Friday 5th December, Cartagena de Indias
We took a bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena. Its a 4-5 hour journey along the coast passing through the large city of Barranquilla about half-way. Colombian buses are a hoot. As we set off a guy stood up and started a spiel about something he wanted to sell, I’m not sure what. When he’d finished he passed out the item for sale and later on collected them again. I didn’t see anyone buy one. At each stop someone would jump on selling food and drinks, Colombian street food is great and (touch wood) so far we haven’t had a bad tummy! In Barranquilla we got a new vendor selling wallets, belts and perfume. We bought a “genuine” Levis wallet for Sheryl. Actually, it could be genuine, I’m not sure!
Cartagena is amazing. Its the second oldest city in South America (no, I don’t know which the oldest is) and the oldest in Columbia. A major port for the Spanish back in the day, the old town (Centro Historico) features massive fortifications built over a period of a couple of hundred years. Francis Drake was partly responsible for this marvel of masonry having looted the city in 1586. If you are really interested in the history then look it up in Wikipedia.
Here are some photographs to give you a flavour of the place…..
We spent the weekend and stayed in a small hotel, more like a UK B&B, in the nearby neighbourhood of Getsemani. By Colombian standards Cartagena is expensive and our hotel cost us about £30 per night for B&B! Whilst we really enjoyed strolling around the Centro Historico it is somewhat Disneyesque with its beautifully restored buildings, boutique hotels and up market shops. Fortunately street vendors are allowed to ply their trade and keep the place from being too sterile.
Getsemani, on the other hand, is wonderfully seedy with lots of local bars and keenly priced restaurants. It is also home to the world famous Cafe Havana which features live salsa music from eight until very late, I think we left around two in the morning, although I’m not sure.
Wednesday 17th December – Monday 22nd December
Before getting to Colombia we heard about the so called lost city or ciudad perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the mountain range to the east of the eponymous city. It has the reputation of being Colombia’s Machu Picchu and I decided to take a look at it. Access isn’t easy as you have to walk for 20Kms to get there and climb from about 400m to 1200m. Then you have to walk back. The fit and the young do it in four days but my party took a relatively leisurely six. I went with a local guide, Miller, Jeff and Katie, fellow cruisers and a couple of Colombian brothers, Javier and Max.