Last month, I flew back north to Colombia and immediately went to the Caribbean coastal town of Taganga, a small touristy village just outside of Tayrona National Park. The coast has an Afro-Caribbean flavor and as I rode from the airport to my hostel, I felt a sense of ease that I was in the right place. The weather was hot, there was a sea breeze, salsa and reggaeton were playing and people were riding bicycles home from the beach in their bathing suits and flip flops. How could you not feel relaxed? I quickly met a fun and sweet Argentinian girl (the coast is full of Argentinians on vacation) and we headed into the national park, where we hiked through the jungle to get to some of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. We proceeded to spend the next three days lazing on the beach, swimming, walking through the jungle, and sleeping in hammocks.
After Tayrona, I moved west to Barranquilla for Carnaval, which was pretty much what you would expect- dancing, drinking, amazing energy and tons of fun. There were parades, costumes and dancing, though I think it pales in comparison to Brazil; I didn’t see much variation in the costumes and choreography outside of traditional Cumbia dancing. The highlights were 1) the energy in the streets and 2) two concerts I went to- Choquiptown and a Joe Arroyo tribute concert where Carlos Vives played; both were outside in big stadiums and the energy was amazing!!
My last stop on the coast was Cartagena, a beautiful colonial walled city that is now a UNESCO heritage site. It’s quite touristy, but I was enchanted by its magic and ended up staying a full week. There happened to be an International Film festival (all free!) and the city was buzzing with energy. One night, while on a magical “date” night with my new Australian jazz singer friend, Jolene, we were invited in to one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen in my life; Pedro Almodovar is a guest there when he visits Cartagena. Being “older” travelers, we salivated at the idea of staying in a more elegant place, but resigned ourselves to the homey hostel that was our home for the week. What it lacked in elegance, it more than made up for with familial character. I spent those days and nights in Cartagena hanging out in the local plaza or on the front stoop of the hostel, wandering the old cobblestone streets, drinking maracuya (passion fruit) juice and chatting with new friends.