A Travellerspoint blog

Cartagena to Bogota via Medellin

overcast 65 °F
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We left Cartagena early Friday morning (5am) and decided to take the southwest route back to Bogota. What could go wrong?

Friday ended up being a day of lessons learned. The first lesson we learned is that we hadn't properly thought through how many pesos we actually had in our possession before leaving Cartagena. The reason this is a problem is that apparently outside of the major cities it is impossible to exchange USD even at the banks. During the day we must have tried at least 8 different banks and countless strangers to exchange money. And as the day went on our pesos just kept getting more scarce (Colombia has a lot of highway tolls). Complicating matters was the fact that the mountain roads of the west were even worse and slower going than those we experienced in the eastern part of the country. By the time we reached the city of Medellin (3 million people), we had been driving for almost 17 hours, it was dark and raining, we had less than 1/8 tank of gas in the car and we had about 7 dollars worth of pesos to our name. We reasoned in our exhausted stupor that the airport should at least have a money changer and if nothing else maybe we could sleep there. When I went in it turned out all the money changers were closed but at least I was able to get an ATM to work (something that hadn't worked all day) so I could withdraw some pesos. We found a hostel outside of the airport with gas station next door. Score. And to top it off they even had a small restaurant so we could eat. We hadn't eaten in over 12 hours as we wanted to save our pesos. We considered ourselves pretty damn lucky and recorded another lesson learned - when in a pickle such as this......go to an airport.

We got up early again this morning and made tracks for Bogota. Again a lot of mountain driving which just never goes as you expect and is a lot of work driving. Our car is a manual so there is a lot of shifting. Kelsey does an amazing job driving although we did get pulled over again today for passing in a no passing zone. We almost got the ticket this time - he actually had the ticket pad out this time to start writing. We both starting saying "no passing, no passing" really excitedly and apparently he thought that was funny enough to let us go so got lucky again. We got into Bogota around 6pm or so but took and hour or so to find (get lost) a hotel close to the airport. Got to talk to the kids for a bit and then headed out to find a restaurant for dinner and looking forward to a cold beer. Not so fast. Found an English Pub of all things and they wouldn't serve us a beer. Why you ask? Not because we aren't old enough. Not because they were out. Because the country is having national elections tomorrow and there is a country wide moratorium on selling booze of any kind from 6pm today until 6pm on Monday. I nearly shed a tear. The police are patrolling the restaurants making sure they comply. The one we were at they even made them cover up the backbar to hide all the bottles. They said they wanted them to cover up any indication of alcohol on the premises. Wild.

Hope all is well with everyone. Love to all..

Posted by madpax 03.08.2014 18:50 Archived in Colombia Comments (5)

Cartagena Day 2


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We walked around most of the day yesterday just taking it it. This place is crazy. I still can't get over the hectic pace. Kelsey is right - it would be really nice if they were able to close of at least a portion of the old town to traffic but as it stands there are cars everywhere. The streets are all one way and very narrow so walking around is not just like having a leisurely stroll. I'm sitting on the balcony of our hotel now and the bustle below is really something - I think I might be growing to enjoy it a bit. Vendors hawking their wares, birds chirping, cars honking, old men singing.....

Last night we had dinner at a little spot just around the corner where there are several tables outside. The street faces a little park so there is a bit more room and people seem to use it to break out some entertainment for the tourists. While we were sitting outside having some coffee, a group of young men threw out a large blanket in the street and began breakdancing. They were really good too - fastest breakdancing I have ever seen! Later a group of young couples broke out a really loud session of salsa dancing mixed with intense jiggling.

We walked a portion of the fort wall facing the sea yesterday. Until I let my fear of heights get the best of me and turned back of course. We also went to the Palace of the Inquisition which is a museum that houses a couple floors on Cartagena's history and some really sadistic instruments of torture that were apparently used on those that were deemed to be witches or have committed acts of blasphemy against the church. Yikes.

Haven't decided what we will do today although one item on the list is this little place we are told has the best ceviche going....will have to try that. We will leave Cartagena early tomorrow morning and start making our way back to Bogota. Buses take 22 hours to make the trip so it will be 2 long days of driving for us.

All the photos of the last couple days are on the other camera so cannot transfer until we get home. Not sure if we will have wifi tomorrow so don't worry if no posts.

Love to all.

Posted by madpax 03.06.2014 05:24 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Cartagena

sunny
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We made it to Caratagena yesterday after a long day of driving from somewhere north of Aguachica where we had stopped for the night. It took us much longer to get out of the mountains after leaving Barichara than we anticipated. The roads were VERY windy and bad in spots. Lots of truck and bus traffic made the hills and corners a challenge. Most times not able to manage more than 20 or 30kph.

It was so beautiful though - the variety of trees and flowers is just amazing. A really interesting mix of tropical looking plants, huge flowering trees and evergreens. Once out of the mountains the temp and humidity soared. No idea what the exact temp is/was but it's hot. A person can't help sweat just standing still.

Kelsey got pulled over by the Colombian police yesterday for speeding and passing in a no passing zone. I think he tends to style his driving after the most aggressive dude on the road and goes with that. The cops were really nice though - I think the only reason he let us go with no ticket was because of the language barrier.

We went through a crazy little shanty town yesterday not too far from the border with Venezuela. The place was just soaked in gas. Each shack had several fuel barrels lined up along the road. Clearly a little black market fuel coming in from their neighbor.

Today will will explore the old town of Cartagena and visit portions of the fort that has been so well preserved. So far we are a little overwhelmed. First, just getting into the old town was an adventure. Cartagena is a city of 1 million so one doesn't just rock up to where you need to be. You turn down one way streets, you get honked at, you get bullied by vehicles bigger than you. We were hot, tired and getting a little pissy so we pulled over a taxi driver and had him lead us into old town. We of course have much to see here before forming an opinion but our first impression was a bit disappointing as it seems like a giant shopping village. Hopefully that will change after we see some sights today. Prices here are very high. We had gotten used to the rural areas where we could get a very nice meal for $15 all in. Here it seems you cannot even get one main for that price.

Love to all

Posted by madpax 03.05.2014 05:08 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

Barichara Day 2

sunny 80 °F
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Decided to stay in Barichara another day and wishing we had many more. This is one of the most beautiful towns we have ever been to. The people are extremely friendly and very patient with our terrible attempts at speaking spanish.

Mostly just walked around and took in the the atmosphere. Very laid back and mostly only Colombian tourists here. Found a billiard hall with a really cool table that looked like a snooker table but had no pockets so not sure really. Fed a couple of stray dogs the leftovers from our lunch. Sat at an overlook and watched some birds gliding in a deep valley below us. All such good stuff. As always, just thankful to be here and see, smell, hear and taste.

Paxton, this guy was made in the same fashion as your iguana....super cool:
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Posted by madpax 03.02.2014 14:57 Archived in Colombia Comments (3)

Barichara, Colombia

semi-overcast 65 °F
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We arrived in Bogota last night and made our way to the hostel around midnight. Short night of sleep as we had to get up and meet the guy who brought us the rental car at 7am. It is a tiny little 1 litre Chevy Spark but it does okay.

We had a pretty easy time getting out of Bogota - didn't even get lost once! Drove through some incredibly lush, mountain scenery on the way to where have now stopped for the night in Barichara.

Barichara is an old colonial town of about 7700 people, cobble stone streets and beautifully preserved churches and buildings. Our hostel is a wonderful little spot not too far from the main square - even had a gated place to park the car so we are set. We hadn't eaten all day so we both were famished - just had a nice steak dinner and some beers for about $15usd. Can't beat that.

Some photos of Barichara:

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Posted by madpax 03.01.2014 17:10 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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