Catching sight of the Caribbean for the first time on our drive from Bogota to Cartagena was a spine-tingling moment. Driving the length of South America is no small feat, and we felt a great sense of achievement.
We kicked off our time on the Colombian coast with a few days in Cartagena with Gabor, a good friend from London. We strolled through the beautiful UNESCO-listed old town and indulged in sun-downers at ‘Cafe del Mar’, the legendary bar perched atop Cartagena’s 17th century fortifications with an uninterrupted view of the sun setting into the Caribbean. We sampled the tastiest steaks we’ve had since Argentina and the most delicious sushi since Peru. This set us up nicely for drinks in Getsemani, Cartagena’s ‘up-and-coming’ neighbourhood, and mojito-fuelled Salsa dancing in ‘Cafe Havana’, where the live Cuban band played until the early hours. After waking up with a slightly sore head, we went for brunch in ‘Crepes and Waffles’, a Colombian institution, before starting all over again. Well, why not, we are on holiday!
Our next stop was Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. One of Colombia’s most beautiful, and popular, national parks, it covers some 12,000 hectares of land and 3000 hectares of sea. Woefully under-prepared for the heat of the midday sun, wearing flip flops and with aggressive hangovers, it was an enterprising water salesman we met halfway that saved us from certain death from dehydration. We felt as though we had walked the full 12,000 hectares by the time we arrived at ‘Cabo San Juan de la Guia’ to spend a few days relaxing in hammocks and enjoying the beautiful beaches. Although now sadly full of teenagers ‘finding themselves’, Tayrona is still undeniably a lovely spot.
We bade farewell to Gabor, and continued on our adventures further inland by taking some friends up on an invitation to visit their ‘finca’ (estate/ farm) in the coffee growing region of Colombia. A few weeks later, we welcomed Lucy’s sister for Christmas and New Years Eve. Sarah arrived with a suitcase full of goodies from London, and we enjoyed a very different Christmas from the usual with Pimms on the beach in the Caribbean sunshine of Palomino, a little further east from Tayrona National Park.
We spent New Years back in Cartagena, celebrating in style at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel. It is so luxurious, they even import their frogs from Costa Rica for just the right croak in the hotel’s courtyard bar. The party to bring in 2015 had a Willy Wonker meets Tim Burton Carnival theme. We ate our 12 grapes at midnight, as Colombian traditional dictates, and partied until the early hours.