Colombia

Colombia was the last stop on our round-the-world adventure, and it did not disappoint.   Jen’s friend, Anne, met us in Bogota, and we were all amazed by the modern and colonial parts of the city surrounded by a pretty mountain.  The financial district where we stayed even felt a little like Washington, D.C.!  We spent a few days at the museums around town, and poking into a few emerald shops along the way.  Best of all, Colombia was inexpensive – a nice treat on our budget after costly Brazil.

Next, we flew to touristy but picturesque Cartagena.   We loved wandering the colorful streets and old city walls, as well as the fun nightlife in the old city.  We also got out of town to see the turquoise waters of Playa Blanca and the beautiful fish in the coral reef near the Rosario Islands.  To get there, however, we had to brave a boat ride which involved flying five feet airborne over some rather large waves for about an hour straight, making us wonder we had gotten ourselves into.  All a part of the adventure.

Sadly, Anne had to head back to work, so Jon and Jen finished the 9 1/2 month journey on the beaches east of Cartagena.  First, we stopped at a surf camp called Costeno Beach, with miles of quiet beach, delicious communal dinners, and a chilled-out vibe.   Jon was ecstatic to be able to surf, skateboard, and slack line every day.  We spent our days in the hammocks while the waves and the hours rolled on by.

Our final beach stop was a camping trip in Tayrona National Park, where we hiked in to gorgeous turquoise water and big rocks on the shore line.  If we didn’t already think we were in paradise, the sand in Tayrona even sparkles with fools gold!

Our very last stop on our trip was a visit with Jon’s college friend, Eric, and his beautiful wife, Kristin, in Baranquilla.  They were wonderful hosts and we loved meeting their cute family and eating some great meals with them.

Sadly for Jon and Jen, our journey has come to an end, and we have returned to Denver.   We will post one last post with some favorites.

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Brazil, nós te amamos

After some beach time, we headed to the main cities in Brazil:  Salvador, then Rio, then Sao Paolo.  We arrived in Salvador late.   As a testament to how friendly the Brazilians are, a lawyer we met on the plane offered to give us a ride to our place.  It was super nice of her and her husband, and we were especially grateful because the neighborhood we were in was a bit sketchy.   Salvador overall is a bit rough, we definitely felt that we had to be alert at all times.  We did have a nice two days exploring the city by bus, going downtown and seeing the historic district, which was still decked out from Carnaval (Brazilian’s second largest celebration!), and going up the coast to a beautiful beach called Flamingo Beach.

Rio was absolutely a highlight of our entire trip.  The natural setting of mountains, peaks, and ocean with a major city built all in-between is stunning.   Gregarious and fun loving Brazilian culture is the icing on the cake.  Although we were careful of our safety, we never felt unsafe and had no issues in Rio.  The first couple days we enjoyed hanging out in our neighborhood and on the stunning beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.   One day we went on a city tour to see the top sites (Christ the Redeemer, Saint Teresa and Lapa neighborhoods, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and Sugarloaf Mountain).   Our last day we explored the Centro, a few museums and the National Theater.  We had to sample the raucous salsa clubs in Rio, and they did not disappoint.   We capped off our stay at a Brazilian steakhouse with an incredible view on a peninsula in the Flamengo neighborhood.    We had so much delicious meat we needed a few days vegetarian days to recover.

Our last few days we spent in Sao Paolo, enjoying the last of Jon’s Marriott points.   We only had one full day there.   We took the bus and metro into the city to see some of the main plazas and museums.  Sao Paulo is the largest city in South America; we heard the term “monster” thrown around more than a few times.

Brazil was one of our favorites, but it was time to move on to the last leg of our trip in Colombia.

Carnaval & Brazil beach bumming

We flew from the southern tip of South America almost to its north-eastern tip for a little party called Carnaval.  Instead of heading to the best known Carnaval in Rio, we decided to spend our Carnaval in the towns of Recife and Olinda upon the recommendation of our friend, Cara.  Recife and Olinda are known for their more cultural, authentic, safer, less expensive, and less commercial Carnaval than its more famous Rio rival.   It was a great choice!

We spent days in Olinda, a colonial town with a lot of character, with the young and costumed Carnaval crowd.   At night, we headed to Recife for big concerts and awesome decorations.   We had a blast joining the Carnaval madness with one exception: Jon was pickpocketed walking to the taxis at the end of the first night!   Luckily he had no cash, just dealing with the nuisance of canceling and re-ordering credit cards and a driver’s license.

From Carnaval, we moved to several beach towns, generally going south towards Rio.  However, we had to go north to check out one beach recommended by other travellers.  To get to the dolphin beach, we walked in and out during low tide.  Amazingly, the dolphins come by every day to swim with people in the bay!   We thoroughly sunburnt ourselves by spending hours in the water flopping around trying to get the dolphins attention.   It was worth it to swim with the beautiful dolphins in the pretty bay.

We headed south to Porto de Galinhas, a favorite of Brazilian tourists and those in Recife looking for a weekend getaway.   The beaches were long, calm, and beautiful.

Our last beach town (well, city really) was Maceio.  It was a relatively pleasant city along a nice, fun beach.   The surrounding beaches in the area were even nicer, Gunga being the highlight.   Gunga beach goes on for miles with a coconut plantation running alongside it.

We fell in love with the open, friendly Brazilian culture, while enjoying the tropical fruits and ocean views.  What a blast!  We were excited for more Brazil.