It was early morning
when we first glimpsed the coastline of Cartagena. The visibility was rather
hazy, but the high rise blocks were still visible.
At first sight you
would have been forgiven for thinking you had taken a wrong turn and ended up at
Miami!! It was
something of a shock after the primitive coast of Roatan.
It is not only a
container port, but also a naval base and they have some very impressive looking
But amidst all the
naval vessels, container carriers, yachts and all, the local fishermen still
paddle out their cayacas and spread their nets and throw out their
In fact as we were
coming in, dead ahead of us was a cayaca with 3 fishermen in wildly waving their
arms and pointing to port. I looked and saw the floats of their fishing nets and
we managed to avoid fouling the prop, not to mention destroying their
We continued into the
harbour, avoiding the restricted military areas and dropped anchor just off the
marina Club Nautico.
It was such a relief
to know I was actually going to get a full nights sleep, in a bed!!.
ashore, we were hijacked by Hernando, a rather colourful Columbian with a patch
over his eye. I have to say it was a little disconcerting. Anyway, he showed us
where we could find an internet café, which was just around the corner in a
fabulous supermarket. It made Eldons, in Roatan, pale into insignificance.
Hernando also called
David for us. David is the agent who handles all the clearing
David is very
efficient and speaks very good English, we paid him $70 to clear in and that
price also includes clearing out, we also had to give him our passports, so he
could get our immigration stamps. It never ceases to amaze me how
vulnerable we yachties are, as we hand our passports over to virtual strangers.
That night we slept
like babies, perhaps not, after all we slept 12 hours, straight
We went ashore again
to meet John, the marina manager, as Roger wanted to see where they were
proposing to put Beaujolais.
They have an unusual
system here. You tie up either bow or stern too. You then give their divers 2
lines (in our case stern lines as we went in bow first) and they tie them to
some posts out in the bay.
Then comes the ‘fun’
bi, as you have to literally walk the plank to get on and off the boat. What
they do is lash a plank across the pontoon, with a bit protruding over the edge,
which has a little box on it which you use as a step!!
The plank flexes like
a diving spring board and also the boat moves not only to and from the plank,
but also up and down as the tide changes.
So when it is low
tide I cannot just swing my leg over onto the box as it is about a foot short
(my leg not the box). So I have to climb over the life lines on the boat, stand
on the toe rails and stretch to reach the box, quite nerve wracking I can tell
By 14.30 hrs we were
tied up alongside. The marina is very friendly and I have already met several of
the other occupants.
One in particular
that comes to mind is Cheryl. She is a lovely lady from ‘New York’ who, every
morning, sets up her little stall and sells her freshly baked New York Style
She does a wonderful
onion Bagel, which she serves with cream cheese, tomato, red onion and capers.
But on a Sunday, she serves bagels and Lax. Which is the addition of a generous
helping of smoked salmon to the aforementioned onion bagel combo. I have to say
they are the best Bagels I have ever had, not chewy at all. So I already have my
order in for when we set sail for the San Blas.
Cheryl is also a mine
of information. She told me as it is Friday, you have to go into the old town
for the evening. It comes alive with dancing and music as the weekend
I, of course needed
no encouragement! So off we went, first stopping by Exito, a Target style store,
to pick up a cheap camera.
kidding, there was music everywhere as we wandered through the beautiful streets
on the ‘Centro Historica’.
All you had to do was
follow the sounds and you would come across musicians and dancers in full
It was wonderful to
see, and hear, excellent musicians accompanying the dancers rather than recorded
We found ourselves in
the Parque de Bolivar, watching the incredible displays of dancing. They danced
with amazing energy and speed. Indeed one dance was so frenetic, it was as
though you were watching them through a strobe light.
It was also great to
see young children also dancing the traditional dances.
Turn another corner
and you will come across the human statues, they too are very good. What was
interesting was the comparison with European ‘human
performers are made up in white, silver or gold, whereas the Columbian
equivalents were, without exception, black from head to
One school of thought
is that as most statues here are bronze, black represents the nearest thing to a
bronze statue, after all that is what they are trying to be mistaken
After walking for
what seemed hours, we selected a little restaurant called San Paulo, which had
live music. The guitarist was very good, as was the food and the price.
I simply had to
return in daylight to capture the beauty of the buildings and the
Once again Roger has
abandoned me and flown the coup.
I have to say this
time he has left me with not 1000 peso notes, but 50,000 peso notes!! Surely he
doesn’t think I won’t be able to get them changed???
I decided I would
head back to capture the Centro Historico by day.
One of the great
things about Cartagena is that as the streets are narrow, one side of the street
is always in the shade, which it makes it much more pleasant to explore in the
heat of the mid day sun (well I am English !!!)
The architecture is
so elegant, buildings painted in terracottas, yellow ocres and azure blues many
with huge beautiful solid wooden doors opening into beautiful
Many of the buildings
do not have windows, simply wooden newalls and shutters.
The door furniture is
also grand with elaborate bronze knockers and handles in a variety of different
designs, I imagine the grander the ‘knocker’ the more affluent the
The many balcony’s
decorated with vibrant coloured bouganvillia add to an already beautiful
Talking of knockers,
the artist Fernando Botero, donated a huge bronze of his Figura Reclinada ’92 to
the city. I have to say she is a typical Botero figure, full and
I think Freddie
Mercury probably had something like her in mind when he recorded Fat Bottom
Not only is the
Centro clean and beautiful, but it is also colourful, not only the buildings,
but also the people out on the street.
Street Vendors ply
their trades, young men push big drums filled with ice containing cold drinks
around on trolleys, ice cream vendors appear on most corners and shoe shine
stands or should it be seats are readily available.
Touts try and seduce
you into visiting one of the many emerald factories (no I haven’t been
Ladies in brightly
coloured dresses carry huge trays of fruit on their heads shouting ‘Mango,
I was trying to
capture one of the fruit vendors on camera, but she was determined I wouldn’t.
No matter how innocent I tried to make it look, she saw me and
Finally I snapped her
and for a split second I thought she was going to come and punch my lights out
(check out those ‘bitch wings’!).
She was certainly not
the type of lady you would want to cross, or meet down a dark
The street art is
very whimsical and pops up everywhere in the form of metal sculptures.
And all of this
majesty rubs shoulders with the brash ugliness of its high rise neighbours. I
think they call it ‘progress’!!!!!!
May I take this
opportunity to apologise for the disjointed text and photos. My editor had told
me I have to put them all at one side as they don’t load properly otherwise.
That’s all well and good, but I have so many photos I want to share and I can’t
get them all in!!!