After only a few days in Cartagena the three of us and our roommate John packed a bag with a few items to stay overnight and headed on a buss to Barranquilla to experience one of the largest and most colorful Carnival celebrations in the world. Once there, we did experience a few mishaps since we did not have a room reserved for 4 and John's initial reservation turned us away, but we did find a really nice, and yet inexpensive, hotel to stay which ended up being right in the middle of the action.
The first night was filled with dancing in the street until the wee morning hours. John and I spent the night roaming and dancing....and probably drank 20+ beers each. We realized at some point that we totally scored with our hotel because it was right by the street party...literally 50 ft away, so John and I could walk inside and use the bathrooms whenever we wanted. The rest of the street partyiers would pay to use a 5 gallon bucket inside of a refrigerator box.
The next morning we woke to music...Latin music being played by a band right in our hotel lobby at around 8:30am....and loudly. Pretty cool, but also a bit obnoxious if you stayed out until 4am.
Soon we took a couple mile walk through the city until we found the location of the parade. There we posted up and watched the main Carnival parade of 2015. Before checking out the pictures below, take a quick read to learn more about the history of Barranquilla's Carnival that I pulled from Wikipedia:
Barranquilla's Carnival (Spanish: Carnaval de Barranquilla) is Colombia's most important folklorecelebration, and one of the biggest carnival in the world. The carnival has traditions that date back to the 19th century. Forty days before Holy Week, Barranquilla decks itself out to receive national and foreign tourists, and join together with the city's inhabitants to enjoy four days of intense festivities. During the carnival Barranquilla's normal activities are paralyzed because the city gets busy with street dances, musical and masquerade parades. Barranquilla's Carnival includes dances like the Spanish paloteo, African congo and indigenous mico y micas. Many styles of Colombian music are also performed, most prominently cumbia, and instruments include drums and wind ensembles. The Carnival of Barranquilla was proclaimed Cultural Masterpiece of the Nation by Colombia's National Congress in 2002. Also theUNESCO, in Paris on November 7, 2003, declared it as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and it was during Olga Lucia Rodriquez Carnival Queen year.
The Carnival starts on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday with the Battle of the Flowers (La Batalla de Flores), which is considered one of the main activities. Then, The Great Parade (La Gran Parada) on Sunday and Monday is marked by an Orchestra Festival with Caribbean and Latin bands. Tuesday signals the end of the carnival, announced by the burial of Joselito Carnaval, who is mourned by everyone.
Barranquilla's Carnival slogan is: Who lives it, is who enjoys it (Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza).
One fun tradition is that they sell boxes of cornmeal and cans of foam...both to attack other spectators with. Here you can see this guy and gal have both been hit with a handful of corn meal.
The cans of foam will spray 10-15ft. Of course Avy wanted one. The best part is that no matter who you spray, no one gets upset. It was easily well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit so the foam would actually cool you down for a few minutes.
Spraying people with foam was a good way to meet people and have some sadistic fun at the same time.
That being said, if you ever get the chance to experience Carnival in Colombia...take that chance! It was wonderful. Don't be worried about safety, the police there do not mess around and they are there to ensure that foreigners are not be hassled or harmed. However, do be aware that petty crime, such as pick pocketing is common, so be smart. At night, if someone sprays you in the face with foam, hang on to your bag! Chances are they may be working with a friend that will unzip your bag and reach inside while you wipe the foam off your face....so please, leave most of your money and passport in your hotel room. All hotels have guards at the front, so no one but hotel guests are getting in.
Other than that, enjoy the great time, dancing, music, street food...and everything else Carnival has to offer!