Cartagena, a (the) Historic Port City of Colombia

Day One

I flew from Bogota to Cartagena and immediately found myself unprepared for the weather. It was so damn hot, and so hellishly humid. Instant sweat, just add Cartagena. Jeans were a bad choice. I rolled ‘em up and got to the hostel.

The Makko Hostel, the place I was staying, was in fact full of unpleasant surprises – and it had really high reviews on But sometimes, you just have to say fuck it, and that’s exactly what I said.

There were some peculiar characters in the hostel – to be sure, let’s call them the two dumb biatches from Cali, Colombia (TDBFCC). This acronym seems easy enough to remember. The TDBFCC were cute, but they might have been 15? I couldn’t really tell, and I wasn’t going to find out – they smelled like Los Angeles. Why were they peculiar? Well, for starters, they were sleeping on the couches in the common room of the hostel for a few days before I even got there. One of them seemed to have two levels of volume to her voice: talking and screaming. She was adorable, really. Anyway, these purposeless individuals found out how to liken themselves to the mosquitoes – seemingly always there, not impossible to deal with, but definitely annoying.

It wasn’t too long in that first afternoon that I met a girl from Germany (Tina). She was coming out of the dorm’s bathroom in a towel – I started talking to her. I figured that it would be worse if I just sat there in silence? Anyway, she and her two friends (Connie and Nastassja) invited me to dinner, one thing to note: there would be six girls.

No dudes.

This was a first for me while traveling in hostels. I think the ratio at this particular hostel leaned more heavily toward men than women. How could I say no? I was curious, hungry and hadn’t seen any of Cartagena yet. At worst, people would think I was gay; somewhere in the middle: a pimp; and at best: a bodyguard. Most people probably thought I was a body guard, with certainty.

We strolled around the old city and made it to one of the city’s walls. Beers were bought, sunsets were watched, pictures were taken (I was basically Ansel Adams).

Then, dinner: I had chuleta – which I believe is the side of a pig, or something like that. By the time the food arrived, I was ready to eat my own foot, but decided against it, since I wanted to walk back to the hostel.

Our little mob then proceeded to a quaint little plaza area close to the hostel. I had an aguardiente and a mojito. I only had to sit down to sweat; mind you, it was 9 p.m. – the sun had long ago descended. As the table exchanged stories, I felt a painful sting on my neck. I couldn’t cry like a baby, so instead, I slapped my neck and caught the bastard in my fingers. It was a flying ant, and he looked kinda like this:

I said “ow” a few times, inspected the insect, put him on an ashtray and then burned him to death. I called it retribution.

And this was the first night. You don’t have to read on if you want, but the details of the second day will inform you on where to get absolutely fantastic empanadas in Cartagena, so if you are ever there, maybe you should give a shit.

Day Two

I had woken up a few times during the night due to the sweet mouths of my bloodsucking friends, the mosquitoes. In addition it was a bit warm for my liking, and while we had an air conditioned room, the wall-AC was deemed insufficient for the 10 or 12 sleeping humans. Advice: if in Cartagena, make sure you get a room with an AC — unless you like bikram yoga, dehydration or just, well, sweating.

I got my bearings and met with three of the girls (Merel, Catharine and Kristy) from the night before to cruise around town and visit the fort/castle: Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. It looks like this:

Yeah, that’s it. It comes with an enormous flag, as you can see:

We ate ice cream. It melted in our hands. I thought about the small child, crying because his ice cream was melting all over his hand and he couldn’t eat it fast enough. I didn’t want to be that child.

More walking, more sweating, and then, by the good grace of some higher power, Kristy found the empanada place she had heard about. It’s called Ciudad Movil, and the building also supposedly holds yoga lessons, acts as an art gallery, and serves amazing pizzas – the full kitchen wasn’t open when we visited, so we had to “make do” with the empanadas. Find this place:

We kept cruising around, and there was a general consensus among the group that Playa Blanca would be visited in the near future, namely, the next day. I added myself to the group, in the most polite way as possible, and we headed to the grocery store to buy supplies. I’ll make the list short for the sake of time: 4 liters of water, 1.5 liters of Coke and 2 liters of Rum. There was food, but that’s not important.

Merel and Catharine cooked a damn good salad – Kristy and I ate it.

After dinner, Rogier, a good guy from the Netherlands became a +1 for a our trip to Playa Blanca the next day.

We would be waking up around 7 a.m. to get to the port by 7:30 a.m., an early-morning wakeup that would pay great dividends.


Bogota is Badass

For the title of this post, I was going to make a joke about Pablo Escobar, but that just didn’t feel creative enough. Instead, I decided to make an assertion and swear. Don’t forgive me.

I arrived in Bogota on the evening of August 3rd after a long day of travel that started with a 7 a.m. flight from JFK to Miami. The airport is much different than I remembered it from the last time I was in Colombia, which I believe was 1993 or 1994. Back then, walking through the airport was like getting a free show of all sorts of machine guns and those who wielded them; there were a ton of police. This time around, not so much. The terminal was fairly new looking and it was easy to get around. I made it through customs with no problem and when went to exchange my dollars. I handed them $200 USD, and in return, I received 360,000 Colombian Pesos. I wished they were USD. The whole inflated currency thing can be daunting at first. Example: I take the cab to the hostel, and the driver reports that it will cost me “trenta mil.” Thirty thousand. THIRTY THOUSAND? But, I could buy a boat with that. Then my mind snapped back into place after exhaustion: 30,000/1800 = $16.7 USD.

I chose the Cranky Croc hostel in la Candelaria neighborhood in Bogota for my stay. It is easily one of the best hostels I have stayed in, ever. Beer, Internet, great travelers, great food, and organized party trips. Yes, the best hostels do this for you. When I entered the lobby, they asked me if I was interested in the party bus that evening. “Yes.” I slept about 4 hours in the last 32 hours of my existence.

I fell asleep in my room around 7 p.m. and woke up 10 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave at 11:30 p.m. The bus left. I was not on it. I brushed my teeth and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up and started reading “Atlas Shrugged,” and I did this for 3 hours before I decided it was time to do something else with my life and see the city I came to see. I got up, grabbed a map, and headed to the mountain, Montserrate. There are two ways up, by ground or by air — Funiculare o Teleferico. I took to the air. Mountain tops are known for their shitty views, as you can see below.

Yeah. I then took lunch at the top of this here mountain at a place called Casa Santa Clara Restaurant. The food was good enough, but I was really there for the view. I wrote this down on a spare sheet of paper I had with me at the time:

“It is not often that you can sit and observe a city for the blood, sweat and tears that went into building it. From the sky, at a fair distance, this task becomes easy.”