Ah Colombia! Here I am again. My bag and I almost didn't make make all of our connections but with the help from three shockingly helpful airport staff members we arrived in Cartegena intact. I was in no mood to head to the bus station from the airport to catch and connection to Taganga so I started looking for a taxi into town. A local woman approached outside the terminal and gave me some sob story and asked for $6 fare in her taxi to go into town. i offered her $3, you know, the actual fare which is been published on the board near the exit to the airport and she left in a huff determined to find proper tourist sucker. I landed a regular cab for the regular fare and headed into the old city to Hotel Holiday where I'd stayed before heading to Cuba.
Everything seemed so similar as we raced through town. the dirty streets, the beautiful crumbling colonial buildings and the masses of people milling about buying and selling fruits, drinks, batteries, you name it. At the hostel immediately fell in in with a group of travelers who had all just gotten off a 6 day boat ride from Panama. They had lots of stories including a harrowing night while the captain took apart the broken down engine but that's pretty typical for those crossings. I'm planning on returning to Panama by boat so I soaked up as much information as I could. Even better, I was reminded as to why I'd picked this week to return: it's Carnaval here!
While very different from the giant Brazilian week long fiesta, this one is centered around the crowing of Miss Colombia. I woke late the next day and somehow missed everyone heading out to the main parade whilst I was out to lunch. I decided to head over anyway and before long I caught up with them. They weren't too hard to spot as there were absolutely no gringos in the streets. when I found them they were covered in blue and orange paint and sprinkled with flour and cornstarch. Son enough, I started getting attacked myself. Everything is fine and then you feel someone behind put their hands on your face like they're playing 'guess who'. then you feel it. The wet sticky paint smeared all across your cheeks and hair and by the time you turn around, they're gone!
Add to that people throwing four on you and squirting water every which way and you've got a Colombian party. All the while, floats are passing by and goddess-like women representing different parts of Colombia are parading past. We girls were all on watch to get any guys in our group to the hospital quickly in case any of their eyes jumped out of their heads.
All afternoon and evening people were dancing in the streets and the bars and discos were packed. The next we pretty much rested and I made plans to head to Taganga. It took most of the net day to get there and when I arrived it was not only dark out, it was dark, everywhere. The lights had gone out! Welcome home! i was a day early for my reservation and there were no free beds so I set up bed for myself in one of the outdoor hammocks and after a much needed shower, headed out to La Puerta disco with Deanna and Heidi. Oh, I'm definatly back!
I went down to the dive shop early he next day to say hello to everyone and talked to Max about doing my Instructor class. Wow! It's gonna be about $2500 and he wasn't at all interested in talking about a discount, even after all the work i've done on a new website for them ... for free! I hemmed and hawed through the afternoon and the next day and finally decided against it but told him I'd be willing to work for them as a divemaster while I was here if they needed me. That night, max called the hostel to ask me to work the next day.
Ah diving again. I must say, I'm an excellent divemaster although I still always feel like l'm gonna get lost underwater. Gerd told me that the trick is to 'sell it' whatever happens and that's just what i do. The next day was the Shakira concert in Barranquilla, her home town. Most everyone in my hostel here in Tagaqnga was heading out to see her. Deanna, who works at the hostel organized a bus to take us door to door and we were on our way, bottles of rum at the ready. There were huge winding lineups to get into the stadium, 70 000 locals and us, 30 gringos. i, unlike the rest had bought my ticket in Cartegena. We were all in the cheap seats but I was on the complete opposite side of the stadium. Deanna helped me trade my ticket for a dollar with one of the scalpers and i was good to go.
It took us about an hour to actually get into the stadium and when we saw our seats we were horrified. They were almost parallel to the stage. you couldn't see anything. We didn't even sit down but hustled out to try and bribe our way into better seats. We found a door and about 10 gringos snuck past the guards for about $2 each. Four of us were a little too slow and didn't make it. The locals saw what was going on and started cramming to line up at the door while we begged to be let though with our friends. The locals started chanting something like 'Feijoada' and we were afraid their would be trouble an we'd be pinned against the bars of the gate like a good old fashioned football match but after about 20 minutes we were all let in the good section for free.
The concert was brilliant with everyone yelling the song lyrics and dancing on the benches. Even from far away you can see each individual muscle in her stomach move independently. Crazy! When it was over, most of the group headed to the bus station to try and get back to Taganga because they'd heard there were buses going all night. I refused to believe it. the last bus to Cartegena, a big city, is at 5pm. How could there be buses going all night to Taganga. Seven of us opted to find a party in Barranquilla instead. It took us almost an hour to find a cab and jammed ourselves in it before he could complain. This was no spacious midsize. I still have the dents to prove it. We couldn't find any discos pumping even in the super ritzy section so we settled into a small bar and had a few drinks before finding a cheap hotel to catch some zzzzs. Twas a great night and when we made it back to Taganga we found out that there was no bus to that night and the rest of the crew and sat forlornly in the bus station for hours until the first one of the morning showed up. Alls well that ends