Anyways, I'm starting the year off with a travel blog on my experiences in Colombia. I'll try to talk about each city I went to then also a quick chat on Panama.
Cartagena was hot, far hotter than even the mild fall of NYC we were having. At 100 degrees and humidity it was rough on my beard and my psyche. At the same time, it was quite amusing seeing all the Christmas trees and spirit in hot weather by the beach.
I would begin Cartagena realizing how nice the Colombians were in their ability to help me. Right off the plane I kind lady told me where to go for the ATM - not to get some scam, but simply to help. This would be the first of many kind gestures by Colombians. In trying to explore the city, I had to do so independently and without my Tribe buddy Alex Rocha - the main reason for that was because I missed my flight on the first day, but JetBlue hooked it up for the holidays with a waived fee. As such, I would try to use my hostel to no avail for a walking tour and a Playa Blanca boat (which I was late for). I instead walked around the city, had a meal at a place Anthony Bourdain went to, went to Bocagrande - local beach where Afro-Colombian wanted to give me a massage and braid my hair (quite flirtatious), walked around the inquisition museum, had arepas, enjoyed the local handcrafts, and had tons of juices - including lulo, zapote and maracuya.
Quick note about the juices in Colombia, they are glorious with milk!!! Most of the fruit around Colombia is not found in the US and while you can find it in Brasil and a couple other countries, nobody makes smoothies out of them like Colombia. It is wonderful and I seriously want to be a connect to make this happen. Let me know if anyone can, it is one of the best drinks I've had anywhere.
Afterwards, Alex gave me a tour of Getsemani, his home (family knows full English!!!) and his youth center (which is a huge goal for me to have that recognition) that teaches the kids to speak English. He is bringing up his community with English and he is a great member of Tribe. The following day we headed to Palenque a runaway slave/Afro-Colombian settlement that has tons of people living well thanks to Benko the slave who revolted and their close-knit community. While the house of culture was closed, I got to see a traditional African instrument hip-hop group (video on the Facebook). It was such a blast and I truly appreciated the purest form of hip-hop that was extremely in tune with Africa.
Overall, Cartagena was a lot of fun and I had some good times with locals as I didn't meet too many tourists at the hostel, I kept myself quiet, but it was a fun time and I recommend Cartagena for the beach, the Afro-Colombian culture and the little Colonial town for a couple of days.
Next up, Bogota.