freedomtravelers

The travels of Lucky & Tegan

Category: Travel

Colourful Cartagena Celebrates


Vibrant Cartagena is the colonial jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. The cities magnificent architecture, coloured facades and vibrant people seemed so accustomed to fiestas, that after spending nearly a week in the city we decided to return for the annual Independence Day celebrations.

The 11th November marks the cities Independence Day and is celebrated exuberantly over a couple of weeks in a purely Colombian style. The celebrations include widespread dancing, drinking, and foam spraying. All this excitement eventually leads up to the crowning of the Miss Colombia competition.

The elaborate beauty contest began for us with a parade which we unexpectedly stumbled upon in the city’s main square one afternoon. We watched as one by one the beautiful pageant contestants made their way past us on their decorated floats. Each contestant was dressed in brightly coloured dresses covered in feathers, flowers and sequins. Locals followed on foot, dancing around them, dressed in traditional costumes, reminiscent of 1811 Cartagena.

Every year the Getsemani district of Cartagena throws its own Independence Day party.  Getsemani, is one of Cartagena’s oldest barrios and is now made up of backpacker hostels, bars and one very delicious fried chicken restaurant. The barrio may be a little rough around the edges but it is where the cities heart and soul truly lies. Getsemani’s history is deeply intertwined with Cartagena’s independence from the Spanish and every year the residents celebrate jubilantly. The barrio is made up of descendants of African slaves brought to Cartagena during the Spanish rule. It is told that the people of Getsemani fought the fiercely to help Cartagena overcome Spanish rule, during the War of Independence

The locals are very proud of their barrio and its heritage and this is especially apparent on Independence Day. We watched the frenzy of Getsemani locals’ parade their way down the main streets of Getsemani before stopping the main plaza for a salsa concert. Afterwards there was a huge street party and almost all the neighborhood took part, running around spraying each other with foam. A human dressed as a horse directed traffic while taxis blasted music out into the street and everyone danced until the wee hours.

The following day we heard that the winner of the contest was to be announced and we made our way to the docks of the Cartagena Harbour for a parade of a different kind. This time the pageant contestants had switched their floats for boats and could just be made out waving from their specially decorated yachts. The harbour was full of other boats carrying a very unsafe number of revelling locals. We watched from the safety of the dock as the Miss Colombia Pageant winner was announced and the party boats erupted.

There were beauty queens, drag queens, dance routines, parades and thousands of amazingly colourful costumes. The whole celebration showcased the vibrant, colourful lifestyle of the Colombian people as well as the beautiful Caribbean Coastline the city sits on. We will cherish these memories for a lifetime and recommend anyone thinking of visiting Colombia to make sure they do not miss Colombia’s most celebrated cultural festival. Cartagena’s Independence Day Celebrations take place every year during the first two weeks of November.

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Happy Birthday Belize

After celebrating Mexican Independance in Bacalar five days earlier we couldn't believe our luck when we stumbled into town just in time for Belize Independence Day.

Caye Caulker celebrated the day with a colourful parade through the town and then some crazy festivities later that night.

Bacalar, the lagoon of seven colours


After leaving the more widely visited parts of the Yucatun we felt very lucky to come across some unexpected surpises in the small town of Bacalar.

The Bacalar lagoon which has been long described as the lagoon of seven colors has been inhabited since Mayan times when the local population believed it held special powers. Then in the 17th century, pirates sailed the lagoon using it pillage the usually isolated towns. These days Bacalar is a humble town sitting on the most breathtaking lagoon of vivid clear blue water.

Casita Carolina Jetty

We arrived in Bacalar on 15 September, which is one of the most celebrated days on the Mexican calendar, Mexican Independence Day! During the day we walked around town listening to 'viva Mexico' being screaming from passing cars. In the evening the fiestas began.There was dancing, singing, and drinking. We had a great night watching the Mexican girls dancing in their colorful traditional dresses while drinking sol beers for 15 peso and eating delicious freshly made tacos and tostadas.

With the fiesta starting at 7pm and not finishing untill the early hours of the morning some took things too far and we witnessed a couple of local drunkards being carried away by the police after a few too many cervezas. VIVA MEHICO!!

We had noticed a few strange blonde haired people lurking about town, occasionally passing us on a horse drawn buggy. Who are these people wearing old fashioned straw hats and overalls? They did not seen to respond to 'hola' and certainly didn't resemble the average mexican we had come to know. After some investigations we realized that the people belonged to a Mennonite or Amish community which was located close to town.

After speaking to our new friend Fernando, from Mexico City he told us that the group's original decendants originated in Germany and have been living seperated from mainstream society since the 1920's. He mentioned that the community have only been in this part of Southern Yucatun for 10 year after leaving Northern Belize in search of more land. Fernando kindly offered to drive us to the ranch where the community lives to buy some of their homemade cheese.

Upon entering the community it felt like we had time warped going back a few hundred years. It was a hot, humid day of 35 degrees and the men wore long sleeved thick shirts and long pants while working the land and the women long thick dresses revealing no skin. What a bizarre sight, Amish people living in the ancient Mayan heartland.

After a surreal 15 minute drive down a dirt road, we decided to take our chances and pull in to one of the ranches. When we reached the front door about 8 children with very curious faces and one very weary mother came towards us we then attempted to communicate our desire to purchase their homegrown cheese. After the first phrase of English was spoken we realized there was a strong communication barrier. Luckily Fernando was educated at a German school and could understand their German dialect!

After Fernando's conversation with the mother he explained that the cheese could be bought from a ranch 10km's north of the pine trees. We set off on our search for this glorious cheese once more. After trespassing on three more ranches, one communal food stop and recieving a dozen confused looks by the stern blue eyed men we realized we may have overstayed our welcome. Empty handed but enlightened by the experience we realized we had now gained so much more then the cheese we had come to find.

 

Mayan Ruins of Coba & Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula is the land of the ancient Maya, people who built grand temples to honor their Gods. Without the benefit of modern tools they mastered the skill of architecture, building elaborate pyramids and sprawling cities.

While traveling through the Yucatan region we had the opportunity to visit the Mayan ruins of both Coba & Tulum.

The Mayan ruins of Coba were built between two lakes during the Classic Period of (600 – 900 A.D). At this time it was a very large city spread over 80 square kilometers. The main pyramid, “Nohoch Mul” meaning “Large Hill” is 42 meters tall and is the highest in the Yucatan peninsula.

Climbing Nohoch Mul, 'Apocolypto' came to mind. As we climbed from rugged rock to rock we could not help but think of all the human sacrifices that had occurred in this very place. The steep steps to the top were a little daunting especially as we thought of human heads rolling down the very steps we were climbing.

Nohoch Mul

The top of Nohoch Mul

The Tulum ruins were a complete different experience to the Coba ruins as they are set right on a beautiful beach. Here are a few photos of our adventure through Tulum.

Finding the best spots to take photos, even if it means creating your own tour track over a rope into a thick bush!