Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 7

Diversity in Colombia:
The geography of Colombia is extremely diverse. There are plains, rain forests (Amazon), mountains (Andes), coastal regions (Pacific and Caribbean).
The food is equally diverse with unbelievable variety. Each region has it's own delicacies made with local vegetables and fruits. Cartagena is known for Arroz con coco, Limonada de coco, arepa con huevo. Arroz con coco is Coconut Rice. Limonada de coco is Coconut Lemonade and Arepa con Huevo is Arepa made with eggs. The extensive use of coconuts in the dishes makes sense because of the tropical climate in Cartagena and the abundance of Coconuts. .
The Ethnicity of people is extremely diverse as well. In Bogota, in general, the people have the following ethnic mix: 40% White, 40% Indian and 20% Black. In Cartagena (Baranquilla, etc)  the ratio is 40% White, 40% Black and 20% Indian. Sofia Vergara is from the Baranquilla region ;) .

Day 7. I was really looking forward to this vacation in Cartagena with the Orchids. We had a bus waiting for us at 5:30 AM to transfer us to the airport. Tracey had mentioned once that the only things that are on time in Colombia are the flights. Isn't that ironical? Anyway, at this point, we are getting used to the Colombia Standard Time so we were obviously 15 minutes late. We reached the airport by 6:15 AM and realized that the flight was not until 8:50AM. Great! So after walking around the airport like zombies for a couple of hours, we finally boarded the flight.

Viva Colombia
We flew Viva Colombia airlines which is very similar to Southwest. Low cost, no seat assignment, no snacks and consider yourself lucky if you get water from the bathroom taps. But, hey, it was a new aircraft, the flight crew looked very professional and overall it was a safe flight. So I have nothing to complain. The boarding was by priority but it looked like 99% of the passengers were priority 1 boarding. Therefore we had to use very clever methods to ensure we were in the front of the line. Once they started boarding, it was basically a 100 meter sprint to the seats. The only difference is you try to knock out anything or anybody in your path. VIVA Colombia! It was a lot of fun.

Georg and me:

It was a short flight to Cartagena, about 1.5 hours. Just before landing we got a glimpse of the shoreline and an awesome view of the Cartagena downtown or Boca Grande. We did notice a lot of cloud cover and the weather forecast was not great either (rain and overcast conditions). We landed on the only runway in Rafael Nunez international airport and arrived at what seemed like, at best a railway station. 7 gates and 3 aircrafts stood in this very small airport while we squeezed into gate no. 5. Once we stepped out of the plane, we felt like we were entering a sauna room. It was at least 32 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity.

Bogota from the sky.

Cartagena bay. Boca Grande.

Rafael Nunez airport at Cartagena.

We had booked rooms at the Holiday Inn and had booked a transfer to the hotel. Our ride was 45 minutes late. We were really frustrated and dehydrated due to the heat. Some of the Orchids took this time to change from jeans to shorts and slippers. .

After we checked into the hotel, we were picked up by the tour guide in a bus for the 6 hour tour. We first stopped at a local beach in Boca Grande where Martin, our tour guide, explained a few interesting facts about Cartagena. I thought Cartagena was on the Pacific coast, but it is actually on the Caribbean Sea! (well, one thing off my bucket list). The water around Cartagena is not as clear as the neighboring Rosario islands due to a nearby volcano.

Our Tour guide: Martin.

We then stopped by another spot to get a great picture of the new city, Boca Grande.

We went to the colonial downtown, Centro Historico and took a tour of the walled city of Cartagena, San Felipe de Barajas Castle, La Popa Monastery (happens to be the highest point in Cartagena).

300 year old Mango trees: 

Cartagena bay.

During the walking tour in Centro Historico, I rescued a beagle stuck between a gate. Thanks for the applause. ;)

We also enjoyed fresh coconut water from a street vendor.

Picture with a street vendor in traditional attire. 

We finished the tour by 7:00 PM and stopped in a small plaza to check out a group of dancers performing Cumbia! Cumbia is a music style that originated in Colombia's Caribbean coastal region. It began as a Colombian courtship dance by African slave population that was later mixed with European instruments. It originated in Cartagena during the period of Spanish colonization. It is performed mainly with drums and claves.
The dance was outstanding and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We even came across 7 weddings in the walled city of Cartagena. Some of my colleagues were so spellbound by the bridesmaids that one Bridegroom from Australia offered us to "watch the show". The show he was referring was of course the bride coming on the horse chariot and her dad walking her into the Church.

We were dropped off at the Hotel by 8:00 PM. After a short break, we headed back to the downtown for dinner. We were back in the hotel by 1:00 AM after wandering around and exploring the streets of Cartagena. It was great. Some local vendors even tried to sell Michal, Rene and Steffen, Cocaine - 1 gm / 3000 pesos. I have no idea about Cocaine but I'm pretty sure they were selling chalk powder.

We did feel much safer in Cartagena than in Bogota. We did not have to worry about our cellphones being stolen, or about cab drivers, etc. Overall, a great day. The next day, we planned to take a boat ride to Rosario Islands in the Caribbean sea where we would get to snorkel and kayak in the clear blue water, hike in the rainforest, get a massage, etc. Can't wait!

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