Archive for December, 2010



December 24, 2010

Walking out of the Plane in Cartagena was like walking into a sauna. As I waited for my bag I realised that I didn’t have the piece of paper with the name of my hotel on it. The lovely tourist information lady let me use her computer to check my email. I like her more than the man in Bogota. The hotel was OK, but not really worth the money they were asking for so I decided not to stay there for more than the first night. I intended to look for somewhere else to stay that afternoon, but I got distracted by the city, the music everywhere and the dancing.   I also came across a stage being set up and when I asked what was going on was told there was going to be a free concert to celebrate Cartagena getting World Heritage Status.  I went, got a delicious early tea and came back for the concert.   It was great.   Lots of different types of music, dancing, carnival costumes, people climbing cirque de Soleil style, a shower of glittery confetti and fireworks. While I was there I got talking to an Australian tourist and his American and Brazilian friends and we ended up drinking aguadiente in a bar on the walls,  overlooking the whole city and the sea under a full moon.  You can’t complain!

Dancers at the Concert

I woke up feeling a little rough and realised that I had forgotten to buy water on my way home. I showered and went out in search of coffee as fast as I could after ascertaining that check out was 2pm so I had time to go in search of  Spanish lessons and accommodation.  The school that I had emailed about classes suddenly decided that I could only do full weeks at a time and had to start on a Monday, which was no good to me at all. I was a little irked to find that out after having walked all the way over to their building.   I was hoping that they could find me accommodation too, so I then had to go in search of hostels. I took advantage of the 7000 peso lunch menu, free WiFi and air conditioning in the Hard Rock Cafe and got myself a list of places to go and see. Only one of them had space and they were just round the corner form a Spanish and Salsa school that didn’t mind me starting mid week and offered to give me lessons every day until I leave (that includes Christmas day!). I went back there later to have a taster course and rather enjoyed myself. Roll on proper lessons later today!


The evening looked like it was going to be another lonely meal and early night but, as I sat in the square with a glass of wine waiting for my food and watching the street theatre, an American came over, said he was eating alone too and asked if he could join me. He had ridden his motorbike down from North America, through central America and now is working his way south through South America. He was interesting to talk to and it was nice to have company. We went for a drink after the food. I then had to go as I needed to be up early(ish) to be at my first Spanish lesson at 9.


The other person in the Spanish group is a Russian, living and working in Paris, who has a lot of Spanish friends and so speaks Spanish with quite a strong Spanish accent.  He is having lessons to improve his grammar. This suits me fine. I now have quite a lot of homework to catch up the last 3 days worth of work.




December 24, 2010

Well, I thought I’d blog my adventures in Colombia partly so that those of you stuck in the snow can be jealous of my tropical location but also because it gives me something to do when I’m sat on my own in a cafe. I may also translate it into Spanish because, quite frankly, I need the practice.

Getting to Bogota was stress free and I arrived, got a secure taxi from the airport to the hotel (Abitaire56) and settled into my room pretty quickly. I was tired and it was cold, drizzly and dark so I decided to go to the nearest food place, eat and have an early night. Who knew that beansprouts would work on Pizza?

The next day I spent the morning talking to Kevin via the wonders of the internet, and found out that he wasn’t going to arrive in Bogota that afternoon. I left him looking at other options and went into town for lunch and a wander. The taxi driver that took me into town went the scenic route (which I didn’t really mind as it let me see more of the city) and chatted me up for the whole journey. My favourite part of the conversation went roughly like this;

Taxista: como te llamas?
Me: Cally
Taxista: Como la ciudad?
Me: Si
Taxista: Hermosa y llena de vida como tu!

Which I think beats the freckle comment but I’m not sure.

I enjoyed wandering round La Candalaria, it is pretty much the same as all of the other colonial areas you see in Latin America, but the Christmas lights were pretty and the place was heaving with people, street vendors, street performers and traffic that doesn’t feel the need to use the horn every second. It started raining so I took refuge in a cafe and had a very nice chichen and potato stew thing with choclo in it. Just what you need on a cold rainy day. I eventually stumbled upon the tourist information and found out that almost all of the museums in Bogota are closed on a Monday, the exception being the emerald museum. I went there and learned a lot of geology in a short space of time. The most interesting thing was that the reason that gems are cut in different shapes is to do with the refractive index of the mineral. This is why good emeralds are cut in rectangles. It brings out the best of the luminosity and colour. I was quite pleased that I understood the tour as it was in Spanish.

I learned a few things about Colombian Spanish in my wanderings – they talk funny for a start – there’s a little bit of a zzz sound to the esses and they don’t roll their r’s so much and they run words together. They also use different words and phrases. They say sigue instead of pasa for example. They don’t use the word botica either.

I then bought a guide book for Colombia and realised that I only had 5000 pesos left. I decided to go and get money out at the cash point, get some dinner and then get a taxi back to the hotel ready for an early night in preparation for my flight the following day. This is where the problem began. I went to the cashpoint and it wouldn’t let me have any money. ‘Never mind’ I thought ‘there was a BBVA next to the Emerald museum – I’ll go there and sort it out’ Little did I know that the banks in Bogota close at 4 pm. I thus found myself in central bogota with virtually no money. First I went to Tourist information, they seemed to think it was amusing that I thought there may be a bank open at 4.30 pm , didn’t know where I could change money (I had 43 dollars on me to, but you can’t spend them in Colombia like you can in Peru) and wouldn’t let me use his phone to call my bank. He did give me directions to a locutorio (place where you can make phonecalls) even though he knew I didn’t have enough money for the call. The woman in the locutorio did give me directions to where she thought there MAY be a casa de cambio and I left starting to feel a bit panicked and teary. The universe decided to cheer me up at this point by making a combi drive through a puddle right next to me and soaking me down one side. I had to laugh. I found the casa de cambio, changed my paltry dollars and arrived back with some money feeling slightly better about the situation. The man at BBVA seemed to think it was my own fault that they had failed to put a note on my account to the effect that I was in Colombia on holiday and would want to get cash out and put things on my credit card. Somehow me going into the bank, talking to the manager and filling in forms wasn’t enough – the manager should have told me to ring a number apparently. Still he got it sorted in the end and the call only cost me 8000 pesos. I went to get money out and make sure that he really had made the changes on the system and decided that after such stress I deserved a coffee and cake. Mmmmmm.

I decided I didn’t really need a main meal as I’d eaten lunch late so I got a typical (if strange) dish consisting of a hot chocolate, some normal bread, some maize bread and some cheese. It was better than it sounds! I used the time to work out where the nearest Transmetropolitano stop was and went off to get public transport home. It was surprisingly simple. The only problem were idiot commuters who, despite not wanting to get on the bus that was in the station, still stood in front of the doors so they didn’t lose their prime spot when their bus did come. They ignored polite requests to move and then glared at me when I just shoved past to get on the bus as the doors closed. Dimwits.

The next day I had a pleasant taxi ride to the airport and then a very confusing time trying to drop my bag off and find the right part of the airport. Things just weren’t sign posted. Obviously you are just supposed to know. I then sat in the lounge for AGES as the plane was delayed for a few hours. I read my book. Somehow the cheapest tickets I could buy turned out to be executive class so I watched an episode of Glee while I flew. Nice!