After the pedagogical rush of Bilingual Week in Barranquilla, it seemed appropriate to take a break in Cartagena, a city with the addictive pull of raw beauty and fascinating culture. Leaving late on a Saturday afternoon, the ride via Berlinas in drenching rains was slow, as the windows resembled driving through an automatic car wash. Arriving in the evening to traffic-heavy streets, the final destination was a welcomed sight, with a view from an 8th floor apartment in BocaGrande overlooking the bay.
Heading out for the evening, we traversed the cobblestone streets of San Diego and Getsemani before settling on Bourbon Street, a drinkery crammed with rustic wooden tables serving Louisiana-styled pub grub, and waitresses dressed like the burlesque girls of historic New Orleans. Having visited the Crescent City many times before, I appreciated the parody of this Bourbon Street, thousands of miles away from its namesake location.
The night included a live band covering 90’s songs in English and a Halloween costume contest, but the real highlight of the evening was meeting photographer Andrès Lesmes and his assistant/model, Carolina. As Carolina whirled through the crowd in her feathered headdress and glittery makeup, Andres told funny stories between champagne toasts celebrating his birthday. The night pulsated into early morning hours until, finally, our respected parties separated and disappeared for home.
Sunday morning Andres and Carolina whisked me away to a beautiful part of Cartagena heading towards Barranquilla, a small area known as Manzanillo. Upon arrival to award-winning Karmairi Hotel Spa, we were welcomed with warm smiles. Beyond the main veranda, a beautiful beach stretched out, appearing nearly-deserted for miles. After placing two large lounge chairs side by side, a chic waiter dressed in all-white asked politely if we wanted anything, and nodded as I requested an arepa: Colombian street food at a boutique beach resort. Several minutes later, the waiter delivered a gorgeous circle of golden goodness, and I gleefully devoured the cheese-filled pocket, grateful for this moment of gourmet simplicity.
Following breakfast, Andres elaborated on his photography, which includes travel, hotels, hospitality and food with clients in cities like Bogota, Medellin, Santa Marta and Cartagena. Hours passed as the sun made its way to directly overhead. Naval servicemen running along the beach timed each others’ barefoot sprints.
Laughter erupted when someone mentioned the absence of champeta music blasting from a pica and the lack of vendors hawking necklaces and buñelos – characteristics of the lively atmosphere on beaches along the Caribbean Coast.
Karmairi definitely reveals a unique view of Colombia, one that lends itself to beauty and charisma. It is almost impossible to not feel thankful during a day of relaxation and enjoyment. While there are other places to spend a Sunday in Cartagena, Karmairi was perfect at this moment, offering large white beds to lounge on and a superb staff to thank for their services.
Having volunteered my time and lived on a tight budget nearly an entire year in this gorgeous country, I was especially humbled and grateful to God that I was experiencing what is definitely not a typical day for me at the beach.
After a torrential, hour-long rainstorm spent sheltered under a small seafront cabana, the sun finally poked through the clouds as the afternoon crowd of local families began to arrive, parking their cars sequentially along the top of the beach.
Following a quick splash in the bamboo-walled outdoor shower of Karmairi, I waited for William to arrive in his taxi for the drive to Cartagena’s bus terminal. As the evening light settled along the historic city walls, a sense of serenity and gratitude evolved from another fascinating weekend in Colombia.
My average days are filled with catching city buses, walking on broken sidewalks, and dodging mototaxis. In eleven months as a volunteer here, I have enjoyed few moments of luxury in places like Karmairi, making it almost dreamlike when I do. In the past two months my computer and camera have both broken, leaving me to rely on pay-by-the-hour Internet cafes and blogging via iPhone. For anyone who’s ever had to survive on minimal technology, it’s easy to agree, after we become accustom to working a certain way, having to adapt to another is almost debilitating. Sure, it’s not horrific, but it definitely is an inconvenience.
While these setbacks are possibly preparing me for my next life as a Digital Nomad, typing on a 4×3 inch qwerty keyboard is no luxury. At this rate, one would think the efforts of a travel writer may as well go on hiatus, but this post is proof you can get results with determination.
From a day lounging at Kamari to nights blogging by smart phone, everything that is eloquent and humbling about living here equally distributes a personal adoration for the diversity of Colombia… and all that there is to experience about being here.