We are no longer in South America! Four and a half months, eight countries and god knows how many miles later, we flew out of Cartagena in northern Colombia to the Caribbean and the USA, our hearts full of both sadness that we were leaving and excitement for the next leg of our trip.
Following our last post, we had about a week left in Colombia. We’d heard bad things about Bogota – it’s reputation is of being a boring, dirty and crime-ridden city – but we really enjoyed it. It helped that our apartment was gorgeous and the weather was better than we dared hope for, but we spent our days wandering the streets of the historic centre… and shopping for tons of souvenirs. We bought a hammock for crying out loud.
From Bogota we headed to Santa Marta, but not before another cancelled flight with the always entertaining Viva Colombia. You will remember last time that our flight simply didn’t exist when we got to the airport. This time they had the courtesy to let us know our flight was cancelled, and instead we would have to take the afternoon one instead – as long as we confirmed of course. For this change they gave us a whole 11 hours notice. Nice, eh? A few hours on the phone, some passive aggressive tweets and some actively aggressive emails later, our itinerary was changed and we would leave a few hours later than we planned. Ah well, more time for shopping.
When we landed in Santa Marta we noticed one thing – the heat. We were back in the tropics, that was for sure. It was overwhelming, and even by the time we got into the taxi a whole 15 yards out of the terminal door we were dripping with sweat. Thank god for air conditioning. Santa Marta wasn’t the most amazing town in the world but it was pretty in places, and the nightlife on the Friday we arrived was fun, featuring street BBQ and a live band whose frontman went nuts on some kind of South American giant recorder. We actually went to Santa Marta to visit nearby Tayrona National Park, but the insane heat and corresponding hordes of mosquitoes put us off doing a hike, so we spent our last day on the beach instead. We had such a nice day that we didn’t even feel guilty about it.
Our next and final stop on the continent was Cartagena. It’s an absolutely beautiful colonial town, and as a popular cruise stop, it has long been considered a tourist hotspot, unlike the rest of Colombia. Even my Nana has been there (on a cruise, she isn’t exactly the backpacking sort) back in the 90s. It is easy to see why. The old town is full of tiny little streets just begging to be wandered, brightly coloured houses with slanting roofs, draped in ivy and bougainvillea. In fact the only thing that stopped us staying in the old town non-stop for three days was, once again, the blistering heat. The mercury nudged past 35°C every day we were there, and the humidity was well above 80%. This caused forays out of the shade to be actually painful and thus it limited our time that we could spend exploring a place where we could happily have got lost for ever. Luckily, we met a couple from London at our Airbnb who were more than happy to knock back the beers with us, so chilling at home in the shade was fun anyway. These guys had done a very similar trip to us, but with one notable difference: they had done it in a campervan. They were in Cartagena to arrange the shipment of their van (they called it “the Bongo”) back to the UK, which sounded like a colossal bureaucratic ball-ache, but I must admit I felt a pang of envy at their adventure.
We also had to spend a good chunk of our last day once again re-arranging a flight. Our next stop after Colombia was the Bahamas, but to get there we had to get to Fort Lauderdale first. Originally we had 2 hours and 45 minutes to make our connection in FL, which would have been tight but do-able. However, JetBlue Airlines decided to move our flight back just over an hour, meaning that there was no chance of us making our second flight on to Nassau, so we had to cancel and book a different, more expensive flight. Even after we did this, the joy that is US customs and immigration nearly caused us to miss our connection anyway. 1 hour and 45 minutes after landing, we finally were able to grab our bags and sprint through the airport to our check in desk, where we made our flight by the skin of our teeth.
A night in Nassau airport and a flight on a washing machine with wings later, we arrived in Deadmans Cay, Bahamas. Of all the places we have been in over 50 countries around the world, this has by far and away the best name of all of them. It is also one of the most beautiful. We are staying with Sadie’s aunt (which is a relief as the hotels on this island are insanely expensive) and being spoiled rotten. We plan on chilling out, snorkelling and drinking rum for the next week or so before heading back North to the USA – and through their delightful customs and immigration again. Yay. Next time you hear from us will be in New Orleans, where jazz and gumbo will be the order of the day. Take a look at our personal highlights of South America for some ideas if you fancy a trip!