looking for a boat in paradise

Cartagena Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 21 › view all entries

I had read that Cartagena is a fantastic colonial city, but the descriptions do not give the place justice.  Cartagena is quite possibly the most beautiful place i have ever visited.  Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena was a key port town during the Spanish colonial period.  You can still see the remains of the fortified exterior walls lined with canons, which once protected the city from invading pirates.  There is a walled in city center that has completely retained its colonial architecture, with its narrow streets packed with beautiful wooden and stone terraces.   Just a short walk down the coast line from the city center are the beaches and modern sector of Cartagena.


Trey and I checked into Hotel Holiday with our dutch friends.  Our hotel was just a couple blocks from the walled-in city center, in an equally amazing, though far less touristy part of town.  WE all immediately headed into the city center with a group from our hostel to explore a bit.  Unfortunately, since Catagena is extremely touristy, you cannot walk around town without being bothered by people trying sell something.  This is the only problem in paradise, though it is a constant reminder of the reality of things in latin america. 

The next day we all woke up early to go to the beach in town.  As the sun began to rise, we realized quickly how hot it gets in Cartagena.  During the day temperatues reach between 35-40C (which is around 100 or more degrees fahrenheit!!) The beach was nice, but probably the best part was when we played beach soccer with a group of Colombians.

  We pretty much dominated; i even scored a goal!  not bad for a yankee.  Although, trying to block a shot, i kicked the goal post and cut open my foot a bit... ¡que boludo que soy! My other error for the day was forgetting to put sun block on my legs... for the next two days i would have to wear pants around because my burns were so bad.  On the way back from the beach, we walked through a small park near our hostel.  I looked up in the trees and was shocked to see monkees jumping around all over the place!! I also saw a sloth and tons of 3 foot long iguanas walking among the people in the park!!! 

The main reason we came to Cartagena is because it is one of the only places you can find a boat to take you to Panama.  There are no roads in between Colombia and Panama and the section of jungle is far too dangerous to cross by foot because it is controled by leftist colombian rebels.

  However, there is no ferry service from Cartagena..  you have to go to the Nautic Club and talk to captains and hire a sail boat to take you the 5 day journey to Panama.  My first trip to the Nautic Club was unsucessful.. but the next day, folowing some advice, i left tried again early in the morning and had much more luck.  After talking to a few captains, i met a german guy who has been sailing for the past 6 years or so around the world.  After negotiating for a bit, we settled on a price and all that was left was to find 7 more passengers.  This did not take too long in the end, and the next night we had all the people we needed.  its a diverse group-- two kiwis, an autrian, a german, a spanish girl, an argentina, and us two yankees.  We leave thursday for the 5 day trip.
  The first 2 days we will be on the open water and then for 3 days we will stay in San Blas, a chain of islands off the coast of Panama.  I am extremely excited for this leg of the trip, even though i heard that the water can be a bit choppy.  it should be an adventure. 

After i had a boat lined up, i felt much more at ease.  The rest of my days in Cartagena, i spent hanging out in the town center in various cafés reading an amazing book called Pabillon that i picked up.  The coffee in incredible here, so i find myself drinking about 3 or 4 cups a day!! i cant help myself.  back in the states, some people used to call me Juan Valdez because of my coffee obsession, and now i get to drink it from the source!! Pretty cool. 

This morning i bid farewell to our dutch friends who are heading to Santa Marta and the Ciudad Perdida.  it was sad to see them go, but thats a part of traveling.  We leave tomorrow morning on the boat for Panama, so i am spending today getting the necessary supplies.  Im finally leaving South America and i cant help but a bit sad.  Its a land that i have come to love immensely.  As for Colombia, i encourage everyone to come and see it.  In the west, and especially in the US, Colombia has one of the worst images because of the problems with drugs and rebel groups.  In reality, if you research a bit and take some precuations, it is a fantastic country to visit.  Indeed after Argentina, Colombia has been my favorite part of my time in S. America. 

Adios Amérca del Sur.. nos vemos muy pronto!  My next entry will be in 5 days from Panama!! (if the pirates of the Caribbean dont snatch us. jaja). 

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photo by: vulindlela