Cartagena de Indias

Morning of 14 Dec, the arsetralia and ingerlund boys are still going.  After a rather eventful night involving the police, from all accounts.  From what I could gather from the repeated, yet slurred, stories – they’d bought some illegal substances, got caught with them, ended up bribing the police.  The aussie who was taken on the back of a motorcycle into Santa Marta, in order to get the cash for the bribe, started his trip with arms and legs akimbo on the back of the bike.  Not quite “playing it cool”, as the lonely planet advises travellers to deal with the police.  Also, the inglis did a conga dance outside the police station.  The other aussie was in a cell.  Afterwards, the police insisted on taking them to a local nightclub for some drinks.

Anyway – they were still going strong in the morning – although getting harder to understand.  Still – the poms not quite doing so well as the aussies.  Surprise.  I decided I’d better get out of here before I decide to teach them a lesson.  So, check out, and a txi to the bus terminal.  Next bus to Cartagena, por favor.  Just behind a young japanese girl.  We wait for our bus.  Having just bought tickets for the 11am bus, at 10 minutes past 11.  Half an hour later – the japanese girl is getting antsy.  Starts asking people every 10 minutes or so where the bus is.  I figure she hasn’t been in Colombia too long.  Bus does turn up, eventually, and we get on.

The wheels on the bus went round and round.  And we arrived in Cartagena de Indias.  Bus to town, not really knowing where the bus goes.  Eventually figure I’ve gone well past where I probably should have exited the bus.  Get off a while later instead.  Across the road from a place called “Drinking Bar”.  So, I drink in the bar.  Then, have dinner at the chinese restaurant next door.  Expensive shrimps and broccoli.  But, I haven’t eaten broccoli in a while.  And despite not liking broccoli particularly, it’s good to eat it again.  Washed down with more cerveza, of course.

And then I figure it’s time to swallow the pride, and get a taxi.  So – taxi to a hostel.  In the red light district, of course.  Hostel is full, so have to walk to another one.  Immediately accosted by chap wanting to sell me the white stuff.  Doesn’t really believe me when I tell him I don’t want any, or the green stuff either – so the act of being best friends is put on several times over the next days every time he sees me.  But, I get to a hotel/hostel – check in, and actually get a decently priced room – all to myself, with fan and double bed.  Best deal I’ve had since Quito.  Ahhhh…. Quito, how I miss you Finn McCools.

But – no irish pubs with a block or two of my hotel here.  So – an evening at a cafe bordering a small plaza.  Cervezas, while watching children play soccer, and the local ladies posing for photographs with each other.

Wake up for the 15 Dec – ready to explore Cartagena.  And do so.  It’s got a big wall around it.  Walk on the wall for a while.  Apparently they didn’t like the inglis (Francis Drake, specifically) burning down the town, and holding it for ransom, and what-not.  So – a big wall.  Got the idea from the chinese, I reckon, but weren’t quite crazy enough to build a wall along an entire border.  Just around the town.  Still pretty cool.  But, having lost nearly all my enthusiasm and energy for being a tourist – got bored pretty quickly.  Ate some bloody good steak.  First time for a long long time.  Bloody good, and good’n’bloody.  More wandering around the Old City – which is also pretty cool.  All old.  And a city, I guess.  But, unlike most of Colombia, lots of people trying to sell you stuff, or anything else to get money.  First time I’ve seen it on this scale since Peru, I think.  Most of Colombia really has been qute tranquillo – which I took for granted until being reminded of it today.  So – in general, Cartagena is very similar to Cuzco, just to a lesser extent.  It would be an awesome place to wander around, if you got rid of all the hawkers.  Luckily in Cartagena, the hawkers and others are in certain areas – and the entire Old City is good for walking around.  So it’s just occasional moments of the “I’ve already said ‘no’ several times – now …” feeling.  Also – everything well overpriced.  Walk outside the Old City walls, and prices fall drastically.  Although still too high – am looking forward to getting out of Cartagena completely – and seeing proper Colombian prices again.

Anyway – had dinner in the dodgier district I’m staying in.  A few cervezas, and the garfield movie on the television.  (Punctuation nerds – I don’t use capitalisation when something doesn’t deserve it.)  And when the nice lady suggested I should have the bill rather than another delicious ice cold cerveza – moved back to my position on the small plaza from last night, until once again I became too tired to justify ordering more cerveza.

So – 16 Dec started with waking up earlier than is natural, again.  I’m getting sick of knowing what 8am is like.  Breakfast, a bit of electronics shopping – which involved flirting with 12 year old girls.  Electronics shopping, for you nerds, was an adaptor for a 2.5mm jack to a 3.5mm.  My new Titan MP3 player uses a 2.5mm earphone jack, which I didn’t realise at the time.  So, I’ve bought this useful adaptor for the inevitable breakage of current earphones.  And broke my Titan a couple of hours later.

But – today was dedicated to seeing a couple of the things which the guidebook recommended other than the big wall thing.  So – the Palace of the Inquisition.  Torture instruments.  Much better than the Lima one.  Better torture stuff – although most or all of it was replicas, I believe.  But – allowed to pretend to be the victim on most of it.  I believe.  Well – nobody was around, and nobody stopped me.  The museum also had a second floor with displays regarding the history of Cartagena.  Boooorrrrriiiiing.

Cold shower (all showers on the coast are cold – but one is not unhappy about this.  Hot weather & women)  Then – more aimless wandering.  Overpriced, but very very good ceviche for early dinner.  Shrimps with white wine, mango & maracuya marinade.  I’m describing it only so that I will remember it when I get to ingerlund, and want to attempt a replication.

Then, found a cheap dodgy cafe near my hotel.  Cervezas.  Dodgy inglis bloke talked to me for a while.  Told me I was a better man than he, after I sympathised with his lady problems, but mentioned I’d been faithful to a girlfriend while in this continent of beautiful ladies.  Also congratulated me on finding the place with cheapest cervezas in town after very little time.  I reminded him I was a Kiwi.  He left, and I continued with cheap cervezas.  Until internet time – and some babbling on this here website, possibly a little too soon after the cheap cervezas.

This evening – the plan is an overnight bus to Medellin.  Home of Pablo Escobar.  Apparently much improved since being the murder capital of the world back in the 80’s.

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