Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lover's Lane South American Style

In Cartagena, an old tradition among the youth of that city makes one appreciate the need for a boy and girl to have a private place to talk. The tradition is to meet your love in the evening on the wall of the old city, perhaps sitting on an old cannon overlooking the city or on the wall in a rifleman's slot that does not have the cannon.

Lovers have many different views. One can choose to meet at a place overlooking the Caribbean, typically facing into the wind. Colored lights on the wall keep the amount of light low but romantically beautiful.

The place can be quite private if you choose the right location, but many times there are others nearby on the wall.

Sometimes, there are three persons, sometimes two. This pair was observed talking and kissing under the low lights on the wall.

So why is this a story to write? Typically, an entire family lives in one home. There is no privacy. Most teenagers have no automobile. They are limited to traveling by foot or taxi or carriage or bike. Most use motorcycles or bikes to get around. That does not provide any privacy either. Therefore, one solution is to go to the wall. A girl says, I want my sister to be there. I saw that in several cases although I had the thought that the notion came from parents rather than the girl.

Here are two young people talking across the gap of the cannon. Notice that it is safe. To get to know each other is a formal process and depending on the time in the relationship, the need to be close but not too close is apparent in the process. The light is not exaggerated. It was perhaps a little darker than it seems in this photo.

In the night, the temperature at this time of the year is very comfortable and in fact almost all year long, it is quite comfortable being out at night. That adds to the convenience of the wall.

Then there were lovers in more advanced stages, turning the location into what we might call "lovers lane".

Gringos don't typically understand this culturally, but sure understand what they see going on the wall of this great city - Lover's Lane! 

Friday, January 22, 2010

City of Cartagena Colombia

Technically speaking, the larger city is composed of several suburbs as we know them. San Diego is where we went and prefer to stay. This is one of the ancient parts of the city, dating back to the 1600's - with a history of conquistadors and pirates. It is quaint, under a type of metamorphosis where old timer homes are being displaced with renovated buildings and tourist facilities. We stayed in two bed and breakfast hotels this trip. In its narrow streets, you will see few motorcycles, since they are banned here.  People walk but there are many taxis on the streets, taking tourists and residents to and fro. The cobblestone streets makes one feel like he is in a European city.

It can be quite warm during the heat of the day, but at this time of the year, it is tolerable. In the summer months one is less likely to go to the market in the heat of the day, but 90 degrees is not that bad at this time of the year.

The public beach near downtown is very busy and crowded with tourists and locals. From the beach there is quick and easy access to the downtown markets just a couple of blocks away. Here is a city on the Caribbean with a sheltered and guarded harbor.

Cars, carriages, bicycles, horses, donkeys and the whole works mix on the streets. It is a colorful place in terms of people, places and history.

Near San Diego, one can see the protected commercial port across the bay and the modern high rise downtown area where the very active beach is located.

At night, the place is lit up in colors that make tourists want to walk about and see.

In the plazas of the walled city of San Diego, there is a wide variety of entertainment from singing, dancing, juggling, and just about anything you can imagine.

During the day in one of the plazas, you might want to watch the guys play cards. They gambled with a few pesos- young and old.  The bottom left guy lost 10 American dollars that morning but was still in the game. I was unfamiliar with their game.

You might go out to a bar in the walled city to listen to music and talk. The surroundings are superb - sight, sound and people.

From the fortified wall, one can see the modern city as well as the ancient fortifications within.

Just outside the wall, there are very interesting markets - plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables available.

Here, I stopped to purchase a new belt. It was customized for me. I walked out wearing my new 15 peso ($7) belt.

At night the spectacular fort guarding the city can be seen under its lights.

Occasionally, one will see the classical woman carrying fruit on her head.

Modern flashy malls are available also.

A tour through the fortress will provide great insight into the history of the place and how the structure was built to ward off pirates and other enemies arriving by ship.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Down the Road to Cartagena, Colombia

Over the holidays I had another travel experience which I have been asked to write about. The idea of this trip was to have our family travel together by road so that I\we could see the Colombian countryside. Danger? That is what I was initially told but after research, I found it to be safe statistically, that is, if all the data was on the platter. So here is another episode of "On the road again".  We traveled by bus - an 11 hour trip from Maracaibo, Venezuela to Cartagena, Colombia.

Nearing the border with Colombia, we began heading along the coast in the country of the Guajro, the native people of this area.

One is not likely to be greatly enamored with this dry and hot area, although the ocean water is great. This arid marshy sand is full of cactus and dry brush.

Traditionally, as in most of South America, the color of a home is important and preferred tones are soft.

In pueblos such as these, the towns wake up early and people are outside working.

The Guajira woman will wear her traditionally full length dress, often very colorful.

As you might expect, there are cows, goats, donkeys and horses along the side of the road, often not tied to anything. The road is only two lanes.

People are on the move along the highway to commercial markets in nearby pueblos on their bicycles, motorcycles, donkey carts, ... any means of transportation possible. You have to be able to tolerate the frequent honk of the horn, as the bus driver warns everyone and thing alongside his side of the road. No one seemed to be annoyed at the noise.

When finally reaching the border, we had to do the normal paperwork to leave Venezuela and our bags were opened to look at everything inside. After exiting Venezuela, we had to walk about 100 yards in "no mans land" to arrive at the Colombian border, where we would go through customs ad immigration there. Colombia was much easier and laid back than Venezuela. After getting the passport stamped,  we were welcomed by this sign. No more checkpoints. I felt much freer in Colombia.

Down the road, the terrain became much more green and lush. As you can see, this toll road is in excellent condition.

In the pueblos, one would see vegetable markets and peddlers like this one, selling ice cream or fruit drinks. Lemonade is a popular roadside drink. 

The military were certainly present, conducting an exercise. We saw tanks and infantry everywhere.

As the day progressed, we began to see mountains in the distance.

And the terrain just kept getting better with deep greens combined with creeks and rivers.

Now the land became a jungle. This is the area near where we stopped for lunch.

But first we would start to see the Caribbean again. The coral blues were outstanding and provided a fresh look at the world as we were discovering it here in Colombia.

Bus driver - cant we stop here for a while????? Please!!! Darn... on with the trip ...

One thing for sure - we saw many children outside and families along the way on this fairly busy road.

Now we found ourselves amongst the Plantain farms.

And those crops are for sale along the road, like they are everywhere in this part of Colombia.

Finally we arrive for lunch on a river in the high peaks of these hills or "mountains". A beautiful cool place.

After taking a look at our options, we elected grilled chicken. Don't eat the lettuce I was told.

Our journey takes us on further to the north through more mountains.

And the terrain becomes less hospitable as we approach Cartagena.

But there was this beautiful yellow bloomer all about the countryside, to make the trip more enjoyable. I saw hawks and bald eagles along the route also. The eagles were a surprise to me.

Sometimes I thought about the power lines and how much more beautiful this world would be without them.

Finally - arrival in Cartagena, the ancient walled city.

Perhaps I should footnote the photos - in these travels, rarely did I have the opportunity to photograph something while not moving at a very fast speed, shooting through dirty bus windows.  I made the photography challenge my project as we traveled.