Juan, Kev, Michelle & Angelicia
...lunch at Bar La Vicll Baloco
Well the journey to get to Cartagena from Santa Marta was interesting to say the least! Through the resort we organised to catch a bus which picked us up at 10am - four hours later we'd arrived and were dropped off at our hotel in the old part of the city. The first minibus took us to Barranquila - according to the young architect sitting next to me who spoke some English it was the happiest city in Colombia. Then it was a change of minibus for the remainder of the journey to Cartagena with a driver who not only drove like the clappers he also liked using his horn every few minutes. It was certainly not a journey for the faint hearted! We were travelling along a two lane highway amongst a fair amount of traffic; overtaking took place in the most precarious situations as no-one took any notice of double yellow lines. We went through some very poor villages which reminded both of us of travelling through Vietnam; small houses with street stalls in front of them where family members were selling various goods.
When we arrived in the coastal town of Cartagena the shores were packed with
those bathing in the sea, most people having shade tents on the beach. It was the weather for cooling off, hot and steamy. It remained as such for the whole of our stay.
Our first venture, after stashing the bags in the room, was to take a walk along some of the ramparts surrounding the old city, built, we discovered, to keep out the likes of Sir Francis Drake. A hero to the English he was a notorious pirate to the Spanish colonisers. Stopping off to have a drink in a bar in the square near our hotel who should walk around the corner but Angelica and Juan! From then on we spent time with them, and as they have been here a few times before, we let them do the organising as to what to see and do. Juan also set us straight about what we thought was volcanic sand at the beach which was part of the Irotama Resort at Santa Marta. Apparently it's coal. There is a coal-mine close by, the coal being shipped to the States and the ships are loaded with the coal from a jetty which juts out into the Caribbean. Coal then
Cartagena government buildings
Where victory over the Spanish was declared.
falls into the sea, ends up on the beach and is the cause of the murky water. The spoils of industrialisation!
We are staying in the old part of Cartagena, just around the corner from the house of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia's Nobel prize winner for literature. He wrote one of the many books I've enjoyed reading, "Love in the Time of Cholera" which I plan to re-read once I get back home. Love his writing!
We've been on a guided walking tour of the old city, a guided tour of a beautiful theatre also in the old city, an "explore Cartagena" bus which took us through both the old and newer areas so we've learnt a lot about the place. Spending a few hours exploring the San Felipe Castle which includes tunnels, secret passages and all the horrible paraphernalia needed for the defence of the city we learnt yet more of Spanish/Colombian history. A visit to the Palace of the Inquisition was an eye opener documenting the evils of suspicion, witchcraft, slavery and the like. We had a very colourful guide who called himself 'Phoney Tony', wore false eyelashes, had red dyed hair and was an education
Michelle with two of Cartagena's fruit sellers
Descendants of the original slaves captured from Africa and taken to Colombia.
in his own right!
We spent a day visiting the Rosario Islands approximately an hour from the city in a boat - licensed to carry 41 passengers - which travelled at quiet a good rate of knots. The Caribbean was like a mill-pond on the way out but a bit choppy on the way back however my trusty Blackmore's Travel Calm Ginger tablets worked their magic! The exit to Cartagena harbour was through a narrow channel with forts along the way to defend the city. Even out of the harbour there were forts on many of the outlying islands; obviously the pirates who managed to take the city were brave, ruthless and cunning to outdo the obstacles put in their way.
Once on the island Juan went scuba diving while Angelica, Kev & I swam, sun-baked and enjoyed a boat ride around some of the surrounding islands in-between eating a delicious lunch. Many of the islands had houses built on them, even those islands only big enough for one house. There were also abandoned houses, in various states of disrepair which for some reason had just been left. An interesting day which left me rather sun-burnt!
loved Cartagena; a city of contrasts with it's inhabitants a melting pot of society - their ingenuity, friendliness and zest for life is to be admired. There is a saying in Colombia; "Colombia has its brains in Bogota, but it's heart in Cartagena de Indias."
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