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Havana-ing a good time in Cuba

16 May

It’s Saturday 21st May and after almost missing a previous flight to Cartagena we are at Bogota airport in really good time for the short hop to Havana. And it’s just as well, as after lining up to check in, we are turned away as we haven’t yet had our passports stamped to leave the country. So off we trudge through the airport with our belongings on our backs to duly get our stamps and line back up, only to then be turned away again as we don’t have enough Colombian Pesos on us to pay the departure tax. “Departure tax?”, we say in unison, as I’m pointed in the direction of an ATM. Oh yes, departure tax, as in tax to depart, and as in contained in the guide book, under ‘Taxes: Departure’. Excellent pre-trip planning we have done again. Perhaps in Cuba we’ll read the bloody guide book rather than haul it around for exercise!

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Good luck needs no explanation. Cartagena, Taganga & Palomino, Colombia

11 May

Stepping off our plane in Cartagena the intensity of the heat and humidity hits us full force. Even at almost 9pm at night, it’s a scorcher and a welcome change from the crispness of the previous week. Our luck keeps shining on us when we arrive at Hotel Villa Colonial in Cartagena, our accommodation for the next 3 nights. It’s perfectly located, reasonably cheap, impeccably clean, spacious, cool, with a hard mattress (read: no sinking in the middle!) and fluffy pillows. Even better is that, unlike many hotels, it has an excellent kitchen for guest-use and an affordable drinks fridge, which we quickly get acquainted with before retiring to bed.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena draws legions of tourists and thus, inevitably, aggressive touts and street-sellers. Dodging the unwanted sales and navigating the completely irrational driving and road rules requires skill – feels like we’re playing a game of ‘Frogger’. You need to coyly idle along, scanning for the ideal moment, then dash across, winding and weaving, hoping you won’t become a squashed frog (not the delicious shooter glass kind) in the process.

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Botero and beyond: Bogota, Salento & Medellin, Colombia.

30 Apr

After having been encouraged to take 2 planes, the fast boat, 4 taxis and 6 days to reach Bogota from Lima (flight time 3 hours) I’m ready to put my feet up. Unfortunately, there is the nagging itch that as we were in transit for the best part of a week, it would be good to get out and get to know a place again. So it is that we find ourselves on foot exploring Colombia’s capital, Bogota, on a rainy Monday morning…

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Lost in Transition: 5 towns, 8 days – Nazca, Huacachina, Lima, Iquitos (Peru) & Leticia (Colombia).

22 Apr

Its Saturday April 14, 8pm and we’ve just settled ourselves into our VIP seats on the bus bound for Nazca. Thinking it might be one of the quietest Saturday nights we’ve had in some time, this thought is soon ousted when 5 of the other 7 available seats were filled by a group of barely-out-of-their-teens females and their decibels. Not to worry, I pat our bottle of vino tinto and giant sized bar of chocolate and figure things could be worse. Luck is still with us when we are treated to an in-flight movie, Braveheart. Dubbed in Spanish, with English subtitles, I decide it does no justice to William Wallace’s “Freeeedomm!” speech. Alas, the good and the bad seesaw needs to be evened out, and the bus soon rolls to a stop. Landslide. Nobody moves tonight. No movie, no music, it’s raining hard outside and… we’ve run out of vino tinto…

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