Proof that the world is small: looking through potential Couchsurfing hosts in Cartagena, I clicked on the profile of a guy who, according to the message on his wall, had hosted a childhood friend of mine from Colorado Springs that I hadn’t talked to in years! I emailed him right away and asked if he could host me.
Ricardo and his family were fantastic hosts and SO nice. They really went above and beyond – his sister even gave me her room to sleep in, and she and their neighbor took me to the beach the next day, and Ricardo copied his whole iTunes library for me when my iPod decided to freak out and delete all my music.
Here’s the street where I stayed.
All the houses have fences around their own little plot, and in the evening when it gets cooler the neighbors go outside and exchange all the day’s gossip.
The next day, Ricardo gave me the grand tour of downtown Cartagena:
Shrimp cocktail stand
Lemon raspados (sno-cones) and this giant shoe I had to climb in
Five memorable Cartagena moments:
1. Afternoon beers at Donde Fidel, a salsa bar whose walls are covered with framed pictures of all the famous musicians who have played there.
2. Fresh juice from the fruit stands: mango, passion fruit, nispero (sort of vanilla-y), lulo (tart like passion fruit), papaya, and so many more whose names I can’t remember.
3. Eating patacon salvaje con todo (wild patacon with everything) and listening to reggae at a roadside bar with Ricardo and his friends. Patacon is a patty of fried plantain, and the “salvaje con todo” part meant a mountain of three different sorts of sausage, cheese, french fries and crispy little shoestring potatoes. This is all washed down with Postobon, a supposedly apple-flavored pink soda that actually tastes like bubblegum.
4. A spontaneous salsa lesson from Ricardo and his brother – the secret, they told me, is to start moving by yourself, and then if there are Latinos in the room, they will come join you.
5. Celebrating my 24th birthday with new friends from the hostel I stayed in for the first two days – we had drinks from a restaurant on top of one of the huge walls and watched the sun set over the city.
And the two Cartagena moments I’d like to forget:
1. Getting fried to a crisp on the beach and watching everyone flinch when they looked at my lobster legs.
2. The temperature being so searingly hot all the time that my forearms and ankles were actually sweating!