Our most recent and ongoing trip is a big one, spanning three months with stops on five continents and over thirty countries around the world. One of our very first stops on this big undertaking was the country of Colombia, known as the land of “Magical Realism” if you’re not familiar with the phrase keep reading, its something that we feel can only be described through our lived experiences.
Our journey in Colombia took us through the capital highlands of Bogota, but then into the hot and humid Savanas of the Caribbean Coast. We flew into the carnival like colonial city of Cartagena, moved out into the grasslands of the city of Monteria, the secluded beaches of Covenas and the hills of Sincelejo. As in any trip, you can’t really know a place until you are really in the midst of it and these collective experiences made up our own sampling of magic realism.
The author Gabriel Garcia Marquez grew up in these coastal lands and his writing style of magical realism truly captures the spirit, the colors, the attitudes and the outlook on life that Costeno people have. So it is not surprising for us that immediately upon our arrival in Cartagena we found ourselves walking the ancient streets surrounded by haggling vendors selling fruits, we met an old man at a park bench in front of the Cathedral who lectured us on its history just because he considers himself the world expert on the subject. We saw improv tour guides mixing Spanish and Portuguese trying to sell their walking tours to Brazilian couples.
Heading inland to Monteria we spent four hours on the road. We passed through lazy towns, alcoves and out of the ways places that didn’t seem to have anything on the agenda more than their residents gathered around tables, playing cards and dominoes, sharing beer and blaring the local vallenato music, an unforgettable site. Further down the road, right in the middle of a speed bump, two women stood in complete darkness, safe only because of the reflective police jackets they were wearing, as they sold cups of tinto (really strong coffee) to drivers passing by: magical realism.
This is an atmosphere not only defined by improvised rules, unique approaches to life and an exhilarating happiness, everything wrapped in a hospitable attitude. Getting to know new families is amazing (thirty seconds later an unknown person will call you my cousin: or primo as they say in Spanish) They will buy you a beer, invite you to their house and you will share their meals. We arrived to this land as strangers and from there, hours later we arrived to the privacy of a family party, with a live local valiant band and a porro concert (typical music styles from here). What an experience, live music and instruments carrying on until sunrise, many toasts, conversations with whomever about whatever and learning to dance with a host of eager teachers made the night unforgettable.
Colombia isn’t just another place to see, it is a place to experience. It is diverse in all its parts, but we’ve particularly been struck by its lovable and magical coast, a place where life is full of happiness, joy, music, noise, smells, intense welcomes and really straight talk, it is life lived without reservations and it is another part of what makes seeing the world, so enlightening.