bus to Santa Marta. There, we accidentally walked towards the suburbs. Rerouting we finally made it to our posh hotel, the nicest of the trip. That was our prize for roughing it in the jungle 1.5 days. Man, am I getting soft?

Dichotomy:Hammock hostel in the jungle one night.
Posh hotel in the city of Santa Marta the next night.
Because that's how we roll.

Santa Marta 

Santa Marta is South America's oldest surviving city. Overall, we didn't explore Santa Marta too much as we were only there in the evening. We chilled, treated ourselves to a nice dinner on Plaza Nuevo, but no Ouzo that we planned because almost everyone takes Sunday off. Darn Sabbath interfering with our plans. Guess we can't get too upset. 

Catedral: supposedly Colombia's oldest church

Cartegena: Jewel of the Carribean Coast (Day 6-7)

After waking up at 6 am for no reason, we. had a nice chill breakfast and then chilled with our smartphones. Yes, I just might have become one of those peoples on this trip. Sigh, but hopefully that means you'll get pics faster.

It was a smooth transfer and only about 5 hours in total. Walking towards the hotel (not in circles or the wrong direction), my 6th bakery sense kicked in and I walked right into the panaderia to pick up scrumptious napolean buns for a snack. I knew I would like this town already.

Sharlene walking the wall at sunset, our first activity.

Snuck in on a model shot.
Iglesia de San Pedro Claver in its plaza. One of the many plazas in town.

Ceviche Peruvian Style at La Cevicheria
The last time I had this was in Puno, Peru. We ordered raw fish by accident at an unvetted restaurant but it was sooo good we couldn't stop eating.  This time I could enjoy with a peace of mind. No worries of food in Colombia, or at least none that we are aware of.

Plaza de la Aduana. Night time here is amazing. Lights galore from Christmas decorations.

 Our main goal of the next morning was to go to Mercado Barzuto. Lonely planet described it as "for adventurous souls only" and "an assault on all your senses." Sold. Must go there. Here's the convo I had with our hotel concierge.Me: where do you take the bus to Mercado Barzuto?
Man: Why do you want to go there? There are many people and only food.
Me: Because it is interesting.
Man: Be careful with your phone and camera.
He was definitely thinking "These crazy girls." Oh well, off we went! It actually wasn't that crazy and the fish made it smell like Chinatown. But we had success in that all our money and phones stayed on us.
Food at Mercado Barzuto

Fort: Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
We hopped off the public bus at this fort to explore the underground tunnels. They were all right, and the fort was just OK. We zoomed through it pretty quickly.
Pastries! Bread and cheese. Yum! Note also the traditional water in a bag and postobon. All for under $2.

Grilled corn lady magically appears at night only. Thank goodness we found her again!
Picturesque street in Cartegena
Cartegena is a lovely, walkable town. We enjoyed exploring and eating. We had traditional food at La Muleta which we highly recommend. Good siesta times. Two days and one night was sufficient. Now we are off on a plane to Bogota!

Palacio de Inquisicion. Cartegena: cut!

1 comment:

sharock said...

i really blame my own buoyancy for getting out of your eye sight. still best scuba buddy.