Cartagena is a colonial city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It was once the major port of the Spanish for their trade route, and a strong hold of the Spanish who built a wall around the city to protect it from invasion.
Cartagena was one of the few cities in Colombia that we had decided to explore. It was also the port from which we would ship Priscilla (our vehicle) to Colon in Colombia.
The drive from Los Angeles to Cartagena was fairly uneventful, until we ran into our first corrupt policemen. They pulled us over under the pretense of speeding, which we were not doing.
They took our papers and asked Mike to step out of the vehicle. They were friendly, had seen we were a family, and it was a very public place, so we had no concerns of trouble. Other overlanders had informed us that they had encounters with corrupt police on this stretch of road, so we were somewhat prepared.
In order to assist Mike with Spanish, although the policemen knew key words in English, I also got out of the vehicle. Then the negotiations began. We were told we would need to pay a fine. The initial amount stated was $300 USD, which we had no intention of paying. Taking the lead of other overlanders, I stated that we would like to fill out a formal form and Mike told them we would go to the police station to pay the fine. The amount quickly dropped to $100 USD. Feigning that we did not have that much on us, we negotiated down to 100,000 Colombian pesos, equivalent to $30 USD.
The policeman ushered us to the side of the vehicle out of site of the road where we handed over the money and received our papers back. Corruption at its best! Apparently they also do this to locals although they know foreigners have more money. This is just a part of travel in Sth and Central America! We feel ourselves to be lucky as this was our first time. Other overlanders had paid bribes throughout Sth and Central America. No one reported any trouble; it is more like a business transaction. We may have more to come, we shall see!
Driving into Cartagena was quite a culture shock after the tranquility of Los Angeles. We found a parking garage to store Priscilla for the week, and headed to a hostel in the Getsemani area. Getsemani is a suburb with hostels and restaurants but still has Colombians living in the neighborhood, so it is colorful and interesting.
A week before shipment, we had to meet with our shipping agent, Luis at Enlace Caribbe to complete the necessary paperwork. We would be sharing a 40 ft container with a couple from Argentina that we had not met yet. We had been connected online through overland forums. Our first meeting went well and we heard that our shipping companions had arrived in Cartagena. Everything was going smoothly, although we were both anxious due to our terrible experience with shipping into Buenos Aires. The following week we would put Priscilla into the container for shipment.
In the meantime, we enjoyed the luxuries of a hostel, with a real bed, air conditioning and our own bathroom. We spent many hours watching movies, reading books, and catching up on emails and blogs.
We also explored Cartagena. We went to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, an old Spanish fort; walked along the old city wall; and walked the streets in the old town area. It is a really interesting city, and as far as cities go, we did like it.
The houses and buildings in the old town were very colourful with creeping vines reaching to the windowsills. Like other South American cities, Cartagena has several plazas and many churches.
It was fun to sit in the plazas and to watch the venders selling their wares. We tried some of the sweets below, delicious, but one is enough because they are super sweet.
CASTILLO SAN FELIPE DE BARAJAS
The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is the fort that was built by the Spanish to protect the city and the port.
It is really interesting to visit. There are a multitude of tunnels connecting the various areas. In the walls you can see pieces of corral and shell that were used in its construction.
ENJOYING CULINARY DELIGHTS
We ate out all week, enjoying sushi, pizzas, Italian and Indonesian. However by the weeks end we were tired of bought food and craving home cooking.
I was long overdue for some hair maintenance, so with the help of an American girl living in Cartagena, I found a hairdresser.
As I have stated before, it is always an experience going to a hairdresser in a foreign country and you never know quite how it will work out. I was happy that it wasn’t green or pink; actually I kind of liked it.
The pics above show my "new do."
The day arrived for Priscilla to leave us. We had prepared her by taking our valuables with us and placing all other items securely in the back. She even had a wash! Keira and I said good-bye and Mike drove her to the shipping yard to be placed in the container. Mike was pleased to be able to drive her in himself and to help with the process. Priscilla was secure and ready to ship.
The following day we flew to Medellin, another Colombian city to spend a few days before heading on to Panama.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Priscilla
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- sleeping in a real bed; Keira- exploring the fort/seeing a monkey and big lizard in the park; Riss- having relief from the heat with an air conditioned room
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-trying not to get anxious about the shipping process; Keira- walking around the city in the heat; Riss- trying not to get anxious about the shipping process
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- Italian food/Indonesian food, Keira- sushi rolls and fried ice cream; Riss- edamame
BEST CAMPING SPOT: none this blog
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.