When you meet like-minded people with the same passion to travel, all I need to hear are three things: dates, location(s) and flight prices.
Before I knew it, I was on my way to Cartagena, Colombia for five days along with seven strangers and two other people I’ve met off previous vacations.
I recall being so excited to go, yet unaware of what I’ve gotten myself into. Everyone is NOT meant to be a travel buddy. [And I speak from experience] I’m not entirely a fan of vacationing with a large group for various reasons. Number one being that there are way too many different personalities. Everyone is going to want to do things on their own time and pace, which is okay. But, if it’s going to hinder what I want to do, then Houston we have a problem!
Luckily, this wasn’t the case with this group.
Cartagena (Cartagena De Indias), also known as “The Walled City” was a major trading port for gold, silver and slaves. Eventually, huge thick walls were placed along the coast to protect the city from attacks.
Cartagena is a great walking city. We stayed at Casa Relax Hotel located in Getsemani, just minutes away from the Old City. It is an affordable B&B. Even though the showers rarely had hot water, after being outside in the scorching hot sun, one can find a cold shower to be refreshing. Aside from that, the staff was extremely nice, the breakfast which consisted of fruits, a selection of a plain crepe or eggs, your choice of coffee, tea, or delicious fruit juice was a great way to save on a few bucks.
The hotel had a good-sized swimming pool and a pool table. The huge wooden door and 24hr staff on the side gave a little extra sense of security.
The streets are filled with beautiful architecture, graffiti art, vendors, people dancing and just sitting out enjoying the vibes.
Right around the corner from the hotel is a big yellow church [Iglesia de la Trinidad], and every night people gather in front of it and just dance the night away. They even had a zumba night with an instructor leading. The energy there is so powerful you can’t help yourself but to join in on the fun.
Some of the tastiest food/drink carts park around the church and you can get anything from succulent fresh fruit juice, arepas, rice & meat, and more.
In a city like Cartagena, having a tour guide to tell you historical facts can be a great thing. But, we decided to ditch that and rent bikes on our own and venture off.
Alex Rocha Youth Center
Neighborhood: Barrio La Maria
One of the girls expressed early on in our trip planning that she wanted to do volunteer work. She choose Alex Rocha Youth Center located in the neighborhood of barrio La Maria. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to be apart of that experience. Alex Rocha is a tour guide, who opened a center to give back to his community. Barrio La Maria is not the type of neighborhood you would find tourists. Many of the people living there lack basic necessities. Alex walked us through the neighborhood and we spoke with the kids as we rounded them up to go back to the center. We spoke about our dreams, laughed, danced, read and played. All Alex wanted was for us to teach the kids something. He was so humble and being with the kids was truly moving.
I recall us eating dinner together after and just going around, reflecting. This experience will forever be one of favorite travel memories.
If you’re interested in donating to a good cause, I would suggest the Alex Rocha Youth Center. https://www.facebook.com/AlexRochaYC/
Bath for a QUEEN
Visiting the mud volcano is hands down A MUST DO. Like, add that to your bucket list now! El Totumo Mud Volcano is about an hour drive from Cartagena in Santa Catalina. We got picked up from the hotel and when you get there the first thing you notice is the 50-foot staircase leading to the volcano opening. When you get to the top you hand your camera to the “cameraman” who will snap endless pictures at your request when you shout “foto”, while someone in the volcano gives you a massage. It’s like being in heaven. The volcano is bottomless so your legs just dangle. Don’t be fooled and think you can swim in it like you’re in a pool because you will not move and end up splashing mud into people’s eyes. You pretty much lay on your back and relax, or just stand up along the sides. After soaking in the mud, all the tension in your body is eventually released, and you will feel rejuvenated.
To wash off, you have to walk down the staircase and down to the river where these women sit ready to wash you AND your swim suit. By the time you go to change back into your regular clothes in the locker room area, everyone is outside ready for their tip. For people that aren’t aware, the amount paid for the activity includes their tip. However, being aware of their lifestyle and realizing that 2000 colombian pesos (which can buy you a soda) is not even 75 cents. It doesn’t hurt to give them extra.
After a 3 hour massage and endless comedy. [We all looked statuesque]
[a restaurant on the grounds of the mud volcano]
Veni. Vidi. Amavi
We Came. We Saw. We Loved.
Until next time