While most people think of Brazil when the word Carnival comes to mind, I’ve recently discovered first hand another legendary location for this wild holiday. Where foreign visitors are few and far between Baranquilla, Colombia provides the stomping ground for a 4-day booze soaked rager with parades, wild outfits and girls so pretty it hurts your eyes. Just a stone’s throw from Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, Barranquilla isn’t really on any tourist’s list of places to visit, but when Carnival comes around it is most certainly the best place you can go to “shake it with the locals.” Fate thankfully placed Carnival in my plans during my time in Colombia, here’s the tale….
Equipped with a “Sweet Sound Makes Good Party” t-shirt, a plastic bag full of money and a copy of my passport I found myself on a bus from Cartagena to Baranquilla around midday on the first day of Carnival. I’d heard that the area can be quite dangerous for foreigners, especially during Carnival, so I packed quite literally expecting to be robbed by splitting up my money into four separate pockets with no ATM card or anything else of value. My crew was amped for a fiesta and made up of myself, my legendary travel partner, a funny Swiss guy and a blond German girl. We got dropped off at a supermarket on the outskirts of the city, bought a bag full of Aguilas (local beers) and took a cab to the party zone. A dense mob of people crowded as far as the eye can see around a road with a parade, we opened our throats and downed beers while sweating our way through the locals for a good place to hang. No matter how hard I try my blond hair and blue eyes just can’t pass me off as a Colombian, so everyone wanted to take pictures with us.
Little foam cannons are available for purchase to soak your friends and anyone within earshot in a soapy layer of eye-burning foam. This is a fun beer fueled activity until you take it too far in spraying some local kids and they quite literally almost kill your Swiss friend by filling every orifice of his body with foam to the point where he can’t see or breathe for an unhealthy period of time. Dancing around, drinking beers, wiping foam out of your eyes, posing for photos and watching a parade of beautiful women in crazy costumes, the party was nothing short of amazing.
Constantly changing locations after repeated trips to the smallest urinal I’ve ever seen that’s supposed to be for two people, something bad happened that filled me with a brief sense of panic. Everyone started running and screaming like a riot was happening and the locals advised us to get away from where we were hanging out before because there had just been a knife fight. Surprisingly only fazed for a brief instance at the significant danger that was near us, some crazy local guy in a wolfman costume took us to a street corner where everyone drinks and dances. Trying my best to shake it with some older Colombian ladies, the beer flowed like water and we quickly got back in the Carnival spirit. As the sun began to set we ran into a friendly group of Colombians with a girl who loved to give high-fives more than any human I’ve ever come across. They were party organizers for the fiesta and when they ran into us they expressed extreme concern for our safety and told us we needed to get out of that area quickly before it got dark as it would be too dangerous for us. Surprised because everyone was so nice, but not about to ignore local advice they invited us to dinner then to come party at their house which we obliged.
Drinking a cheap bottle of horrible rum on a local bus with my hand throbbing from sitting near “High-five girl” it was an extremely fun little local experience. They took us to a restaurant that seemed to specialize in hot-dogs and while we drank cheap liquor and stuffed our faces, the locals kindly took care of the bill. Next we headed to one of the Colombians houses where everyone seemed to unwind for a while so we all eventually fell asleep on some random guys couch. Now I should have probably mentioned earlier that there was absolutely no fairly priced accommodation in Baranquilla for the Carnival so we had planned on just partying all night then taking an early morning bus back to Cartagena. This plan was sort of ruined when we were told it wasn’t safe on the streets at night, so when the locals woke us up and told us they were going somewhere else, but could drop us off at a local nightclub we didn’t really have any other choice. When we arrived at the club we realized we weren’t really suited for the expensive, high-class spot considering we were in dirty clothes, sandals and smelled like beer foam, so we opted to drink at a little late night food stand across the street. After a few hours talking about how awesome the day was the night turned to early morning and the food stand closed. We saw that the nightclub was letting out so we went to stand outside to see what was happening and think of a new plan on what to do with the next few hours of 4am-7am time in the land of knife fights.
As we watched the finely dressed Colombians leaving the club we were absolutely mesmerized by the hotness of the local woman. As these stacked women stumbled their way out of the club, we wiped the drool from our chins and were so overwhelmed by their beauty it was like watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon. The club closed and to our dismay none of the goddesses came up and asked if we would like to go home with them for a few hours, so we made our way over to a fast food restaurant. We weren’t hungry, but we found a back room that was unlocked with a trampoline so we all snuck in and fell asleep on it until we were kicked out. Fortunately enough time had passed and we made our way to the bus in a delirious state and returned to Caratagena.