Friday, July 26, 2013

Cartagena, La Heroica!

Whew!  I have been amazingly busy these past two weeks or so, and updates have had to go on a back-burner for a bit.  I've been accepted for a job writing posts for a language blog, and being as languages are some of my favorite things, this is very exciting stuff!  Plus, I've been in Cartagena, Colombia's coastal city on the Caribbean Sea, and trying to enjoy it to the utmost, which I think I did a pretty good job at.

First of all, I did finish my red sweater on my last day in Medellín, but I lost interest halfway through and wasn't too thrilled at the result.  The pattern was great, but the yarn was just lackluster, and Medellín was too warm for sweaters anyway.

In the end, I left the sweater behind because it wouldn't fit in my backpack.  I took the bus to Cartagena, which took roughly 18 hours, and as we sped through the dark I deliriously watched house after open-air house speed by, and it seemed that every single one of them had a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the front porch surrounded by dozens of tea candles.  The entire family of each house was sitting around their shrines on lawn chairs, making me wonder if there was some sort of religious holiday going on, or if that was just what people do at nighttime in rural Cartagena.

The weather in the city was sweltering and humid, just the way I like it, and it stayed that way all week.  This, of course, drove me to the beach almost every day.  The beach at Bocagrande was nothing special - although I did get attack-massaged by a wandering beach masseuse, who grabbed my foot while I was in the middle of telling her off and practically yanked me off my towel.  My response to this went something like, "Now, wait just a second, what do you - oh, wait, that feels pretty good.  Carry on..."  The real tropical paradise was at Playa Blanca: white sands, aquamarine waves, palm trees, the whole shebang.  Used to swimming in the freezing, grey Atlantic at Ocean City, Maryland, I was pretty thrilled to for the first time ever be able to swim in water that felt like it was bathtub temperature.

(This was actually from a short stop at Islas del Rosario, right around the corner from Pablo Escobar's private island.)  Yes, Playa Blanca was quite cheesy and full of kitschy cabins with palm frond roofs and vendors pushing you to buy their necklaces, seashells, and coco locos... but it was beautiful nonetheless, and I hear if you stay overnight in a cabin you can have the island virtually to yourself once the tourists head back to the mainland.

The rest of my stay at Cartagena involved exploring the city, which is just perfect for walking and biking.  The inner city, that is, everything inside a century-old stone wall (built to protect the city from pirate attacks!) is built like a labyrinth of colonial and republican architecture, kind of a mix of New Orleans and Havana.

Everything was a bit pricey compared to Bogota, but you can buy a fresh coconut for a dollar, and the vendor will hack off the top with a machete and give you a straw to drink the coconut water inside.  The fish there is the most delicious fish in the world - they catch it fresh in the ocean, scale it and dunk it back in the seawater to salt it, and then fry it up right then and there for you.  Also delicious is cebiche, a Peruvian dish of raw seafood - I tried the shrimp, but there's also things like mussels, lobster, and octopus - marinated in lime juice and with finely chopped onions and cilantro.  The girl at the cebicheria who introduced me to this dish was extremely friendly, and also a little bored at work, so I hung out and we had a good, long chat as a rainstorm rolled in from the sea.  She lamented how ever since she had a baby her social life has gone out the window, and then she taught me the word bobo, which is Colombian for "dummy."  There are also friendly women walking around with bowls of mangoes on their heads, who will let you take a picture of them, and ghostly nuns taking sunset strolls along the circumference of the wall.

Most of all, Cartagena was a great place to unwind, relax, drink mojitos, and dance salsa at rooftop hotel parties.  I met a guy who was a dance instructor (so he said, anyway,) who actually managed to instruct me somewhat in the rhythm of salsa, so I'm not quite as abysmal as I was when I first got here.  I think the secret is to not move your shoulders... and also to try hard not to crash into your partner, wherein my difficulty lies.

But alas, I have left Colombia behind, and I miss it dearly.  There was something special about that place, I think.  Everyone was intense and friendly and beautiful, and it's my favorite country I've ever visited except for Ireland.  I'm in Quito now, not too sure what I think of it because I haven't had much time to explore yet.  But time will soon tell....

No comments:

Post a Comment