Where the hips don't lie Shakira comes from

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Girasol
What I did
Barranquilla Carnaval
Casa del Carnaval

Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, February 18, 2012

I am exhausted and have a red strip of sunburn across my face to remind me of my day watching the carnival in the hot sun.

Breakfast croissant filled with white cheese and a terrible excuse for a chai latter - it tasted of pure syrup actually it was syrup!

I even see for sell sticks of the white gold, they love as the white cheese. I spend my morning walking the very confusing streets, they're all numbered streets or avenues, like USA. I go to the Casa del Carnaval , House of the Carnival in English. I ask in very broken Spanish for information about the carnival and we go back and forth for ten minutes or so not understanding each other. In desperation the man keeps asking people hurrying past, 'you speak English, don't you?'. Finally a lady comes to the rescue and speaks with an American English accent and she is explaining everything now to me. She also happens to come from the next place I'm going to, Taganga, and without any hesitation gets out her last business car and scribbles her mobile number on it and tells me to call if there is anything at all I need help with. That is so lovely I think to myself. 

I visit the interactive studio of the history of the carnival whilst I'm here, the man inside does speak English and translates each exhibit for me. I learn about the costumes. There's a donkey, a monkey (not an elephant), and also the dances and their origins from caribean congo, negro and indianese people. We also learn about the music with a cool touch screen of the instruments and the different types of music. This place is impressibe and worth a visit. The lady told me that the Casa del Carnaval is all year round busy making preparations and organising the carnival.

By this time it is already 12pm and I should be getting to the carnival. I go to my hotel, change into my free 'welcome to the hotel bright lime green carnival with a picture of a donkey's head on it' t-shirt, pair of jeans and my jesus sandals. The latter are my nick name for my Mercel trekking sandals.I stuff my money down my bra and camera in my pocket. I'm wearing a headband that is a red bow with white polka dots the costume for the 'negritos' and I am carnival ready!

Now I think why jeans in this hot hot sun?! I see a small minibus (collectivo), pass me packed with other carnival goers. I jump on, quite literally and hang on for dear life at the front, to pay the man next to the driver. (This brings me back to my dolmus days in Istanbul where you have similar private transport to get around). My fare is CUP 1500 (50 pence). The bus is so full I am left standing and I'm shaken, wobbled, jiggled and generally starting to feel nauseaus by the time the driver stops to let everyone off, one man in fact does throw up just after getting off the same bus and I'm glad that's not me!

I next use one of the mobile calling places, people basically charge you per minute to make a call from their rented mobile. The lady tries the number I give her of the German girls I am hoping to meet here that I met in Cartagena, but the mobile is sadly off. I did leave it a bit late I guess. This is where the fun begins by the way.

The army naval personnel has stopped people to enter the area known as the Naval Base. Many have bought tickets in advance it seems to get through here and to observe the parade from spectator stands along the route. Otherwise I am informed you won't see much. 'Bugger!' I think to myself. I do not have a ticket. I queue, get to the army guy and in my god dam terrible Spanish show him my map while telling him I would like to pass and no, I don't have a ticket. I tell him I'm alone and smile. He lets me through I walk a little and see there's a next set of barriers and more army personnel. I do exactly the same, again. It worked before right?! A man says well she is alone, he then escorts me and I pass across the road where the parade will be. I then have to again, repeat telling more army men that I am alone and I pass the final barrier, into a spectator stand and I sit next to a lady and her family and get myself comfy. I'm impressed with myself. I have blagged my way in but I have a brilliant view of the action to unfold. I quickly say hello to the lady next to me and we speak some more of my favourite and best 'Spanglish'. It seems my influencing skills I learnt after eight years in the corporate world and a big smile went a long way today.

The lady's name is Alexandra, she is from Barranquilla itself. It's not long now and the carnival begins. Alenxandra is more excited that me tapping my knee to show me something or explain or want to take a photo with one of the people from the parade and I. It was fun and I am very happy I am chatting to this lady as it makes the experience so much more interesting. The sun is high above, no clouds and we're in the immediate angle of the hot sun pounding down on us, with a little shade for some in the back seats of the stands. I feel a bit like a chicken roasting, my face and my forearms are red hot, so are my legs under the jeans. I wish I had sun cream with me. I'm handed a cardboard fan to cool down with, that also has a free condom attached and messages everywhere telling people to practice safe sex.

The carnival is a blast of colours and music. The noise is pretty high on the decibell level too. It lasts right through till darkness after 6pm, that is alot of dancing , floats and tired feet. I say goodbye to Alexandra and her family after giving her my email and I stroke my snake-like hard skin on my nose wondering how much that's going to hurt tomorrow.

I finally eat for the second time that day, a hamburger from a street vendor I saw before close to my hotel that looked good. It barely touches the sides. I was ravenous as I devoured my burger , about three hours of walking, sitting in the hot sun and the Spanglish I was knackered. Alexandra was going to try and call my hotel for more dancing, but sadly that didn't happen. So I had an evening of Colombian beer and re-runs of Jamie Oliver and Nigella and American spanish dubbed films, hadn't watched TV since I left the UK so it was an ok change and I slept very well that night.
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