Cameron goes stateside, Amanda goes international, and all the adventures in between.

Cameron is a goner. As I write this I’m sitting in front of a fan, back at our hostel in Cartagena for the 3rd time, feeling slightly lonely and super full. Before I get into Cameron’s departure, our friend Amanda’s visit, and all the details of beautiful Cartagena, let me tell you about the delicious lunch I just had downstairs at my new favorite restaurant,

Menu at La Mulata

La Mulata. As an adorable lunch place that got lip service from Lonely Planet and is hence often filled with tourists, it hasn’t lost touch with it’s mission: cheap good food. The set menu gives you a choice between 5 main dishes with a daily rotation, ranging in price from 10-12,000 pesos ($5-6 usd). Not the cheapest set menu in town (we found a great place for $3 usd with about 10 choices from beef or fish to tongue or liver and something called sobrebarriga which I was sure meant stomach lining, but I just googled it and it’s actually flank steak. Cam will be sad we passed that one over on the menu!) but adorable none-the-less. Plus you get an extra large ice cold fresh fruit juice for an extra $1,500 pesos (75 cents).

Fruit vendors, dressed-up for the camera toting tourist, in a Cartagena plaza

Every set menu starts with a soup- today’s was a bowl of seafood broth with lime- delicious! I picked the Filete a la Marinera for my main course. Delicious white fish filet in a buttery seafood sauce of baby shrimp, calamari, and mussels. Coconut rice, a very classic Coastal Colombian dish (recipe here!), a lovely salad topped with mango slices, and a handful of plantain chips to compliment the fish. To drink, fresh passion fruit juice. I enjoyed every bite, especially knowing that it was my one big meal for the day. Dinner? 75 cent arepas (corn flour pancakes filled with cheese) off the street corner and a homemade rum and juice.

Okay, on to other important topics besides my lunch. Cameron.

Cameron in now officially on US soil. He had to head home a few days before planned because the return portion of his plane ticket had to be used within 365 days of his departure. Since he originally started his trip about 3 weeks before mine, he had to jet set and leave me behind. The last few days of his trip had him pensive and sad about the end of the trip.

Watching one of our last Colombian sunsets from the Old City Wall

As much as he couldn’t wait for Grandma Carol’s custom prepared ‘All Cameron’s Favorites’ dinner, an ice cold micro-brewed NW Amber beer, and of course an Indian Buffet (hmmm, somehow we’re back on the subject of food. Can you see why Cam and I are such a perfect couple?), if it were entirely up to his own whims, Cameron would spend another 2 years exploring the world. He has said repeatedly that he doesn’t feel done yet and expressed feeling really torn between wanting to start his path toward being a teacher and wanting to extend his life as a professional traveler.

Street Souvenirs, Cartagena

I feel sad to go home too- I’m going to remember this year and miss it dearly while I hover over school books in the next couple years and look out the window at San Francisco fog. Yet I don’t think I can completely empathize with Cameron. Where as the things  Cameron missed the most (besides family and friends of course) are cravings that a quick visit home can cure, the things I missed have deeper roots. Having a home of my own, studying at my ‘regular’ cafe, cooking in my own kitchen…I missed having a place to nest. If  we had unlimited resources, I won’t deny that I would probably follow Cameron around the world for the next year or two. But I also won’t deny how much I am looking forward to be enveloped in a big hug by my friends, to wrap my arms around my baby sister, and to ease into my own bathtub- candles, bubbles, Enya, and all. I will miss travel dearly (I almost wrote that I would miss S. America- which I will, but if we were to continue traveling, we both agree that we are ready for a new continent) but I think I’m ready to come home for a while. Not to say that Cameron and I haven’t already started planning our next big trip- 3 years from now? SE Asia? Yes!!!

Last week, we had  the pleasure to welcome our friend Amanda as she placed her feet on non-US soil for the first time. Yes, brave Amanda dove in head first with a visit to the infamous Colombia as her first international experience. And when I say dove in head first, I mean it.

Cartagena just before sunset, taken from atop the Old City Wall

We didn’t spare here anything. Intentionally or not, Amanda got the full Backpacker in Colombia experience. We started her off with a welcoming night in sweltering Cartagena. Cartagena is a beautiful, historical, Spanish style port city. But last week it was beyond normal humidity. It was oppressive. Because Cameron and I had been here only 5 days earlier (before the heat wave) we had opted for a non-air conditioned dorm room for the first 2 nights. Drenched in sweat we retired early (on a Friday night where our dorm-mates didn’t make it home until 5 am) and were treated to a lovely night of power outages- not such a big deal at night unless your life depends on the fan, which ours did. 8 sleepless and mosquito covered hours later we emerged and managed to secure 3 beds in the air-conditioned dorm for the next night.

Historical Cartagena, backed by the skyscrapers of Boca Grande

A lovely day of sightseeing in Cartagena took us to an old Spanish fort, countless plazas and cobblestone streets, the Museum of the Inquisition where we studied torture instruments, and the Gold Museum because we had read that they keep their A/C turned nice and icy (and they did! We spent pleeeeenty of time looking at indigenous gold works.) We watched the sunset over the water from atop the Old City walls, made out of local coral cut into blocks, and we slept like babies on our air conditioned bunk beds.

The next day we said goodbye to Cameron,

Dancers in Plaza Bolivar, Cartagena

who was flying out of Cartagena the next day) and headed up the coast to Taganga and Tayrona Park, both places Cameron and I had been and selected as perfect destinations for Amanda. Well, maybe perfect isn’t exactly the right word…

Our bus trip went great, no hitches. We wandered Taganga on a Sunday evening and watched all the local kids swim like fishes and have jumping contests off the fishing boats. The next morning we headed out to Tayrona on the same boat Cam and I had taken a few weeks earlier. Only, today it didn’t turn out to be quite the idyllic ride I expected. As soon as we pulled out of the bay, it quickly became apparent that the ocean wasn’t having a good day. Our first red flag was when the driver had to take the cover off the outboard motor to restring a couple parts so it would work. Next came the extra gasoline canister leaking onto the floor. One both of those issues were taken care of, our tiny little motor boat headed for open sea. We learned really fast to hold on tight and keep our legs braced at all times. As we lurched and dove over the swells, our poor behinds took quite the beating against fiberglass benches. I placed all my faith in the driver who didn’t look too worried, but as time passed it became apparent that this wasn’t everyday weather. Poor Amanda stared straight ahead, barely managed to keep her breakfast down, and was sure her life might end on this very boat.

Full moon in Tayrona National Park

Bruised and battered we arrived in one piece at Tayrona only to find that a) Amanda’s nearly virgin Seattle skin was burned to a crisp and b) there were no hammocks in the upper palapa available so we were stuck in “The Hammock Factory” below. Squeezed in 50 deep (literally touching knees with our hammock neighbors) and with dusty knotted mosquito nets hanging in our faces, we were grateful for our earplugs as we fell asleep accompanied by the lovely song of the generator. We awoke at midnight as our hammock neighbors (a group of 6 from Israel) very loudly and drunkenly stumbled into their hammocks (and I mean stumbled literally- one of them fell on me) and again at 3 am as one of them rolled out of his hammock and threw up 5 feet away. Lovely. 5:00 am, the rooster starts crowing, accompanied by the donkeys (What I want to know is what kind of joke was God playing when he made up the donkey’s Bray?). Oh how we love roosters and donkeys. At least the mosquito nets worked.

Not only was Amanda burned bad,

Amanda’s spa treatment in the medical tent

she started breaking out in a scary looking rash all over her poor feet and thighs. The Park Tayrona “nurse”/snorkel tour guide (the same guy who taught Cam to open a coconut a few weeks ago!) diagnosed her with an allergic reaction to too much sun and gave her a spa treatment rubdown in the medical tent of antihistamine lotion and stronger sunscreen. He even gave her a band-aid for the blister on her toe. Nothing like free medical treatment from the snorkel guide/coconut opener/lay nurse. Poor Amanda spent her 3 days enjoying the beach from under the palapa’s shade. We did manage to reserve two hammocks in the upper palapa for our second night, and although it was windy and cold, sleeping surrounded by the ocean and the sky is an experience everyone should have. I adore it- no matter how chilly it gets in the night time ocean breeze, swaying in my hammock and listening to the waves makes my heart so happy. I think Amanda was looking forward to a shower and a mattress. =) But she kept a smile on. If there is one thing I can say about Amanda it’s that she is beyond a good sport. From death defying boat rides to trying cow tongue for the first time to breaking out in unknown rashes, she laughed her way through Colombia.

Still smiling on the beach!

Our boat ride back was much calmer. We didn’t even mind when it started raining on our boat because we were so grateful to not be slammed into the fiberglass over and over. Amanda talked me into splurging on an air conditioned private room for her last night and just because she was such a good traveler, I agreed. We treated ourselves to a boutique hotel with a pool (after a week of vacation together, we managed to reach a new level of intimacy in our friendship as our luxury bathroom didn’t have a door) and a fancy dinner in the candlelit tables that line one of the touristy plazas.

Amanda left this morning and here I am back in my good ol’ dorm room. Luckily the heat wave seems to have passed. I think I’ll spend my last 3 days in Cartagena working on my hard-earned tan and doing a whole lot of nothing.

I absolutely can’t believe it’s over. It flew

Did I mention that Colombia has a high plastic surgery rate? Mannequin in the window of a fabric store

by- has it really been a whole year??? The mixed feeling about my homecoming will continue over the next few weeks. And I promise at least one more closing blog entry before we put this blog stuff to rest for a few years. I’m sad for it to end- not only the trip, but the blog. As an avid journaler, I’ve really enjoyed writing for someone’s eyes besides my own. So thanks for reading….until next time,

Corinna

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1 Comment

Filed under 2) Colombia

One response to “Cameron goes stateside, Amanda goes international, and all the adventures in between.

  1. Hi Corinna,
    Just happened to check your blog in time to read about the end of your S.A. adventure–a bittersweet time, I’m sure. It was fun meeting you and Cameron in El Bolson. All the best to both of you as you start this next stage of your lives. I’m sure you’ll have many more travels in the future!
    Kathleen

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