Welcome to SOUTH AMERICA!!!!

Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, May 4, 2006

After almost missing my flight, cause I was sitting at the wrong gate, I landed in Cartagena. I got through immigration (which I was worried about since I didn't have an onward ticket from Colombia), got my bag and got a good deal on a taxi to my hostel. I had this weird tightness in my chest that wouldn't go away. I don't know why, but for the first time in my travels I was a bit afraid of going outside to walk around. I'm not sure if it was because of a new continent, or because of the bad wrap that Colombia gets. But I met an English guy named Chris that took me out to see the fortress and help calm my nerves. The fortress was built to protect the city from invasion by pirates and has many tunnels through out it to allow the people to move around safely during battles. The coolest party was the huge Colombian flag that flew over top of it. We then headed into the old part of the city and it was very beautiful and relaxing. The old city is very colonial and all of the buildings and porches are so beautiful, each decorated with flowers. While walking we came across a dance group in one of the squares. They were dancing the traditional Caribbean dances, which means a lot of butt shaking and twisting. It was amazing! I found out later that this is the dancing that the singer Shakira learned and has been dancing since she was little. After walking around a while I felt a bit better, but I was still really nervous about something.

The next morning my nerves were a bit calmer, but still just couldn't relax. I decided to just take it easy until this feeling lifted and after meeting Luis and Owen an Irish couple (I found out a few days later that they were just friends and not a couple at all), it was gone. I also met an English girl named Julia who had been traveling through Central America too and after talking a while we found out we knew a bunch of the same people, however our paths never crossed. She and I took another walk around the old city and had a great time. She was just loving it, and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. No more worries! As we were walking back to the hostel, I saw a young guy with a basketball and asked him where he was going to play and if I could play. He told me the park and that he would be playing in a few minutes. I had just eaten though, so I was pretty full and not really wanting to run around. But with a little persuading from Julia and Ronan (Israli guy), we all went down. It was so much fun! However as the sky became darker and the lighting was bad, my eyes began playing tricks on me. They hurt a bit and were getting blurry. When we went back I was able to take a quick shower before a killer headache hit me. I was sad, cause Julia, Owen, Luis, and a bunch of other new people who had just arrived at the hostel were headed out on the town. But I could only go to sleep and hope my head would stop pounding.

The next morning I felt much better. I was the only one too... everyone else was pretty hung over. Later in the day, Louise (Irish), Owen (Irish), Julia and I went and walked around the old city again. While we walked we came across the filming of a Colombian soap opera. It was pretty fun to watch for a bit... but they were doing so many takes, we got bored quickly. We then were walking along one of the many beautiful streets and came across this guy setting up what looked like a red carpet and fancy other stuff. We asked him what was going on and he said it was a movie production company party (or something like that). A bit later, two other guys came out and asked if they could help. They told us more about the party and I was just joking around and asked if our names were on the list. They said sure they can be and said to come back around 11 or so and tell the front door people Alfonzo said we could come in. We were so excited! We were going to go to a posh party with actors and models and all the beautiful people of Colombia... AND WE HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!!! I took it easy the rest of the night and then it was time to go out and hit the town! We had a group of about 8 people and first we headed out to a few bars, but when that didn't pan out to be much fun, we headed to the fancy party. It was crazy... the house it was held it was so upscale and fancy, all the people were so beautiful, and FREE DRINKS!!! We were all having a great time, but I was just so stunned that we were there. Here we are a bunch of grubby backpackers at a upscale, fancy, "rich and famous" party in Colombia... who saw that coming? Not me! Anyway, it was all fun and dandy until I went to sit down to talk with the group... it turned out someone had broken a champagne glass and let the broken flute on the bench... I sat right on it! OUCH! It punctured through my jeans and into my leg/butt. So there I am bleeding all over the place... mostly on the leg of my pants. It was so painful and very embarrassing. I couldn't believe it had happened. I was able to wash out most of the blood, but it was still bleeding a bit. What a bummer. The part I was most upset with was that my favorite jeans now have a puncture hole in them. I was happy when we finally left and went to bed.

The next morning we all woke up with some nice hangovers, but we had to get to the boat trip that we had booked the day before. We had thought it would be a smaller boat that would take us out to this island for a few hours, then over to Playa Blanca (which is a really nice beach) for another few hours before taking us back to Cartagena... we were so wrong. The boat was a huge tourist boat filled with Colombian vacationers on a weekend retreat. Not the small boat we had expected, but that is okay. We then spent 2 1/2 hours on the boat to get to the island... where we thought there would be a beach. Nope, only an aquarium that cost more money to get into. We skipped the aquarium and went to a little dock in order to swim a bit. However, we only had about an hour before we had to be back on the boat. This boat ride was very rocky, with huge swells... I wasn't feeling to good, but was able to make it the 1 1/2 hours to Playa Blanca. Once there we headed to the restaurant for lunch that was included in our boat fee. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. Finally we could hang out on the beach. The water was a really pretty light blue with white sands. There were also about 300 other people there, 200 of which had come on our boat. We only had about a hour on the beach to swim and relax, before going back on the boat. Which wasn't as easy as you would think. I waited for the last shuttle boat over to the big boat, and by that time the little boat engine had had enough. It kept flooding because of the waves coming in, and we barely made it away from the shore. Finally back on the boat we had another 2 1/2 hours back to Cartagena. Which I only felt good for the first 30 minutes... TIME TO FEED THE FISH!!! Ug, I am not going on a ocean boat ride for a long time. In the end, we were away from Cartagena for 10 hours, only three of which were spent on land... you do the math! Not fun! That night we just bought some beers and drank them on the roof top terrace. Good fun and those Irish are crazy!

Monday was spent relaxing and just walking around town and taking it easy... but that night our whole group headed down to the park again and played soccer (futbol) with some of the kids there. They were like ten, eleven and twelve years old and were really good. They kicked out butts, but it was so much fun. I evened scored a few times... yeah me! Of course we finished off the night drinking beers on the terrace. But the guy who worked the night shift was really mean to us and was telling us to be quite at like 10:30 at night. He was saying that there were other people that needed to get sleep, however, 90% of the people staying in the place, were on the terrace with us playing. He was just really rude. Besides, it is a hostel, if you really want to get a good nights sleep, get some ear plugs or go to a hotel.

Tuesday I had wanted to go to Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, the mud volcano a few miles out of town. But no one else wanted to go, since everyone was hung over from last night. Just as I had given up hope of going I saw that Chris (Australian), his Dutch girlfriend and Asaf (Israli) were heading that way. So Fabrice (Belguim) and I joined them and headed out. After trying to get a bus that way, would have been a 45 minute wait for the next bus, we grabbed a cab that took us the whole way there. The volcano wasn't anything impressive, only 15 meters high. But it is what is inside that counts. There is no bottom to the volcano (well I guess there is but it is really deep) but the mud is so think that when you get in you just float there. It was really weird. The mud also contains a lot of minerals that make your skin really soft. Which after three months of traveling, I really needed. We had a great time, just floating around in the mud. These guys are also there if you want a massage, none of us did. But eventually we had the whole crater to ourselves. It was so much fun! Finally it was time to get out and get washed up. We headed down to the lake just below and get help cleaning off by these local women. They have been doing this for years and really know where the mud is. As the poured buckets of water over your head, they were sticking their fingers in your ears and scrubbing the mud from your hair. I just kept laughing to myself, that is until she grabbed my swim suit top and pulled it off to be washed too. Yikes! Once my top was back where it was suppose to be, she wanted my bottoms. That one wasn't so bad since I was sitting in the water. The whole experience was so funny and made me laugh really hard. But all the mud was gone. Once back in town we grabbed dinner before playing some more basketball down at the park. This time there was enough little kids to play 5 on 5. It was really funny, cause everyone just ran around crazy. Fabrice, who had barely hit the back board all game long, made the final winning shot. We were so proud of him and carried him on our shoulders back to the hostel (not really). It was a really good time.

Well, it is off to Santa Marta... to hike to Ciudad Perdida (Lost City).
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layl on

What amazing adventures you are having! It all sounds so incredible! I hope Peru is as much fun and interesting! Can't wait!
Love ya-

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