Bogota (Santuario de Monserrate)

Our flight from Cartagena to Bogota went smoothly. The last day in Cartagena I got sick for the 3rd time. Horrible stomach ache, diarrhea, headache, weak, and was freezing. It was the sickest I had been on this trip, as I laid in bed I contemplated going to the hospital if it got any worst.

I had some travelers diarrhea pills (antibiotic?) So I took one of those. I woke up an hour later sweating because I had so many layers on. My chills were gone and my stomach ache was much less. I had waves of stomach pains for the next few days. Katie was soon to follow, and not far behind was Jeremy. We pretty much slept most of the day for the next two days. Our (flu?) Was followed by a cold.

Bogota is also very high in elevation so that also could have contributed to our tiredness and sickness.

There was a gold museum that we heard both good and bad things about, which we didn’t end up making it to.

We did head up to Santuario de Monserrate, which was a church with a view of the city. We were told it was about a 50 minute hike to the top.

We walked from our hostel and found it a little tricky to get to. We started to cut up a hill but two women there told us not to because it was peligroso (dangerous)

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I wanted to hike up but Jeremy and Chris didn’t so we took the cable car. It was just over 7k pesos.

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At the top we went inside the church

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And looked at the views

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I forced Jeremy and Chris to hike down even though they wanted to take the cable car.

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It took us about 45 minutes or so and was stairs the whole way.

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We reached the bottom and took a cab back to our hostel

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We went out a couple nights, but it was completely dead since we went out on a Sunday and Monday. Apparently Tuesday is “Gringo Tuesday” but I am going to be gone for that.

I found Bogota very sketchy. There were cops everywhere around where we were staying and some armed guard. When we walked in the streets at night they were vacant besides beggars and disheveled drug dealers that would follow us around and wouldn’t listen when we said no. For this reason we caught a cab back from the bar.

My flight was 1030 am the next morning. Before I checked in I had to get something stamped regarding a departure tax I believe. It was $35 but I didn’t have to pay since I think it was included in my ticket from Kayak.

I went through the normal customs drills if I had been given any luggage, the purpose of my trip, etc.

At security, both my bags were searched. Once boarding the airplane, when I said yes I had liquids again my bags were searched followed by a body search and shoe search

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Santa Marta/Tagonga/Tayrona

As soon as we were done with the kite surfing lessons, we headed out to Santa Marta. Santa Marta is a city about 4 hours away.

Instead of catching a cab to the bus terminal, then catching a bus, we decided it was easier and around the same price to catch a mini bus that would pick us right up from our hostel for $40000 each.
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The ride was fairly comfortable on a Mercedes bus with AC.

We arrived at our hostel in Santa Marta, which we were told as an old cartel house. It was in a nice area, reminded me of the hostel in Medellin. Very nice hostel with hammocks everywhere and a pool.
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We took a ride to the nearby “crappy beach” which was actually a very nice beach.

We hung out here for a couple hours and watched the sunset.

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The hostel looked like it had a lot of potential, but when we were there it was pretty much empty. Chris and Jeremy had heard that a nearby town 20 minutes away named Tongonga was the place to be.

So, we caught cab over the hill to Tagonga.

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Tagonga was much smaller, and everyone liked it better. Very beautiful. There was one main club that everyone went to that was a good time. When we got there we definitely had our guard down as it seemed so chill and relaxed. We talked to 4 Argentinian girls that said they had been robbed right down the road and were scared to go out now, and we were wondering how they managed to get robbed.

However, after spending a little more time in the area, it definitely started seeming sketchy. Everyone you walked past would ask from the shadows if you wanted to buy drugs. They were selling every type of drug you could think of, from acid to meth.

One day on the beach the cops randomly asked to pat us down, which sketched us out but nothing came of it.

The first day we were there, we decided to hike a path along the side of a hill we saw some others in the distance doing.
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There were spectacular views, the town was beautiful.
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At one point we hiked down to the beach and there were hundreds of these weird things I have never seen before, almost like snail fish. Well, exactly like a snail fish.
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All the garbage here really bothered me. There was trash everywhere in the water, in the woods, on the streets. These people just destroyed a beautiful place. I couldn’t understand how people could live in such a beautiful place and just carelessly trash where they live. Where is the pride?
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While in Tagonga we also went on a diving trip.

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The cost was 100k per person, but the snorkelers got to go for free.

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The diving really wasn’t anything special; we went on two dives, but we didn’t see too many fish or anything on either. The second dive the something was definitely up with the air because it tasted really funny and gave me heartburn. We thought maybe rusty tanks?

From Tagonga, we headed to Tayrona National Park. We read this park is the #2 most visited park in Colombia and on the trip advisor top 10 list.

We couldn’t find too much information on it, so we pretty much went off the information we got from other travelers.

We had been given 3 options to get there:

One was a 40 minute boat ride directly from Tagonga. The second option was taking a cab to the bus station in Santa Marta then catching a public bus to the park (cheapest). The third option was to catch a private van from Tagonga to the park which costed us 17k and we opted for this option.

At ten in the morning we caught a bus to the main entrance of the park.
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We had read that one of us in the group had to bring a passport, but luckily we all did just in case (except Kody, who was able to get in anyhow).

We had to pay a steep 37k entrance fee to get in, where the van dropped us off in the lot.

It was to be a 2 hour hike to Cabo San Juan Del Guia where we had planned to go.

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The trail was pretty easy to follow, we weren’t that well prepared so didn’t have a map or anything. Luckily it was pretty much all one path that would go through each little beach camping area.
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The first hour of the hike was through the jungle, until we started to be able to see the ocean.

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It was absolutely stunning; we were told that these were the most beautiful beaches in the world and I wouldn’t argue it.

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We were amused by some ants that would create distinct paths along the ground or across logs carrying pieces of vegetation with them

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Part of the hike was directly along the beach which was very hot

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Which brought us to more beautiful beaches..

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At all the 3 or so camps we hiked through on the way to San Juan, there were options to sleep. However we were told to head straight to San Juan since it was the best beach, and I noticed the other beaches you couldn’t swim at since there were signs up that there was a dangerous rip.

Our two hour hike turned into 3 or 4 hours after our run in with the national police.

We had stopped to have a smoke at a picnic table in one of the parks along the way. It was so tranquil and relaxed here, we had not a worry in the world. Out of nowhere, we see someone marching straight towards our table; it was the national police. He asked if we had anymore and we cooperated and gave it to him. He told us to come with him.

At this point, we were all shitting ourselves and didn’t know what was going to happen. He started off telling us that we had to leave the park. That sure was a bummer as we had only been there a couple hours, but could be worst. Then he started telling us we were going to have to leave the country, that he would bring us back into the town to the station. We started asking questions, as to where we were going to go, where we would fly from.. We all had trouble understanding as everything was in spanish. After this, he started telling us we were going to have to go to prison for 2-3 years.

He went on for a long time, and we were convinced at a minimum we were going to have to leave the country. After a while, he says he is going to give us a break, how much do we want to pay? Kody had suggested 50k each which seemed more than reasonable. Unfortunately, Katie was still scared and had just gone to the ATM, so he ended up robbing us of 250k or so.

After this, we were pretty shaken up. We all now look at the cops here differently, who would have thought that we would end up getting robbed by a cop? I used to think of them as nice helpful people to be trusted, as they always helped us in many other situations. Now I look at them like sketchy people on the corner.

We ended up getting to our camp around 4 or so in the afternoon.

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This place was obviously stunningly beautiful, not able to show in pictures. There were tents set up that you could rent (35k a tent), or hammocks in a hut up on a hill (30k/night)
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Or the lower hammocks inland off the beach, for 25k a night. We were told to get there early to get a hammock, but with our incident we were late. The top hammocks looked incredible in the hut on the hill but they were closed so we slept on the lower hammocks. It was freezing there at night and we were all under dressed. Not so much cold (high 50’s, low 60s?), but very windy, I woke up several times because I was so cold.

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We did some exploring checking out up on the hill and walking up and down the beach

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We ate dinner there, they had set times for breakfast lunch and dinner with pretty reasonable prices. There were a lot of people at this place, probably 150 or so just in our camp, I was surprised. But it was a big area so did not seem overly crowded.

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The next day we just kind of hung out, did some short hikes.

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We decided to take the boat back, so we could spend a little more time on the beach. The boat left at 4:30 and took 40 minutes.

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It was a very quick ride and scenic. Pretty rough swells.

Cartagena Day 2-6

We caught a flight from Medellin to Cartagena on the Carribean coast.

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The airport was really nice and the flight from Medellin to Cartagena to Bogota only ran us 175 each. Apparently you can get them even cheaper.

We landed after an hour ten minutes. We flew Taca airlines which had really nice comfy planes.

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We hadn’t reserved a hostel so just asked the cab driver to bring us to “old city” where we heard all the travelers stayed.

We found a relatively cheap hostel for 30k/night right on the main drag. This street was very busy and little did we know we had arrived on the biggest party night of the week, Wednesday night.

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There was a live reggae band and we went all out, didn’t get back til 4am and it was still going strong when we left.

Our room was literally on the main drag and our balcony faced the road. Between the people, music, and cabs beeping we did not get very good sleep.

The next day we woke up and wanted to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. We took a stroll through the touristy plaza. Apparently cruise ships frequent here.

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We walked towards the beach and saw some of the wall that borders the city. The city used to be always attacked by Carribean pirates so they had to defend themselves.

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We got to the beach, a small one just on the side of the road and went swimming.

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Apparently this was not allowed and we had a brief run in with the cops but they didn’t give us too much trouble.

We walked to the mall right down the road which was very modern and nice.

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It was weird walking from the completely third world outside into this super modern nice first world mall. We had our feet up and a cop yelled at us for having our feet up right away. I am starting to get the impression that these people really take pride in the few nice things that they do have. Back in Medellin we saw them scraping up gum from the marble in front of their modern museum and cleaning out the sidewalk drains.

After leaving the mall we had a couple nice views of the city while crossing the bridge.

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I could not believe the amount of garbage in the water and on the shores here. Disgusting and smelled; this water was incredibly polluted.

We heard from a couple kids that their friend was jumped and robbed by 2 cops over this same bridge, messed up.

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Cartagena seemed relatively safe over all. There were a lot of drug dealers and some beggars but nothing too outside the norm, we felt pretty comfortable here.  

Also on the walk from the mall there was the main fortress called Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. We haven’t gone in yet because we simply didn’t have time with everything else we were doing. By the time we got back everyday it was late and the fortress closed at 5:30. The entrance fee was $18k.

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We decided to just take a walk around it and did some exploring. Pretty impressive structure. It is actually a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Another interesting thing was this is where the whole thing went down with the prostitutes and secret service. We had heard there were prostitutes here, but hadn’t seen any. We slowly started figuring out they were mixed in with everyone else. At any given time a good chunk of the girls in the clubs were prostitutes. They dressed just like every other girl and fit right in so you couldnt tell the difference. After a while we assumed that any girl that showed any amount of interest was a prostitute.

There was one square in particular we spent a lot of time. It was extremely laid back and it seemed to be a gathering area for the local community. Every night everyone would sit around this square and there sometimes was dancing, performances, always some sort of good time. It was only a few blocks from the main drag.

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The last night in Cartagena our friend we had met back in Misahualli met up with us, Katie. She brought with her a friend she met in Bogota, Kody, another Canadian. In the square that night we hung out with some people we met from Vancouver.

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The majority of our time here we spent taking kite surfing lessons. We found place that would give us 4 days of lessons, two hours each day, for 550k. The place we took the lessons was at a more expensive area about 20 minutes north. The hotels in this area were top top end.

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For the next four days we went out every night, would wake up to catch a cab, grab breakfast at a place called the C store, then hangout in the tent for 15 or 20 minutes before the lesson.

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The first day we went out we thought we were starting at 8:30, but it turns out the wind doesn’t pick up at this beach until 11 or 12, so we napped in the grass in front of one of the hotels.

The first days of the lessons, we learned to set up the kites

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and how to control them in the air.

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We also used the kites to do a little “body dragging” in the water without the boards.

The second day of lessons they put us straight on the board in the water. We did a lot of falling.

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The third day we were able to pretty much get up on the boards, and even rode for some short distances. The fourth day I popped a kite and had a pretty frustrating day, but did figure out how to go back and forth in both directions. Every day we had so much fun regardless of how we did, it is such a fun sport, I am thinking about buying a kite board or getting lessons at home.

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Cartagena

We caught a flight from Medellin to Cartagena on the Carribean coast.

The airport was really nice and the flight from Medellin to Cartagena to Bogota only ran us 175 each. Apparently you can get them even cheaper.

We landed after an hour ten minutes. We flew Taca airlines which had really nice comfy planes.

We hadn’t reserved a hostel so just asked the cab driver to bring us to “old city” where we heard all the travelers stayed.

We found a relatively cheap hostel for 30k/night right on the main drag. This street was very busy and little did we know we had arrived on the biggest party night of the week, Wednesday night.

There was a live reggae band and we went all out, didn’t get back til 4am and it was still going strong when we left.

Our room was literally on the main drag and our balcony faced the road. Between the people, music, and cabs beeping we did not get very good sleep.

The next day we woke up and wanted to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. We took a stroll through the touristy plaza. Apparently cruise ships frequent here.

We walked towards the beach and saw some of the wall that borders the city. The city used to be always attacked by Carribean pirates so they had to defend themselves.

We got to the beach, a small one just on the side of the road and went swimming.

Apparently this was not allowed and we had a brief run in with the cops but they didn’t give us too much trouble.

We walked to the mall right down the road which was very modern and nice.

It was weird walking from the completely third world outside into this super modern nice first world mall. We had our feet up and a cop yelled at us for having our feet up right away. I am starting to get the impression that these people really take pride in the few nice things that they do have. Back in Medellin we saw them scraping up gum from the marble in front of their modern museum and cleaning out the sidewalk drains.

After leaving the mall we had a couple nice views of the city while crossing the bridge.

I could not believe the amount of garbage in the water and on the shores here. Disgusting and smelled; this water was incredibly polluted.

We heard from a couple kids that their friend was jumped and robbed by 2 cops over this same bridge, messed up.

Cartagena seemed relatively safe over all. There were a lot of drug dealers and some beggars but nothing too outside the norm, we felt pretty comfortable here.  

Also on the walk from the mall there was the main fortress called Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. We haven’t gone in yet because we simply didn’t have time with everything else we were doing. By the time we got back everyday it was late and the fortress closed at 5:30. The entrance fee was $18k.

We decided to just take a walk around it and did some exploring. Pretty impressive structure. It is actually a UNESCO world heritage site.

Another interesting thing was this is where the whole thing went down with the prostitutes and secret service. We had heard there were prostitutes here, but hadn’t seen any. We slowly started figuring out they were mixed in with everyone else. At any given time a good chunk of the girls in the clubs were prostitutes. They dressed just like every other girl and fit right in so you couldnt tell the difference. After a while we assumed that any girl that showed any amount of interest was a prostitute.

There was one square in particular we spent a lot of time. It was extremely laid back and it seemed to be a gathering area for the local community. Every night everyone would sit around this square and there sometimes was dancing, performances, always some sort of good time. It was only a few blocks from the main drag.

The last night in Cartagena our friend we had met back in Misahualli met up with us, Katie. She brought with her a friend she met in Bogota, Kody, another Canadian. In the square that night we hung out with some people we met from Vancouver.

The majority of our time here we spent taking kite surfing lessons. We found place that would give us 4 days of lessons, two hours each day, for 550k. The place we took the lessons was at a more expensive area about 20 minutes north. The hotels in this area were top, top end.