Thursday, December 10, 2009

Coke, Weed & Speed, Volcanic Mud Baths, Super Mario and Keyon...Whew! Cartagena

Hello Party People,

Its been a long time since our last update but Gemma and I have put in alot of internet cafe time this week and we are getting caught up!

Ahhhh Cartagena. What a wonderful place. When people ask us how long we´ve been traveling (nearly seven months now for me and six months together!) they often want to know where our favorite places were and Cartagena will always be on that list. We absolutely loved it here. It was the first time we stayed anywhere longer than 4 nights (which is crazy but speaks to how much we loved it). We stayed here nearly two weeks.

The first week we were waiting on my good friend Keyon to arrive from California (More on him later). Keyon and I met while working together in London.

Cartagena is on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia and has a very old colonial section of town that is really charming and pleasant to stroll about. We mostly wandered through the beautiful streets soaking up the ambiance and enjoying the sunshine. We also found a statue by our favorite Colombian artist Botero.

We took a boat trip one day through some nearby mangroves which Gemma had never seen before and I´d only been through maybe once before in Costa Rica. Its really wild seeing the roots of trees rise up out of the water before converging on the trunk a few feet above.
In addition to being quite charming, Cartagena also has to be by far the easiest place to buy drugs in the world. I don´t consider myself an expert on the matter but I just can´t imagine it being easier anywhere else. You literally can not go anywhere in this city without being offered you name it and no matter how many times you turn them down they relentlessly follow you and push them on you. One day I was walking to the store to buy some last minute veggies for lunch and had a man following me while yelling at me all the various types of drugs he had for sale. ¨What do you need? What do you need? I´ve got Coke, Weed, Speed, What you need?¨ After trying to ignore his persistant sales pitch I finally turned around to the guy and yelled I need tomatoes, you got any tomatoes?!¨ Its a crazy place full of crazy characters.
Speaking of....Introducing Super Mario:

Super Mario became our friend one night as we were heading out and into the old colonial part of town where most of the nightlife is. Super Mario was another ¨What you need¨kind of character but after we assured him we didn´t need any drugs he offered to show us around to some of the better bars/clubs in town. He was a really funny guy and when I asked him where he learned to speak English so well he told me ¨Around the tree.¨ So if you need a good guide upon your next visit look for Super Mario around the tree outside the gate to the old town.

We had some of the best nights out of our entire trip in Cartagena and having Keyon along with us definitely helped. The kid is hilarious. One of our favorite ongoing conversations with Keyon was all the various things his ex-wife wouldn´t do (see next post). One night when we couldn´t look at any more alcohol we went to see the Twilight movie. Despite Keyon´s warning that the first one was terrible, the trailers showing the wolf and vampire fights roped me in. My God it was the worst movie I´ve ever seen! Are you kidding me with some of those lines? And why are they sooo depressed the entire movie? Biggest regret of the trip so far.

Keyon and I are both big carnivores and were drooling over these huge slabs of meat at the first steakhouse we went to. It should also be noted Gemma is slowly becoming a fellow carnivore who actually suggests we buy sausage at the store for dinner. I´m so proud.
One night we ended up in a bar that had their urinials right in the middle of the bar. I thought about only putting the pic of Keyon up but had to play fair.

Just to give you an idea of how good Cartagena is, the pic below on the beach was taken right outside the hospital. Unfortunately Gemma´s food poisoning from Bolivia came back and we had to visit our second hospital in South America. Keyon and I waited with her for nearly four hours in the hospital but did sneak out a couple times to sit on the beach. The pic below is the sun setting in the ¨hospital waiting room.¨
About an hour and a half outside Cartagena is the 15 meter high Volcan de Lodo El Totumo. It really is a volcano despite it looking a bit more like a large mound of mud. But instead of spewing lava and ash, it spews mud caused by the pressure of gases emited by decaying organic matter underground.
It was a really unique experience. I can´t say I´ve ever had a mud bath in a volcano until now. The mud is really thick and creamy. You can´t stand or walk in it so a worker pushes your feet to glide you on your back to another worker who, for a small tip, gives you a massage. Life is tough sometimes.

Getting out of the mudbath isn´t so easy when you´re dripping wet in mud, and considering I´ve lost all of my beer weight on this trip my swimsuit is a bit loose these days. When I started climbing up the ladder to get out, my swimsuit stayed stuck in the mud and the rest of the bathers were given a clear shot of my backside.

After you climb down the volcano there is a short walk to a lake where for a small tip, Colombian women help you get the mud off. It was a bit of a shock when they started shouting ¨Naked, Naked¨and telling us to take off our swimsuits so they could wash them. Gemma´s lady literally ripped her bikini off without warning and as she was less than five feet away from Keyon and I, it gave her quite a surprise.
Pic below is someone getting a quick rubdown in the shade.

After Keyon had seen most of Cartagena we took him to Taganga for a little rest and relaxation on the beach. He quickly found a spot in the water to listen to his ipod and worry Gemma and I that he´d somehow electricute himself when a wave splashed over his ipod.

The scenery and sunsets there are top notch.
For the next two days we lived off these cheese arepas and Aguila beer.
We got alot of reading done on the beach and rested up before heading off to start our Venezuelan adventure. Did I say adventure, because I meant Nightmare. More to come in the next post.

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