Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sultry, Sexy, Chaos - the 200th Anniversary of Colombia's Carnival

It was hot, it was sexy, it was chaotic, and it was fully booked months in advanced. The 200th anniversary of Colombia's carnival was the event of the decade for the Caribbean port of Baranquilla--and after spending the better part of a day unsuccessfully internet-ing in search of a place to crash, I hopped the Boeing-train from San Francisco --> Houston --> Bogota --> Baranquilla without a clue as to where I was going to base camp during the 4.5 day party. But things always tend to work themselves out down here. "Colombian creativity" they call it.

After I touched down, my friend and master fixer in "Locombia," Hernan, put some calls in from his Bogota HQ while I was spooning through a rather putrid bowl of cow intestine soup at Mac Mondongo restaurant in downtown Baranquilla.  He had a friend who had a friend who had a friend who had a single bed available in her hotel.  The catch: it was a pay-by-the-hour nooky-house on the wrong side of town.  "No problemo," I thought.  During coastal stages of my cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina, I put my time in at many an hourly rate love shack as there simply weren't any other options. In fact, let me take this opportunity to share a favorite Tom Robbin's quote regarding said establishments.

“These were the kind of splotches that might enliven the bedsheets of a Third World beach motel.”

From Mac Mondongo's, I hopped in a cab and mumbled the hotel address to the driver.  "Where?"--he touched on the brakes.  "I'll take you there, but if you leave your room for 5-minutes, you'll be returning without any clothes on your back."  Baranquilla doesn't have the best reputation for "tranquilidad."  Just at that moment, my cell blip-blipped.  It was a text from another one of Hernan's friends. "My family has an extra apartment we use for entertaining out of town guests.  You can have it tonight." 

And that's where I put down my bags--8 hours after landing--on the eve of my first night in Quilla.  The next day, I was taken-in by an incredibly fun family with an apartment just a click from the Carnival parade's starting point. They hosted me for the next 4 nights.

My super-dooper fun host family in Banquilla during Carnival

From Baranquilla, I took a bus down the Caribbean coast to Santa Marta where I bumped into a few of the cute dancers I'd photographed during carnival.  They invited me to join them at a another "friend of a friend's" hotel on the eastern edge of Tayrona National Park.  Fortunately, the chicken bus dropped us off at the wrong address.  We walked down a random dirt road through the jungle anyway and somehow ended up at one of the most fantastic beach pads I've ever laid eyes on.  We slept in hammocks for three days--taking photos, drinking Ron Viejo de Caldas mixed with fresh juice, stargazing, and picking sand out of our ears.  I like to call it serendipity--but must give props to my "Locombia" friend Hernan's description of my post carnival R&R, "that's life in the f-ing tropics man."

The beach pad of beach pads.  I hit this stretch of sand for some post carnival R&R.

Please enjoy these photos from the 200th edition of Colombia's Carnaval de Barranquilla