Alone Like a Rolling Stone

The streets of Cartagena

We sit in the bus and look stunned at the never-ending plastic garbage that passes us by. In Barranquilla, the accumulation of garbage and the people who live in it reaches its peak. The streets through the city center are congested, dusty and dirty. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and now also rickshaws make their way through the chaos, we are in the middle of it and yet not quite there. The air conditioning does its job, the seats are reasonably comfortable and the noise only partially reaches our ears. Only when we reach the stop in Barranquilla and get off to stretch our legs a bit, we really realize the extent. Together with the Flip Flop and the Adel, we are on our way to Cartagena. 

Bocagrande Cartagena, Colombia

The bus ride, from Santa Marta to the city of millions on the Caribbean Sea, takes five hours. Forewarned by our stopover, we expect the worst in Cartagena and are pleasantly surprised to find a clean city. Already between Barranquilla and Cartagena the garbage decreased continuously. We chose a hostel right in the center and are warmly welcomed. The hostel is not far from Fernandez Madrid Park and has a high standard. Already when you enter the small cafe and the smell of freshly ground coffee beans rises to your nose, you feel good inside. But we do not stay long in the hostel, but immediately start exploring the city. Since we are already in the center, this is the first area we take a look at. The streets are narrow and the houses with their balconies, nice to look at. Again and again a street leads into a larger square from which again small streets lead away. There are countless bars and restaurants and on the squares you can sit outside and watch the colorful hustle and bustle on the street. Cartagena was once a hub of the Caribbean slave trade and the descendants have kept their traditions and perform them in the streets. Every now and then a street performer comes by our table and wants to be paid for his performance. There are clearly more than we know from Santa Marta and so we can't avoid turning away one or the other.

Old town of Cartagena, Colombia

The next day we get an overview of the city by buying a ticket for the hop on-hop off bus. The route goes around the Getsemani neighborhood, the center, out to Bocagrande and back again. Actually, the bus should also go to Manga. However, because of a construction site, it does not in our case. Our first stop is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. The fortress once served to defend the city and has walls up to four meters thick. Numerous labyrinth-like corridors give the visitor an idea of how complex this fortress is. 

Castle of San Felipe de Barajas Cartagena, Colombia

We climb back on and close the round with the astonishment of having passed Manga. So we change the plan and visit Bocagrande. In the evening we visit the colorful district of Getsemani. At the Plaza de la Trinidad you can eat streetfood. The streets are even narrower than in the center and besides the many bars and restaurants, the doors and windows are also open to the many private homes, giving a view inside. There are so many people on the streets that the street food area does not come with the food behind, so we do without this experience and look for a restaurant.

Getsemani Cartagena, Colombia

On the third day we make it to Manga and check out the Marina Club de pesca. The marina is very centrally located. The Getsemani district can be reached via a bridge. The people in the marina are very friendly and you have a wonderful view of the skyline of Cartagena. However, there is also a lot of movement in the water, which makes the stay not always pleasant. Nevertheless, we thought about stopping by here on our way to Panama, but quickly discarded the idea. In the Restaurante Fuerte de San Sebastian del Pastelillo we enjoy the view over to Bocagrande and its skyscrapers. Wasn't there the Colombian Cafe Juan Valdez in the middle of the canyons of houses? Yes, that's where we want to go now. And since the ticket for the hop on-hop off bus is still valid, a short time later we are sitting in this airy bus and let the wind blow around our noses. The Colombian coffee tastes excellent. We reach the old town again by bus and find the Hard Rock Cafe of Cartagena. We don't get past it either and so it's again no good for the planned nap. In the evening we make the old town unsafe again and throw ourselves into the turmoil of the Halloween parties. In a steakhouse we find a quiet place.

Cartagena, Colombia

The next morning we go back to Santa Marta. Here Valentina is already waiting for us. Valentina is our new crew member. She will accompany us a part of our way. But we will tell you about this next time. Until then, as always, fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.