LASA Tour 2009-10
Fri 7 Aug 2009 - Mon 5 Oct 2009 19 °C
Cartagena & Barranquilla
The flight to Cartagena was at 23:00 on a tiny plane that seats about 30. I don't like flying especially these tiny planes. The flight wasn't too bumpy but was glad when we landed as I could see thunder storms in the distance.
After finding a cheap room I walked down the street into the old town where there were a lot of bars. Had a couple of beers and got embarrased by an old bloke who forced me to dance with some girl. I am not a good dancer, she left soon afterwards. Thanks old man! I am quite capable of embarrasing myself without help.
The next day I took a three hour bus ride to Barranquilla as there was a football match on (Shakira doesn't live here anymore unfotunately as I think I would of had a chance). I got to the stadium and there was no game on. I checked with a couple of the locals who confirmed this. I couldn't believe it as my internet source is pretty acurate. I returned to Cartagena and saw on the news that Barranquilla FC had won 5-0. How strange, I then realised I had gone to the major team from that citys ground, Junior - what a muppet.
They have motorbikes which give you a lift like a taxi service. It's a bit scary as they dodge the traffic and the helps don't always have straps!
That night had some live local music on in the main plaza of the historical town, I met a bloke called Alfredo who I hung around with. The next day we visited the fortress Castillo De San Felipe then went to the stadium and watched Real Cartagena v Equidad. The following couple of days I spent walking around the historical town and also along the seafront all the way around the bay with the new tall holiday apartments for the rich.
I returned to Barranquilla for a day. This time I went to the right ground. I was really gutted as Carlos "Pibe" Valderrama was at the game and I didn't have my camera, patted him on the back but didn't mention the hair.
The bus ride took 13 hours, wearing shorts and a T-Shirt was not a good idea as the aircon made it freezing. At first I stayed in the Black Sheep Hostel, this was a large place with about 50 people. I'm not a fan of busy hostels but one day they cooked a great BBQ.
My first weekend I went out with a local lady called Liliana. We went on the cable cars up to Santo Domingo library. This area used to be extremley violent with lots of killings between the police and the drug gangs, now it's a lot safer these past 10 years. Here you can pay a couple of young local lads who tell the whole story of the area and even the dates of the shootings. Afterwards I managed to get Liliana to go to a football match even though it was her teams local rivals Deportivo Medellin, she is a fan of Nacional. At the game I discovered that in Colombia they call coffee tinto, this usually is said for red wine. I thought it was a bit strange some bloke walking round selling little cups of red wine.
On one day, with her daughter Isabel, we visited the cultural centre that had different scientific activities, an aquarium and a froguarim! (not sure what the name is but there was lots of different kinds of reptiles and frogs from around Colombia).
I moved into a cheap but clean hotel in the downtown area. It is not recommended to stay here as it's dangerous at night. Fortunately the hotel was next to a Kokoriko, Colombian version of KFC, so I didn't need to walk around at night although by the second week I did but didn't dare go in any of the dodgy looking bars - maybe next time!
Another day I took her son Eduard to a nearby town called Rionegro, where Pablo Escobar was born, to watch a game of football. Lucky he came as the match was being played in another town called La Ceja as the ground was being renovated, anyway got to the game in time.
I spent a couple of days exploring either side of Medellin which is surrounded by mountains. From here you can get great views. It's also possible to do handgliding but I'm too scared of heights.
I also went to Museo De Antioquia with Liliana and Isabel. Here they display many paintings from Fernando Botero whose style is to make everything fat. The art looks great, I tried to take a few photos but the staff were following me around making sure that I didn't. Outside in the square there are also sculptures of some of his art. I probably can't afford to buy any of his work, not yet any how.
Medellin is a fantastic city. I am adding it to my list of places I could live (providing I learn Spanish).
Just an hour and a half away is Guatape which is a giant rock which you can climb and get a great view of the surrounding lakes. It's an amazing site. When walking up the stairs which have been made into the side of it I saw a sign say deviso but I thought there can't be a diversion on a stairway so continued climbing. Near the top they were still building the steps so I had to go all the way down and use the other stairway.
The bus ride to Bogota was only 9 hours. So after travelling through the night I got there and took a taxi to a friend called Johana's parents house where I am staying. I met my Colombian mum, mama Cecilia. She is great, spoiling me all the time bringing me regular cups of tea. The first day of arrival and I was taken out by David and his friend Tatta to some local shopping centres and then on to a pub called Bogota Beer Company. That night we went to a football match at the El Campin Stadium. That weekend David, his girlfriend Sandra and their friends took me out drinking. I didn't get too drunk unlike the others which was lucky as the next day Papa Moises drove us to Nemocon which has an old salt mine which you can explore.
One weekend I lined up 3 games of football in 3 days in 3 different cities. Luckily Papa Moises drove me. We visited Ibague, Pereira and Armenia. They have a second home in Armenia so we could stay there. This area is beautiful with surrounding hills and mountains. The road from Ibague to Armenia is a nightmare, it takes over 3 hours even though it's only 30 miles. The road is always twisting and turning up and down the hills and there are loadsa slow moving lorrys to overtake. I am glad I wasn't driving.
Another time I went to Soacha which is a real dodgy part just south of Bogota. A president was assasinated there in 1989. Lot's of para military groups and supporters there, but well there was a football match on so I thought why not. For the first time in ages I actually didn't have company at a match.
Bogota also has huge hills running along side it. I went with a friend called Angela and her 2 friends Ron and Frank. You take a steep kinda train thingy type up to the top where you get great views of the city. On the way down they crammed far too many people into a cable car. We also went to a club one night which is on the 42nd floor. All this is not good for my fear of heights!
I worked out a good trip where I could get in a few games of football and visit Venezuela then return which would solve my visa problem as my 60 days in Colombia were nearly up. I took a bus through the night to Bucaramanga but instead of dropping me off at the terminal I was left on a main road at 5am! I got a taxi but the driver must of had an IQ of 1. My Spanish aint great but he was drving me all round town and I just wanted a cheap hotel. Later that day I went to the nearby town of Floridablanca but the game was being played in Bucaramanga so I quickly returned. At the ground they wasn't going to let me in saying I needed a ticket but no one was in the ticket office. Luckily a couple of locals were shouting something at the security man telling him to let me in without a ticket and he did, great - I saved about £1.75.
I got the bus to Cucuta, the views were fantastic on the way. Then a taxi near to where the border control is. I got stamped out of Colombia and walked across the bridge into Venezuela. It was really windy which was a clue to what was going to happen. At the control point the man wouldn't stamp my passport, he kept saying something about going into town. I couldn't really understand him and we just kept shouting at each other louder and louder. In the end I gave up and walked into town. There was a strike on so I had to take a shared taxi to San Cristobal. On the main road was a check point and the soldier wouldn't let me pass because my passport wasn't stamped. I kept telling him I tried to get it stamped. I think I was close to tears, this worked as he took me to the side checked all my luggage then let me pass. What a softy! I had to find another taxi though as my one hadn't waited. In San Cristobal I couldn't find a bank cashpoint that would except my card. I had this problem last time I visited so should of remembered. I managed to get some money out eventually, thanks Banco Provincial!
I stayed in a cheap hotel, along with it's cockroaches. I had this gecko lizzard type animal help me during the night in killing them, thanks my little green bud! The next day I spent nearly 2 hours walking round with my luggage trying to find a cheap hotel near the Stadium. They were all pricey even for England! I decided to get a bus back into town. At the bus stop while making conversation a local man told me the game was cancelled due to high winds bringing a floodlight crashing into the roof. Just perfect! The next bus that came along was for the terminal so I decide to cut me losses and head back.
At the Colombian border they wasn't going to let me re-enter as I didn't have an entry and exit stamp from Venezuela. He explained there was a building in the centre of the Venezuelan town where I get these, why not at the border like all the other countries? Not good organisation Mr Hugo Chavez! Back in Venezuela I found the building but they only wanted to give me an exit stamp, on came the crying spanish accent and again result as I got both stamps.
So I thought that was all the bad luck and just get the bus back to Mama Cecilia and Papa Moises and being spoiled again. The bus ride from Cucuta to Bogota takes 15 hours. The person sitting next to me was some drunk, I mean really drunk, old man. He kept banging into me and spitting on the floor also shouting out for no reason. How did they let him on the bus. Then one time he spat and it went all along my leg. I tried to push him on the floor so I could give him a beating but he was too strong for me and I couldn't budge him that much, remember I can't even beat up a monkey! I went to the front of the coach and told the co-driver I wasn't sitting in my seat anymore. I even managed to do it in a raised voice without sounding like I was gonna cry. At the next stop they moved a few people around and I got to sit at the front. I guess it's all part of the fun of travelling.