Laughing Lady @ Cartagena
After a few days of boat recovery, beers, natural pools and dog filled hostels, we arrived at the dock to head out into “mainland Colombia”.
Welcome to the land of- blusher, lipstick, tight revealing clothes, men’s eyebrow waxing, bum pads and full curvy body corsets, blingy jewellery, mullets, and 9 year olds on mopeds. Oh and of course- FRIED FOOD! Colombians aren’t known for their gourmet cuisine and kind of rightfully so, this is where they start mixing cheese with sweet treats and still call them “dulces”.
Crazy Cartagena @ Cartagena
After the shit show that was waterproofing our bags again ready for another boat, checking in at the boat dock and 10 Colombians giving us contradictory instructions, we managed to scramble onto our boat and set off on the first leg of our journey to Turbo. A long two hour boat journey that consisted of many mid-ocean passenger pick ups, we arrived and waited on the beach for a bit to grab all of our bags that all looked the same and were all covered in black bin liners. Earlier on we did ask how we were going to identify them when they all looked the same and didn’t have any labels, we should have realised that this just meant we would be spending a lot of time identifying them at the other end. After a bit of a wait, we grabbed our belongings and were hearded up the road to the bus that would take us to Cartagena. We ended up waiting for the next boat, which once that arrived, the bus was essentially the other half of our San Blas crew that weren’t already with us.
Ten sleepy hours later, we arrived in Cartagena, where we all spent some time negotiating with the terrible hustler taxi drivers. Our new Colombian SIM card wasn’t working which meant we couldn’t Uber and after our third taxi driver (long uninteresting back and forth) we split ways with the crew and headed to our hostel, Cartagena Friends. Our taxi driver was a maniac, just when I was about to say something I realised that this guy was probably the safest driver out there. We were in for a treat on the roads in Colombia it seemed. After a few phone calls between the driver and our hostel, we finally managed to find our beds for the next few nights. It was nearing on midnight, so we kept the hostel tour to a minimum, showered the aircon and sea salt off and jumped into bed. Our room was great and the hostel was very new.
Our Favourite Graffiti @ Cartagena
The next morning we headed out to check out the town. After wasting half the day in Claro, trying to sort out a SIM card, we vowed to never enter one of their stores again and headed over to the bus station, where the claro worker had instructed us to go. We had planned to walk into town, but the worker expressed discomfort and said that it was a very dangerous walk. We were a bit confused because we had already walked 15 minutes from our place to Claro and it was daytime and it felt absolutely fine out. We tried to buy tickets at the bus station across from Claro, but the lady behind the desk half laughed at us and said we can walk, it’s just over the bridge, so walk we did. A five minute walk, no more and we were in Casco Viejo, without any issue. No idea what the Claro guy was on about. We often get this tourist protection concern which is both kind of nice but also a bit annoying.
Cartagena is surrounded by 13km of impressive colonial stone walls. Being a world heritage site, Cartagenas old town is an immaculately restored maze of cobble stoned streets, vendors and massive churches on nearly every corner. The sun had really set into the day and the humidity was bearing down on us ferociously. Cartagena is unbelievably hot and sweaty. As we strolled through the old town, we stumbled across a man selling fresh Limonadas from essentially a glass box on wheels. These were some of the best refreshments I’ve ever come across, I am not sure whether it was just the heat and humidity, but I could swear this was the best drink I’ve ever tasted, for $1.
City Walls @ Cartagena
Beautiful Buildings @ Cartagena
As we walked around, we were asked by a couple teenagers (and their adult supervisor) if we would mind being recorded whilst they interviewed us in English. This was not the first time this happened so we obliged, as long as we did it in the shade. We were asked what we thought about Colombia, the people, Cartagena, what we had done so far and the weather. They did the usual- mumble through their pre-rehearsed scripts and ignored all of our answers. They were quite young though so good on them for giving it go!
The Gringa Interview @ Cartagena
Men and women passed us by, wearing some of the most colourful hats, thousands of street vendors trying to sell you a Colombia football jersey (obviously original adidas as well) and everyone in the bars, spilling into the streets, eagerly watching every match of the Cupa Del Mundo.
Colombian Footy Pride Everywhere @ Cartagena
Footy Perro @ Cartagena
That night we caught up over an amazing tapas dinner with Adam and Bec (who we had originally met in San Cristobal, Mexico and then again in Guatemala) who had been around for a few days, and Anita and Paul from our San Blas tour. We managed to squeeze into the tiniest tapas restaurant ever, run by a very sweet and hospitable old couple. As the old guy poured the sangria his shakes meant that Anita wore most of it but the rest that did make it to the glasses was delicious! We headed to a bar in Plaza Trinidad to have some two for one monitors before our San blas crew showed up. Instead of looking around for another bar, we bought some drinks and stood around the plaza with the locals. Surrounded by people playing chess, a homeless man asleep on the ground in the middle of the Plaza, strange guys mistreating dogs and vendors whisking around selling cold beers to locals and tourists alike. It was an unusual place to spend an evening but despite being a bit odd we had lots of fun.
The next day we headed into town for a bit more sight seeing through the graffiti streets, before meeting up with a bunch of the team from San blas and a few others to watch the Colombia vs. Inglaterra match. More than ten of us sat inside this little bar, surrounded by Colombians drinking and celebrating in bars around us. The tensions where high.
Tense @ Cartagena
After 10 years had been added to our lives from a horribly tense penalty shoot out the celebration was typically British- awkward, uncomfortable and apologetic. England had won and the hundreds of Colombians around us looked devastated. We almost wished that Colombia had won; for the atmosphere, for the excitement and for the chance to be in a country like Colombia as they went through to the finals.
That night we heard some screaming out the front of our hostel, and soon learnt that a local boy had disrespected his father and was being chased down the street with a palm frond. The father had no chance of catching him, but the boy still legged it down the street and out of sight. People poured onto the street to get a good look at the open air domestic abuse and we hovered around nervously as the receptionist from our hostel laughed like it was quite normal, maybe it was.
Wrinkles @ Cartagena
After a few days of football, searing heat and sweltering humidity, we headed out on a micro bus to Santa Marta. Hoping that the highlands would bring some relief from the heat, we said our farewells to the countries self proclaimed “Queen of the Caribbean coast, and didn’t really look back. Maybe it was all the football that we were caught up in, and don’t get us wrong, Cartagena was nice, but we know Colombia holds so much more breathtaking cities and countryside, Cartagena just didn’t grab us the way we thought it might.
Plaza Trinidad @ Cartagena