Guest Blogger – Johnny Daly Visits Colombia and Likes What He Finds

Our good friend Johnny Daly flew into Cartagena from New York on July 17 for 10 days to experience the loving vibe and energy of Colombia with us.  We traveled together from Cartagena to Medellin, with some great stops along the way.  It was a fantastic trip, and we asked him to write up what he thought of his trip…..  So here it goes from the man himself:

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Welcome to Colombia Johnny!

[by guest blogger Johnny Daly (yes, we always refer to him by two names; with a name like that, how could you not)]

First Stop Cartagena (2 days)

Welcome to the sister City of New Orleans (technically Saint Augustine FL has this honor). It’s a kind of dirty in some parts, (editor note: but also very beautiful in the old town). It’s adjacent to water, but the actual coastline resembles one big abandoned loading dock. It’s schweaty hot and you get an overarching sense that graft and disorder has been happening in this port town for the last 400 years.

BUT….if you like eating Caribbean cuisine and seafood, moving your ass, and getting fired up on local rum –  Cartagena is your personal palace.

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Canons pointed at the new part of the city - Cartagena

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Roof top jazz club, our first stop of the night

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A bottle of Havana Club at the snazzy jazz club El Sitio Cartagena

In less than 48 hours as a trio, George, Jenine and myself ate a combined 13 pounds of ceviche, saw historic landmarks where people were slaughtered, drank our weights in sweet, delicious rum and (most I) learned that salsa lessons from a reputable teacher are worth the price of admission.

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Our hotel lent us bikes, it proved to be the best way to explore the unique colonial streets of old town Cartagena

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The castle offered some amazing views of the city

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Sitting on the castle as the storm approaches Cartagena

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What's next guys?

Vamanos Cartegena!

(editors note – Cartagena is also a very beautiful colonial city, that is a pleasure to explore sober as well)

Therapy on the Coast! (1 day and night in Arboletes, home of the (famous?) Mud Volcano)

I could’ve spent $500 on the Upper East Side for 2 hours at a luxurious day spa getting the well know South American skin care treatment of volcanic ash mud, an ancient exfoliating secret that the Colombians have used for generations to reduce aging and keeping that healthy, active look.  Instead we just jumped in. Behold!

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Guys day at the mud volcano

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Two characters

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After swimming in the mud volcano, the best part is heading down to the sea to wash the impurities away

12 hours of driving south through the countryside

Beautiful mountains. Lush valleys. And conscripted 20 year old soldiers with uzis every 2 miles to ensure our safety from the guerillas.

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The valley, getting close to Medellin

Guatape (2 nights)

Yes, the lakes are stunning. (And even better – made by human ingenuity. Through structural engineering! Take that Tahoe!)

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After spending time in Arboletes we headed to the colorful lake town Guatape

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Heading up El Peñón in Guatapé

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How's the view?

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The view from the top of El Peñón was unlike anything I have ever seen

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El Peñón de Guatapé from our cruise boat

The lush greenery is amazing. The relaxed, friendly people in this resort town are fantastic. There are luxurious gated compounds. And you can see all of it atop from El Penol – a 70 million year old, 200 meter high solid rock with a full bar and gift shop on the top. It’s practically a flawless vacation spot. Except for…
El Penol - The Guatape 'G'

Yes, that’s paint. It’s a “G” and one quarter of a “U” on the side of the 66 million tons of solid rock. It’s…defaced. What the hell? (Via Wikipedia) On the northern face of the stone there are painted large white letters, “G”, and an incomplete “U” (only the single vertical stroke was completed). Guatapé and El Peñol had long disputed ownership of the rock, and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters. It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work, and a large mob was assembled to stop it. Only the “G” and part of the “U” were completed.

Some would call this graffiti, but hey – I love it. This is Springfield vs. Shelbyville. Its writing “Sucks” on the rival town’s water tower before the big game. It’s unbelievably ugly, but hey – it’s civic pride.

Medellin (4 nights)!

Welcome to the BIG CITY.

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Medellin has a cable car to help its citizens from the upper barrios commute into the center. The view is incredible, look how sprawling Medellin is

Gridlock on the highways! An elevated subway system! High-end coffee shops, street performers and street food. But most of all, Medellin belongs to the artist Botero. Seriously…dude is EVERYWHERE. And no…they aren’t “fat people”…but his “interpretation” of life.

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Johnny in the Plaza Botero

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In 1995, in this square, a bomb was planted by drug cartel members (Escobar) in this Botero Bird sculpture. It detonated during a concert killing 30 people. Botero made a replica sculpture and now the two sit side by side to acknowledge the past, but look forward to a better future

Vamanos Discoteque! Drinking in the streets!

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There are no regulations about drinking outside in Medellin. Here is a vendor offering an outdoor shot cart

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Our first salsa club in the super fun (and less gringo) Laureles / El Estadio neighborhoods. We recommend heading out in this neighborhood

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Johnny was quick to meet the table of ladies behind us - we ended up dancing with them until the wee hours of the morning

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The ladies didn't all speak english, so Johnny had to get creative with Google Translate

FUTBOL!   An excellent pregame was to be had. Open containers encouraged! Michelada carts! Music!  Chanting! Who needs a game when you can have a g’damn party in the stands with a drum line!

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On Saturday night, we headed over to watch Medellin play soccer. The hardcore fans were actually banned from attending this game due to violence last game. But that didn't stop them from getting rowdy outside

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Now that we were watching a Colombia soccer match, Johnny's trip was complete

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The rowdy fans gave Johnny and George some funny hats and just like that, we were indoctrinated. Great memories Daly

Other Gringo Observations

  • Dogs with large balls.

    • Colombians don’t watch The Price is right. Whether it’s due to over-arching Catholicism or just machismo, man’s best friend is rarely, if ever, treated to a bris.

  • Water. Agua. Por favor?

    • Hey, you want a cool, refreshing glass of water to wash down those beans, rice and whatever fried medley is on your plate? It will take a minimum of four asks to your server.  On about 80% of my meals I looked at Jenine and like a cranky little bitch asked….“Is this waiter ignoring me…ON PURPOSE? How could he!”

    • Note my pouting came as a cold beer was in my hand. The Colombians, practical people, looked at me and muttered “That Gringo has a beer. He has a drink. Shut the hell up and drink your booze. Then you can have water.”

  • Subwoofers

    • Colombians don’t do Blue Tooth Bose or Dre Beats Pills – the do g’damn SPEAKERS. With amps – and they are everywhere. In the coffee shop, upscale restaurant, grocery stores, in rural streets, at the pool or in a public toilet – there is never silence. They love their tunes!

    • And sometimes, it’s great music! That latin, salsa, meurenge Tito Puente move your feet rhythm that’s just intoxicating. Many times it is not. It’s just my opinion, but the accordion should only be played by monkeys and drunk men in lederhosen.

  • Exercise

      • Welcome to a 90-degree Colombian Crossfit Box! Let’s beat the piss out of you!

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    Johnny and I hit the local crossfit gym (Fuerza) a couple times during our stay in Medellin. Really fun to work out with the locals there

  • Haaaaaa-mes

    • If Colombia had to go to war, there’d be no need to provide matching uniform tops – as 80% of the country wears one shirt.

    • Colombia futbol jersey

In Finale

  • Special thanks to the host couple.

    • George has many talents, but the man can DRIVE. In traffic, through traffic, torrential downpours, crappy roads, parking in almost impossible spaces, up outrageously steep hills all while being molested by hordes of motorbikes – George and Titus are one.

    • The only thing better than Jenine’s Spanish (muy Bueno) was her planning. All the great meals, tours and navigation made the trip. Bravo Jenine – and as always, thank for keeping my table manners honest and in-line with proper etiquette.

  • What an absolutely wonderful country. They invest in national parks. Amongst 40 million motorbikes there are exclusively “new” cars.

  • The people were so friendly and hospitable. Polite, smiling, fair, cheerful – and most of all fun. You can really sense this is an amazing time to be in Colombia. In the cities, life is stable. A Colombian my age – 35 – spent the first 20 years of their life in fear. And it sucked. There was no tourism – nobody in world to share the fun. Nobody to share the view.

  • But now, no way. Optimism reigns supreme. And my gringo friends – they want us to come! They want you to dance the salsa, take shots in the streets, eat greasy arrepas, and get fired up on coffee side-by-side with them. So I say, as I found out first hand – grab some good friends, grab some plane tickets – get down to Colombia and have some fun!
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picking Johnny up at the Cartagena airport

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Our first cocktail by the pool in Cartagena - Maracuya (passion fruit) and the local rum

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View from the pool deck in Cartagena - Casa Canabal Hotel Boutique

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Ha, #4 is spot on. If you look American in Cartagena you'll be offered drugs on every corner.

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Roof top jazz club, our first stop of the night

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Night time in Cartagena

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Casa Canabal Hotel Boutique - inner pool

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The best brunch spot in Cartagena - Mila Vargas

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Our hotel lent us bikes, it proved to be the best way to explore the unique streets of Cartagena

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On the wall of the old city Cartagena

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Jenine in the watch tower of the Castillo San Felipe in Cartagena

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The castle offered some amazing views of the city

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As we visited the castle, a storm started rolling toward us

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Sitting on the castle as the storm approaches Cartagena

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On the castle walls with ominous clouds in the distance

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Johnny on the Castle - Cartagena

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A storm hovers over the new building in Cartagena

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Canons pointed at the new part of the city - Cartagena

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Lots of fun bars in Cartagena, in character at the KGB Cartagena

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What's next guys?

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A bottle of Havana Club at the snazzy jazz club El Sitio Cartagena

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After Cartagena, we traveled to Arboletes Colombia (about 6 hours east of Cartagena) to experience the healing powers of their famous mud volcano

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Swimming in mud, our souls being cleansed

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Ready for war

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Guys day at the mud volcano

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How do we get this mud off us now?

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Jenine hesitated at first, and then went for the full immersion mud bath

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King of the mud clay volcano

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Two characters

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After swimming in the mud volcano, the best part is heading down to the sea to wash the impurities away

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The cost of entrance, $1. Can't beat Colombia

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Driving through Colombia

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After spending time in Arboletes we headed to the colorful lake town Guatape

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The main attractions in Guatape are the beautiful lakes, and the best way to see them is from atop the giant rock (El Peñón) in town

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Heading up El Peñón in Guatapé

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The view from the top of El Peñón was unlike anything I have ever seen

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It looked fake the amazing landscape surrounding us

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El Peñón de Guatapé

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The mode of travel in Guatapé was the MotoTaxi, or TukTuk as we called them

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Jenine at El Peñón de Guatapé

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We couldn't get enough photos

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Stunning views from El Peñón de Guatapé

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And they had a cafe on top, we hung out here for most of the day

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Johnny at El Peñón de Guatapé

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How's the view?

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El Peñón de Guatapé

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Here is El Peñón and the flights of stairs (800 or so) that lead to the top

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After seeing all the beautiful lakes from above, we hopped on boat to cruise around the town. Guatape from our boat

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Relaxing and enjoying a quality day of sight seeing

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El Peñón de Guatapé from our cruise boat

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A colorful square in Guatape, view from a coffee shop there

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The valley, getting close to Medellin

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Our first night in Medellin we found an excellent brewery (Bogota Brewing Company). Excellent beers

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Johnny and I hit the local crossfit gym (Fuerza) a couple times during our stay in Medellin. Really fun to work out with the locals there

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Downtown Medellin, this art installation lights up a night.

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Downtown Medellin, not too long ago, this area was a place you would not visit

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Fernando Botero is the most famous artist (sculptor) from Medellin. Much of his work is on display in Plaza Botero

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Plaza Botero where Fernando Botero's sculptures are on display. Here a religious evangelist is preaching to some local prostitutes.

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A Botero sculpture in Plaza Botero

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Johnny in the Plaza Botero

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In 1995, in this square, a bomb was planted by drug cartel members (Escobar) in this Botero Bird sculpture. It detonated during a concert killing 30 people. Botero made a replica sculpture and now the two sit side by side to acknowledge the past, but look forward to a better future

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We did a "real city" walking tour of Cartagena. Here is our awesome guide

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We wanted a bar with a view, and we were directed to Envy Rooftop Bar

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The chic rooftop lounge of Envy in Medellin

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Downtown Medellin at night

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We stumbled into a great DJ spinning hip hop at Gunner. There are bars and clubs everywhere in Medellin. The city likes to go out

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Gunner Bar - Medellin

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Medellin has a cable car to help its citizens from the upper barrios commute into the center. The view is incredible, look how sprawling Medellin is

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There are no regulations about drinking outside in Medellin. Here is a vendor offering an outdoor shot cart

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We tried his product

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Our first salsa club in the super fun (and less gringo) Laureles / El Estadio neighborhoods. We recommend heading out in this neighborhood

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Johnny was quick to meet the table of ladies behind us

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This is the local libation Aguardiente. Everyone in Colombia shoots this

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The ladies next to us didn't all speak english so Johnny had to get creative with Google Translate

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Johnny thrilled with Google Translate helping the match making

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The girls taught Jenine how they Bachata

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We all piled into a cab to find the next spot after the salsa bar closed

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After the salsa club closed, the girls brought us to club Mango

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And the night continues...

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The next morning after a late one in Medellin... we need some coffee

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Parque Lleras in El Poblado. This is the center of all the action. At night, it is absolutely bonkers here

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All the convienence stores sell beverages to go

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Here is the Black Sheep Hostel where we stayed in at Medellin. Several overland rigs pulled up while we were there. We recommend this places as a great place to stay

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On Saturday night, we headed over to watch Medellin play soccer. The hardcore fans were actually banned from attending this game due to violence last game. But that didn't stop them from getting rowdy outside

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Heavy policia presence helped control the fans

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Medellin supporters

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Now that we were watching a Colombia soccer match, Johnny's trip was complete

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As you can see in the back, the home team fans were blocked from attending this game

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There was a group of hardcore fans in the upper deck though, and we got into the mix

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They gave Johnny and I some funny hats and we were indoctrinated. Great memories Daly

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It got rowdy in the upper decks

Posted in Colombia Tagged with: , , , ,
2 comments on “Guest Blogger – Johnny Daly Visits Colombia and Likes What He Finds
  1. Nick says:

    Awesome!!Looks like you guys had a great time.

  2. Jane Meredith says:

    This was very entertaining. Thanks Johnny Daly!

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  1. […] friend Johnny had just flown back to New York the day before, and after spending a lot of nights out on the town in Medellin, we were looking […]