It’s hard to believe the semester is nearly over. I’ve got a couple more posts in the works before it all comes to a close but in planning them, I realized there were a handful of stories and photos that didn’t have a home. So here we are, the orphan stories post. :)
Digital Nomad is the Life
Two weekends ago, I was struggling with the heat and wanted to get out of town for the long weekend. I never did figure out why we had Monday off, but I wasn’t about to complain. Unfortunately, my usual travel buddy had other plans and the other friends who were traveling were going places even hotter, plus I had homework. So I decided to go on my first totally solo adventure. I decided to head to Minca which is a tiny mountain town a few hours away that is a super popular place for tourists. (I wasn’t the only tall blond around!) I arrived by bus and a very chatty taxi and then walked about half an hour up a dirt road into the mountains (this area is apparently totally safe to do that). The walk itself was gorgeous and I arrived at the coffee and chocolate farm I was staying at right at sunset. The evening chorus of cicadas was in full force and I felt almost like I had walked into a Disney forest (mountainous jungle-style of course).
The surrounding hillsides were incredibly lush and vividly a million shades of green. Of course with all that life, the bugs were living it up too and thanks to an unfortunate packing mishap of forgetting bug spray, I came away from the weekend with some good polk-a-dots to show for it. I spent most of my weekend doing homework and coding, which part of me felt bad about because who goes to a beautiful place and then spends all their time on their devices but also I’d rather be on my laptop in a beautiful, cool place listening to the birds than in my bedroom so… very worth it. I spent a good chunk of my Saturday in a beautiful office with wonderful drinks service (i.e. a cafe overlooking a river). It’s really hard to beat the sound of rain on the leaves as a background soundtrack for categorizing random internet data for class. The trip home was easy but a good reminder of how nice it is to have your own car. Minca is only 78 miles away but it took me nearly 7 hours to get home by bus.
Casa en el Agua
Last weekend was a trip I had been excited about since a couple friends and I booked it back when May felt like an impossibly long way off. We hopped a taxi at 5:30 in the morning and promptly all fell asleep for the entire 1.5hr drive to Cartagena (the next city over). After a little breakfast, we caught a boat for another 2 hrs (during which I also slept) to a collection of islands a little further down the coast. We didn’t stop at an island though. Instead we stopped at a hostel that is its own island. Casa en el Agua (or house in the water for my non-Spanish peoples) is built on a just barely submerged ‘island.’ Step off the deck anywhere around the building and you are waist deep in the Caribbean.
The Casita (or little house) as they call it is a super popular place for backpackers, especially those with a little budget as it’s definitely not the cheapest lodging in the area. We met people from all over Europe including France, England, Germany and Ireland, as well as a few Americans and travelers from Australia. Most were on big adventures of ‘only a few months’ and some for up to a year. The second day we got talking with a couple of young doctors from England and we discovered that one of their boyfriends works for a company that is making a literal jet pack. He’s both an engineer and test pilot for the company so I think it’s fair to say we basically met a super hero’s girlfriend. We stayed in hammocks while we were there (taking advantage of 20 something bodies that can handle that) and I may have taken a 3 hr nap in mine the day we arrived. If you do that math I got nearly a full night of sleep just in naps. I must have been tired or something.
The first night we took a boat into the mangroves on a nearby island and got a brief view of bioluminescent fish on the way. Then we hopped out, put on snorkels and swam around in some breathtakingly beautiful bioluminescent plankton. This wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced bioluminescence but I think it was by far the best. Any disturbance to the water caused a trail of bright white sparkles and if you pretended to throw something, you could throw a handful of sparkling fairy dust through the water. Sadly, we have zero pictures because even my friend's GoPro couldn’t capture it.
The other big adventure of the trip was something called ‘Disk Go.’ Despite what it sounds like it had nothing to do with dancing. It was kind of a cross between tubing and wake-boarding consisting of a big, hard plastic disk and a water ski rope. Once you got moving you could get up on your knees (or if you were good, your feet, but last time I checked I don’t have that kind of skill). Then you hung on for dear life as you sped along behind the boat and zinged off around corners. It involved a good bit of crashing face first into the water and wore out my arms incredibly quickly, but it was so much fun.
We also went to tour Santa Cruz del Islote. Islote as it’s referred to is an artificial island close to Casa en el Agua. It was built in the late 1800s using rocks and shells and more recently a lot of concrete. It is famous for being one of the most densely populated islands in the world and subsists off of fishing and tourism. Our guide told us that almost everyone who lives on the island was born there and that they are all one big family.
Totuma Mud Volcano
Our last ISA (my study abroad program) adventure was to the Totuma Mud Volcano. This small, active mud volcano is a popular destination both for the experience and for its alleged healing properties. The volcano itself is only about 50 feet tall and inside the crater is a thick, really fine mud. It feels almost more like really dense water and is surprisingly smooth. The experience was almost like I imagine zero gravity but of a really slow moving variety. Probably one of the craziest things was you could stand chest deep in it with nothing under your feet. After soaking in the mud for a while and trying not to think about the number of bodies that went through the same mud everyday, we went down to the nearby lake. We were washed off, very thoroughly, by local ladies with small buckets and it was amazing to watch people walk into the water completely monotone and then leave in full color.
Casa de Carnival
If you read my post about Carnival, you know how impressed I was by the costumes. This weekend I finally made it to the Carnival Museum to see some of them up close. The museum started with videos of the 16 other big Carnivals in the world. We saw everything from dances in the Russian snow and yeti costumes to impressive African dances and even Mardi Gras. Then we entered the hall of dresses and I think my jaw fell off. I went with a friend from here who also loves to sew and between the two of us there was a lot of shocked admiration happening. These dresses are used during the coronation of the Carnival Queen before the Carnival actually kicks off. They look quite impossible to do much of anything in but are almost more of living statues. Here are a few of the masterpieces.
I’ll be back shortly with the last couple updates and then I can’t wait to see you all!