Cartagena de Indias
I jolted myself up into a seated position in bed with a panicked feeling in my gut; this is not often how I wake up. “Yana!? We missed our flight!!!?” Our last night in Bogotá we decided to splurge on a nice dinner at a recommended steakhouse called Andres Carne de Rez, then return to the hostel and relax before our early flight to Cartagena the next morning. Somehow, after consuming mojitos which happened to be served in bowls the size of my head, we had successfully befriended all of our wait staff and found ourselves dancing with them to Reggaeton at a tiny locals bar around the corner. Now, it seemed we had both managed to turn off our alarms in our sleep, and were still in cold Bogotá when we were supposed to be on the Caribbean shores of Cartagena. Once we arrived at the airport and the unusually pleasant airline staff helped us change our flight for free (!?), we decided it was all worth it for one last hoorah in the city.
Cartagena is quite the picturesque old port town, but its immediate beaches leave something to be desired. After a couple of days spent meandering about the innumerable emerald shops, restaurants, bars and gorgeous colonial architectural facades we were ready to venture out in search of more beautiful waters. We purchased tickets to a ferry which, as we understood it, would take us out to an island where we could hang out all day on the beach, and return at sunset. Forever skeptical of being taken advantage of, we opted for the cheaper large ferry boat instead of the speed boats being suggested to all of the tourists. This ended up being a huge mistake. Hours went by, as we sat in the sweltering sun on this trembling, massive ship. A man was talking incessantly over a loud speaker, giving us information barely decipherable through the static of the microphone and the vibrations of the boat, as we kept passing by all of these lovely bathing opportunities. When the ferry finally docked at a tiny land formation with only an aquarium on its shores, we began to realize perhaps we had bought tickets for a tour of the archipelago, and not a day at the beach. The boat took off again, as we patiently sat giggling and confused. Sweating, tortured by the gorgeous crystal clear waters surrounding us, we had to hold back from the temptation to literally jump-ship.
Half the day went by, and we finally reached said island laden with jet skis, tour boats, and cabanas. We walked down the coast as far away from the hoards of people as possible, keeping the ferry in sight, and jumped in the giant, warm, turquoise bathtub. We had only been there for approximately 45 minutes when Yana noticed our boat boarding people! No! Our time couldn’t already be up!? Indeed it was. At the rate it took us to get there, we would have to be leaving now in order to make it back to the mainland by sunset. We reluctantly ran as fast as we could back to our ride, wondering if we would lose our return ticket if we accidentally got left behind. Pondering over this very strange turn of events I suddenly realized we were the only Gringas on the entire boat. All day I had been taking family photos for our fellow passengers, and having the occasional brief exchange, but never once did I take notice of this unnecessary detail. We laughed hysterically at our obliviousness as we ate rapidly melting vegetable oil ice cream we had purchased due to the fact that everyone else was eating it (it tastes like your eating frozen canola oil). Apparently we had enjoyed the journey most Colombian tourists delight in while visiting the archipelago offshore of Cartagena. The best part was not knowing we didn’t quite fit in, we had sensed something was a little off, yet we couldn’t put our finger on it. Colombians are so amicable, they never treated us with a “what are you doing here?” attitude, although I’m sure they must have wondered. Ignorance can definitely be bliss, but after asking myself how I could be so out of tune with my surroundings I came to the conclusion that because we have so many foreign friends back home, and regularly find ourselves hanging out with people who mostly speak Spanish, we weren’t ever out of our comfort zone. I believe that the only way to have a “fly on the wall” experience in another country is to not try and be the fly. That day, with our choice of transportation, for better or for worse, we were able to experience visiting the Rosario islands a la Colombiana.