View of city from Castillo of San Felipe
Cartagena is one of the most colorful and beautiful cities I have been to. I mean the old walled city of Cartagena where we spent our time and stayed. We found a card at the marina with this Hostal’s info so we headed straight for there. We decided to take a bus instead of sailing there for many reasons. The bus ride was half a day and showed us the countryside as well . The anchorage in Cartagena is dirty and not very good as well as expensive for clearing in/out.
The whole city has about one million people living in it. It reminded us a lot of old San Juan in Puerto Rico. The actual area is not large and can be walked easily in a day and explored in a few days. So off we went. Narrow streets, lots of balconies, pigeons, squares, sculptures and paintings, things for sale like fruit, hats, beer, arrebas and various street foods. Overwhelming amount of color, smell, sounds and peoples!
We found a tour guide on the internet by the name of Edgar who advertised Free Walking Tours. So we met him at the Naval Museum along with 6 other English speaking tourists and had a wonderful 2 hour explanation of the city. I highly recommend him and he works for the tips he receives.
The wall around the city has great views and turrets, guns and peekholes throughout. Great places to watch the sunset or go for the breezes.
People watching is part of the experience of visiting this city. The plazas offer music, dancing, children playing, lounging.
Another colorful attraction to the city are the ladies named Palenqueras, all dressed in colors of Colombia wearing bowls of fruits on their heads and big smiles on their faces.
They come from the village of Palenque de San Basilio about 30 miles out of Cartagena. They are said to be the symbol of the slave resistance and the survival of african heritage in Latin America. Beautiful ladies who work hard carrying at times heavy loads.
We noticed that many of the doors featured door knockers on large wooden doors. Edgar our guide explained that the knocker indicate the profession of the owner or his lineage such as royalty had iguana, or owl for academics, etc.
The plazas and squares come alive after dark. Musicians with guitars stroll playing and singing, people dressed up, horse and carriages readied for a romantic ride through the streets. Street food continues to be sold and we sampled lots of fried things, dough, cheese, chorizo, candies made of coconut and sesames. This was taken by 2 Colombian men who spoke good english and shared a meal with us while we grilled them about Colombia and its cultures. Loved it all….and felt safe!
Hat sellers were everywhere, we needed a good covering as it was hot so we each got new hats. Hard to keep them on though in the breeze. He was such an enthusiastic salesman we could not resist him.
On our way out of town we walked across the bridge to visit the Castillo de San Felipe which was built to protect the city from attack from the mainland. It has beautiful views from the top but was very hot. It also has miles of tunneling which has been opened and preserved.
Just a quick word about the trip by bus. The country is flat here, arid, dusty, monochromatic mostly but the people are lively, friendly, but speak very little English. We managed to communicate ok though with our Spanglish and gestures. A smile goes a long way!
We crossed the Rio Magdalena which is the huge river system that goes 700 miles up towards Bogota. The pictures are taken out of the bus window. Imagine sailing on this dugout with a big plastic tarp sail.
The buses were clean, air-conditioned and cheap.Frequently the driver will stop to allow a seller on the bus for a few miles to sell the passengers everything from soup to nuts. The traffic is a conglomeration of motorbikes, bikes, donkey pulling carts, cars of all sizes but mostly taxis, buses of all sizes and trucks. The cacophony of the traffic is loud.
We were happy as always to get back to Maraki and find her safe and sound. We want to do a bit more exploring as we wait for a weather window to head westward again. Hope you have enjoyed Cartagena as much as we did. Let me know if the size of the pictures caused you troub