Our loop around the Sierra Nevada was completed quickly in order to make a deadline in the beautiful city of Barranquilla. We wanted to watch the finals of the wrestling at the Central American Games 2018. Happily, we made it in time!
We had previously made contact with a man named Ito that lives in Barranquilla. He is excited to meet travelers and eager to share his city. We were able to find a hostel with street parking very near his house.
This was a great neighborhood to base ourselves in, as it had wonderful restaurants and many homes that are a part of the history of Barranquilla. There were also good sidewalks for dog walking. Nica even left her mark on one of the paths that was undergoing restoration!
During the day our friend Ito had to work, so we walked around and explored the area. But at night we were able to ride around with Ito and learn amazing information about his city! He showed us gorgeous old homes, a beautiful hotel a delicious hamburger place and a developing riverwalk and event center. When we arrived at the event center they were holding a dancing event affiliated with the Central America Games. It was exciting to think of all the athletes, performers and family members who traveled here from all over the region. We enjoyed the show, and so did the crowd!
The next day was the event we had been waiting for: WRESTLING!! We were very worried that we would not get in, as we did not have tickets. The website said it was sold out! But we took our chances and showed up at the venue a couple of hours early.
We walked around the college campus and worked our way around other event venues. This campus was also used for other events in the games including track events, swimming and baseball. But our target was the Coliseo Atlantico. We were able to sneak past the security station while the duty-guard was snoozing.
Once we made it past the gate, we set up our chairs and settled in to watch a few hours of international wrestling. We had shade, a nice breeze and a clear view of the mats in the coliseum. Mike was very happy!
They had a beautiful video screen set up which showed information about the event. Then later the screen displayed the names, countries and weight categories. Notice the Central American Games are called Barranquilla 2018 and this event is called “LUCHA” in Spanish which is wrestling in English.
I think that many others assumed that it was not possible to get in without tickets, so they stayed away. Or perhaps wrestling just doesn’t have a big following in this part of the world. The crowd got a little larger as time passed. And of course, being in this region means that a street dog wandered into the stadium looking for food and attention.
We were able to watch many matches featuring athletes from countries all around the region. We saw Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Puerto Rica Panama, Mexico, Colombia. There was a lot of wrestling action!
One of the things that impressed Mike was the instant replay feature. Several times the coach disputed the referee call and stopped the action. With instant replay they could watch the moves repeatedly and make scoring changes. It also gave the athletes a break and gave the clean up girls a chance to wipe the mat. Mike said he wished they had instant replay available when he was wrestling in high school and college!
Just after the wrestling ended it started to rain. We were headed out of Barranquilla and one of the stories our friend Ito had told us came to light. He told us that this city has issues with rainwater and run off. Because much of it is below sea level and is built along the banks of a river, there is not much drainage. Washes fill quickly and run fast through the city, flooding homes and businesses. Here is what we saw along the highway after only about one hour of rainfall. That is a lot of water!
And with this we left the wonderful city of Barranquilla. We loved our time with Ito and feel very fortunate to have caught a portion of this athletic event. Now we move on to explore more of Colombia!