Monday, 13 October 2014

0117 Cartagena 2

Two more days in Cartagena with nothing to do buy sightsee, and also spend time trying to work out our route south through Columbia, and where we are going to stay !  Do we go down through Medellin, then cut across east for a look at Bogota before coming back to the west and then heading south down to the Ecuador border, or do we head straight down the mountain range to Bogota, and miss Medellin
altogether ?  Decisions, decisions.  We have spent some time with a lovely Brazilian family who we met when doing our police clearances in Panama, and like us they are sitting around waiting for their car.  They are heading down the direct road to Bogota, so I think we may go the same way.  We are also trying to work out possible camping sites or, failing that, acceptable hotels on the route, and that is not easy – There just isn’t a lot of information available for travellers on this. Most of the info available comes from the internet, and the blogs of other travellers, as well as sites like iOverlander which has consolidated a lot of potential overnight places onto a single site, and is very helpful.  But it takes quite a lot of time to work out where everything is as most locations are listed under Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates, so you have to work out each one individually.  All part of the fun !!

Anyway, yesterday (Sunday) we were at our Hotel Casa Mary most of the morning because no sooner had we finished our breakfast than the heavens opened and we had to run back to our room (the breakfast area is outdoors, with just a roof !). So we
spent a couple of hours doing the maps etc while it rained, and then we set off to do a few shopping chores, before we found an interesting little Indian restaurant just down the road, and had not a bad curry lunch ! The floods from the morning rain were still hanging around in some of the lower parts of town, and some cars were still going through them at top speed, spraying pedestrians walking by.  Later on we
headed towards the old town to go and meet Mauro and Giovanna, and their two delightful children Letitia and Pedro.  On the way, walking through a local park, we found lots of people gathered around a rotunda where people dressed up in gowns adorned with lots of ribbons and badges were playing really catchy kind of Caribbean folk music with guitars and tambourines and bongo drums. It was really catchy, and lots of the locals were dancing on the pathways !   A fascinating 20 minutes before we continued on our way.

The sun was just setting as we crossed through the walls into the old city, and made for some interesting photos in the narrow streets.  We went to Mauro and Giovanna’s hotel, and met some friends of theirs from Bogota who have relatives in Australia, and then we headed off to look for some food.  Eventually we found a great atmosphere in the big Plaza de Santo Domingo, with tables filling the plaza, and lots of people dining and drinking and having a pleasant evening.  The Iglesia de Santo Domingo, in whose shadow we were sitting, is Cartagena’s oldest church, founded in 1534, and was one of the first in the hemisphere.  The original structure, finished in 1551, was so badly damaged by Sir Francis Drake in 1586 that a new structure had to be built, and that was finally completed in the 1700’s. 

A very pleasant evening sitting in the plaza with a lovely family, and it makes for some interesting conversations with their Portuguese, our Spanish, and luckily Giovanna’s fairly good English !!!

After dinner we wandered back across town to our hotel.

This morning, Monday, is a public holiday for Columbus Day, so no movement on the docks until tomorrow !  We spent the morning exploring part of the dock area where some amazing boats were moored, one of which was a stunning monohull yacht from the Isle of Man called Fidelis, which
had to be over 100 feet long – Unbelievable vessel – I would love to have seen inside it. Maybe it belongs to Nigel Mansell ?!!  Then we wandered back into the old city, past the impressive Cathedral which was begun in 1575, but partially destroyed (again by Sir Francis Drake) in 1586 so it was not completed until 1612.  This Francis Drake, whose statue I grew up close to up on Plymouth Hoe where he was famous for playing bowls before heading off to beat the Spanish, and was always taught was a fine and upright kind of fellow, is really held up as a major villain and pirate out here !!  Interesting to see the other side of the coin sometimes !

Then we met with Mauro, Giovanna, Letitia and Pedro for lunch, before we set off to walk 2 or 3 kms across town to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This is the greatest fortress ever constructed by the Spanish in any of their colonies. Work began in 1639, but was not completed until 150 years later, and it proved to be truly unassailable and was never taken. It was a really hot day today and climbing the fortress was hot, hard work. There is an extensive system of tunnels inside the walls through which it is still possible to wander – Quite an amazing place, and I often wish the walls of places like this could talk, and tell of some of the things that have happened here !

Flying at the top of the battlements was an enormous Columbian flag that it was just possible to grab hold of, and was big enough to lift Pedro off the ground !  Had good fun up there for a while.  Then from the other battlements we could look up to a big white building perched on the edge of a hill – That is the Convent de La Popa, and was a monastery founded by the Augustinians in 1607. Apparently it has amazing views out over the city.

Coming down from the Castillo there was a lady selling fresh fruit – in particular, pineapple by the slice which she would cut right there into your hands.  I had tried a sliver on the way into the castle, and it was SO sweet and juicy that I promised to get some on the way out – And when I came down, there she was waiting for me. Or waiting for my money anyway !  Her name was Lolita, believe it or not, and while we enjoyed the pineapple we had fun with Lolita and another worker who sold juices, and took a few photos.

By now the sky was getting very dark, and there was a lot of very loud thunder all around us – The afternoon rain was coming.  So we headed back towards town, but as we got close, the heavens opened.  In fact, we were on a street corner in the dry, and we could see the rain coming down the both roads towards us – An incredible sight.  There was a little cafĂ© right there so we ducked in there just as the rain started, and spent half an hour having a beer and a coffee in the dry ! Once it stopped we headed back to our hotel and Mauro and family headed back to theirs.  A great afternoon, if a little hot.

After a lovely cold shower (no hot water in Cartagena hotels – well, not our kind of hotels !) to recover from the heat, we set off to look for somewhere for dinner, and found a great little place just down the road – Very local – I think we were  the only gringos in there.  And just as we got in there, the rain started again, and POURED !  We had a good dinner (chicken and fish), and it was still raining when we finished, so we waited for a while before rushing back to Casa Mary in a lull.  And no sooner had we got back than the rain started again, so our timing was perfect. 

 Tomorrow is Customs Day, so lets hope the paperwork trail isn’t too convoluted or time consuming, and we manage to get Troopie out tomorrow.  If we do, then we will check out and head south on Wednesday morning – that is the plan, anyway.  We have had enough sitting around here – Cartagena is a great place, but sitting around in a hotel like this is not doing our budget any favours !!  Time to get back on the road……….


1 comment:

  1. Me and my family, we received a great gift of God and Janet Giles find in Cartagena.
    I hope you friends in Ubatuba - Brazil.