On Monday, December 1, I took a night bus from Medellin to Cartagena. It was approximately a 12 hour trip on an obnoxiously cold bus. The guidebooks said the buses would be cold, but wow, this bus was freezing. I wore jeans and a t-shirt and a light jacket. It was a miserable trip, but it was warm at 8:00 in the morning when I arrived in Cartagena.
I was going to skip Cartagena altogether, but I heard really good things in Medellin, so I went. It was a good choice. Cartagena is located on the Carribean Sea. It has a walled old town and a modern town with high rise condos stretching along the beaches. I stayed in the old town. The old town is completely encircled by a fortified wall that is very well maintained. The architecture is very well maintained and very colorful. The city has a cool "party vibe.
Several people I had met in Panama I saw again in Cartagena. It makes sense, since most people I met in Panama were heading to Colombia next. On Wednesday, December 3, I took a day trip to a mud volcano. It was an unusual feeling being suspended in mud. You could lay flat on your back or stomach and not sink. Standing straight up, I was suspended to about my navel. After the mud suspension, we went to a nearby lagoon that was a little bit cleaner than the mud volcano. Local women, using bowls and their hands, rinsed the mud off my body and my swimming trunks for $2,000 pesos (a little less than $1 US). After getting somewhat clean, we went to a nearby beach for lunch. When you get fish in a restaurant, it usually comes whole with the head attached.
After getting back from the volcano, I started feeling sick. I had a weak stomach, fever, and slight dizziness. I guess I drank the water or ate ceviche bought from a guy selling it from a cooler one too many times. I was out for about two days and a little below average for one more.
On Friday night, feeling better, I went on a party bus with some other travelers. The party bus drove through the old town and provided drinks and music. It had a band that played a type of music that sounded like cajun/zydeco. It made a stop on the waterfront and a stop at a disco. Most of the people on the bus were tourists from other Latin American countries. Cartagena is a popular tourist destination for other Latin Americans. Most of the hawkers use Spanish to try to sell stuff ranging from crappy jewelry to oysters or crabs (in a bucket without ice).
I went to a beach on Saturday. It was a great beach and I had a good time, but I found myself growing a little tired of beaches and hot weather. I decided it was time to head for the mountains. On Sunday, December 7, I flew from Cartagena to Manizales.
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