Sand gets everywhere...

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
Trip End Jul 19, 2008

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Friday, June 20, 2008

Chapter I - Prawn sandwiches

'A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends, he lend me 20,000 pesos because I need go to Barranquilla for my music.  I come back 1 week later to give him the money and I ask "where is he?"  They tell me, he die last night.  We no know why.  This song I write for him, my friend...'

As the moist, warm breeze swept off the Caribbean sea, across the tiny fishing village of Taganga, the full moon the only illumination, Rolando's voice filled the air, his head to his guitar, his body swaying and squatting, his eyes closed, his salt-air aged, buzzing, trembling guitar somehow the perfect accompaniment to his similarly trembling, fragile cantabile.  As is so often the case, especially when travelling, unexpected things often turn out to be the most captivating.  This was one of those times.  Down the dim, rubbled backstreets of Taganga, we requested a song from an elderly man passing by with his guitar.  Then proceeded a quite magical concert, serenading Taganga, Colombia and Cuba - his voice possessing that incredible, indescribable quality - one that captivates and enthrals, that just draws people in.  On the side of the road, sat upon some stones in the near dark, a 'partly musty, partly rotting, partly chorizo' smell surrounded us along with his music which I don't think any of us will ever forget.  This is what its about, perhaps?  The unscripted delights of travel; the unlikely, eternal moments shared with those from a world a world away.  Brilliant... 

Taganga itself is not so memorable.  A tiny village set in the next bay to the far less memorable city of Santa Marta, Taganga is overun with backpackers, most of them Hebrew speaking, with most of the village's amenities existing to cater for the backpacker's needs.  Indeed, we ticked all the required boxes - we went to Mojitonet for cocktails, we went to the Garage nightclub, we ate the best baguettes in the world from the Belgian dude's stall, we floated in the Caribbean by the average beach.  And, indeed, most importantly, we spent more time here than one probably needs to spend here.  Taganga, despite not being particularly memorable, is the archetypal seaside backpacker hangout where time disappears; where doing nothing all day deserves an afternoon nap; where hammocks are more common than chairs; where beer is more popular than water; where the early morning is more popular than the late.  If not memorable, it is fun, relaxing, comforting.  That is Taganga...

Chapter II - What's it for?

They make me feel uneasy.  I've only just recognised this.  Previously, I've been completely oblivious to it or, rather, been distracted by their grandeur, their sexiness, the spectacble.  And, indeed, I've expressed my admiration for them previously.  But now, my mind has started to ask questions.  It seems that my mind has reached a new stage in its maturing process - kind of like when a kid's mind starts to think - 'wait a second.  How does Santa get into the house if we don't have a chimney.'  But as I entered the city walls, stepping into the broad expanse of the former slave market, the Plaza de los Conches, I was overcome by a bizarre, rather foreign feeling of paranoia.  Paranoia of what?  Well - a feeling of imminent bombardment.  Clearly, my mind is just fucking stupid and completely irrational - it's patently not going to happen.  But there's something about the existence of an enormous protective wall and, indeed, the need for a city to have an enormous protective wall.  Ultimately, it says to me, somewhere deep inside my irrational subconscious, that someone out there, outside this brilliant ancient wall, wants to bomb the fuck out of us.  I don't know about you, but it's making me slightly uneasy...

Adding to my paranoia is the fact that it is clear why people may want to invade Cartagena.  Inside the wall, a narrow, maze of cobblestones wind between gentle, elegant plazas, each passage lined with an array of colour, from the vibrant houses, the magnificent creeping flora and the people of this visually spectacular city.  The historic centre, within the city walls, is certainly the jewel in Cartagena's tourist crown.  For the record, it's certainly not the beaches...

Chapter III - On my face...

Floating in a volcano full of mud was making me hungry.  I've heard that colvanos full of mud can do that to you hunger levels.  Kinda like what pretzels do to your thirst levels.  But as I lay in the most pissweak volcano in the history of volcanic activity, beneath the scorching heat of the northern caribbean coast sun, with mud making a valiant attempt to enter every orifice I possess, I began to contemplate the perfect breakfast.  It was then that I was struck by a moment of genius.  Indeed, I've heard the moments of genius often strike when one is consumed by a volcano full of mud.  It came to me in an almost biblical manner.  Unable to move, very enarly entirely immersed in thick, heavy, pure mud, lying on my back, a man appeared before me and began to massage my thighs - indeed the messiah - and then said something in rapid, indecipherable spanish.  I didn't understand what he said, but there was something in what he said that made me think 'mango and beer'.  Mango.  And beer.  It just so happens, and indeed this has been verified by later testing, that mango and beer is the perfect breakfast.  Incredible.  I write this now as a message from God - sent by his prophet - some dude who gives massages in the mud volcano outside Cartagena, the message being:  mango and beer is the ultimate breakfast.  I've tried it.  I think he's right...

Chapter IV - the Top 5

So, to the Top 5.  This is the end of the Second South American Odyssey of the Devil of the Death from Hell.  And it has been fucking brilliant.  There are always so many aspects to travel and the sights that you see.  In particular, there are always those places which have the reputation of being amazing, come with significant expectation for being amazing, are amazing and, indeed, were always going to be amazings - sights like Machu Picchu, Iguazu, Ipanema beach.  But then there are places and sights that catch you by surprise - places or sights that have exceeded your expectation.  Here are the top 5 in South America on this trip:

5.  El Penol - the Stone!
4.  Salento
3.  Arequipa
2.  La Paz
1.  Valparaiso

To the USA.  And Miami...
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carlosmeek on

Great blog and beautiful pictures..Check out my site
Was set up to provide a network and a resource for people to learn more about the real Colombia. Keep an eye out as we will be posting lots of interesting articles over the coming weeks. Please let me know if you would like to contribute any Colombia related pics, stories, comments, or general information, please email

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