Cartagena

Before I Arrived

I believe it has been scientifically proven that if you want to change your answer on a test, you shouldn’t. It’s correct more than 50% of the time. I suppose the same can be said about lodging reservations. Well, I decided percentages be damned and canceled my Airbnb two days before arriving in Cartagena, switching to a hotel. It cost 3X as much but since the Airbnb was only $10/night, the move didn’t bust my budget. I can’t say with certainty that the right choice was made, but I’m pretty sure it was.

I canceled because of two reviews posted after my reservation had been approved. It’s the rainy season in Colombia and a review mentioned rain leaking into his room. Another guest wrote about excessive noise keeping him awake due to paper-thin walls. When I contacted the host about the leakage she talked about a broken door instead. That was all I needed. I’m writing about this mainly because it’s not in my nature to cancel. I trust my judgment and it works 99%, as it did this time. Thankfully, I changed my answer.

Street art across the lane from the hotel.

Pleasantly Surprised

I discovered something at my hotel (Hotel de Leyendas del Mar) that were absent at the first two. A glass. Of course, my immediate thought was, ‘I can drink the water.’ But, I didn’t until Maite, a walking tour employee) told me Cartagena has the best drinking water in Colombia. It’s great! As good as NYC’s which has been ranked as tasting better than some famous bottled waters.

I had heard about the African and Caribbean presence in Cartagena, but didn’t realize how large it was. I passed by several Caribbean restaurants near my hotel and ate at one. Given where I’ve lived and my friendships and relationships over the decades, my comfort level skyrocketed during my stay in Cartagena.

Activities

Another city, another walking tour. Edgar, a 50 year old Cartagena native, led this one. Being interesting, funny and a little full of himself (not in an annoying way) made for a delightful 2 1/2 hour walk inside the city walls.

Cartagena, being a port city, had a wall built around it dating back to the 1600’s; it was ordered by the Spanish who controlled Colombia at the time. Since none of the residents wanted to do the work, Africans were brought over as slaves, hence the African population. Other blacks from the Caribbean islands also found their way to the city over the years.

I’ve included some photos of the city center.

With nothing to do on a Sunday I selected a tour at the Vivarium (a park or preserve for small animals). It was cheap and sounded sufficiently boring that it would draw a small group. It did. Me. For the 3rd time on my trip it was just me and the guide. I love when that happens.

Brian, a 22 year old studying tourism, and I discussed his studies, goals and the importance of knowing English as he wants to work with foreigners. His English is barely past beginner level. As usual, our discussion transformed itself into a language class of sorts. Even though I help these young people with English, I also learn as they talk to me about their lives and country. When the van dropped me off Brian shook my hand and thanked me for my advice and support. Such a good feeling.

I took a day trip to La Isla del Encanto which is part of Tayrona National Park (made up of several islands). I used the day to enjoy relaxing at the beach and working on a new play. The most exciting part of the day was riding in the speed boat for 45 minutes each way, wave hopping and getting doused with water occasionally.

Food

I ate some more delicious food in Cartagena, but it wasn’t Colombian. The first photo is sea bass, comparable in taste and quality (at a lower price) to the best I’ve eaten in other countries.

These photos are from a Caribbean restaurant. BBQ chicken and fish soup. I talked with the cook. She’s from Trinidad.

Summary

One thing would keep me from living in Cartagena: the weather. Hot and humid, just like Puerto Escondido which I could only tolerate for a year.

I met several fun, young people working in tourism here. Most spoke English very well. I’ve mentioned Maite and Brian; the photo below is Wendy, me and Carolina. The work scheduling tours for a hostel.

On to San Andrés for a week of writing and hopefully, I will finally learn to scuba dive.

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