September 12th to 15th 2014
Round 2 at El Viajero Hostel in Cartagena put me into a room that had a balcony facing the street. Usually I get woken up by the morning sunlight streaming through non existent curtains or doors that don’t quite close properly. This morning I got the Colombian street version of the Lion King’s Circle of Life. One of the ladies selling fruit on the street had one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard, unfortunately it was at an inappropriate time of the morning. Imagine the opening vocals of the Circle of Life, and rather than whatever the normal lyrics are, replace them with the words of fruit: “Limoneeeees, Piñaaaa, manzanaaaaaa”. (lemons, pineapple, apple…)
The main activity of the day was trying to find a PDF version of Spanish textbook to print. Doesn’t sound that difficult, right? Wrong. To start with I couldn’t find any online textbooks that allowed me to download a PDF version of. Then I had the bright idea of getting a Kindle version of a text book (I don’t actually have a kindle) and printing that. So I created a kindle account and downloaded a book. Then I found out its copy protected so I needed to download something else to open the document in to remove that problem. Then I had to make it into a PDF… and then it only sort of worked L I took me until lunchtime to find what I wanted. In the end I didn’t even end up using the kindle document.
Went to lunch with Ed (English guy doing a Summer environmental program with frogs) and went to print to textbooks I’d downloaded. Again, this should have been a simple task of walking into a printing store, plugging in the USB and pressing print. It wasn’t. The guy serving me made all the Officeworks staff at home seem like employees’ of the month. He really had no idea what he was doing. I just wanted 2 pages per side, printed double sided. We were there for about an hour trying to work it out. He tried telling me their printer didn’t do double sided…that I’d have to print pages 1,2, 5,6,9,10 and so on, and then the remaining pages after that. Eventually I got what I wanted (well one of the 2 documents at least) and we went to get some fro-yo to celebrate the end of that painful experience. Yes, I’m super thrilled that there is a frozen yogurt store here. We were the only people in the store, but whatever, more fro-yo for me!
The next morning I had checked out of the hostel again and Ed and I attempted to get to Playa Blanca by bus. The night before I had asked the receptionist how to get the bus. She had said walk 2 streets down and take a bus to the left. When I asked again in the morning the morning receptionist told me walk 3 streets down and take a bus to the right. You can’t trust anyone here. Turns out the morning guy was right, and we got on a very empty bus to Pasacaballos. As we weren’t very sure exactly where we were going, we spent the journey looking out the window for signs that we were at least heading in the right direction. At one point, Ed pointed out that we were heading around a roundabout away from Barranquilla – good sign. All was well until he pointed out half an hour later that we were going through the same roundabout and exiting towards Barranquilla – now the wrong direction…and also, why had we just done a massive loop?? So confused.
Around an hour later we were dropped by the side of the road in some nothingness town; with many “Playa Blanca?” “Si, Playa Blanca” remarks made to us by each and every person within 10 metres of us. We were shuffled into a car parked by the side of the road, which, at the time had 2 guys smoking and chatting inside it. Apparently this was the collectivo that would take us to the beach. For 10,000 pesos each we were driven away from the town to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Not even kidding, I thought we were about to get murdered. We drove through some sort of dried up swap land, dirt path, around barbed wire fences and under a bridge…seriously, WTF. Turns out all that was just to get back on the road that the bridge was for so once we were back on a real road I started feeling better.
All up, the way we got to the beach this time took about the same amount of time as the tourist boat and was about a fifth of the price. We had a very average tasting lunch at one many stalls along the beach and then just chilled in beach chairs for the remainder of the afternoon. After Ed left on one of the afternoon boats I grabbed my newly printed Spanish exercise books and headed to the quiet end of the beach to try and study. I got through about half a chapter of language articles before getting distracted by the beautiful sunset.
Highlight of day 2 of being back at the beach was a jet ski ride. I ran into Ryan again while walking along the beach – I guess it’s kind of hard not to since the beach isn’t all the big. Turns out his name is Bryan, not Ryan…oops. Anyway, he recommended I try the jet skis (not sure if this was yet another example of beach people trying to help each other out and up sell anything and everything to the tourists). I hadn’t been on one before and I could just see myself falling off the ski, far out at sea, in front of the entire beach so wasn’t too keen on the idea. In the end, he went with me and we split the cost between us. It was really fun! And bonus, we didn’t fall off. I didn’t realise how wet you get from all the waves splashing on you! After he showed me how to drive the thing, I had a go and could barely see through all the water splashing on my eyes – lucky there’s not that many obstacles to hit in the middle of the ocean.
Don’t have much to say about the rest of my time there. Just that doing basically nothing while chilling at the beach is super relaxing and I love it. I could’ve stayed months there. Though Monday came around again and I started feeling a bit weird and out of place again. Still not many tourists around and next to zero English being spoken. So other than Bryan (when he wasn’t working) and the occasional English speaking day tripper, I only had myself to share my thoughts with.
I went to check what time the boat left and double confirmed that they said 2pm. Not 12, not 10, but exactly 2pm in the afternoon. Why does the same boat leave at a different time every single day?? I was not going to miss the boat again. Got the boat and again it made the stop at the island with the castle on it. I was not going to get conned into paying more than I needed this time. No way. The moment we got off the boat, the island guys started yapping away about god know what and leading us towards the restaurant. For some reason I wasn’t allowed to stay on the boat so I went with them. I told the guy following me that I didn’t want to eat. I even said it in Spanish. He got really confused. How could I possibly not want the amazing food they are providing me?? After the third time of me saying I was full and didn’t want anything, he went and got 2 other guys that spoke perhaps 2 more words of English than he did and I had to explain to them that I didn’t want to eat. So much confusion. Eventually I got out my book and started ignoring them.
When I saw that a few of the other tourists had finished their meals and were being led back to the boat (via a guided tour of the castles) I got up and tried to leave my guy behind. No such luck. Instantly he started telling me about the island and leading me towards the buildings. I think I remembered where the pier was so I very nearly ran to get away from him. It worked. I got back to the boat (which was in a different place to where we were dropped off) and didn’t have to part with any extra money. Win!
Back in Cartagena, I decided it was probably time to head to the next town as there was nothing else I wanted to see or do here. I went to the supermarket and bought myself a ticket on the overnight bus to Medellin leaving at 9.30pm that night. Randomly met Phil again (first person I had met when I arrived in Colombia) and chatted a bit before I had to start re-packing my bags. Decided to head to the terminal a bit earlier because I didn’t know what the traffic situation was going to be and also I hadn’t eaten anything all day! Yes, I had lied to the guy on the island and I hadn’t eaten breakfast because I don’t particularly like scrambled eggs and arepas. By the time I arrived at the terminal nothing was open. All the restaurants had shut for the night. So my one and only meal of the day consisted of a mars bar, pack of chips and bottle of water. Delicious.
The bus I took was the same company as the previous overnight bus I had taken to get to the coast. It was comfortable, had wi-fi, sufficient leg room and was overly air-conditioned. Fell asleep pretty quickly. Good bye Caribbean Coast – it’s been fun, I’m going to miss the warm weather and beaches.