We touched down in beautiful Cartagena on March 7. Cartagena is one of the oldest cities in Colombia, dating back to 1533 and is arguably the most beautiful city in the country.
After the taxing one-hour flight, we dropped our bags and took off for a wander. Unfortunately we are not used to the 86 degree heat/90% humidity so after no more than sixty minutes of scrambling from one piece of shade to another in the old town, we ventured back to our room for a rest, grabbed a bite to eat and called it a night.
With a decent sleep (likely the best we’ve had since leaving Seattle), a good workout, and a tasty breakfast (we finally splurged and treated ourselves to a restaurant meal after living off peanut butter sandwiches and potatoes), we felt well-rested and ready to explore this gorgeous city.
We toughed it out in the heat and humidity and spent a good four to five hours strolling the streets of the old town in more depth, as well as the neighborhood of Getsemani where our hotel is located. The old town, where we spent the majority of the day is full of cobbled, narrow streets, colorful buildings with large balconies covered in flowers and many plazas.
I have to admit, Bret and I are not overly cultured in the museum scene but we decided to take a gamble (it was bloody hot and we needed a break from the heat) and visited the Palacio de la Inquisicion. It is a palace that was constructed in the 18th century for the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. It is where the Inquisition would question and torture accused witches. We appreciated the history section about Cartagena, which was the only part of the museum in English. Otherwise it was a swing and a miss in sparking an interest in the museum scene for both of us.
With the exploration of the old town under our belt I thought we deserved a good drinking session (I mean some time taking in Cartagena’s night scene!) I was excited to check out Havana, a salsa club down the road from us so we freshened up and made our way there. We peeked in and noticed it was rather empty so we spent the next half hour or so walking the streets (beers in hand) debating whether or not to head in or wait for it to get kicking, all the while eagerly checking the time. After much debate we decided we’d save some cash and head in before they started the cover charge. The salsa music was blaring and the stage was set, ready for the band to arrive and do their thing – I was eager to dance but it was too soon, as there were roughly (exactly) four people in the bar. We pulled up a seat at the bar and checked out the drink menu – shit, the cheapest cocktail on there was half our budget! Damn it, we can’t just leave! We hesitantly ordered their famous mojito and boy did I savour every last sip! Bret tried but he was done within seconds. Sadly, I finally finished my drink and due to the prices, it was time to leave – my dancing feet would have to wait.
After my little sulk we decided to grab another beer from a store and wandered around, checking in at the odd bar, seeing how much a beer would set us back – about four times the price of one from the street! “That’s US prices!” we would grumble to each other. So, another beer from the street it was and off we went wandering again (apparently we’ll be doing a lot of that on our budget), checking out the scene some more.
Closer to home, we spotted a guy with a street food set up cooking chicken, beef, sausage and all the fixings. We grabbed a chicken meal with yucca, potato, salad, etc for only USD$3.50 and damn it was good! This guy definitely redeemed the Colombian street food in our minds.
The third day in Cartagena we felt brave enough to venture the half mile across the bridge to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. A defensive fort constructed to defend the city from its enemies. Being the smart gringos that we are, we waiting until peak heat when the sun was directly above us. That way we didn’t have to worry about any shadows obstructing our attempt to burn off yet another layer of skin. At the entrance we discovered that for an extra hourly fee we could rent an audio recording of the fort’s history in English. This seems to be the standard in Colombia. There is an entrance fee and then essentially a second entrance fee if you don’t speak Spanish and want to have a clue what the fuck is going on. Luckily we have been in country long enough that we have become quite used to not knowing what the fuck is going on, so we passed on the audio rental and decided we would speculate and or create our own analysis of the history that took place.
The castle was pretty impressive. The various layers of fortified brick created a great defensive structure that surely kept most enemies at bay. I even got Sally to go pretty far down into the maze that was constructed to confuse the enemy and hold the area finals for hide-and-go-seek. After we marveled at the view from the top of the fort where Felipe had his morning breakfast (which also served later in the day as a tanning area and or dance-off location), we made our way back to the hotel.
We are now packing up and heading back to the states for an unexpected detour from our world tripping.