Once Carnaval was officially over, it was time to slow things down, relax, see some more of the city and get more than a few hours sleep each night. In the two post Carnaval days I had, not much got done on the first. JD and I both slept until well past noon which didn’t leave much time for sightseeing. I had wanted to go and see the museum, but by the time we got out there I would have only had a little over an hour, which I didn’t think was worth it. So instead we went for a walk down to the river.
There was an observation area that we went to where a police graduation ceremony was taking place. There were four different schools of police graduating that day. From what I could tell they were; general, rescue, riot and no idea what the last one was. It was blowing a gale that day, and the guys that were holding up the big flags at the back had one hell of a job. After watching the ceremony, we retired to JD’s place to play some Uno with Alfredo, Mayra and Wendy and have an early night.
On my last day in Barranquilla, we were up early because JD had organised for one of his friends, Jorge, to drive us around for the day. The first thing we did was to head out to see the Boca de Cenizas (Ash-mouth). The Boca de Cenizas is a peninsula that provides a natural divide between the mouth of the Magdelena river and the Pacific ocean. It takes its name from the colour the fresh and salt water makes at its point of mixing. Construction took place to expand the projection in years gone by (during the 1800s) to encompass a railway track and offer more trade opportunities for Barranquilla and Colombia as a whole. However, over the years the peninsula fell into disuse as the city opted instead, to create a dredged channel allowing larger vessels access closer to the city.
It was about a 40-minute drive out to the last place accessible by car, the rest of the way was on foot (or by motorbike if you had one), which turns out was a lot further than I expected, around three kilometres each way. Even though the peninsula is no longer in use for commercial trade, it is still in use. There are small shanty towns along the stretch, where people reside and fish for a living. To describe the conditions of these habitations as modest would be a massive overstatement. I shudder to think what happens to them during any kind of storm. Despite this, the people we met along the way were all pleased to have a chat with us and share some wisdom about their fishing techniques. One technique was entirely new for me, fishing by kite, using a line of hooks with sinkers. The level of ingenuity displayed by people who possess very little is awe-inspiring. While there were many examples of this, filleting fish with what I could only describe as the worlds sharpest butter knife, took the cake for me. Towards the end of the peninsula, there were some dubious, at best, points of crossing. Further, the ocean must have known it was hot that day because it continually provided us with showers by pummeling the rocks with massive waves. Overall, the view and experience were fantastic. However, I definitely would have brought a hat and water bottle with me if I knew how long it was.
After we finished the long trek back to the car, we set off to jump in mud volcano! It was about a 40-minute drive to volcán del Totumo including stopping at a couple of my favourite road checkpoints (peajes). Once there, I donned my boardshorts and made for the mud. As this was my first dip in a volcano, I didn’t quite know what to expect, other than the standard knowledge that once the mud was removed, I would sprout forth like a butterfly from a chrysalis with the skin of the gods. Upon setting on foot in the mud, it was immediately apparent that there was no risk of scalding, as the mud was quite cool. Further, any thoughts of having to swim vanished as it was literally impossible to submerge any further than chest deep. Exiting the volcano proved a damn sight harder than entering. The elastic in my boardshorts was abysmally outmatched by the now fortified weight of the mud-clad fabric. I’m not sure anyone was expecting to see the moon at that point in the day. Once out, holding my pants, it was down to the river to wash off, no showers around here.
On our way back home, we stopped off at Castillo de San Antonia de Salgar a colonial-era structure which served as an observation point for the coast. While taking a look around at the views, it was easy to understand why they chose the location.
Back at JD’s place, we ordered some take out and considering we had barely eaten all day I insisted on ordering what appeared to be the most substantial thing on the menu, special picada. When the food arrived, I found out that we had ordered, in total, just two of the picadas. One for me, and one for everyone else (five people). So began one of my, now customary but grotesque missions of overeating, which left everyone scratching their heads at how one person could eat so much.
Sleeping that night wasn’t easy, and not just because of the excessive amount of food and meat sweats that I had. Rather, it was because I was feeling a little melancholy about leaving. I had a great time in Barranquilla, living, spending time and making friends with “salt of the earth” people. Nonetheless, it was back to Bogotá to plan the next stage of my journey.
It would probably be remiss of me, at this stage, if I didn’t give my overall impressions about Barranquilla as a city. It could have been due to the time that I was there; however, I am led to believe this is not the case, but there is an unmistakable party vibe in the city. Everyone loves to have a good time, go dancing and listen to music. Everyone I met was incredibly happy, fun and family/friend oriented. The climate in Barranquilla is very similar to summer back home in Townsville (maximum of around 30-33°C each day), but with more wind which makes it more tolerable. Overall, as an industrial port city, Barranquilla is indeed not the prettiest of cities, and there are infrastructure and planning issues galore. The biggest problem for me, however, was the amount of rubbish constantly left in the streets, which was compounded by a lack of bins for proper disposal. All in all, I loved my time in Barranquilla, and while it is not a tourist mecca, it is definitely worth a stop in for a few days, especially if you can find some time during carnival.