Bogota, Palomino, Minca and Cartagena

This is the second to last post I will write for this trip and this one is going to be different. I had two and a half weeks left and after completing my last hike, well last altitude hike but I’m not really sure it really counts as a hike anymore if its doesn’t take you over 4000 metres, in El Cocuy I realised I had completed everything that I’d set out to do. Its funny in a way as deep down inside you always thing the voyage is going to reach a crescendo, which it doesn’t. I started the trip on my own, I largely travelled on my own and I’d finish, for all intents and purposes on my own. There would be no big send off at the airport because all the people I had met were in different places. They wouldn’t all get together to say goodbye. But this is the nature of these things and I really should be saving this for the final post. But my point here is with 2 1/2 weeks to go I felt as if I had completed every thing. I didn’t want to hike again, I wasn’t bothered if I saw anything else and I wasn’t really into taking photos which is why it was the perfect timing for me to completly let go and see what fate brought my way. And if you’ve read the El Cocuy post you will know that I was on my way back to Bogota to meet Angela. I’d met her online and by coincidence she had some vacation time and wanted to travel, with me. As the bus moved sowly through the busy morning streets of Bogota I was excited and nervous at the time as I hadn’t travelled with someone from the country I was travelling in, we hadn’t met and I wondered if I would get on with her as much as I worried about whether she would get on with me.

It seems that the busses travel are all timed to arrive at the station in Bogota at 7am. And why not arrive a different times, its fun to have everyone arriving at the same time, probably saves on administration. I was still with the Germans from El Cocuy and they got in the huge line for the taxi. I tried to explain that there were more taxis around the other side of the building but the didn’t listen so I said goodbye and headed off to explore. I  just needed to get to the tourist area and into my hostel, which I could’t check into until 1pm so I was in no hurry. I found a line of taxis and very few passengers and argued until the tax was less then the Uber fee which was currently surging and was off downtown. IT took longer than I thought and it was a cold but sunny day.

The hostel was okay but the were a little rule heavy and I found myself waiting, being over tired and confused, which is now a normality for me after getting off a night bus. I had treated myself to a private room and asked if it was ready. Soon I was shown upstairs and I went to sleep before realising I needed water and some supplies. I headed out for breakfast to a place that Angela had recommended for coffee, which was really good and empty until a group of 6 people came in and decided to sit as close to me as possible. I’ll still never understand this lack of personal space awareness whether is just normal, ignorance or just passes as an excuse for sexual harassment. I wasn’t and never have been sexually harassed in South America but I do know people who are. Anyways I still don’t understand why you would walk into a coffee shop and then sit as close to the only other person that is sitting in there. If you haven’t noticed this really pissed me off at the time, although I’ve just realised I have a lot of ground to cover in this post so I’m going to get a move on.

I arranged to meet Angela at a restaurant, which turned out to be a rather fancy restaurant, at least for me. She had already arrived, which I hate as I often struggle to recognise people, but this time there was only one person sitting alone, so I timidly asked if it was her. I was shown a lunch menu and very soon some bread was brought over. This is one of the best meals I can without a doubt say I’ve had on the trip.

The purpose was to decide where to go next. I had had a loose plan to go to Salento for the tall palm trees, to hang in Medellin for a week or so to get up to date with the blog (didn’t happen) and then head up to Cartagena to catch my flight to San Andres in just over a week and a half. As I said above I was pretty much done and happy to just chill. We spoke about several ideas but seemed somehow to miss creating a plan and just chatted. I was given a tour of the city and we went for a drink before just walking for about 2 hours north through the city, I’m still not really sure why we did this. It became dark and I was quite for from the hostel so before we went our separate ways we sat down on the street and tried to decide where to go. I think the final choice was between Medellin and Santa Marta. I used the coin to break the deadlock and Santa Marta won. There were some cheap flights leaving the next day so I went back to the hostel and booked them.

Angela had some things to take care of in the morning and ended up meeting me in town, it was here that I found our her sense of direction is not the best. We jumped in a taxi and drove to a coupe of places to drop off some papers and the taxi driver didn’t seem to know where to go which made me anxious about the fight, but it was all fairly non-eventful other than an hour delay and soon I was out in the blistering heat of the Caribbean coast. We avoided the taxis as I insisted I wanted to get a bus and after another hour not in any aircon we were in Santa Marta, stuck in traffic. I suggested that we get off and we brought some rum in the supermarket before heading to get the collectivo to Palomino, our first stop. This was another 2-3 hours, I really cant remember now, and it was about 5pm by the time we started the bus. 

We arrived in Palomino in the middle of a storm. It rains really hard here in the evenings every day which kinda kills the atmosphere.  We ran off the bus to the nearest shelter and luckily there were a tonne of restaurants along the road so I ate fried chicken and waited for the storm to stop. It didn’t, so we walked along the dirt mud road trying to avoid the puddles which often covered the whole road to the hostel a kilometre away. We found out there had been a mistake with the booking and the hostel had sold it to someone else, so we had to go to a hostel next door. I was pretty annoyed as its the only time its happened on this trip but I had some more rum relaxed and had an early night.

The next day we went down to the beach and it was pretty special.

We walked along the beach until we reached a river that stopped our progress and sat in the cool river and sunbathed for the morning. I’ve not been good at doing this so I decided to learn and its part of the new relaxed me that didn’t need to go hiking. I stupidly tried to get some colour and succeeded in going a nice shade of red. We headed back for lunch and then I hid in the hostel  after for a few hours mourning my sunburn. We went for a quick walk in the afternoon heading down the beach in the other direction but the sky had turned a particular shade of grey and we knew it would rain soon. Alas it rained for the rest of the night.

There isn’t a lot to do in Palomino unless you want to sit on he beach and go to bed early. Its just hostels and a few restaurants catering to tourists, oh and a river ride which just avoid. No one looked happy when they were done. We decided to leave the next day after Angela had her surf lesson.

We left Palomino around lunch time on motorbikes. I was a little concerned as I jumped on with no helmet and with both my bags which seemed a little insane but by that point Angela was miles ahead of me and I didn’t want to get left behind. Luckily I’d lost enough things by this point so that the bags were not so heavy. Soon we were at the main road and on a collectivo to Santa Marta. We arrived, had lunch and jumped on another collectivo to Minca, which is about an hour. 

Arriving around nightfall I was happy to be back in the mountains. It wasn’t so high but it was a nice feeling, although still hot it wasn’t the blistering heat of the coast. The hostel was amazing and is one of the nicest I’ve stayed in with a pool, giant hammocks and places to relax along with a decent breakfast.

The next day I wanted to go on a 15km walk, Minca is only 650 metres so technically its not even mountainous here, but I wasn’t sure we would achieve so we decided to head to some pools next to waterfalls. The journey started off perfectly fine and the sky was beautifully blue but soon we discovered the track was wet and full of deep mud. Then the sky turned grey and we found out why as the water fell from the sky. When we made it to the pool I felt there was little point in getting changed but it was empty as most people were hiding from the rain. I had no idea why. We just decided to jump in, and yes it was cold but refreshing!

We found a French bakery on the edge of town and greedily are all the bread and pastry’s I could get my hands on. As the dark approached we headed back to the hostel looking for a party for the night. We had a few drinks at the bar and were invited out to the towns only club with the girls that worked on reception. There were some duos playing live and a lot of reggaetΓ³n and salsa so I tried my hand at dancing again. I still didn’t have the grove.

The next day we had a slow start and headed out for pizza in the morning before heading out on a hike. I can’t remember where we were headed now but we didn’t make it and decided to head back before it became too dark. It was beautiful.

It started to rain a little and we took refuge at a shop where I drank a coke. There seemed to be an abundance of animals. There was a parrot and dogs trying to chase off the thunder. The shot where they are all looking is the best as they were all looking for it. As I was taking photos a cat decided that my bag was a good bed. When we walked away we realised there were two parrots chatting, of course in Spanish, and as the little dog was running around they kept saying “the dogs are coming!” which I loved.

We had decided to move on the next day so went out for some Turkish food and had an early night. The food in Minca is delicious and there is a lot of choice. It’s an interesting place that’s a mix of tourists and locals and half in each world. It probably wouldn’t have been on the map about 10 years ago.

Our next stop was Cartagena a four to five hour bus ride from Santa Marta. So we headed back there for one last time but this time straight to the main bus terminal. We arrived and took a taxi to the hostel which seemed to take forever and the roads outside of the bus terminal are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. That night we walked around the centre of town which is beautiful and people watched on the towns walls.

Cartagena is an interesting place. It has a lot of money and is full of US tourists as well as there being very poor areas. The next day we went on a boat tour and I tried snorkelling for the first time. This is where I learnt that I should really wear water shoes and how hard it can be to stand up in the sea. It was fun and we spent some time at the beach before heading back.

The whole city is full of restaurants so you can really take your pick and that night we went out to a seafood restaurant and I ate as many prawns as humanly possible before going drinking and dancing.

The next day I had a late breakfast before realign I was hungover and couldn’t really do anything. We ended up going to the mall where I brought some new clothes I desperately needed. I knew the clothes I’d been wearing for 10 months were is a bad state but I hadn’t realised how much and I’d not really packed much for the beach which was starting to show. I had ice cream and went to the cinema. I was actually in heaven as it was normal life again.

The next day it was time to do something cultural so we jumped on one of the city tours. It seemed that everyone in the city was on a tour this morning and I couldn’t believe how many people had paid for a private one. There was so much money here. Still the city was beautiful.

In the afternoon we decided to visit the historic fort and ended up there for the sunset.

The following day we headed down to where all the tall buildings were for a day at the beach. We rented an umbrella so I could keep my precious skin out of the sun and delved into one of my books which I’d been neglecting. This wasn’t really made possible by people trying to sell me anything and everything under the sun. Angela managed to order us some Thai food to the beach which we had tried before, after we saw some others with pizza on the beach. However we found a Domino’s a few streets away which is where they must have found it. The sunset was beautiful and as it turned dark we went back to the town.

It was Angela’s last night so we went out dancing in a much busier town and did a little shopping in the morning before having a burger and saying our goodbyes. I fund it quite emotional as it was the longest that I’d travelled with one person and I was on my own again with one night to spend in the city. I was also pretty exhausted so I swapped hostels, went and had a shitty chicken burger and then  went to bed early ready to head to San Andres the next day.

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