Behind the Rainbow’s colors of Cartagena
Along with Frencise and Andrea, two girls met during our San Blas tour with whom I immediately bonded, we decided to continue our adventure together towards Cartagena, a city that gets under your skin instantly, better said right down to your nerves… From Capurgana, where we started our Colombian’s journey, we had two options to reach Cartagena: by plane or by boat and bus. Which one did we choose? The longest and in low budget mode one, of course.
Before leaving I googled whether there was a hospital on the island in order to donating my pair of crutches. I don’t know, it was time for me leaving Genoveffa and Gertrude behind, my beloved friends who accompanied me here, to finally embark on a new adventure, free of the two intruders. Right back at the hostel, we checked out and collected our boat/bus tickets.
While we were waiting our turn for the boat, the receptionist at our hostel, in a loud voice, started calling Jake, one of the guys from the San Blas tour. Happy and excited to leave, Jake and his friends arrived smiling at the front desk to a slightly less smiling person…. Their reservation to Cartagena was not valid. In a confused conversation between Spanish and English we realized that the problem was the time of their reservation: having waited until late afternoon to buy their tickets, they were not guaranteed a seat on the boat the next day. It took a good 10 minutes of intense debate in nursery school grade Spanish and gestural English to convince the receptionist to let them board.
Finally, the time had come to embark, and we could never have imagined the nightmare we were about to experience. Luckily, in this part of Colombia, people have the habit of putting their suitcases in large plastic bags, otherwise our luggage would have arrived at destination in worse shape than us, who by now were soaked from head to toe.
The sea was on our side in its calm and flatness… and thank goodness, otherwise I think half of us would have puked our souls out. During the trip, I don’t know why, my scooter accident of a month ago came back to my mind like a flash. I just wanted to cry at every wave hitting my face. Sharp ones burned like mom’s slaps when she got angry. This trip combined with the continuous loop of the waves hitting my face that with each slap reminded me of the images of the accident seemed endless, interminable… a bit like the ride to the hostel on the scooter after falling down rubbing our bare skin on the asphalt.
I kissed the ground whenever we disembarked in the harbor (the sand despite the lip peeling effect doesn’t taste good, I don’t recommend it) and laid down on a bench in the sun. I was exhausted and just wanted some time to myself, alone and away from the hubbub of the group. I was cold and my wet clothes were sticking to me as if to suffocate me in their grip. When I received my backpack, still wrapped and fortunately dry, I took off those sloppy clothes that weighed on me like a boulder, as if to carry all the drama of that fall in Nicaragua, and I changed in the bus, in front of everyone. At that moment I really didn’t care, apparently no one paid attention, LOL. I was hoping the dry clothes would help me get rid of that annoying cold that gets into your bones but nothing, they weren’t as warm and comfortable as I hoped. Still better than the ones I was wearing before after all.
At least the bus ride was smooth and pleasant. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what happened since I slept the whole time to wake up at the Terminal in Cartagena!
From there we took a taxi to the hostel and guess what was waiting for us? A Hostel Party. That’s right because it seems that in Cartagena hostels take turns to organize parties and that night it was ours. I was so exhausted that I just wanted to lie in bed with earplugs and mask and sleep for the next 12 hours, but I changed my mind and just the time to put down the suitcases and put on something that didn’t smell of fish and sea… here we were, entering a party all in Colombian style. Obviously our friends from the San Blas would never pass up such a great opportunity to party and together we enjoyed yet another evening of dancing and laughter.
What do I mean by Colombian style? Yes you’re right maybe I could explain it better. To be honest it is not that different from a party as we Europeans have in mind, except for the fact that here is NORMAL to dance with strangers. In Europe, however, when a guy approaches you in a club it is almost always with ulterior intentions. Here dancing seems to be all about vibes: dancing with you to get to know you, to feel your energy and vibrate together. I know that maybe not everyone will think this is a good thing, but I guarantee that once you have overcome preconceptions and stereotypes, you will understand what I mean.
By the end of the night we were all drenched in sweat but we didn’t care. We had danced so much that we had burned off every cocktail we had drunk in the previous days and that made us happy. I was hoping to jump right into bed but that little sanity I had left made me opt for a shower before rolling up in the sheets still sweaty and sticky. Now, a shower is probably the easiest thing in the world, but try showering without a light. Yeah because for some strange reason, I still don’t understand why exactly, the engineer who built this bathroom didn’t put a working light in it. I probably missed some cultural detail like the fact that showers here are only during the day, or I was simply too tired to figure out where the switch was. I’ll probably never tell you… hihi. Anyway, stubbornness in hand, I ended up taking a shower with the headlamp on my head and to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I even forgot my towel in the room and ended up drying myself like a dog or something similar… (G go to sleep it’s better and you’re just writing out of your arse, thanks).
Among our (dis)adventures, Francise found herself having trouble with her contact lenses, so the next day, after breakfast, I decided to take her to the eye doctor downtown. We arrived without an appointment and it was bad luck that they were full that day. They would only receive us the next day. Taking advantage of being already in the city center we ended up at the mall waiting for Andrea to solve her heart problems. At that time we didn’t know yet that this was just the beginning of a passionate South American love story.
From the mall we ended up in the narrow streets of the city, arriving late for the guided tour of Cartagena that we had booked the previous day. Darn you for once we had to miss a departure. Never had a more boring tour. Peace to the soul of that poor guy who dragged us around the city but the tiredness of the night before and his lack of enthusiasm proved to be a lethal combo … Time 15 minutes and accidentally we were separated from the group ending up getting lost in the streets of the city.
Wandering aimlessly through a city can lead to the most beautiful and unexpected discoveries of your trip. For instance, by wandering and getting lost in the old town we ended up in Callejon Angosto, a lively, picturesque and colorful alley headed by rows of colorful umbrellas. Looking for it, we probably would have never found it.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped for a snack in a small street food truck. We were practically lost when by some miracle, turning down the alley, the hostel appeared. Surely it wasn’t because of me that we found each other again, because I lost my brain after spending the whole day walking around.
That night we would have never made it clubbing, still exhausted from the day and from the previous evening we opted to stay in the room giving ourselves to the diy by cutting up one of Andrea’s t-shirts (well, she asked, we executed, at her own risk). It was a very eventful evening despite the fact that we stayed in the room. Andrea, in fact, in a moment of panic due to the loss of her beloved towel, drove us so crazy that we turned over all our suitcases and spread the contents around the room in order to calm her down. But nothing, the damn towel was nowhere to be found. Andrea was so panicked that she almost started crying while we were trying to figure out where it could have gone, with all the calmness of mother earth.
But, lo and behold.. Frencise, in a moment of lucidity, digging again into one of Andrea’s thousand bags, guess what she found? Oh yes, that damn lost lost towel that was playing hid and seek with us.
We broke out laughing. It took a while for us to calm down before we could finally go to sleep, just right before Jesus got in our room. The silhouette of a man entered, opening the door wide and illuminated by the light of the corridor: divine illumination! It had to be Jesus…
It was now the last day in Cartagena. So we decided to take it easy, first taking Francise to the eye doctor and then back to the supermarket, or at least we tried to. Because of the doctor’s visit, Francise’s pupils were very dilated, preventing her from seeing well and making her extremely sensitive to light, thus forcing her to walk around for a few hours wearing sunglasses. Once at the mall, she had more or less recovered and went shopping. Once the money had been withdrawn from the bank, we stocked up on supplies for the next few days and returned to the hostel for the night, stopping of course at the take away on the way for a fabulous Colombian dinner.
I have to say that despite the great memories of Cartagena, I don’t think I would go back. There is more to see around Colombia which is less touristic, less touched by human beings and nature is more present! (stay tuned for more on my Colombian adventures).
So, as I said: some things about Cartagena didn’t fully convince me, and now I’ll explain why.
- Very touristy and with almost too much nightlife. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a party girl and love spending the night dancing with friends, but I also appreciate the peace and quiet of doing nothing from time to time.
- Annoying men (editor’s note: I don’t know what G means here but I’m guessing that like any place where G ends up, a man falls in love. I assume that also happened in Cartagena but not being in the mood or whatever probably thought they were extremely clingy, I guess).
- The prices you will find online do not match reality. Restaurants are very expensive even when the service and food are not the best.
- Too many pushy street vendors yelling in your ear trying to convince you to buy the exact same thing you already hold in your hand. Even today, I still don’t quite understand the logic by which this could have worked.
The few days in Cartagena served us to recharge our batteries a little before setting off for new adventures. But now I’m curious: have you already been to Cartagena or would you go there?