Trip Start Jan 01, 2001
Trip End Dec 28, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A fairly early start this morning as we wanted to be sure we got Kirsty today. First stop was the Seaboard Office for the Bill of Lading. This was supposed to be the easy one since we got a taxi all the way, unfortunately he could not find the address and once we were in the area he then spent 20 to 30 minutes asking people how to find it. It turns out it was right next to the smaller entrance to the port. The driver then decided that we should pay because he could not find the office; in the end we split the difference as he had taken extra time. From the Seaboard office we had to go to the main customs building in the Port at Manga, about 10 mins away. Here we were told we needed the commercial section, still in Manga but a five minute walk. In here we got some papers which we then had to take back to the first docks. This time we go into the dock and so need ID cards, then to the Control Office and hand over the form and get more paperwork to add to it. Next a different office to find out where Kirsty was situated and get someone to escort us to her. We had our own keys so checked her out and found all was fine. It was now lunch time so everyone stops work for two hours, everyone except us that is. We managed to get the cover on the air con, put the mirrors back out, installed the radio and spotlights. Once this was done they had started work again and so we went to the customs office and got one of them to look at the vehicles, all they checked were the serial numbers and licence plates. They signed for that work and then it was back to the main office in the other port to get the Chief to sign the paper temporarily importing it. He eats at a different time so we spent ages sitting waiting for the signature. Eventually we got that and then back to the other port to pay the port fees and then to another office to get the exit paperwork. Eventually we got those and one of the men walked us back to Kirsty, getting a stamp for it going over the weighbridge as it should have, but by now it had gone 5 which is when the port is supposed to close. In the end we drove out of the gates at 5.45, having to stop at the office to hand in the ID cards. Now time to drive into the town to park for the night. We already knew that the roads were extremely narrow, with lots of overhanging balconies and so we were a little nervous, especially as there are lots of one way roads as well. In the end it was an easy enough route to get to the car park at the Convention Centre which we knew we could pay to use for a 24 hour guard. Time to relax at last.
4th - Today was just a day spent cleaning up trying to get rid of the salt in the vehicle, putting up the roof bars, washing etc.
5th - Today a slow stroll around the old town. This town founded in 1533 became the main Spanish port on the Caribbean Coast, it stored all the gold plundered from the indigenous people and so was an extremely tempting target for pirates. In the 16th Century it suffered five long sieges, the most famous was that by the pirate Sir Francis Drake. (It is surprising how the view of people changes with regard to your country of birth.) In response to these attacks the Spanish decided to make the town impregnable and constructed elaborate walls and a string of forts. These did help the town during later sieges, particularly that led by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1741. Today the town has expanded dramatically and is now the largest port but that said the main centre still consists of almost complete fortified walls and lots and lots of Colonial buildings. Almost every street in the inner walled town was worth a stroll down. It only covers an area of 400 metres by 1000 metres so once you have passed through the old walls at the main gate you come first to the old plaza where they used to sell slaves, this is surrounded by fine old houses with balconies and arched covered walkways. Just off this is the Customs Plaza, the oldest and largest square which used to be a parade ground and held the original customs offices, now the government offices. Nearby we could see the three storeys Convent of San Pedro Claver with its associated church next to it. We then walked around the top of the walls until we reached the vaults, these are 23 arched rooms originally built as an ammunition store at the end of the 18th century, they were then used as a jail and today are souvenir shops. From here it was a walk back through some of the streets again very narrow with overhanging balconies, it is probably the nicest town we have visited with quite a fairy tale aspect to it.
6th - In the morning we went to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas begun in 1639 but not finished until 1790. This is an enormous structure, about 300 ft high, 300 ft wide and 6 to 800 ft long, seemingly all built up using stone. We say this because there is a huge tunnel complex that goes through all levels and was used as a means of supply and evacuation if needed. These tunnels are only about 3ft wide and the top of the arched roof is just about 6 ft tall. There are several different levels which would have held the cannon, the highest point was a fairly small area where the commandant lived and at the time the only way up was by a wooden staircase with a sheer drop of some 30 ft. Strange to say but the shape of the building makes it very pretty with rounded edges and corners. In the afternoon it was back to the old town to go to the prettiest area of town, Bolivar Square, here as well as the tree lined square you can also see the fine colonial building called the Palace of the Inquisition and dating from 1770. It is a museum today but was the original building used by the Inquisition in Cartagena and is full of original and reproduction torture implements used by the Inquisition. That said the guide that we had told us that none of the items on show had been used in Cartagena and that in reality there had only been five people burnt at the stake. On leaving there we went to the museum of gold run by the local bank. This is a free museum and had quite a lot of gold as well as several examples of pottery, all detailed in good English as well as Spanish, another worth while place to visit. In the evening we had been told that there was a fiesta taking place at 4 pm in Bocogrande so we decided to go round there to se what it was about. It turned out that it was a nautical based children's concert. When we got there we could have hired one of the seats set out around the water, but we decided to walk to the centre, after waiting about an hour there were several different children's school choirs singing Christmas songs, these were all on the stage inland and so could not be seen from the seats. This was followed by a display of weapons drill by a contingent from the Naval Academy based here. The nautical bit was the arrival of about 30 different boats, all lit up with Xmas lights, to join in the singing. The one that was quite interesting is what we think is a Colombian Sail training vessel, a wind jammer about 80 ft long. The only real sight was on the stage and also once it had finished and we were on our way back they also had a firework display which was very impressive.
7th - A fairly lazy day today with just a visit to the local Carrefour shopping centre.
8th - Today we were going to the British Consulate to get some information, but found that today is a national holiday and so it has ended up as another lazy day.
9th - Went to the consulate and got some advice but we are finding it almost impossible for Mike to get his antimalaria tablets, he needs Mefloquine as he is allergic to the others and no one seems to sell it. At the moment the earliest we can get it seems to be the town of Medellin. In the afternoon we went for another stroll round town, filled and emptied the water tanks. It is my birthday today; I got cards from the family that John brought out for me, so that was really nice. Had a nice meal and now before we get too lazy off and away tomorrow.
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