A Silent Night in Cartagena

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostel Familiar

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The alarm woke us at 5am and bleary eyed (I had barely slept) we grabbed our bags (which we had fortunately had the foresight to pack up last night) and woke the poor night porter to pay our bill and order a taxi to the airport. The taxi took just five minutes to arrive and then we were on our way to the airport - but which one the taxi driver asked – oh god not another potential Buenos Aires shambles – no, not this time we had already sussed this one and checked the airport code on the booking.  We weren't one hundred per cent sure however (going to the international airport not the domestic one for a domestic flight didn’t seem to make too much sense) but we had no reason to doubt it so we headed off to the furthest airport 45 minutes away knowing that if we had cocked this one up too we would definitely miss the flight.  We arrived at the airport clutching the confirmation and just hoping that we were in the right place – the confusion on the face of the desk attendant did not ease our doubts when we presented her with our documents but eventually she gave us our boarding passes and it seemed that we were in the right place after all.  We wandered up and down the hall and Andrew bought a couple of empanadas for breakfast with a coffee and I had a bottle of coke.  With nothing else of interest on this side we decided that we might as well go through security and wait at the gate for the flight.  There was much more there than we thought and we had a coffee each while Andrew wrote a blog and I read my book – I was eager to finish it so Andrew could start it – not that we are short of reading material I think we have now accumulated about 9 books which we are carrying around with us and don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of reading before we go home.

The flight was uneventful, Aires are a budget airline much the same as Easyjet so you don’t get anything on the plane at all – still it was only an hour flight to Bogota so we weren’t going to starve.  Our biggest worry had been that the flight would be delayed and we wouldn’t be able to catch our connecting flight to Cartagena (Aires have a bit of a bad reputation) but everything went smoothly and we arrived in Cartagena at about 1pm – no delays, no lost luggage it was all good.  The temperature was considerably hotter than Medellin had been but then it was to be expected – we were on the Caribbean Coast.  We managed to get a taxi outside and decided that we would head for Hostel Viena even though they hadn’t responded to any of our emails.  Fifteen minutes later we were being told that they were full and shown in the direction of a similar hostel further up the road called Hotel Familiar.  Fortunately they had a room which was slightly more expensive but it had its own bathroom - we took a look and there were glassless windows everywhere and we had read a few things about mosquitoes on the internet that I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t be eaten alive.  We decided to give it a night and if I was then we would move on – the fan seemed powerful enough so maybe that would keep them at bay.  By this stage I was absolutely starving so we left the bags, locked up the room and headed in to the walled city to take a look around and get some food.

Firstly, Cartagena really is a beautiful city and it fully warrants its’ UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  Within the walled city (Old City) the narrow streets and balconies that overhang them spill shocking pink bougainvillea and the ramshackle colonial buildings are endlessly charming.  We wandered through the walls and in the first plaza that we came to we were accosted by a guy calling himself 'Johnny Walker’ after some pleasantries he invited us to a ‘private’ party that he was having that evening at a private house in the old city.  He kept on telling us that anything could happen at the party them backing it up with "Do you know what I mean?" we knew what he meant and we kindly tried to fob him off but he was quite insistent and then insisted on showing us a cheap restaurant that he goes to.  This became the introduction to Cartagena for us – there are so many people on the streets trying to sell you stuff from Panama hats, to emeralds to drugs that you get to the stage where you have to be rude to get anywhere.  Andrew was also nearly dragged in to a barbers shop to have his hair cut by a very bombastic barber.  After trawling the streets for what seemed like hours (and I was starting to wonder why we had ever come somewhere where we couldn’t even afford to eat) in the end we settled on a little cafe which did a set meal for about 3 pounds.  This included a soup and then a meat or fish dish of the day.  I had chicken and Andrew had meat – it was okay and good value but I wasn’t looking forward to eating it for the next four days.

After an afternoon nap, I managed to rid myself of my tiredness we decided to head out and go in search of the legendary nightlife that Cartagena is so famous for – especially the area that we were staying in Getsemani – it apparently gets very raucous here.  Well there were certainly a lot of people out on the street, but most were just sat outside their houses on plastic chairs.  None of the so called bars were busy so we walked up to the plaza beyond our hostel and watched a couple getting married in the local church.  Even Avenida Arsenal, one of the nightlife hotspots was dead – this was Saturday night wasn’t it?  Were we missing something?  The only life around seemed to be coming from within the city walls so we went there and sat ourselves down at a pavement bar and had a few beers.  Within a few minutes a mime artist appeared and started to put on a performance in the street.  Actually it was very good, the guy would follow unsuspecting people on the street tap them on the shoulder, steal their hat, crouch down in front of moving cars so they stopped and then he would crawl away and leave the driver there unaware that he had gone so they just sat there stationary he also had a habit of jumping on to passing horses and carts and scaring the passengers half to death.  It was all very entertaining.  After a few hours with a distinct lack of anything else going on we gave up and went home having had a very entertaining evening but definitely not what we had expected.  Maybe we should have gone to Johnny Walkers party after all - then again maybe not.
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Stevie T on

Hey pretty place - apart from the clown who obviously needs a punch in the face

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