On Friday August 23rd, we woke up at dawn and drove down to San Diego from Los Angeles to fly to Mexico. My first time south of the border!
Sunrise in Long Beach
First flight together!
The 2-hour flight was uneventful until we arrived in San Jose del Cabo to the pouring rain instead of the bright tropical sun I was hoping for. We had reserved a shuttle that we shared with two other pairs of disappointed American tourists.
We were staying at one of the oldest hotels on the peninsula, the lovely Marbella Suites. When we arrived it was hard to appreciate being there as we learned that not only was it was forecasted to rain until MONDAY, but the storm was predicted to become a hurricane overnight. A sliver of sun was peaking out and I optimistically suggested that we go into town for dinner. Not happening, we were told in now uncertain terms. In a place that only gets 6 days of rain a year, they were completely unprepared: the streets in San José lacked drainage and the ocean washed up onto the highway.
The mango “malleta” I got on arrival!
What to do besides drink margaritas and chat with the bartender? She pointed out a wall of white on the horizon. In a few minutes Tropical Storm Ivo was on top of us… not the most promising start to a summer vacation!
As some of you may know, I moved (permanently!) from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles 2 weeks ago by way of my childhood home in Saint Paul. Instead of the quicker Colorado-Utah route I decided to take a full 4 days in order finally see historic Route 66. Route 66 is now I-40 but the historic highway still runs next to it, sometimes as close as a hundred feet. I’ll make a post on the journey soon, but it was as fun and kitschy as I hoped!
Roadside scrap sculptures in Mullinville, KS
Sante Fe, NM
more Sante Fe
Grand Canyon, AZ
Hoover Dam, NV
One of the funniest things we did in Medellín was the Los Cavallos Bar. I was skeptical as we drove into the countryside for what was billed as Medellín’s real cowboy hang-out, but to my surprise it was indeed exactly like a slice of the Old West in South America! Texas…but with Latin music? And a trendy clientele mixed in with the grizzled real cowboys? Staying the night in a 5 million dollar house (sorry no pictures)? We had a great time…as you can see!
Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I forgot I wasn’t finished! Here are some pictures from the drive from Balsillas on the coast back to Medellín. At the time I was like will I ever ever get out of this damn car, but in retrospect the drive was one of the coolest things, because I got to see so much of the country.
Things I noticed:
1. Arabic influence on the Coast (think Shakira Mebarak!). We stopped at a shwarma place for breakfast.
2. Teenagers on bikes hanging onto the back of trucks as they wound their way up the mountain.
3. The “Invasion Neighborhoods” of ramshackle homes built by rural migrants that sprawl on the outskirts of Medellín.
4. Taking photos out of the backseat of a moving car is really difficult!
By this point we were all pretty worn out and in need of some R&R, so the plan was to retire to Alejandro 2′s family’s beach home in a place called Balsillas, outside the tiny Caribbean town of Rincón del Mar. But first some background info:
On the beach in Cartagena they have these colorful little carts selling ceviche and other seafood. We were hungry as it was getting late so Alejandro and I bought a cup of ceviche which you can see above, and Juan Ricardo bought some fresh oysters. I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time and I was tempted to have some oysters too, but for some reason I decided to be cautious…
The drive to the beach house was supposed to take two hours, but of course for us it took about six, because in addition to getting lost (Colombian preferred method of navigation: ask people on the side of the road for directions in 20 minute intervals) we stopped twice so poor Juan Ricardo could vomit his guts out from the oysters! Bullet dodged?
In any case we finally made it to Balsillas really late and I fell asleep with no idea what the place looked like. You can imagine what a pleasant surprise the morning was!
Three days in paradise with no internet and no connection with the outside world—servants were pouring me drinks for gods sake, it was like an alternate reality. Highlights for me were: endless perfect weather and warm Caribbean water, reading the novel The Beach on the actual beach, tipping the sea kayak over three times with Alejandro and Juan Ricardo, exploring the tiny colorful village of Rincón, and local girl stopping me on the beach and asking “tomarme una fotographia!”
I took a lot of naps in the sun, ate good food, swam and went for walks and did pilates on the beach. I think I got a good tan by the end! The only thing I didn’t like were the mosquitoes. So much for them not being near the sea!
The last night in Cartagena we got tickets to Summerland, one of the biggest electronica festivals in the world, featuring David Guetta and Armin Van Buuren. The festival took place on the beach several miles outside the city. When we got there hundreds of cars were already parked alongside the highway and the Colombian police were stopping cars to check for drugs.
I was so excited, mostly for David Guetta! It was a festive atmosphere outside the entrance of the event area as we waited for our scalper to show up. After about 45 minutes I began to worry he wasn’t going to deliver, but then we got a call or something to proceed up the long walk to where we could see huge searchlights making figure-eights. I was handed a ticket for the name “Maryory Morales.” Great.
The security was impressive (you get frisked A LOT in Colombia, but always by female guards fortunately), but I was able to muddle through. At the second checkpoint they checked my ticket with a flashlight, handed it back and said something in Spanish I couldn’t understand. Did I proceed? I started to panic as I saw the boys advancing past me in the male line.
“They’re telling me I can’t go through!” I shouted. Yet another thing to go wrong. Turns out my ticket was a fake—goddamn you Maryory—but part of the deal was not to pay the scalper until we all got in. He gave me another and the same ticket-checker was happy to take the real one this time.
Well how to describe an electronica festival—not really much happens but it is a cool experience. My first introduction to the venue was listening to the screams coming from the emergency tent… Anyway, because of the delay we missed Guetta (saw his motorcade leaving) but we saw Markus Schulz, Jochen Miller and Armin Van Buuren, who was awe-some. The best part is when he had all the people in the crowd jumping in unison! Couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my all-time favorite movies, It’s All Gone Pete Tong
the bane of my existence
Well here’s what you’ve been waiting for—the obligatory “stolen iPhone” post. I realize that this may seem to be becoming a pattern with me, but I think I’m just very unlucky
On the night of the 5th after a lazy day at the beach in Cartagena, we went out as a big group. After unsuccessfully trying to get last-minute tickets to the Paul Van Dyk concert we ended up in the old city. Late in the night, we were at a club called Fragma, which seemed like a nice enough place because it was certainly expensive.
I was following all the rules—small bag on my hip, zipped and buckled. We were standing in a circle around a table. I checked the time on my phone, which I brought because my watch was giving me a rash. I asked Alejandro to borrow some cab money but decided to stay for ten more minutes so I put them back in my purse—but ten minutes later, as you can guess, the bag was open and emptied of my phone and camera.
Nobody saw anything. Well goodbye nice new 4s, I hope you are enjoying your life on the Colombian black market. Nevermind that every man, woman, and child here is already waving around an iPhone 5. I spent a lot of time being upset and self-recriminating, but ultimately I decided I couldn’t let a material loss like this to ruin my trip. It would have been much, much worse had my credit cards or passport been stolen.
I decided not to go to the police, in light of the futility of the operation in Italy (I was told to expect a similar attitude from the police here). It seemed like a waste of a few hours for all of us, ultimately, when I knew AT&T wasn’t going to care. A few days later on Facebook the boys said a rumor was going around about there being two girls at that party going around stealing phones. At the time I had no idea to look for girls as the culprit, but it does explain a little how I could be bumped or something and not register it at all.
Anyway, there you have it, and know why I am missing some photos and a big chunk of my dignity. My next phone is definitely NOT coming out of the country with me again!
Cartagena (pronounced cart-a-hey-na) is an old Spanish city on the Caribbean coast. The city is now a popular destination for Colombian vacationers and foreigners alike, and has become a hotspot for electronic music. During the first week of January, the city is packed with young people for the two competing electronica beach festivals: Ultramar and Summerland.
The city has two distinct touristed parts: the old walled city behind the fort and the Bocagrande, a stretch of land lined with high-rise hotels. But as I mentioned our initial hotel experience was a bit of a shock. The place (I’m not going to say who picked it, ahem) was not just crappy, it was filthy. Suffice it to say they had some seriously misleading promotional materials, and we found ourselves in windowless rooms with peeling paint, dirty floors, stained sheets etc. After driving 15 hours and now not even being able to shower because there was no working light and no towels—I hit an emotional low.
We spent the next hour on the phone with a travel agent (I think?) and me on the computer trying to find something else. Everything was either booked up or 500 dollars a night, but finally we found a place for the next day and I calmed down a bit. I think if it weren’t for me, the boys would have toughed it out there—Juan Ricardo even took a shower and stole a checkered tablecloth to use as towel! I tried to explain that I’ve stayed in some pretty crappy hotels but I was getting heart palpitations just from looking at the dirty sheets. I slept on top of the covers and had nightmares about bed bugs.
So next day we moved to a much better (and still cheap) place, the Balcones de Bocagrande, and were able to enjoy the city much more. The guys made the—smart, I think—decision to argue with the proprietor of the first dump not to pay, and we ended up getting out of there for less than $10 US a person!
The first night we went to a big outdoor party along the city walls, and I think that was my favorite one. During the afternoon and early evening, there were parties with DJs on the beachfront of the big nice hotels further up from the old city. Colombian women loooooove an excuse to wear itty-bitty bikinis! I also tried the local ceviche (below).