¡Viva la tradición!
Barranquilla boasts the second largest carnaval celebration after Río, and I’d been hearing about it since I arrived in Colombia last June. Despite all the hype, I really wasn’t too keen to go. I’d already been to las Fiestas Novembrinas in Cartagena and I’d been told that carnaval was about the same thing, only much larger. While I absolutely loved Novembrinas, I don’t love large crowds and planning anything after the three weeks of travel in January seemed too overwhelming. Luckily my friend Nancy let Autumn and I join in on her couch surfing gig, so we had a free place to stay and I had no reason not to go.
Very glad I went! It was a nice mini-vacation after the past few weeks of getting to know my new school and endless Ministry meetings and training sessions. Though we were sleeping on the ground with about 20 other backpackers, it hardly mattered since we were out on the town most of the day and fell dead-asleep both nights. My phone’s step counter tracked over 23,000 steps as we trekked from one parade to another.
The first parade called the Batalla de las Flores is the most famous and also the most expensive. It costs several hundred thousand pesos to get a 3-day bleacher seat pass and $25,000 to get a plastic chair under a tarp. We chose to buy neither and suffered for it. The heat was brutal and we could barely see a thing. After about an hour we gave up and went to the smaller neighborhood parade a few blocks away.
Good choice. We could see a lot more just standing on the street and were still able to take part in the fun. Autumn and I bought cans of espuma (soap foam) to spray the little kids and teenagers standing around us. Planning ahead for the espuma I’d worn an old tee shirt and sunglasses. I love espuma, anyone holding a can is fair game and I love to start espuma wars with everyone I see.
At night we went to a block party to listen to some authentic Cumbia music and dance with the locals. We drank aguardiente and aguila and enjoyed the crowd and atmosphere. By 1am we met some fun Barranquieros who took us for some Salsa dancing at the most famous nightclub in town, La Troja. A sweet college kid named Carlos twirled me around for hours before we finally collapsed into exhausted sleep at our host’s house.