Carribean Beauty

Wow! 4 months after I first stepped on the South American continent in Buenos Aires and 3 months after I reached the very Southern tip in Ushuaia we have made it all the way to Caracas at the Northern end of the continent (and as I type these lines we are already back in Switzerland). What an incredible journey it has been. From the stunning natural beauties in Argentina, the impressive archeological sites in Peru to the exotic rhythms and joy of life in Brazil/Colombia. We are taking so many memories, so many stories with us – I guess we will bore you with them until the end of our lives… Personally, I have rediscovered my love for South America and I am deeply impressed how much progress has been achieved in countries like Brazil, Peru and Colombia over the last decade. No doubt, the future looks much better and the potential is enormous…

We spent all of the final days of our trip in Cartagena, Colombia. It’s a beautiful, well-preserved colonial city on Colombia’s Carribean coast (did you know Colombia has exposure to the Carribean?) and practically the only place in Colombia that has been “discovered” by international tourists. For me Cartagena is hands down the most beautiful city on the continent of South America and I wish I had bought real estate there when I first visited 10 years ago (these days celebrities like Mick Jagger, Enrique Iglesias and Donald Trump (!) are moving in and real estate prices are now among the highest in South America). But it’s not just the historic center that makes Cartagena such a wonderful experience. It’s the whole package of being the safest city in Colombia, the nice beaches (the only place to escape the heat), the laid back Carribean lifestyle, the friendly locals, the Salsa and Vallenato music blasting from every corner and the wonderful balmy nights when a bottle of cold Aguila beer just seems to taste better (and go down faster) than anywhere else in the country. All the nights we spent drinking beer (and watching people) at the beautiful Plaza Santa Domingo amidst all kind of artists, singers and other fellow tourists… It was as close to paradise as you can get and I was secretly wishing that the nights would never end and we’d never have to get up from that chair…

Torre RelojPlaza AduanaHistoric Center CartagenaFruit Women

Our arrival in Cartagena was very well timed – 19th of May, my birthday! Of course that was no coincidence. I have had friends there for 10 years and I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate with them. They are actually more like my Colombian family. The welcome after 10 years was so warm, I could not believe it. There was a big sign saying “Bienvenido a casa Chibcombiano” (welcome home chibchombiano – my Colombian nickname) and the whole family was there including neighbors and cousins from Baranquilla etc. I had no idea that I had left such a lasting impression… Also realized quickly why the family seemed so much bigger than last time. There are six new kids on the block – viva Colombia! So we spent my birthday night remembering the good old times, drinking whiskey and beer and eating birthday cakes. It was wonderful to spend my birthday so far from home but still have so many loved ones around. It was overwhelming and I was glad we got to hang out in Cartagena for some additional days.

AmigosCutiesSuizo and Girlies

In terms of day time activities there was not much going on in Cartagena – it was simply too hot! So we spent our days on the beach or at the Islas del Rosario. We undertook one trip to Moroa with the goal of buying high quality hammocks at good prices. It turned into one of those adventures I described in my last report. About one hour outside of Cartagena we run into a huge traffic jam and learn that a bridge has been closed for maintenance and will only reopen in 2 hours. So we get to wait for two hours in the middle of nowhere in the sweltering heat of early afternoon (with lots of nasty invisible mosquitos). Naturally it was the business of a life time for all the street vendors (one girl is cycling to the village and back just to sell me a Diet Coke) and I am always amazed how easy the locals take incidents like this (in Switzerland there would be riots). Fortunately, the bridge was re-opened after 2 hours and we still got to buy our hammocks. You can bet we will remember this trip every single time before we doze off in that comfy hammock…

Stranded

One night while we were having beers at the Plaza Santo Domingo, we got a free lesson in how to conquer the heart of a Latin woman (or probably any woman for that matter). A beautiful young couple was seated at the table next to us and from there the story unfolded… Step 1 – the gentleman ordered a glass of champagne for the lady (and something stronger for himself). I guess this is as far as we can all follow, except the gentlement kept ordering drinks… Step 2 – the gentleman waves over a guitar player that plays and sings at their table for roughly 15min (it must have been a special guitar player since he did NOT sing Guantanamera). Step 3 – the gentlemen hires a Vallenato band to sing at their table. Vallenato is one of the traditional rhythms of coastal Colombia and is going through a huge revival (for a sample song, go to the end of this report). These guys sing with so much passion that even Gustavo and I get goosebumps. And the point is, they dont leave anymore. Gentleman buys them a couple of cervezas and they stick around for hours… Step 4 – about two hours later a horse drawn carriage arrives. Gentleman buys the coachman a cerveza and then he packs the whole band and his precious girl on the carriage – and off they go. If gentleman was not proposing that night, I dont know what the hell he was doing…!

Vallenato BandPlaza Santo Domingo

For us it was also time to hit the road again but our bus trip to Caracas (24 hours!) and flight to Zurich (another 14 hours) was not nearly as romantic. Before we were allowed to leave Colombia I had to promise to my friends that I would return sooner than in 10 years. Well, that’s an easy one you’d think…

Cheers to a great trip

Anyway, I am now taking a break from backpacker’s life to decide about the next steps. Check back in a couple of weeks or even better send me an e-mail if you want to know what I am up to. Thanks to all of you for following my blog and for all the positive feedback!

Hasta pronto

Adrian

 

Here a sample of modern Vallenato (again with beautiful pictures of Colombia)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIBdN4jxtv0

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