The bus trip took eighteen hours, not thirteen! The Lonely Planet as well as the bus station told me it was ” only” thirteen hours! They both lied. I actually wonder if the travel writers actually ever catch a local bus? Just wondering. Totally exhausted I arrived at the Viajero hostel. It was extremely hot! A cold beer went down well! The American cup was playing! Happy hour was filled with young people on their mobile phones! Interesting concept. A courtyard full of young people and nobody talking! After the match finished, it was Salsa class! I was too tired to do anything else but shower and go to bed. Explorations will start tomorrow!
What a town, what a wonderful, wonderful town. People had told me two nights is sufficient. It probably is, if you are not an artist. I just loved, LOVED the colours! All the houses are in different colours, bright and different! Each house a different combination. Every where huge Bougainvilleas, adding extra colour to the colours. The town historical centre was built in 1533. Compared to the lovely Spring like climate of Medellin, it is stinking hot!
It is just a fairy tale city, and according to the Lonely Planet, and every tourist I spoke to, Cartagena de India is the most beautiful city in Colombia. I have a tendency to agree! It was a main Spanish port, it was from Cartagena the Spanish shipped their stolen gold and treasures back to the Motherland. This of course attracted the Pirates, who were looking for an easy “take away” treasure system. Lots of sieges where fought here, one of the most famous battles was led by the British pirate, Francis Drake, in 1586. Of course the Spanish responded, they made Cartagena an impregnable port, that is when elaborate walls around the old town were build and a chain of forts was constructed. Plenty of old canons and guard houses decorate these walls. A pleasant coolish Caribbean sea breeze is blowing. A lovely place to walk around and stay cooler. It is hot, it is very, very hot.
My favourite place, plaza de la Inquisición, or plaza Bolivar, after Simon Bolivar’s statue on a horse in the centre of the plaza. Plenty of huge old trees, which could have been planted by the first Spanish invaders, give a welcoming shade. The plaza is surrounded by some of the most beautiful, balconied colonial buildings. Everywhere you look you see post card scenes. Lemonade, ice cream, coffee and bracelet sellers try to get rid of their products. Beggars galore. A foreigner is an easy target, especially one who spends a week here! I bought one bracelet, to stop the hassle of all other sellers! This is NOT the place to buy anything. Over priced, very expensive, extremely touristy, but early in the morning explorations worthy of every drop of sweat!
All the churches were closed, although I did enter the Cathedral during mass. It was not appropriate to take photos. Work on this Cathedral began in 1575, but while it was still being built, the prates, Francis Drake used his canons to destroy it! It took quite awhile to finish it, 1612. I did visit the Convent of San Pedro Claver, a monk ( 1580-1654) who lived and died here. He was called the “apostle of the blacks or the ” slave of the slaves” as he spend his entire life helping the enslaved people from Africa. He was also the first Saint in the New World!(1888)
The gold museum was closed for renovations, but as I will visit the gold museum in Bogota, I was not too upset! I did visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas. It is the biggest and greatest fortress ever built by the spaniards in any of their colonies. It was quite small when they began construction in 1630. Then in 1657 they built a fort on top of the 40 meters high San Lazaro hill. It was then extended in 1762, which resulted in the entire hill being covered with this powerful bastion.
Beaches are promoted by every tour seller in Cartagena. I visited the tranquila beach! I did a tour as local transport was complicated and ended up nearly as expensive as going on a tour. I had met a lovely woman from Denmark, Julie, and we decided to make this tour together! Tranquility was the last thing to be had there! It took over an hour to pick everybody up from their hotels. The drive to the beach was a lot n one de t the congestion in the traffic. It is school holidays, so every Colombian and their dogs went to the same beach! Then, finally, after all the Colombians on the tour spend nearly an hour in the little shop, buying snacks, sweets and shoes, we finally walked to the beach!
I wish somebody could have filmed my face!! The beach of tranquility! It was anything BUT tranquil! Beach bars were touching each other as far as the eyes could see! Each and every one blaring Latin American music, none of it the same though. Then people on the beach playing their own Colombian rap. It was an absolutely, unbelievable scene. It took me about ten minutes to adjust, drop the expectations, and enjoy this complete chaos. There where thousands of sellers, ice cream, bracelets or massages, each an everyone blowing whistle or a horn.
Jet skies roaring so close to the swimmers it was a scary experience. People with no experience at all losing control of their jet ski. At one stage, two people swimming, were nearly beheaded! A young girl on a jet ski had no idea how to steer or brake her machine. I had just come out of the water and watched in horror, there was just nothing I could do. My brain was desperately searching for the Spanish sentence ” get the hell out of the water”. The owner of the jet was running along the beach, jumped in and yelled at the young girl, he somehow managed to grab the brakes and turn her away from the disaster. The two teenage girls on the jet ski thought it was hilarious, and kept laughing and giggling, until the man took the jet ski away from them. I was completely horrified. As a former life guard and swimming instructor this is just not acceptable. Occupational health and safety is not a big issue here in Colombia! I stayed out of he water for the rest of the day, enjoyed my lunch and couldn’t wait to get back to the backpackers!
It was time to move on! Santa Marta next, then hike to the Lost City!