- $7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months
- Revisited: How to pack for an independent traveler with no set return date
- A glimpse in the thoughts of Bolod Namkhai Mukhadi
- Beijing to Ulaanbataar Mongolia: The nitty gritty of independent travel
- How to get Chinese and Russian visas as a United States citizen: My experience
- Writing assignment: "Inside The Candelaria Festival of Puno, Peru"
- Marathon hitchhiking: Southern Mexico to Michigan in 7 days over 3,400 mi
- Mango Surprise: Being the victim of a random, delicious act of kindness
- Legendary Vagabonder Rolf Potts with priceless advice on travel
- Fire juggler in San Pedro de la Laguna, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
- Romania: WWOOFing in Transylvania and back to the US
- Bulgaria: Nice cities, tipped off about an isolated beach, and getting perspective from a prostitute's cigarette burns
- Kazakhstan Pt. 3: Almaty, where kids watch pole dancers, and joining the family
- Kazakhstan Pt. 2: Astana, WTF? Diagnosis: major inferiority complex
- Kazakhstan Pt. 1: Whoa Aunt Jemima's!, the Darth Vader Mosque, and a failed haircut
Couchsurfing in Barranquilla and an unexpected detour into rural Colombia
Written by Tyler Cole | 05 April 2010
After quickly passing through Medellín (and promising myself I´d spend more time there in the future) I started my way up towards the Carribean coast of Colombia. Initially I just wanted to spend a day or so in Barranquilla or Cartagena on the way up to the Guajira Peninsula on the far northeast side of the country, but instead I sent out a few Couchsurfing requests and was invited to stay in Barranquilla. More than a few people responded, but the first was David (aka Jose aka Josh), a university student in Barranquilla. If you were to ask me why I love Colombia so much, I would definitely have to cite David and his family and their incredible hospitality and warmth towards a tired traveler. David (who freely switched between Spanish, French, English, and Chinese), his mom Magaly, and his two brothers Ricardo and Carlos took me in as one of their own. When David got back to me on CS he said I could only stay for a few nights since they were leaving for a family trip to the small town of Toluviejo about 4 hrs to the southwest to visit family, but the day after arriving the family invited me to join them and said I wouldn´t have to worry about housing or food. Realizing this meant sacrificing the trip to the Guajira (I was planning to get to Panama the next week), a supposedly beautiful stretch of land wholly controlled by indigenous tribes, I was a bit on the fence until they ganged up on me and convinced me there wasn´t a whole lot to see in the Guajira and I should just come along. I eventually acquiesced, and I am damn glad that I did.
After a few nights of meeting some of David´s friends in Barranquilla and starting the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in which being "holy" isn´t necessarily on people´s minds, we took off to the village of Toluviejo, which lies a little inland from the coast and is tied in with the massive livestock industry in the area. It´s the sort of place where, when a group of us were hitchhiking (pedir chance) into town from the family´s small ranch, the first car that could take us all stopped without even giving it a second thought. Meeting all of the family was a pleasure and they took the tag-along gringo happily and in stride. They took me along to see the annual Catholic procession commemorating Jesus´s carrying of the cross, in the region a reason to party all night (I´m not Catholic, but stripping down to our underwear and jumping in the Carribean sea at 4am was a bit weird-feeling when momentarily juxtaposed in my mind with images from Passion of the Christ).
Part of the family´s mission was to have me try all of the most popular coastal Colombian food, a mission in which I was fully complicit. After only shallowly diving into Colombian food and being left with a lackluster impression, the Epicurian delights that passed my tongue will leave me hungry for Colombian food long after I´m gone. From sanchocho to ajiaco to grilled sierra fish to patacones to arroz con coco to chincurria to arepas con huevo to mondongos to sweet ñami, pineapple, payaya spreads, and beyond, the meals were astounding, and the rich variety of fruits and juices left me in several food comas with a few acute cases of the itis. The outrageous food also didn´t help the horseback riding on the family´s finca or trampsing around in caves, but lounging around on the nearby beach made it all better.
Oh, and I don´t feel like trying to fit this in anywhere so it´s just going right here: Colombian coastal Spanish is incredibly hard to make out and I swear it is a different dialect. I wish anyone learning Spanish the best of luck trying to understand even half of a conversation in the region if visiting. That said, it is so rich with colloquialisms and slang that I wish I had more time to take it all in.
Pictures are below.