My Caribbean boating adventure, which seems like a lifetime away, brought me from Porvenir in Panama past the San Blas islands to Cartagena in Colombia. The colonial town was as beautiful as during my first visit, more than two and a half years ago and it sure was hot. People who, have known me for more than a decade know, that I totally used to dig hot weather. Something happened on my way back from my adventure at the African Med seven and half years ago, and during my stay in Mazunte I have experienced weather too hot the handle, much to the surprise of old friends. In Cartagena I played outside until 1 pm and hid in my small, but cosy and airconed hotel room in Getsemaní during the afternoon, only to get out again at around 5.
Cartagena vs. Medellin
After a few days in Cartagena and a couple of nights on the main island of Islas del Rosario, a paradise archipelago and natural national park an hour and a bit by speed boat from the city, I made my way to the city of eternal spring; Medellin. As I had also been during my first Colombia trip, I didn’t do any sight-seeing and ‘just’ engaged in yoga and parked myself and my laptop in the cool cafes of Medellin’s hipster hood el Poblado. The weather was most pleasant, day and night, yet despite yoga and the availability of plenty of hippy food, the city just doesn’t have Cartagena’s charm. It has to be said, though, that Medellin is far more digital-nomad friendly.
The Failed End-of-Year Retreat
Just before Christmas I made my way to the outskirts, to La Ceja, a town in the mountains an hour from Medellin. I had booked myself a yoga- meditation retreat several months in advance to spend my time between Christmas and New Year in contemplation and reflection, rather than indulging in all sorts of earthly goodness. The retreat turned out to be quite a disappointment. The natural surroundings were tranquil and beautiful and the other retreat participants an eclectic and really interesting bunch. The retreat, however, was quite different than was advertised. I received an email with literature to read in preparation and when and how to get there, two and a half hours I was due to arrive. Instead of only silent evenings, the whole retreat was silent. Yet, it was okay to great each other in the morning and it was expected you answer the lady, who cleaned and cooked at property, when she asked how you were and how you had slept. After my silent retreat in Mazunte, where the idea is, that you do not speak a word or even make eye contact for ten days straight, this idea of mauna, noble silence was totally half-arsed in my not-so humble opinion. The yoga classes were rather peculiar; as if the instructor had done an awful lot of it himself, but didn’t really know how to teach it or give a class with a proper structure. Furthermore, we were unlucky with the weather, as it rained a lot and it was cold and damp. None of the indoor spaces had heating. There was a programme, but besides the yoga classes, none of the sessions were led. Food was good, but portions very small for a healthy eater. The retreat leader talked about the principle of ahimsa, non-harming and we were encouraged not to do harm, not even touching a mosquito or other insects, yet chicken was served for dinner every night. On the day of my return to Medellin, I ate for three people and hooked up with one of retreat participants and his friend, who had just arrived from Austria, happy to satisfy my appetite and not being cold.
The next day, the last day of the year, I spent most of the day at the airport in Bogotá and the transition into the new year on a plane high above the Amazon rainforest on my way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1 January often tends to be a day that doesn’t really exist. After a night of partying one tends to sleep through the day and/ or generally take it very easy. Although the Avianca crew had made a little party on board for the occasion, it was by no means a mad house. The flight from Bogota to Rio is only 5 hours and a bit, and as I seldom sleep well on night flights, at around 11 am in Rio, which is three hours behind Colombia time, I absolutely felt like crashing. The hostel I stayed at, yet another disappointment, had a relatively early check in. By 1.30 pm I was sound asleep. I woke up at 7-ish, went for supper with some newly found friends and had a fabulous night sleep after that. I guess I most have been really tired.