So our plane ride to Colombia (via VivaColombia) was exciting. Well, the flight itself was normal for any budget airline (think RyanAir), but we booked the tickets the same day as the flight, which confused all the agents. So we waited at the check in counter for an hour until someone decided what to do. My best guess is that the money hadn’t been sent by the bank yet, so they were hesitant to give us service. We did get on the plane, with these beauties:
I took the photo on an old iphone, so it’s a little blurry. But yes, those are handwritten boarding passes. And the best part? When we got to security, the guards didn’t even blink when they saw them. Apparently they’re that common.
Landing in Cartagena was a blast of hot air. It is definitely hotter than Medellin, which is on the edge of the Andes and a little less Caribbean. A taxi from the airport to district Getsemani (which I recommend staying in, it’s in Old Town near the old walls) was 15,000 pesos. I thought that wasn’t a bad price at all. The balconies, flowers, and street vendors reminded me of Latin America, but the colorful architecture and trees were distinctly Caribbean. It was such a fun combination of accents, skin tones, foods, and street names.
Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533 and now has a population of almost a million people. Originally built as a key city for the expansion of Spain, it became a secure fort city on the Caribbean sea, where the Spanish would store gold taken from the indigenous people and store before shipping it to Spain. Portions of the forts and old wall still meander through the city, reminding us of how closely the past and present are intertwined. People now rest in the wall alcoves, waiting for buses, that were used five hundred years ago for cannons and watchposts looking for Francis Drake and other privateers interested in the gold. Native people lived in the region first, of course, until the Spanish came in, and the remains of their cultures can been seen outside of Cartagena in the countryside still. For anyone interested in architecture, history, or beautiful sights, Cartagena is a must. We almost didn’t go, but at the last minute we decided to fit Cartagena in and leave Bogota out. I’m so glad we chose Cartagena!
Our hostel was a few yard from a bridge across part of the bay, near a supermarket and a pharmacy, which we made use of. The opposite direction was toward the forts, the ferry to the islands, and the picturesque neighborhoods.
The most popular tourist spots are:
- Steps of La Popa mount
- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
- The Walled city of Cartagena
- Cartagena Gold Museum
- Palace of the Inquisition
- Las Bóvedas
- Clock Tower
We particularly enjoyed the colonial parts of the city, such as the churches behind us.
One stop we liked was the naval museum, which Sarah Ann described as, “the best eight mil we ever spent!”. It was indoors with fans and shade, which was fantastic, and had a great history of the caribbean region, from the indigenous to the landing of the Spanish to current day operations, post-cold war. And they had a model submarine!
Sarah Ann had a blast playing with the comms and buttons on the submarine, while I enjoyed the ten minutes in there because it was air conditioned. I know, so American. But so worth it. Jordan enjoyed the 1700s-1800s navigational props and pretending to captain a ship.
Just outside the naval museum is an entrance to some of the old walls of the fort, complete with restored cannons and all. Across the street is a restored ship, used by the ferry company for events like wedding and fancy parties, which just made the backdrop great.
Just in the plaza right next door is a lovely church and restaurant/hotel that made a scenic view. We played around in the area and bought a cup of strawberries (1,000 pesos!) from a local woman.
There’s plenty more to see and do in Cartagena, just as there were more beautiful neighborhoods to explore, but our time was up. It was time to begin the journey to Capurgana, where we will meet up for our San Blas tour.