Category: Colombia, 2016

Carnaval, the First Night

February 5
After an early breakfast (5AM) we leave for our one-hour flight to Barranquilla, arriving late morning. We drive through traffic (which has been very heavy both in Medellin and here) to Hotel El Monterrey, which Nevada describes in our itinerary like this (Please note, this is the most expensive basic, itsy bitsy hotel room you will ever have because costs quadruple during carnival time. However it is clean and has AC. Oh, and a free t-shirt!). Nevada’s description is accurate (including the free t-shirt. The hotel will do quite fine, though, for two nights.
We gather in the back of the hotel for some advice from Nevada on the night photography we’ll be doing tonight, use of low light, flash, adjustments we might make. The number of things to think about is daunting, and her discussion makes it clear how much I do not know. Still, she is very patient and up beat, and despite the different equipment people on the trip have, Nevada is able to deal with all of us, our questions and our different levels of experience. The main message is to have fun, not get frustrated, try out many different approaches and remember that if we get only one or two good photos, that’s success. This is tough photography, and we should expect a lot of failures.

We pile into four taxis and drive through more heavy traffic to the place where we are to have lunch. Only problem: the restaurant has moved. Eventually, we all gather and walk about three blocks to a restaurant a guy we spoke to on the street suggested, and we wind up having quite a good lunch. Some of us (including the writer of this blog) bag the walk and shopping trip we’d planned for after lunch to escape the heat and take a long nap that should serve us well for tonight’s carnival activities.

For supper, we head to a famous haunt of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, La Cueva, which is significant to me, as I think Garcia Marquez may be the greatest novelist of all time. The place is full of photographs and other memorabilia of Garcia Marquez and the other writers and artists of Baranquilla who frequented this restaurant. Unfortunately, they are too busy tonight to walk us around the place and explain, but Nevada buys a big book that we’ll be able to look at later.

After dinner, we leave for one of the many inaugural events to Carnaval, Noche del Tambor. This is the second largest traditional festival in the Americas as well as the biggest (and supposedly more traditional) Carnaval celebration outside Rio de Janeiro. Each neighborhood or group spends the entire year training, decorating and planning their dances, costumes, floats and music.

We spent about three hours, along with many thousands of others, dancing around in a wheel as music blared. The crowd was festive and completely into it, making it great fun. Here’s a sample of what we saw. 


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