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Published: April 16th 2018
We arrived in Cartagena mid afternoon and checked into Hostal Mamallena inside the old walled city. The hostal is owned by Becky's former boss when she worked at Mamallena Panama City. Stuart has since moved and set up the Cartagena hostal and was there to share in old stories, dinner and drinks. He also provided advice on things to do around Cartagena and Colombia.
The old city dates back to the 1500s and was the primary Spanish port for South America well defended thanks to its walls, Forteleza de San Felipe (the largest Spanish fort) and the narrow harbour entrances. It's now primarily a tourist zone and a worthy one where we walked around and sat in plazas taking in the old buildings, forts and lively music and people. We also went to a couple museums including one which was the former prison and torturing and execution site for blasphemy and other actions viewed as non Catholic. Some crimes people were tortured for included performing natural medicines and voodoo. The museum is now billed as a promoter of tolerance but we didn't get a very strong sorrowness vibe about the cruelty carried out here.
We also went
on day trips to Playa Blanca and Volcan del Tutumo and came face to face with Colombia in full holiday mode! Seemed like all of Bogota was at the beach but upon hearing how busy it was the week before we were glad we spent the last week in Florida rather than dealing with the New Years crowds in Colombia. Volcan del Tutumo is a big mound with a hole containing mud. The density of the mud is perfect for simple floating at chest height, and thankfully despite Becky's efforts to drown Phil, it's not possible. We received mud massages inside the mud pit and absorbed the natural cleansing the mud provides.
After a few days in Cartagena we went to the quiet beach pueblo of Rincon del Mar where the sun sets right over the ocean and Colombians party hard on the weekend but leave the beaches to the gringos during the week. We were still suffering from coughing fits and our stomachs were still acclimating to the food and water so we took it pretty easy for 3 days. We were at the beach though, so it seemed appropriate. We did take an island and snorkel
tour out to Islas de San Berardo. The snorkelling was just ok as most of the coral was flattened and dead. The most interesting part was the walking tour of Santa Cruz de Islote which has a population of 1,247 and a density of 103,917/km2 making it the most densely populated island on Earth. It's particularly strange when neighbouring larger islands are basically uninhabited except for fancy resorts. The contrast is rather amazing. They have an aquarium on the island where it's possible to swim with turtles, a shark and other fish but there were 50 other people who were mostly just chasing the wildlife to the bottom of the tank, so we opted to just watch the spectacle instead. For lunch we had lobster on a beach with a few hundred tourists. It was really nice but Phil wondered what drove so many people to travel by boat from one seemingly nice beach to another to eat and drink the same as they would have without travelling. For us it was the snorkelling and the tour just happened to stop on the island for lunch.
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