Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cartagena – There and Back again. A Journey by Bus.

For some strange reason, I had never been to Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Shameful I know. Even more shameful is that I had never set foot in the old walled city of Cartagena. I’m told that you have to visit Cartagena or you’ve never been to Colombia.
So as we have decided to leave Colombia and return to Europe. I felt I had to see this wondrous city at least once. I wish I’d done it 10 years ago. What had I been missing?
So on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a trip there. But how were we going to travel there? By plane. As we only decided to go about 72 hours before hand. It would have been very unlikely that any seats would have been available. But as Colombia is hideously expensive to travel in, especially by air. We shelved that idea. So the only alternative was by bus. 12 hours it was then.
Thankfully for this long journey the buses are pretty good. Air-con, not by Malaysian standards, where without thermal underwear and artic socks, you will get a touch of frostbite. That actually happened to me once in a cinema in KL.
We were told by the two bus companies that have the best buses between Medellin and Cartagena, that the journey time was 12 or 13 hours.
We took the early morning bus from Terminal del Norte. Amazingly busy at 6am. I’m sure I haven’t woken up before 7am since we arrived to Colombia back in May. It was difficult to say the least, and I slept the first 3 hours on the bus.
Now, on all buses I have travelled on in my many travels in the world. The buses always stop somewhere enroute for us weary passengers to grab a breath of fresh air, stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat.
Amazingly this driver only decided to stop once. At 9am in the freezing heights near Yarumal. A beautiful town, set upon the slopes of a mountain.
The pit stop we stopped at was a normal place where they sell overpriced bad food. Couldn’t face anything, except a bad empanada and a papa rellena. Why people sell shit food at truck stops amazes me. Especially when it’s so expensive.
This was our only stop of the day. The driver later reckoned he told us to eat all we could, as we weren’t stopping. He finally relented at 3pm, and gave us an extra 5 minutes somewhere in La Costa to buy a few treats.
The trip through the mountains, plains and finally the Caribbean coast of Colombia took us over 15 hours. I was climbing the walls to get off it.
We passed some great towns, like Piedras (Stones), Planeta Rica (Rich Planet). The scenery was pretty spectacular as well, going from mountains to plains to coast.
Thankfully I had my Ipod with me, and was catching up on 3 weeks off podcasts. Got my fill of Premiership football.
When we finally arrived, the heat that greeted me was like a slap in the face. Damn it was hot, and this was nearing 9pm.
After a blissful week there. The return journey over night was blissfully smooth and short.
It took me a week to persuade Lina to travel by night, as she was still remembering the dark times in Colombian history, where travelling by night included the extra entertainment of being robbed by bandits.
Thankfully nowadays under the leadership of this president, those days are long gone. Hopefully never to return.

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