Waka Waka: This Time for Barranquilla (& more!)
After the Ciudad Perdida trek, Jolein & I parted ways & I was truly on my own for the first time! I headed back to Santa Marta, where I spent a few low-key days without much on the agenda besides beach time. I stayed at the Masaya hostel, which is a special experience in & of itself. The hostel is welcoming & boasts a rooftop bar & pool from which you can watch the sun set into the Sierra Nevada. Outside of enjoying the hostel, I spent one day at Playa Grande - just a short bus & boat ride from the center of Santa Marta. The day I spent there was a public holiday in Colombia & the beach was definitely a popular spot, but a bit crowded. Apparently, the gem of the Santa Marta region is Tayrona Park, a secluded beach paradise & national park famous for its natural beauty. I’ve only heard rave reviews about Tayrona Park & wish I had been - it’s definitely on my bucket list.
From Santa Marta, Eduar (a friend I met who worked at Masaya), a few traveler friends & I left to spend an evening in the remote mountain town of Minca. Minca is a little tropical oasis, its nature (including waterfalls) the true draw of the village. In the area, it’s possible to take several different hikes & go for a dip in refreshing natural pools & rivers. Our hostel itself, Casa Lomo, was a charming getaway - constructed of wood, with hammocks hanging from every open space & beautiful views of the nearby valley. Part of the charm of Casa Lomo was that it was a no wi-fi zone. As a result, my friends & I passed an evening by candlelight - playing games, laughing & truly enjoying each other’s company. There’s something about just connecting with your surroundings, and that’s what Minca has to offer. Check out the vibe of Casa Lomo for yourself at http://www.casalomaminca.com/.
Next up was Barrrrrrrranquilla! Although Barranquilla wasn’t originally on the list of places I intended to visit in Colombia, I decided to take up the offer my friend Yomaira (from my Ciudad Perdida hike) extended to me to visit her. Yomaira went out of her way to show me the beauty of Barranquilla & the depth of its history & its people. We probably spent an entire morning at the impressive Museo del Caribe (Museum of the Caribbean) - highlights of the museum included an interactive display reflecting people of various Colombian cultures & their respective styles of dress & music, as well as a tribute to Gabriel García Márquez & his life’s works. It was so fun to have Yomaira’s insight at the museum - she had a real enthusiasm for explaining the make-up & origins Colombia’s peoples, giving me little tidbits of information about various indigenous tribes & the influences for specific types of traditional dress & music, for example. Another day, Yomaira & her husband Rafael took me to a free museum called Sala del Carnaval Elsa Caridi. The museum is modest, but fun, & gives you a look into the real draw of Barranquilla - Carnaval.
La Troja, a colorful outdoor patio bar with loud music & LOTS of dancing, is something you CAN’T miss in Barranquilla. On weekend nights, probably hundreds of Colombians cram into La Troja to enjoy drinks with friends and to salsa. And the moves of the Barranquilleros will amaze you - Shakira hails from Barranquilla & Yomaira told me they used to watch her perform at local restaurants as a young girl. I’m certain I stared open-mouthed in awe at the dancing skill of my neighbors at La Troja until they shared enough of their aguardiente to make me really believe in my own dance moves. It was a great night & definitely my favorite with my wonderful hosts!
Another highlight from Barranquilla was the evening we spent at home when Yomaira shared with me her knowledge of the Colombian dance known as cumbia. Cumbia is often danced in groups of men-women pairs, with the women wearing beautiful, long, flowy skirts. Yomaira let me try on her own skirt & explained the movements of cumbia & the meaning behind them. She explained the origins of the dance as a courtship ritual and that though the woman’s movements in the dance are highly flirtatious, she is never totally brought under the man’s power. The man works hard to lure the woman, but each time the man gets too close, the woman then steps away. The dance itself is beautiful, but its origin is even more fascinating & enlightening. See http://discovercolombia.com/cumbia-the-rhythm-of-colombia/ for more. :)
On the outskirts of Barranquilla, we also enjoyed a few outdoor activities. We spent a nice Sunday afternoon walking the Barranquilla boardwalk at the Magdalena River & enjoying the company of many Colombian families while doing so. Rafael told me about the infamous Barranquilla arroyos; heavy rains in Barranquilla often cause the roads to rapidly turn into fast-flowing (& dangerous!) streams that sweep out to the Magdalena River taking everything in their path with them. Although the city has engineering projects ongoing to combat the problem, it's something you have to be alert for! Another day we spent outside of the city at Playa de Santa Veronica, which was beautiful & more than I had expected!
After several days in great company, I left Barranquilla for Medellín with the knowledge that I have to return someday - probably to experience Carnaval! Although Barranquilla isn’t a tourism hotspot outside of that time of year, if you do it right, it won’t let you down!