One of the best opportunities that we have had on our trip to Colombia is the three day excursions to Santa Marta and Cartagena. Cartagena, only about a two hour drive from Barranquilla, where we are studying, is a beautiful city right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. On the way there, we stopped at the Volcán de Totumo, a volcano containing a mud “pool” at the top, where we could swim inside. I decided not to swim, but I enjoyed seeing my classmates’ reactions to entering the pool, settling in, and getting out, completely filthy. Fortunately, they were able to rinse off in a nearby lake, and we resumed our journey to the city.

By the time we got there, it was pouring rain, a common occurrence in such a tropical climate, and our tour was delayed from 2:00pm to 4:00. As we drove through the city on the way to our hotel, I looked out my window, only to see the streets flooded, several inches of water covering the surfaces.

When we did our tour, it continued to rain, but there was something special about climbing to the top of the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a castle built back in 1536, as the rain, falling more peacefully now, landed on us. We were able to see the entire city as the sun set, something that I truly appreciated as the architecture of Cartagena is quite beautiful.

The next day, we went to the Isla del Sol, where we had a day to simply enjoy the ocean. My roommates and I took a canoe through the lagoon and saw the roots of the wildlife growing next to the water, untouched by humans. After lunch, I had the chance to snorkel, and we saw fish of all colors swimming in groups, some hurrying across the ocean floor as others lingered.

That night, we took a chiva, which is best explained in English as a party bus. We were in the front row, dancing to the loud music and bright lights as we traveled all over the city. It was exhausting, but it was a new and exciting experience.

I hope to visit Cartagena again; three days was not enough to enjoy every charming aspect of the historical and fascinating city. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to see it.