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Published: June 26th 2014
We left the cold drizzle of Bogota for steamy, colonial Cartagena. The walls of this Spanish fort were built to keep the British pirates, most famously Francis Drake, from stealing all of the gold they had stolen.
The city now has the same faded grandeur of most colonial towns in Central and South America but Cartagena has its own charms. It has more of a Caribbean feel and although its beaches are not the nicest, the better ones are within easy reach.
We don’t normally go for air-con in hostels but here it is a necessity. The air is heavy with humidity and although it is on the coast there is hardly a breeze to speak of. We found a fantastic hostel in the old part of town, away from the party hostels, called Makako. We were greeted with a cold glass of fresh lemonade and suggestions of what to visit whilst we were in town. We took their advice and headed to Café del Mar on top of the wall to watch the sunset. This was probably the most expensive beer we’ve had on this trip but it was a lovely place to sit. All of the beautiful
Inside the wall, these used to be dungeons. They are now shops.
people of Colombia seem to head here as well as honeymooning couples.
We spent most of our time here just wandering the city and soaking up the atmosphere, every so often taking breaks to find an air-conditioned room; this suited Steve as everywhere you go they have screens showing the football. We were told that Cartagena is incredibly safe so it was nice to be able to walk around in the evening. This is providing you stay inside the wall which made us feel like we were in Game of Thrones. We spent a couple of evenings chatting to people in Plaza de Trinidad in the Getsemani area. The plaza is outside a small church and is bordered with benches and food stalls where locals come to relax, chat or enjoy the varied street performers. After Colombia had beaten Japan 4-1 everyone was partying in the streets and in this plaza a band started up with everyone joining in dancing. This was probably one of my favourite nights in Colombia so far, the atmosphere was amazing.
We had heard about the mud volcano from some friends and it sounded like something we had
to try. We booked a tour through our hostel to leave at 9am. At 9.30ish the bus arrived which is quite good by South America standards. We were given a talk about the volcano on the ride there and told what to expect. The guide switched expertly between English and Spanish but made some grand claims about the magnetic fields inside the volcano creating zero gravity, and the mud having minerals which would heal any ailments. It didn’t even heal my mosquito bites so I don’t think it would have a chance against stronger diseases!
We arrived at the mud pit and left our valuables with the tour company. The mud is pretty deep and if you dropped anything in it you would have no chance of getting it back, meaning that Steve had to take his glasses off and go in blind.
The volcano is small and it gets very busy so we had to queue for a while around the edge of it. To get in you climb down a ladder and then let yourself be guided in by many hands. You can get a massage at this point but I declined as they didn’t look
very good. The mud does not have a bottom but you are suspended in what does feel like weightlessness. It is very difficult to control your movements so you do end up with feet and arms in places they shouldn’t be. It does get very cosy! It’s a very strange experience and I spent most of it giggling.
You come out completely covered in mud and then are invited down to the lake to be washed by local women. I am glad that I had some foreknowledge of what was about to happen as the lady pouring water over my head and cleaning out my ears suddenly, without asking, whipped off my bikini and started washing it out. I don’t even like being naked in private, so this was well out of my comfort zone. Steve is the exact opposite so was a little disappointed that he couldn’t go off swimming. The lake is pretty murky and they make sure you are facing away from other people so you can maintain some dignity but it did feel like being a child again being bathed by your mum.
This was all followed by a lunch of fried fish and
coconut rice at a restaurant overlooking the Caribbean so all in all the tour was good value for money and a lot of fun.
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