One Week In South America

One Week In South America

 

As I step back on the escalators leading down to the NYC Subway, I see how much of the last 9 days I can remember.

 

I remember Lima; the way we danced around the fountains as they danced around us, the taste of Peruvian chicken in the middle of the night, getting our 5am flight redirected on our way to Cuzco, deluding myself to believe that I had altitude sickness.

 

 

I remember Ollantaytambo; the way we bargained our way from Cuzco, hiking along the sweeping hills of a mountainous city, the nonstop rain that somehow made everything prettier, the girls from Germany that I met on the train to Aguas Calientes.

 

 

I remember Aguas Calientes; the way we struggled to get up at 4am, the people we waited in line with, the instant coffee, how we got our tickets to Machu Picchu the moment the ticket office opened at 5am, how we almost forgot to buy our bus tickets at the last minute.

 

 

I remember Machu Picchu; the way we rushed to be the first 400 people to sign up for Wayna Picchu, how we climbed up stone by stone to the tallest peak in the region, sitting at our personal little rocks taking in the views, when we decided to take the road less traveled to the Temple of the Moon, our shock to the countless steps we had to retrace, sunbathing by the Temple of the Moon, the burning in our thighs as we returned, the rain on our bare skin the moment we finished descending from Wayna Picchu, the fellow climbers we met along the way, the sense of accomplishment when we finally reached the observatory tower overlooking the ruins.

  

 

I remember Cuzco; the way we shamelessly danced with other backpackers at Loki’s the first hour we were there, the people we met at our hostel, the feel of  the city’s cobblestone roads, the trustworthy roommates that partied with us, the friend from the States who agreed to take us around, the taste of guinea pig and llama steak, the bizarre monsters at La Turca, the horrible pronunciation of flirtatious Spanish phrases, the shisha at Indigo, the 6 hours that we danced and the characters we met at Mama Afrika.

  

 

I remember my one night in Bogota; the way we made our way into Kong’s, ordering Green Jasmin drinks and late night fried steak, how none of the ATMs accepted my card, the taxi ride along 7th Avenue, the taste of Aguadiente, waking up thinking I missed my flight to Cartagena, the godsend morning breakfast, a grueling taxi ride to the airport without cash to pay for it, worrying about Kseniya when she failed to show up to our flight, surprised to see Kseniya when she was taking the same flight with me back home to NYC a few days later.

 

 

I remember Playa Blanca; the way we formed a team in bargaining our way there, riding on motorcycles, arrving to an empty beach that stretched for miles, the sugary white sand, swimming in the Caribbean at night, falling asleep to the Caribbean waves outside in a hammock, waking up to the sound of roosters, being roasted by the sun, making fun of daytripping tourists, the speedboat ride back to Cartagena.

 

 

I remember Cartagena; the way we befriended fellow Colombians that led us to stay at their place, walking along the streets of a city I wish to return for my honeymoon, eating cerviche in the same seat Anthony Bourdain ate his, the late night salsa at Mister Babilla, the circle around us as we danced off at Babar Nightclub, the final hugs goodbye.

 

 

How could I forget.

Who Missed Their Flight Now? Huh?!

Who Missed Their Flight Now? Huh?!

What an oddly perfect way to conclude this trip.

In Monsoon Diaries tradition, every excursion requires a serendipitous coincidence to round it off. And this one is no different:

Kseniya and I had parted ways earlier this morning; she was to take an early flight to Bogota to catch an evening flight back to NYC whereas I would take an evening flight to Medellin and catch a late flight to NYC.

So about a few hours ago my flight to Medellin was getting delayed, and they called my name over the loudspeaker. They wanted to know if I would be okay taking a flight to Bogota instead to catch an earlier flight to NYC. I shrugged and said sure.

So an entire flight was waiting for me as I boarded this last minute (which was pretty awesome). About 2 hours later, as I navigated my way around Bogota El Dorado International airport, you can guess who I run into at security: Kseniya, whose flight to NYC was the flight I had just been switched onto.

This run-in is cute enough as it is, but it’s even made more awesome because only a few days earlier, Kseniya actually had missed her flight with me to Cartagena. You can say I’m feeling this weird, unexpected, and yet wholly fulfilling sense of a resolution.

NYC, here we come!

 

- At time of posting in Bogota, it was 14 °C - Humidity: 94% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: scattered clouds

 

Who Missed Their Flight Now? Huh?!

Videos From South America, The Best Of

 

I´m now waiting for my flight to Medellin, where I will take a redeye flight back home. I just edited all my past entries by adding in the appropriate videos I took with my flipcam while I was in South America. I think it adds to the realism of being there, instead of seeing only pretty pictures.

Here are a few of my favorites. The texts link to the original blog entry:

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- At time of posting in Cartagena, it was 34 °C - Humidity: 59% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Charming Cartagena

Charming Cartagena

 

There are very few cities that can compare to the oh my god I need to come back here for my honeymoon vibe when you walk along its streets. NYC comes to mind, but then again I’m biased. Luang Prabang is definitely on that list. And Cartagena. Yes, Cartagena…How can you not be charmed by streets like these:

 

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We did the following walking tour in order within 3 hours:

  1. Museo Naval del Caribe
  2. Convento and Plaza de San Pedro Claver
  3. Plaza de la Aduana
  4. Plaza de los Coches
  5. Puerta del Reloj
  6. Walk westwards along Calle de Roman, passing by the Catedral
  7. Plaza de Bolivar
  8. Palacio de la Inquisicion
  9. Iglesia and Plaza de Santo Domingo
  10. Walk eastwards along Calle de la Mantilla, Calle de la Estrella, Calle La Soledad, and make a left along Calle Segunda de Badillo
  11. Make a right along Calle Santismo
  12. Iglesia de Santo Toribo de Mangrovejo
  13. Walk eastwards along Calle 7 Infantes and Calle Poritobelo
  14. Monumento a la India Catalina
  15. Walk north unto you hit the Las Bovedas
  16. Walk south to Puente Heredia and east (20-30 min) to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
  17. Take a cab to the Convento de la Popa
 

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Inside the Cathedral

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Inside Plaza de Bolivar

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Plaza de Bolivar

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Last night we ate at La Cervicheria, a restaurant that was featured for its creative ways of cooking cerviche (shrimp with mango, mozzarella sauce, garlic sauce, BBQ mexican, peanut butter octopus…) on Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations:

 

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La Cervicheria

 

It’ll be hard to miss the fortification walls around Cartagena:

 

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Probably one of the biggest highlights of Cartagena is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, which has remained to be the most impressive Spanish fort constructed in South America. Don’t miss it.

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Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

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Afterwards you have the option of taking a cab to the Convent de La Popa, which is the highest point in Cartagena with amazing views of the city. One option is to walk up the hill (30 minutes), which has been highly UNrecommended by everyone in Cartagena (Lonely Planet compares it to a trek in the Mojave Desert). 

The other option is get a cab which will tend to upcharge you up to $40,000 colombian pesos for a 10 minute ride, which is 8x the normal rate for a ride that long around the city. Choose your own adventure.

 

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Views of Cartagena from the Convent de La Popa

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All in all, a full day in one of South America’s most charming city, in my opinion surpassing the quaintness of Peru’s Cuzco. I think tonight we’ll grab a drink at Café del Mar, and then go dancing at another club somewhere outside of the Old City. After that, it’s time to pack for the trip home…

 

- At time of posting in Cartagena, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 79% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

A Moment Of Paradise At Playa Blanca

A Moment Of Paradise At Playa Blanca

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I remember watching Y Tu Mama Tambien for the very first time, when the two friends fabricate the existence of a beach in an attempt to seduce Luisa. As they travel throughout the film, they discover in fact that the beach is real, and it just so happens to be the paradise on Earth as they had described it.

I felt as if we just found that beach.

 

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Imagine a beach with warm Carribean waves, where the locals have set up hammocks for you by the water to stay the night, where you can fall asleep to the sound of the lapping waves, where the sand is so white that the beach is named for it, where for miles you fail to see any sign of tourists or touts. Imagine a beach where you have the sand and waters all to yourself.

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- At time of posting in Cartagena, it was 30 °C - Humidity: 79% | Wind Speed: 19km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy

 

Who Missed Their Flight Now? Huh?!

Crisis Averted

So now I’m sitting in Cartagena’s airport, waiting for Kseniya.

Because Kseniya booked her flights a few weeks later than I did, she was unable to get on a flight with me from Lima to Bogota. Instead, she booked a later flight; I would leave for Bogota in the evening, while Kseniya would have to stay in Lima for a few extra hours before leaving for Bogota the next morning. We were supposed to then meet again on a shared morning flight from Bogota to Cartagena.

Problem was, Kseniya didn’t show up on our flight to Cartagena. And when boarding was about to begin, I checked my e-mail: nothing from her. Then I asked airline officials ab0ut her no-show and gave her name. After putting her name into the computer multiple times (and when I even asked them to put her name in their partner airlines), they told me she never even checked in her flight from Lima to Bogota, let alone her flight to Cartagena. What made it more disconcerting was that they insisted me she must still be in Lima by herself. I then wrote her name in big block letters on a piece of paper and they checked again. Still nothing.

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- At time of posting in Cartagena, it was 30 °C - Humidity: 83% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear