Trip Start Jan 07, 2013
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Magdalena,
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seeing as we haven't even made it out of Colombia after a month of travel, the original plan to do carnival in Rio had to be put off until another year. Conveniently, we discovered that Barranquilla is home to the second largest Carnival! With only a vague promise of a hotel that wasn't booked (we had called from the middle of the jungle in tyrona with someone's gps phone) we hopped on another crowded bus for the two hour trip. The bus rides have become increasingly crowded near the coast, and increasingly nerve racking as each pothole is a test of my trust that the driver did a good job tying the backpacks to the roof... Each trip also takes much longer because the drivers are constantly picking up random people off the street. Only when every seat is filled can the journey really begin.

With some mild difficulty we found our way to the Barranquilla inn. The only room left was the honeymoon suite: wood ceilings, jacuzzi room, rooftop patio, air conditioning, the works. The spa room was a funny addition considering there was no hot water.. But the roof had some perfect hammock spots! At 70 a night it was expensive for Colombia but I became increasingly grateful for the break from the noise and crowds of the festivities.

Carnival is essentially a straight week of parades, parties, and endless foam/flour wars. Every restaurant, bar, and hotel is decked out with decorations and festive music. Walking down the street you will see costumes ranging from body paint to clown suits. Even the homeless participate, although not in the friendliest of ways. Covered from head to toe in black body paint they scare people for money with fake weapons...

A really cool part about going to Barranquilla for carnival was that there were virtually no westerners. While being obvious gringos carries some risk, the benefits are worth it. Parades become interactive events, much more fun as I'm not a fan of spectating. Ironically the dancers would ask to take pictures of us rather than vise versa. Instead of walking along the sidelines to get from A to B we just hopped right in the street and danced to our destination with the elaborately clad locals. At times we were even mobbed by crowds of 50 people all wanting a picture! Everyone was friendly and it was great just to go with the flow and see where we ended up.

As you can see from all the pictures, carnival is really messy... The main downside of the gringo effect is that every little kid (and many adults) we passed hit us with blasts of flour and foam. Vendors were selling it everywhere. After a few dollar beers it becomes an epic battle. Every morning I woke up looking like a ghost. That spa/shower room was a lifesaver.

Although we were in a hotel, couch surfing allowed us to instantly make a ton of friends. The group planned places to meet before the parades where everyone could get to know each other and share stories. It's a much better experience being at these events in a group. You get advice from locals, learn about the culture, and it also gives Greg and I a break from overexposure.
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