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Published: June 26th 2009
Stepping off the plane, I was reminded by my experience stepping off my flight in Hawaii a few years ago. With a twist though, I believe I thought, "was Hawaii this hot and humid?". For the first time this trip, we had AC in our hostel. It was a very nice thing to have. Sleeping would be difficult without it. When I checked the weather forecast, I was reading a 'feels like 103'. Prime walking around weather. But, walk around we did.
Cartagena is a city that is mostly very normal and uninteresting, except for a truly fantastic old city that is surrounded by equally old city walls. Once inside, it is best to roam freely. We did just that. While roaming, we encountered a free modern art exhibit. It was very worthwhile, not because of the exhibit, but because of the perks that came with going inside. The highlight of the exhibit was a video showing a women licking a lollypop while getting hit with a plastic sward (see pic). For someone that finds regular art hard to appreciate, videos of this crap took my arts side to a whole new level. What made the visit interesting was getting
inside the building that the gallery was in. Once inside, we realized that it was a conference center, and that security did not mind us going up to the roof, from which we were able to get some amazing views of the old town.
Cartagena was rather uneventful. We used it as a transit city to get to Taganga, as well as a transit city to get to Panama via boat. We stayed at 3 different hostels over the course of 3 nights (Marlin, Vienna, and Luna Art Hostel). All of which were decent choices, which I would rate in the order mentioned. Our only beef was that when we went to change money at Banco Colombia, they changed the exchange rate 3x in 5 minutes. Whenever we were about to actually change money, the gal helping us would mention that the rate had changed, and then we would start over again. What the hell? In the end, I got $5 less than I needed (in order to pay for passage to Panama) because they had given me back some pesos because "the rate had changed", only to then put the transaction through at a worse rate that gave
me $270 instead of $275. They seem to have a really long way to go. This is the first time in my life that I have had a changing exchange rate while trying to change money. Other than that, no complaints. I had to bring my passport to change money, sign 3x, and was fingerprinted. Whatever they need to do to keep track of the transaction.
The city is reasonably safe, fun to wander. I think it would be really nice in the winter. Wandering in June was sweat inducing.
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