On my own for the first time in a while, I landed in Cartagena to discover the Pope had had the same idea. A week long tour around Colombia and here was his last stop. It was a bit chaotic and the entire country hadn’t been selling alcohol there for the duration of his trip but I battled my way through the crowds, sober, all the same for a glimpse at the top of his head. A bucket list box I didn’t know I had, ticked off!
For my first few days I was in a sleepy, charitable (literally), AC equipped hostel where I wanted to rejuvenate, research and explore. Walking around, the town is charming with its cobbled streets, quaint shops and UNESCO World Heritage status. The old town is surrounded by a 13km wall, built from coral rock which makes for some really beautiful scenes along with the coastal backdrop. There’s a lot of history to be taken in here too with the five pirate sieges in the 16th century, the consequential forts built and the battle against the English led by Blas de Lezo (who had already lost an arm, eye and leg in previous attacks!) and eventually, Cartagena’s independence from Spain in 1810.
I spent a few days walking the streets, checking out the coast and scoping out a few of the places I’d researched for potential work. It’s hot here. I don’t think I’ve sweat persistently quite so much and so this was all very hard work. It’s the type of wet heat where you shower in cold water and you’re sweating before you’ve even pulled the curtain back.
On my third day, we explored the Castillo San Felipe, an impressive, beautiful structure with great views over the city and Cartagena’s affectionately named “Miami’ otherwise known as Bocagrande. This castle was built in 1657 with an extension commissioned in 1762. It was never breached. Perhaps most impressive is the design of the underground tunnels; constructed to best facilitate the travel of any noise be it coded communication, the echoes of enemies approaching or moving and storing provisions.
That night, someone mentioned the Rosario islands, a 45 minute boat ride away…the lure for adventure, sun, sea and sand was too much, we packed our bags and left at 7:30 the next morning.
Seconds to make count:
When the Pope comes to town, you’ll have to wait for public transport to be able to get through traffic… Maybe check his schedule so you don’t get caught out.
Maps.me is much more reliable than Google maps
You can drink the water here, it just takes some getting used to