The biggest surprise to me about Bogotá was the weather. The temperature here is warmer than it was when I left Portland, but much like Portland, you rarely see the sun. After a couple of weeks in Bogotá (and a few months in Portland), I was ready for some vitamin D. When a friend decided to visit from Portland, I thought it would be the perfect time to get away.
The trip was one of the most pleasant airport experiences I've ever had. It was a quick 1 hour flight and the plane itself was the nicest economy class airplane I have ever been on. (Avianca if you are wondering).
Flying over Cartagena I was surprised to see how big it appeared. There were modern high rises clustered together in what I assumed was a downtown area. Later we found out that these were high rise condominiums, not office buildings. They were vacation houses for the Colombian elite.
Sunshine has a way of lifting my mood, and stepping off the plane I felt a burst of positive energy. Soon we were in a taxi driving down narrow streets with high walls. People spilled off of the narrow sidewalks and onto the streets. We stopped in the middle of one street and the driver pointed "hotel es aqui." We would have missed it if he hadn't pointed. A single locked gate opened to an open air lobby and courtyard. It was too early to check in, so we stashed our bags and set off to explore on foot.
We had 4 days and 3 nights in Cartagena and we developed a rhythm. Each day was a new kind of exploration. We walked around the old town, rented bikes, took a trip to the beach, and watched a futbol game with the locals. Sunset lent itself perfectly to a trip to the roof pool with a cold beer. Then after cleaning up we were off to dinner and drinks.
On our second evening, watching the sunset from the pool, we met a Brazilian man named Patrick and his wife Barbara. In addition to Portuguese and English, they also spoke fluent Spanish. Hooking up with them felt like having certain doors unlocked.
The next day the 4 of us set off to take a boat to what had been called the most beautiful beach in Cartagena. We arrived to find that the boat was already full and we couldn't get on. A man with a pamphlet approached them and they had a conversation in Spanish. They turned to us and told us there was another island they had never heard of we could go to that was cheaper. It was a gamble, but we went for it.
As we arrived up to the island, Isla Del Pirata, I had to pinch myself. It was the kind of thing you see on the internet and think you will never see in real life. The island was small enough that we could almost see all the way around it. Thatched roof huts dominated the island and It was surrounded with crystal clear blue water. We rented snorkels and swam around the island observing tropical fish and coral. For lunch they served us fish with rice. It was a day I will never forget.
The next day was the first soccer match to qualify for the World Cup, Colombia vs. Bolivia. We could tell immediately upon exiting the hotel that this was a big deal as every person was wearing a yellow Colombia futbol jersey. We found a bar showing the match and bought ourselves Colombia futbol jersey's as well. When in Rome...
That evening was the sad goodbye to Cartagena. It was a lovely tropical paradise and a much needed escape from the fast paced city life of Bogotá.