The Trip 2013 – Cartagena to Taganga

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Cartagena to Taganga. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

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After 10 days up in the chilly hills I was looking forward to getting down to the coast and enjoying some of the sun and beach again. First up was the ancient colonial town of Cartagena. This place is a dichotomy of poverty and wealth thanks to the large number of western tourists that visit the city.

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The first couple of days I stayed in a party hostel and so spent most of my time drinking and not sleeping. I did take a break at one point though to visit the famous ‘Mud Volcano’.

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Inside of it is a big hole that at the bottom is filled with mud. You ease your self down a mud slicked ladder until you reach the grey goop.

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There were already a load of people wallowing around when I got in. It was almost impossible to move in there so you had to grab onto whatever body part is available to move yourself about.

Apparently the mud goes down for 2km into the earth. The mud was so buoyant that I couldn’t actually go down to see how far it went. I did stick my head under though which in hindsight was a poor idea as my hands were covered in mud too so I couldn’t remove the insidious stuff from my eyes and mouth.

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After the parties I decided I needed to rest for a little while so I shut myself away in a hotel. I spent the days chilling out and exploring more of the city. On the sunday I walked along the wall to watch the sunset and watch hundreds of people flying kites.

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After my days of solitude I was ready to enter the fray again. This time I had chosen a different hostel called the Calamari which turned out to have the nicest dorm room I had ever stayed in.

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In the evening I went out to meet Anna my German friend from the San Blas islands in Panama.

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We went to a German / Colombian film evening and watched a German movie with Spanish subtitles. Seeings as I speak neither German nor Spanish I was able to pick up a fair bit of what was going on.

After the movie we headed to a square where loads of people hang out and drink. We were sat there chatting when a drunk dodgy looking Colombian shuffles over and sits behind us. I had my eye on him so when after 10 minutes he leans over throws some posters over my knee I was expecting something. Sure enough he swipes my camera, throwing it between his legs. I looked at him directly in the eyes and said “NO. Give me that back. NO”, he feigns confusion at first before finally giving me my camera back. Lesson learnt there, always have your wits about you.

The following day I went with two awesome Germans, Andrea and Edhita to the nearest nice beach to Cartagena, Playa Blanca.

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Getting there was a hot sweaty and confusing episode. We did get to see some pretty things along the way but I think we would rather have gone straight to the beach rather than ride around in a boat for hours.

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The following day I took off up the coast to the next large city of Santa Marta. I have mixed feelings about that place, I loved the hostel I stayed at, La Brisa Loca;

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But the city itself was kind of sketchy and industrial. I walked along the beach one day with an American friend I had made called Molly, we saw some interesting things along the way..

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Throughout my time at the baking hot coast I made frequent stops to the inexpensive juice vendors that were scattered all over the city. Theres nothing quite like a cup of ice cold lime juice when you are sweating buckets.

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We stopped for lunch at a small cafe, I decided to go for a ‘scissor kick’ empinada.

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After a few days of heavy partying in Santa Marta I was ready to move on. I had booked to do a three day Scuba diving course in the town just over the hill called Taganga so I headed over there.

My hostel was called ‘La Tortuga’ because of the friendly little reptile that patrolled the premises.

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Taganga used to be a small fishing village before it started to get taken over by tourists.

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Its known as being quite sketchy at night, I didnt have any problems tho I did confine myself to either the beachfront or the hostel most of the time.

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I got my ass whooped in chess by the owner of one of the restaurants one night.

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The main reason I was there though was to take advantage of the excellent and cheap Scuba diving. After one day of training and confined water practice in the pool I was ready to go out into the ocean with my excellent instructor Alejendra.

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We saw some awesome things down there on the reef.

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Seeing all the sea life was great but the thing I enjoyed the most was the freedom of movement that the scuba diving afforded. I couldnt get enough of simply simming upsidown. It got to the point that Alejandra was calling me ‘Trumpet Boy’ as I was immitating the Trumpet Fish so much.

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The evenings were mostly spent chilling at the hostel. I shared my small 3-man dorm with a pair of awesome Sweeds called Alex and Lisa.

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They made my stay at the hostel so much more enjoyable than it would have been by myself. They also introduced me to the rather excellent sport of Free Diving, but more on that in the next post!

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The Trip 2013 – Bogota to Medellin

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Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Bogota to Medellin. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

Well finally I arrived on the South American continent in early August. I flew in from Panama City to Bogota, the capital of Colombia.

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I stayed at the excellent Masaya hostel in the Candelaria district of the city. Definitely one of the best kept hostels I had stayed at so far.

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I spent the first couple of days simply wandering around the city trying to get a feel for the place and what to expect from Colombia over the next couple of months.

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To me the city seemed to be a rather dirty and dusty concrete jungle lacking much in the way of any greenery. On thing they did have however is the Bogota Beer Company (BBC) which sold some of the best beer I had had in a while.

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The following day I took a trip to Zipiquiera, a small town about an hour outside of Bogota.

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The main reason for going to Zipiquira is to visit the cathedral which is buried deep in an old salt mine.

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I went there with with a new friend, Kaylee, I had made in the hostel.

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It was a pretty impressive place.

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Outside of the mine was a large climbing wall that I simply had to have a go on.

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My final day in Bogota was spent exploring the Fernando Botero museum. He is a rather distinctive artist who depicts people and things really fat

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The museum wasnt just purely Botero however and hosted a number of other works of art

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I enjoyed my time in Bogota but after a few days there I was looking forward to moving on.

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Next up was Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia. To get there I took what was supposed to be a 9 hour bus journey. It turned out to be more like 12 thanks to a large landslide that blocked the road for several hours.

On the bus I managed to steal some of the driver’s interesting fruit. They were sweet but slimy in texture.

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It was the festival of flowers all week in Medellin which meant flowers, parties and parades such as the car parade I stood on the side of the road and watched go by.

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I saw yet another person who must have trouble seeing the screen on their tablet.

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Because of the festival we had to visit the botanical gardens.

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There was go much to take pictures of there.

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But the real attraction was the special flower exhibit.

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The following day I decided to take the cable car up to Santa Domingo.

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For most of my time in Medellin I was with my french friend Claire whom I had met on the bus from Bogota, a nicer person you could not meet!

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I decided to try one of the strange cake / biscuit things I had seen some people eating.

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It was a strange combination of cracker, coconut, white chocolate, cheese.

The final day was spent at the museum in the middle of Medellin.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bogota and Medellin but I was looking forward to getting back to the coast and enjoying the sun again :)

The Trip 2013 – Puerto Viejo to Panama City

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Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Puerto Viejo to Panama City. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

Puerto Viejo was the last stop for me in Costa Rica, the next day I made my way to the border where I crossed into Panama. When we arrived at the crossing in the rain we had to queue up at the desk to get our passport stamped. For some reason they chose that moment to fumigate the entire building shutting everything down for an hour and a half. *sigh* Pura Vida!

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When they finally reopened we had to cross the border into Panama. Unfortunately the only way to do this was across a rickety old train bridge.

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I had a massive hangover from the previous night in Puerto Viejo which combined with the rain slicked wood and huge gaps between the planks made things a little Treacherous.

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When I arrived into Panama I decided to make a change of plans. Rather than staying a night at the Bocas islands I decided I was going to take a night bus immediately so I could get to Panama City and meet some people that I knew were there.

Unfortunately that meant waiting at a bus terminal for 7 hours with nothing around other than a dodgy canteen, a Chineese run corner shop and a few smelly stray dogs. When the bus did finally arrive it was minute with barely enough leg room for anything. It was also incredibly wobbley, several people were throwing up due to the nauseousness induced by the wobble.

Eventually the driver decided enough was enough and we changed to a larger bus at 3am. This bus was a little larger which was good but unfortunately it seemed to have its aircon set to kill. had been warned that these busses can get cold so I brought trousers, jumper and a sleepingbag liner. None of that was enough to ward off the bone-freezing cold.

Finally we arrived into Panama City at about 8am. I had been worrying all day that I had no clue where I was going to be staying as I had done no research into hostels in Panama City, the bus stop certainty had no wifi leaving me high and dry. Fortunately two beautiful and very helpful Polish girls were on hand to help me. They told me about a place they were staying called the Panamericana and offered to share a taxi which I gladly accepted.

When there I checked into a cell-like private room and immediately fell asleep for several hours.

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When I did finally awake midday I decided to wander around the vicinity of hostel which turned out to be in the old town of Panama City.

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On my wandering journey I discovered a small market selling a great number of Panama hats.

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I just had to buy one.

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This was my third of such hats I had purchased on this trip, they dont last long when exposed to water and travel.

While wandering around down by the waterfront I thought I recognized someone sitting over on the bench, I went over and low and behold, look who it is

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Becks and Jenny from my previous tour. I knew they were in Panama City but I didnt expect to see them buy just randomly strolling around the city.

I walked with them for a little while before I took off, agreeing to meet up again that evening for dinner.

I saw some more interesting things on my travels including an interesting local festival..

.. and some rather cute but dirty animals

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Panama City old town is quite a dichotomy. On the one hand you have alot of money being poured into renovating the area as is evident by all the construction works and by fancy boutique hotels and restaurants popping up everywhere. But at the same time there are some incredibly poor areas just a stones throw away.

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In 10 years or so this part of the town will be a bustling tourist destination filled with just expensive hotels, restaurants and shops. Im not sure where all the locals that live here will go..

I met up with Becks and Jen again for dinner with their tour group they had been with since I left them in San Jose. We went along the causeway to a nice restaurant. They told me about how their current tour leader had been so terrible compared to the tour leader we had had together, Chris. Their leader had basically checked out and didnt care about helping people more than the absolute minimum and as a result they had not had a great time. It really shows how much a big difference having a good leader makes.

The next day I met up with another person from my last tour, Meike who just so happened to be in Panama City at the same time. We decided to go and visit probably the most famous landmark in Panama, the canal

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There were a great many tourists there, including one lady that must surely have difficulty looking at her tablet

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We spent several hours together wandering through the accompanying museum

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That afternoon we were due to meet Becks and Jen in the huge mall in Panama for a spot of shopping.

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We were wandering through one of the super markets in the mall when I noticed that they sold gin here, and incredibly for central america it was cheap, just $1.5 for 250ml!

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That evening Meike and I wandered around the old town a little more taking some pictures of the incredible skyline of the new part of the city.

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That evening we met up with Jen and Becks again for dinner in a very nice Tapas restaurant.

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The next day I sadly had to say goodbye to Meike who was flying back to Holland early as I was going to the beautiful San Blas islands with Jen.

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This place was stunning. We stayed on a place called Franklin’s island, a tiny spit of land not 100m across. We stayed in thatched huts just a couple of steps from the water.

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It was an incredible place

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There were coconut trees all around us dropping their fruit all day long.

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We decided we were going to try to get into one with my pen knife.

1) Start with a Coconut
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2) Hack away at it for an hour with a penknife
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3) Use a saw to cut through the inner nut
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4) Fashion a straw from from a pen
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5) Add rum and enjoy!
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On the second day we took a boat on a snorkeling trip. We visited an awesome sunken boat that was teeming with life.

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We also visited a raised area of sand that was home to a number of starfish.

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That evening we met an Argentinian guy with his father and uncle.

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They were incredibly generous and shared their phenomenally tender BBQ steak with us and gave save us the last of their very nice Malbec

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Sadly the time came the following day to leave the island. I had had an incredible time there on the beautiful island

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Back in Panama City Jen and myself met up with two German girls we had met on the island, Anna and Pia

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We went back to the tapas place again and had some more of the very tasty grub.

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Sadly I had to catch a flight the next day, I was going to miss Panama it was a wonderful place made particularly so thanks to all the incredible people that I shared the experience with!

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