Friday, March 26, 2010

Cartagena Colombia

Currency in Colombia: Pesos $1.00Us = $1933 Mil (they don't take US bills unless forced and will charge you double over what it is in pesos)
Cab ride from marina to hostel: $7 Mil
Hostel: Dorm room $20 Mil a night
Entrance Fee to Fort: $9.00 US (don't ask my why this was in US)

I had found a hostel in Cartagena before I left Panama so I knew where I would be staying, i had not told anyone one the boat where I was staying. It was in the Historic District which it turns out is where most of the hostels are. The British/Dutch couple was going to a hotel just up the street so we shared a cab in.

I stayed at the Hotel Marlin, for about $10.00US a night there is air conditioning, a kitchen and free wifi, the dorms have 4 bunks per room. The rooms are all different and some are nicer than others so if you go check out a couple before you decide. On mine the bathroom door would not stay shut, 2 guys and 2 women in the room so we all just politely averted our eyes if it swung open while someone was in there.

The historic zone is awesome, it is located inside the old city walls. Lots of old buildings and twisting streets. Every time I went out I found a new street to go down and explore and a new court yard to sit in. Nothing like getting a Colombian latte and sitting in a shady court yard watching the world go by. Cartagena is a big tourist destination for Colombians as well as other Latin Americans, I met people from Peru, Panama and Costa Rica. It was very hot in Cartagena, the temperature was 28 but the humidity was at 84%, definitely a 3 shower a day place.

Cartagena is a very old city founded by the Spanish and it was constantly attacked by pirates and the French & English were always trying to invade it. They build forts and a wall around the city for protection a lot of which is still intact today. The bay going into the city has a wall built underwater to keep ships out. There is a narrow passageway that a ship can pass through today it is marked by a couple of markets however it is very narrow so the cruise ships have to go around the island beside it and enter the port that way.

So I am sitting the the lobby checking emails and reviewing/approving ad submissions to my web site Lost Trekkers, I have not had Internet for 4 days so some stuff had piled up, 20+ ad submissions and a ton of site related emails. When in walks the 2 Dutch guys from the boat, they check in. 20 minutes later in come the 3 Kiwi bikers, they check in, we are all getting a pretty good chuckle when in comes the 4 Germans. Kind of weird considering the street we are on is hostel row, within 2 blocks there are 7 of them and around the corner another 5 and yet we all end up at the same one "insert twilight zone theme here".

I finish my work and head out for a stroll and within a block I run into Canadian/Dutch biker couple at the corner store and 1/2 a block later British/Dutch couple. Cartagena it would seem is a very small place. The purpose of my stroll was to find an ATM as I had no Pesos to pay for my room, the hostel gave me a map of the area and drew a line to the ATM, even with my lousy sense of direction I managed to find it. Taking money out was another issue, they offer English as a language choice so that is good, letters and numbers on the keypad, also good (I use letters for my pin and I don't really know what the corresponding #'s are which has gotten my bank card almost eaten on several occasions). The issue is how much to take out, the money is in Millions and I'm a little unsure what the abbreviations are, choices are 50.000, 100.000 etc. crossing my fingers it choose the $200.000 option, which I am hoping is about $100.00, Yeah I was right, felt like I had hit the jackpot on the slots. Off to the grocery store I go and what do I find? Chocolate, big thick blocks of tasty chocolate. (like the bakers chocolate packages) so I bought 2 and some water and ran back to the hostel to binge. BURP!

The dorm room in the hostel has air conditioning, I don't really like AC I am happy with just the fan, however the roommates like the AC so they kept it on. It did feel pretty good when I came back from wandering the streets but, I don't know why but I always get sick after I have been in an AC environment. Sure enough after 1 night I wake up and I am sneezing, hacking and full of flem. There is nothing stupider than walking down the street in that kind of heat sneezing, the locals got a good chuckle out of it. I noticed on my walks that there are a lot of police on the streets, pretty much 2 at every street corner. I don't think there is an issue with crime, I think they are there to make the tourist feel safe. They are very nice and smile and talk to people, they were stopping and searching some of the locals (smelling cigarette packs and pat downs). There are drugs out there, on my 1st walk to the ATM I had 2 guys offer me whatever I wanted and pretty much every walk after that at least 1 offer. Before purchasing anything ask yourself how well you think you would adjust to life in a Colombian jail and base your purchase decision on that. On that note, the men of Cartagena and pretty much all Latin American countries.. In general if you are a woman walking down the street alone you can expect some harassment, nothing threatening but you will get stopped by men who want to engage you in conversation, starts with the usual where are you from and leads up to want to go out with me or if you need anything I am always here. The occasional I love you yelled out after you walk by, my personal favorite, the psst psst pssting and lots of getting stared at. Part of it is the blond hair blue eyes thing, I wear sunglasses most of the time and I did dye my hair darker before I left but a few weeks in the sun and it's back to blond. Every foreign women walking alone will get this treatment, funny sometimes they think I am a local in those cases I get a polite Buenos when passing them on the street.
Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas
Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas

I took a visit to the old fort just outside the walls of the historic zone, Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas. The cost to enter was $9.00 and the sign said that all of the money goes to restoring the fort and the city walls so I felt okay with parting with my money. It is a pretty neat place, you are allowed to go down some of the passages, those Spanish must have been short, my head was almost hitting the top of the tunnels and they are very narrow and in some places steep. I ran into a bunch of Colombians coming the other way and had to wait at a junction for them to come up and pass before I could go ahead. Other than the tunnels and a couple of overhangs there is not much shade so if you go do it in the morning or late afternoon and take water. They sell it there but it is double the price that you would pay at a store. There are some vendors selling assorted souvenirs as well as a gift shop/store at the top.

Catagena is full of restaurants, nightclubs and casino's, pretty much any form of entertainment is available including a red light district, most of it does not getting going until after 11pm. It can get pricey, the beer price doubles in a club, same with restaurants. There is lots of street food and my personal favorite the fresh juice stands. I can't figure out why in Latin America they cluster the same shops/vendors in the same area. By the park there are 10 vendors all selling juice and all for the same price, in my world it would make more sense to spread them out a bit, less competition, more money in your pocket. Ah well sometimes trying to make sense out of things will just drive you crazy so I just give it up and go with it. I think I have worked my way through most of the juices, Passion Fruit is my favorite although Mango and Guava are pretty darn tasty as well.

My last night in Cartagena some of us boat people got together for dinner along with the crew of the Stahlratte. Was great to see them, they are doing some maintenance while they are in port including giving the ship a new paint job. Looking forward to seeing the pictures. A little sad knowing that we are all scattering and most likely won't see each other again.

I spent 4 days in Cartagena and then headed out, There is a small fishing village about 3 hours up the coast towards Venezuela called Taganga that sounded interesting. One of the perks of traveling on your own you can go and do whatever you want, no pre-planning or consultation required.

I am almost caught up on the blogs now, you are 2 towns behind where I am now. I still have my stupid cold so it has been a good time to get caught up. Good thing there is a tax write off involved otherwise no way would I be working. Loving the netbook, 2.5 pounds, way better than the laptop for travel but wishing I had brought the mouse.

1 comment: