Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Caribbean Waters Part I

Seventy minutes of flight and the warm, humid air coats our Gringo skin. Those who were battling allergies in Bogota are now cured quickly by the Caribbean climate. It feels as if we´re in a complete different country. The Spanish here is mucho más rapido and the temperature gives us warm greetings. The only similarity between the coast and Bogotá is that it rains like clockwork every afternoon. Its simply a choice between a cold shower in the high city of Bogotá or a warm shower on the coast. For now, we´ll switch it up and spend some time in the warm showers. Break out the flip flops, swimming suits, sunscreen, insect repellent and the shades. We're livin' this one Caribbean style...
Good morning Cartagena from our apt. balcony
Upon arrival to our rented flat in the Boca Grande peninsula of Cartagena, we are approached by 'Caribbean Salesmen.' "Oye chicos, coca, departamento, muy barrato, muy barrato.." The gringos have arrived and everyone there knew it. The advantage of travelling the coast during low season is the affordability of everything. We managed to score a really nice apartment/flat to comfortably accomodate all six of us with a balcony view, blender, fully equipped kitchen among other amenities for a price of $12/person/night! The disadvantage of being the only gringos in sight during this low season is that we are target for every salesmen... and there are tons of them. For now let's just call them Juan, for some reason most salesmen were named Juan or Carlos.
Our first full day, we decide to take advantage of our location, head 3 blocks north and walk the beach. The Juan's (all of them) were delighted to see us step foot on the sand. "Chicos, cerveza cervezas, snorkeling, gaseosas (sodas), muy barratos chicos.." Aaand here we go, every 30 feet we walk, we're approached by an average of 2.8 Juan's, they're aggressive and we're highly entertained. We finally find one guy who approaches us speaking broken English and his name is Johnny, he wins best salesman of the day this day for getting us to rent out his cabana and order a few cervezas from him. No need to go anywhere if you want to buy any food or beer or massages. They bring it all to you. Juan's salesman sister, Juana we'll call her loves to approach us offering masajes. They actually don't offer, they tell you, ''promocion, masaje, masaje, es una promocion," and start rubbing your shoulders or legs. Some Juanas are so aggressive, you have to show your mean gringo side and walk away or yell at them. It's an interesting game here, are we celebrities that are just so damn irresistible or are we just wearing $ on our skin in low season? We'd all like to think the former but the latter is the reality. Day 2, we take a boat ride to Playa Blanca on an island about 25 minutes from Cartagena...

The Island:

Playa Blanca

Nearly twenty five minutes of a choppy boat ride out from Cartagena, we (only us 6) are dropped off at Playa Blanca on an island. What was strange about this? They told us to get off and everyone else on the boat kept on going. We were rather confused but went with it. As we unload the boat, 30-40 Juans and Juanas come out of the trees of the beach and start approaching us. "All hail, the gringos are here." We were all upset that none of us took a video of this scene, it was like a movie. Masajes, beers, food, ceramics, fish, ceviche... todo barrato chicos. Barrato for those who don't know español means cheap. They say everything is cheap, however we like to negotiate. Whatever price they'd quote us on, we'd respond with "pfff, no, no gracias, too much money," even if it was dirt cheap. We became master negotiators.

Jason, Mike, BJ and Dora in negotiations with Juan Uno, Dos y Tres

We had successfully denied every massage offer until Jason decided he was going to give in and buy himself a massage. This opened up the can of Juanas, once Jason lied face down on the sand and committed himself to a massage, ten other Juanas came over and attacked Reed and I, we literally would have had to run away to get away from the attack of the masajes. Dora, BJ and Mike were swimming in the bathwater called the Caribbean meanwhile before we could say "No gracias Juanas," Reed, Jason and I were all lied face down receiving the best masajes ever. No happy ending included! But for the price of $15 USD, I had four Juanas giving me a massage for thirty minutes. Twenty minutes in, I was considering how I could live on this island forever, Juana paradise. After we were in a nice relaxed state, our yummy fish lunch was awaiting us at the next cabana over.

Jason opening up the can of Juanas

Best fish lunch I've ever tasted

The rest of the day was a breeze, for some reason all of the Juanas stopped bothering us and disappeared, perhaps their daily income from us gringos had been successfully earned, congrats Juana you won in the end. Regardless, we felt victorious agains Juans, maybe because they didn't offer masajes. The todo barrato that they offered just didn't seem as appealing. Three days in Cartagena and we were ready to move up the coast to Santa Marta where prices are even more affordable and the Juan/Juana mix isn't nearly as aggressive. Three hours on a bus up the coast to Santa Marta and round 2 of Caribbean Waters begins...

Sunset from our balcony in Cartagena

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