So I finally make it to Cartagena in search of the great parties I have heard so much about but what I find is so much more and am reminded why I love to travel so much.
Oh Colombia-you have this reputation around town but you and I both know the truth…you’ve changed so much and you are so much more than your past. I feel like with everything I have heard about you from those who have actually been there, you and I may be heading somewhere quickly and for me to start in Cartagena…
Cartagena is so many places in one…this beautifully preserved colonial Old city with an ancient fortress wall surrounding it. Within this, there are all these lovely cobblestone paved streets with colorful 400 year old houses with their beautiful balconies and lovely large churches overlooking plazas. And then there is the outer town where most locals live and then there is Bocagrande area with the high skyscrapers and the trendy boutiques. And what to do: there are the museums and the castle and the monastery that you can visit and of course there is the nightlife – from party buses to live entertainment in the plazas to bars and nightclubs – it may have something for everyone. Well almost something for everyone…
So it may be disappointing when you come to look out at the beaches in Cartagena in dispair…well if you came looking for your traditional white sand Caribbean beaches. Well hardy traveler, what you seek is only a bus or boat ride away – go, I promise you that it will be what your heart and soul have been waiting for and gives your body a rest after so much partying, no?! See don’t these pictures make you want to get on a plane then a bus or boat to get here?! La Playa Blanca – Baru ❤️ sigh what a lovely place – name means white beach and here you will get the white soft sands and the warm, crystal clear Caribbean waters that you have been looking for. Be prepared it is crowded but walk a little and you may be able to get a little section to yourself like I was. I swam and just stood in the waters for a long time – first time in awhile that I was just present in the moment. One of many reasons why I love travel – forget all the ideas and notions that you have stuck in your head – me before trip: “I am not a relax on the beach type person. I need to be active and couldn’t just sit there.” And now I know that there was something so comforting and beautiful at that time that I didn’t dwell on the past…I didn’t fret about the future – I just wanted to be right where I was and feel the water go from warm at the shoreline and get cooler and cooler as I swim further away and get some respite from the hot sun and just let the gentle waves crash over me.
Hmm I contemplate would I leave my beloved Colorado for this?! Uh oh, falling fast…how about I come back tomorrow and we can see how serious I am. I book the excursion to go to Las Islas Rosario and then Playa Blanca. So unfortunately the only option on the isla is the aquarium (25,000 COP) or I can choose to go snorkeling (30,000 COP) -haven’t heard great things about the aquarium and I love snorkeling so I chose that option. How could I not – Caribbean water is amazing. I even get a 67 year grandmother to try it – and we hang out for the excursion. I am so proud of her!! And plans go out the window when I get to the beach and end up reconnecting with the Chilean bachelor party I had met the night before – no solo beach day but instead spend it laughing, frolicking, and trying to keep up with the rapid Chilean Spanish.
And that is the thing I rediscovered about traveling – how plans can go by the wayside but what happens next can be amazing. I was given this amazing travel advice from a friend – you need three things when you travel – 1. Wits 2. Charm and 3. Courage – to say yes and be open. So true and thanks Tim for that advice ( especially #3) ~ having all three has allowed me to have a pretty amazing trip so far but most of all to get to know some great people.
I say yes to something called Chiva Rumbera known stateside as a party bus. Ok a lot different than a party bus in the states because there is live music that is played while you are cruising around and pretty interactive. Glad that I went for it turns out that it would be an amazing night – we had fun but the best part was being able to meet and hang out with new friends.
Ilse from Guatemala – so she tells me to keep sharing my story because it’s so inspiring and I love her for that but even more so when I hear her story and I realize it is hers that should be shared with the world. Barbara (new Belgian friend) compliments her on her English and she tells us that she learned it in the orphanage that she grew up in! And now she is a physical therapist but she also has a second job that she is passionate about that is so cool and amazing- she distributes wheelchairs with the WHO around the world! She was able to get the job because of her siblings with disabilities. I only wish that our travel plans would have worked out for us to have more than the 20 minutes we shared! And I find a beautiful Guatemalan bookmark from her when I get back from a day at the beach. She has this zeal for life and is beautiful and vibrant and just gives me the greatest hope for humanity.
As Gisele (new Argentinian friend) told me, travel is about learning about places but also learning about people – having people who start off as strangers then you share your life stories and they quickly become friends who invite you to visit them in their country and offer you a meal or even a place to stay in their home! It is quite the adventure I am on – really truly is a Beautiful Life and Beautiful World!