Carnaval In Colombia

Trip Start Nov 22, 2005
Trip End May 15, 2006

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, March 5, 2006

First stop was Cartagena, a beautiful town with old colonial buildings on the coast of the Carribean. Cartagena was once the storage point for merchandise from Spain and also for treasures collected from the Americas to be sent back to Spain. As a result the Spaniards built strong forts around the city. The biggest, and also the largest Spanish fort built in the Americas, was the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Having visited other forts when I was in Chile, the size of this one just blew my breath away.

Adding to the great architecture was the tropical weather and the abundance of fruit. Fruit was so much in abundance that they would sell salted banana chips instead of potato chips. My friend was very disappointed when he ordered chicken and chips and received chicken with a side of banana chips. When questioned where the potato chips were, the waitress said that they had simply run out and left a salt shaker in front of his plate before walking away.

There were a couple of big beaches close to the city centre but they were usually very crowded. You couldn't sit on the beach for less than a minute without someone offering to sell you fruit juice, jewellery or tacky clothes. To get our beach fix we took refuge at Playa Blanca, a secluded beach that you could only get to by ferry. While the ferries were running during the day the beach did get a bit crowded with tourists and sellers. But once the last ferry left at about 3pm we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves. We slept in hammocks just a stone's throw away from the water, and it was so nice to be able to get up early in the morning and go for a swim in the sea. We stayed there for 2 nights and I went away with the darkest tan I have ever had in my life! We managed to find someone who would drive us back from Playa Blanca by speedboat which was so much fun! Except for when we drove over a huge wave and I fell backwards into the lap of the person who was sitting behind me....

I didn't realise until I arrived in Colombia that my trip also coincided with the 4-day Carnaval. What a great way to end my South American trip! Barranquilla holds the biggest Carnaval festivals in South America next to Brazil. The street parades got very crowded and very messy - lots of flour and water and snow foam. But the night time festivals were amazing with the live music and party atmosphere. And there was always someone willing to help out a two-leftfooted gringo (whether they wanted it or not). Posters advertising the Colombian beer Aguila were everywhere, even in children's playgrounds. And shops all over town were selling Carnaval masks, coloured hair sprays and flashy things that hang around the neck. The whole city was buzzing for what could be the only time of the year that attracts tourists to this nice-but-not-very-pretty city.
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