Another colonial city...

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Having made our way successfully but slowly across Panama City to Tocumen International Airport on a Red Devil, we just had time for a quick coffee (and bacon and egg sarnie for Dan) before we boarded the plane that was taking us out of Central America and into Colombia. It was cheaper for us to transit through Bogota than fly directly up to Cartagena, so after only an hour and a half the first leg of the flight was over and we had a couple of hours to kill in Bogota airport. We got chatting to a couple of australian dudes heading our way, had another coffee, and stood outside in the rain for a bit all totally unamused by how wet and cold it was. The second leg of the flight only took an hour or so as well, so we soon arrived in Cartagena and were back on the caribbean coast for the last time of the trip. We shared a cab with the aussies into Getsemani, an area of the city with plenty of cheap digs, found a place to stay (room was OK but the place had a balcony over-looking the street and the free breakfast clinched the deal), hit the supermarket, cooked, had a beer, and crashed.

Cartagena is a colonial city that was founded in 1533, that quickly became the main spanish port on the caribbean coast. Used as a holding place for indigenous goods bound for spain it was a continual target for pirates and as a result the spanish built huge stone walls and fortresses around the entire city to defend it from attack. Today, despite the city expanding way beyond the old walled boundary and having become colombia's largest port, the walled city has retained it's 16th century character with narrow cobbled streets leading past open plazas, enormous fort like churches and grand colonial houses with huge overhanging balconies. Perfect for a lazy day strolling around and taking it all in - if only the rain would stop. It poured it down all day and all evening, only stopping for a couple of hours around 3 o'clock when we made a quick dash to the original walled city and checked out some of the nice old buildings and swanky coffee shops. Cabin fever was already setting in at the hostel, so we dined out on chicken and rice on the side of a busy main road and watched the world go by in the rain.

Up until this point we have made no plans on how we are going to spend our time in South America, other than to be down in Argentina by end of November when a certain Monkey Allen comes to join us for a few weeks, followed by our flight from Rio to New Zealand in December. This, combined with feeling a bit sad about leaving central america behind, the rain in Cartagena, and the general lack of enthusiasm about being in another colonial town, left us feeling a bit deflated and in need of a good sesh with the LP and highlighter. We decided therefore to make the most of this last opportunity to be by the coast, checked out the next morning and boarded a bus heading up the coast towards Taganga - a small fishing village on the edge of Tayrona National Park and surrounded by some good dive sites.

The main bus terminal in Cartagena was nothing more than a carpark full up with men who grabbed us off the minibus we'd taken from town, shouting at the top of their voices every possible destination in Colombia and trying to rip us off over the price of our bus tickets - surely not. We finally agreed on a price, once we had been assured that this was the direct bus to Santa Marta, and off we went. 4 hours later the bus pulled over on the side of a road on the outskirts of another big town somewhere, and as Dan looked out of the window he saw a local guy legging it off across the road with both of our big backpacks on his back that had been underneath the bus. We were both out of our seats like a shot, and were told to change buses and that we needed to follow the guy with our shit. So we dodged the traffic and the pouring rain to catch up with our bags that had seemingly grown their own legs, and got on another bus to take us on to Santa Marta (once the driver and some other guys on the bus had finished watching a film and this took nearly an hour until we eventually left). Another 4 hours later, and it all kicked off once again on the bus when the driver said he wouldn't be going to the terminal and dropped us all off on the side of the road on the outskirts of Santa Marta. In all the mayhem we ended up leaving our money belt on the bus that we'd stuffed into the broken air-con vent above us, but luckily it was empty. On the side of the road we met a helpful taxi driver (so they do exist) who showed us where to wait for another bus into town, which showed up within 2 minutes and dropped us exactly where we needed to be. Unfortunately we'd arrived in Santa Marta much later than we had anticipated and it was already dark, so we decided to make the last bit of the journey to Taganga in the morning. We found a nice enough place to stay, went out for a wander along the seafront, and got some rice and fish for less than $1 from a food stand that was delicious. And of course a beer.
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