03.08.2010 - 06.08.2010
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Next it was off to the coast to check out Cartagena, the most visited city in Colombia and supposedly a gorgeous colonial city again leaving involved its usual amount of drama. Once again the spectacular bus system didn’t disappoint arriving late once again due to a couple of late buses, a road closure requiring a U-turn, taking us almost 20 hours to complete the supposed 10 hour trip!
The first impression of Cartagena was not a great one as the city around the walled old city is quite seedy and sleazy. Still despite the late arrival we ventured out and had some cheap street food before taking in some of the night time site of the city including the church before having a beer in the main plaza. After this we retired back to the hostel to find they are in the seediest parts of town.
The next day we found a much nicer hostel in a slightly better area – given there isn’t really a great area outside the walled old city. The city was also much nicer by daylight with the seedy element removed and we took the opportunity to walk around the wall of the old city taking in the lovely architecture as well as the plentiful courtyards and Spanish balconies that I am a big fan of! Its quite nice to also be able to wander around the old city and pick up fresh fruit (and more so fruit that I actually like) and finally no more bloody plantanes!
The days here are beautiful and warm though to some people its maybe a little bit hot but rainstorm is always just around the corner to cool everything off. So after lunch we predictable ran back ot the hostel as the rain started to come and come it did, the constant rain and a few bottles of cheap rum saw the afternoon disappear swiftly. After dinner we decided to further check out the plaza nightlife, this time taking the opportunity to sit just off the plaza and utilize the street vendors who were more polite, faster and cheaper than the tourist bar right next door and also sold Cubans!
The next day being my final day here I decided to walk around the remarkable well preserved and giant fortress made to protect the city as well as walking the length of the wall and end enjoying the metal art in the many courtyards in the city. With the proximity to the ocean I also took the opportunity to take in some fresh quality ceviche which was fantastic. That night we headed out to the restaurant on the wall for a beer to enjoy the spectacular view as the sunset over the bay with the city in the background. This reminded me a lot of watching the sunset over the beach in Perth as well as the laid back feel of the place. Afterwards we found some girls headed out for dinner and took in a carriage ride around the old city with a nice bottle of wine ending the night with one final drink on the wall discussing in depth the financial pros and cons of starting a business to fire canons off the wall – much to the girls distain!
One of the annoying things is the constant hassle for drugs and girls that you get as soon as you venture outside the main plazas but we did also have a couple of amusing situations of being offered girls and after replying that we already had girls they wanted to then buy the girls and also being asked what we were looking for constantly until we replied with “ we are looking for our friends”, at this point they asked if could be of help and seemed confused when we then asked “well do you know where they are?”
Despite this the city is almost a paradox between an sleezy and unattractive outer city and a walled city of beautiful architecture and charm that in the end is hard not to fall for. Whilst it took me quite awhile to find it, I can now see why people visit this city so frequently and why for so many people it is their favourite city in Columbia.