About Me

My photo
Welcome My name is Tess. I'm a 9-5 New Yorker and traveler. My hobbies include destroying suitcases, photo-bombing tourists in Times Square, and taking long romantic ADHD walks around the globe. Welcome!

Jan 14, 2013

Cartagena - Dear Colombia

At first I was like, " why is he all in my Kodak moment?!"
 Then he let go of the flag and I realized my ungrateful a$$ would've been launched into the horizon if he hadn't.
Thanks random stranger who helped me escape death by flag!

Yup I did it again. Short changed everyone on my gift list so that I could get on a plane and split during the holidays. And this time there are no apologies. I bought you all back liquor, coffee and candy - and myself ( and that's given the country's reputation) so we're basically even.

Typical Cartagena style home. Balconies are revered around here.  From a balcony you can people-watch
with friends over beer and cigarettes.

Surprised? Don't be. By now you should know my Modus Operandi. Pick a place where I don't belong and and have the time of my life an educational experience and share it with you.   So enough about  2012 grudges, let's get to it - shall we?

...Cue the Damn pics

Dear Colombia - Where are the cocaine cowboys you promised?

Me: Hey baby I'm digging your tribal markings can i hold your spear.
Him:  Hey sweetness come here let me whisper sweet tribal nothings in your ear.

No but seriously, These two represent why, historically, Cartagenians look more black than anything else.The Afro-Colombian population has its roots in many West African countries like Mali, Guinea Bissau, & Sierra Leone.  For more info, visit The National Museum of Colombia.

Despite every negative, death provoking thing folks had to say about visiting Colombia, I strapped on my backpack and hopped on that plane. Thanks Jet Blue for having dirt cheap, direct flights that screamed "Get on the gahtdamn plane!" And thank you Colombia for returning me unscathed, completely sun-drenched and with many, many memories!

Unfortunately though kids, I didn't do anything fun like getting kidnapped by a drug cartel, to count cocaine bricks, butt-naked, in the jungle. Nonetheless, I had a great time. 

Dear Cartagena - You're far more than the drug riddled reputation that proceeds you?!


Belgian sociologist Pierre van den Berghe described Cartagena as “perhaps the most African city in the Spanish Americas.” in his autobiography "Stranger in Their Midst"

As a matter of fact, you were once one of the most desirable coastal cities in the Caribbean because of your rich history - literally and figuratively speaking. Cartagena de Indias was established as a Spanish colony in the 16th century. And because of Cartagena's geographic positioning, it was also a targeted port for the African Slave trade and numerous battles. Which explains a few things.

Dear Cartagena - You put the "L" in Lock down!

Now the site of the popular Cafe Del Mar and known as the best place to grab a beer and see the Cartagena sunset.
This portion of the fortress was heavily manned with cannons, arms, a bunker and a prison 

Nothing says "back the hell off my island" quite like a cannonball in your a$$ and a statue?

It's gotta be tough being famous for violent drug trafficking organizations, but Colombia was thugging, long before the drug trade.  Did you know that Cartagena is a UNESCO world heritage site, because of it's "Walled City?" 

Yup under Spanish rule, a  seven mile fortress was erected around the city complete with cannons and manned by military force, to keep out pirates and pillagers trying to stick Cartagena for their paper.  I mean the Spaniards stashed so much loot in Cartagena, that the wall was rebuilt several times due to numerous attacks by the French and English.....  But they didn't stop there.

Idiot savant in the tunnels

They also built  Castillo San Felipe de Barajas,  another artillery armed fortress to stash their riches and wipe out intruders ransacking the island. Inside this massive fortress is a maze of dark, narrow tunnels that yours truly ran through like a refugee.

By the time I found my way out I was sweating bullets and scared to death. I was later told that only few people have the courage to follow the tunnels to the furthest point. And only idiots do it alone.  I guess I win twice!  

The massive scale of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a clear indication that they were not playing games
 when it came to protecting the city

Dear Colombia - Pass the dutchie pon de lefthand side!  Damn I love your street meat.

Camerones, Carne, Pollo guisado, Sancoche, and no matter what Caribbean country you visit, that burnt rice on the bottom of the pot is a delicacy and goes by many names. Don't believe me? Ask any coconut Caribbean person. 

What magical brujeria do you put in the food?  I love it like a fat kid loves cake! You are a city of pure carnivores! Finding a Carniceria (butcher's market) in Cartagena is like finding porn on 8th ave in Manhattan.  After 10pm I could be found lurking in the streets exchanging pesos for miscellaneous food packages from street vendors.

Colombians cook in a style similar to many Caribbean Islands, also using many of the same staple foods (yucca, yam, plaintains etc..) soaked in and seasoned with a blend of flavors that got me off every time. Come to think of it, eating Colombian food is pretty similar to watching porn..I'll stop there. 

I knew I had a problem when I awoke each morning excited about what I was going to put in my mouth. Scandelous!

 So when a food truck rolled up around the corner from my hotel I was on it! Corn Arepas filled with eggs, cheese and ham with a beverage called Avena. Five minutes and $2 later,  I was belly full and back in stride. Later I hopped on motorbike across town to the local outdoor market "El Mercado" on the edge of town and proceeded to stuff my face with whatever yummy goodness was in those pots .

When you visit the Cartagena, be sure to ask for the Bandeja Paisa - the traditional dish.

Dear Colombia - Pink vodka and cow eyes - lunch is served?

Hey, if you season and stir-fry them pupils,  I'll eat those too!
Go ahead,  judge me,  but I'm sure some of you have put far worse things in your mouth... I'm jus sayin
El Mercado is one stop shopping.  Here you'll find everything from exotic local foods to sneakers and cigarettes. They also sold bottles of pink NUVO? - you know, in case you want to get drunk off of pink vodka, right before buying chickens gizzards and cow hooves?!  

Once I entered the carnecieria inside El Mercado the sweet smell of unidentifiable dishes turned into this (points below) I was intrigued however I quickly lit a cigarette to get the smell out of my stomach! But hey, it's gotta start somewhere before it makes it to my mouth - the food I mean!
Nothing goes to waste. And I know I ate these hooves, I just can't recall when and where! Probably after i drank the NUVO

Dear Colombia - I took a dirt bath in Volcano Totumo,  and you know what?  It didn't suck!

Mud bath with lunch of fresh fish = $30
Tips for the people who took photos & bathed the mud off of me =$6
That awkward moment when you look at your photos and realize that the biggest boobs in the
photo belong to a man = priceless

Then my ADHD kicked in, and I immediately wanted to mud wrestle the guy with the man boobs! What was it like being submersed in mud? It was pretty much the complete opposite of my Turkish bath in Istanbul .

I wasn't  freaked out by the fact that we were completely buoyant and had quite a time trying to balance ourselves in the mud. Nor was it the fact that there was mud smeared all in my honey pot (read: va-jay jay).

It wasn't even about the couple behind me, who (oddly) began to rub mud on me? (feeling on my tender cocoa morsels)  But I think it was the camaraderie of it all. Yea, something about taking a dirt bath with 20+ strangers brought us together in a way that I never want to experience outside of that mud hole.

Los jovens de Isla Boquilla.
Camera shy? I asked them to smile, instead they posed for A Rockawear ad.
 My little paisanos, seen above, were introduced to iPhone video making. And they knocked it out the box!
check out their video below

Dear Colombia - Who orders drinks at the bar? Pshh - they just buy the whole damn bottle!

Restaurants that you will want to try when visiting Cartagena are;
Kreyolle - traditional dishes prepared in a fine dining style with delicious sangrias
La Mulatta - trust me when I say Mm mmm mmm    

Considering Obama's secret service men went balls-to-the-wall in this city, of course I too had to find out what Cartagena's nightlife was like. So my local cutie took me out for date night and it did not disappoint! The Getsemani area is the perfect place to introduce visitors to Champeta.  Unofficially, Champeta is what you do all-night-long under the influence of Colombian rum and an amazing band! Officially, Champeta, along with Vallenato and Cumbia,  is "La musica de la tierra Cartagena," and is rooted in Cartagena's strong Afro roots. The sound and accompanying dance is kinda what happens when African-rumba, Salsa and Calypso get together for a Ménage à trois.  Four hours and a bucket of sweat later, there are empty bottles of rum everywhere, and somebody might be pregnant. Splendid I tell you!

Comandeered by captain Elias  (red &wht shirt) we headed to the island of Boquilla
about  a 20 minute canoe ride from the popular Boquilla beach.

Eventually the band leaves, and you realized that you just danced for 4 hours straight. Then at three in the morning, you stumble out into the warm, tropical air & sober up during a walk to the park. You sit on a bench to "make nice" and soon enough the moon aligns with the stars,  you pull in close to each other, he says something perfect and leans in for a kiss ....then suddenly you here this...
"Tess! Holy sh*t that's Tess!"

Just beyond the Puerta del Reloj entrance.
The "Tinto man" walks around city with hot coffee and cups in tow. He also has cigarettes for sell.
This is a profitable hustle - I'll be putting this on my list of gigs I could do if this shit hits the fan in America 

Immediately, your date stares at you with accusing eyes, as you look around in bewilderment, trying to figure out who tha' fugg just screamed out your name at 3 in the morning?!  Soon you realize, that of the drunk dudes approaching, one of them is another tourist you met, in passing, the day before (coincidentally a cock-blocking *ss New Yorker?!) . And at that moment you wished that a cocaine cowboy would appear and wipe this douche dude off the face of the fugging earth.  Ok, now where were we?

Dear Colombia - Cat calling is so much more romantic here.

La reina, morena hermosa, la morena de mi suenos..... and that was just from the fruit guy!
Some say that the Colombian accent is the most beautiful of all Latin speaking countries, which is really helpful considering how expressive they are.
Not aggressive, but they are certainly not shy. (sin verguenza) and extremely healthy for one's self-esteem.  Cartagena, if this is how you Holla at women in the street, then the "pillow talk"  in this town must be crazy.  Which leads me to my next point.....

Dear Colombia - Never trust a big butt and a smile....  

I swear it must me something in the water around here.
In the famous words of  Bell Biv Devoe - You'll fall in love and you'll be screaming demon - Woo!

...Or you could end up losing yourself in the jaw-dropping beauty of these people. Just ask President Obama's secret service men. But in their defense, Cartagenians are ridiculously gorgeous people. I mean on a scale of 1-10 the average person (women especially) is a 7.5 - and that's on bad day.
I mean these people look like they bath in sunshine and rainbows, pick their teeth with unicorn horns and sprinkle stardust on their skin. Sure this sounds like overkill, however, I can easily see how a man  accidentally wanders over to an ATM machine with a "Lady of the evening," not that I saw that happen... several times.

So I overheard Colombian Pharrell Williams and his friend discussing that, it is very dangerous to fall in love with someone who doesn't speak your language. Really?
And here I was thinking that  it saved you from having useless arguments? 

Dear Colombia - The streets is talking @ La Ventana Denuncia. 

Cartagena was not the place to piss people off during the Inquisition days.  They believed in persecution and death to anyone who practiced brujeria (witchcraft).... even if they couldn't actually prove it.  You need only be suspected or accused  by a disgruntled neighbor,  a jilted lover, or somebody  you owe $20 to.   If they slid a note past that window, then you could be next in line for a tortuous death.

It just wasn't safe for a single girl back then. Let too many married eyes linger on you in your pum-pum shorts and their wives would have your ass burned at the stake! Which makes me wonder if this had anything to do with the amount of convents in Cartagena. Chances are, it was probably safer to be a nun than a floosie.

Dear Colombia - You forced me into language submission - Espanol solamente!

Cartagena taught me that we so often take language skills for granted.  As much of a tourist hub as Cartagena is, English isn't as widely used as you might think. So, brush up on your Spanish or download a translation app for your smart phones. You can thank me later. Also utilize the GPS map on your phone because every corner in Cartagena looks similar to the next and asking for directions ain't easy if you don't speak the language. Now kids, pack you bags and get the fugg outta dodge for 2013...because you know I will! 

Dear Colombia - You had me at hello hola

 I drank your rum, canoed through your mangroves, did your nightlife, made some international connections and really came to love your city. I cannot see any reason not to return.  The people are as warm as the weather, and still there is so much more to see in cities like Cali, Santa Marta as well as others. My dollars stretched along with my affection for this island paradise with a sordid past and extremely bright future.

Henry tells us why you need to come see his city!
What are you waiting for?


  1. Nice! :-) My bags are packed, ready to eat drink and love. I don't know, I've eaten some questionable foods in my days (the cat my granma told me was chicken) but I draw the lines at cow hooves!

  2. Wonderful Photography that is the Best Identification of professionalism.


spill your guts here