Cartagena, Columbia, South America - Part 2

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Mon 30 Aug 2010 16:57
Cartagena, Columbia, South America
The anchorage in the City is fabulous only about 20min walk to the old city and 2 mins walk from to supermarket,  this in terms of cruising life is a major treat.  The Marina, club Nautico, is the place most cruisers use.  Columbian boat owners, who use the rather more upmarket,  Club de Pesca.  It's not hard to be more upmarket than Club Nautico as it is delapidated, dangerous and decaying'  it's run by an really lovely ex Beadalian, John Hayley.  After a few weeks hanging around the place you realise it has it's own rather wonderful charm.  We met some really lovely folk here with great tips about our onward journey as for the City I think Colin and I could bore the pants off most folk.
 A dilapidated but friendly, Club Nautico.  Just started a rebuild after years of wrangling with the Mayors office about who actually owned the land.
Cartegena at night from the boat. Old   and   new

The truely great thing about seeing a city from a cruisers eye is you not only come as a tourist you also have to get stuff done which means you get to see the seedier more real places in the city.  You also have to try and communicate in a language you only know a few words in,  these being  hello,  yes, good day, good night, small, and two beers for me please. Our vocabulary is growing rather swiftly as no-one in Columbia seems to speak any English which is great news in the long run but tricky when your looking for a fan belt.
Day one in the old town is on a quiet day for the city which makes the whole place feel hugley sanitied and leave colin in a bit of a dispondant mood. He just feels he's wearing a big hat with come take my $ on the top of it. There are a couple of dance groups performing in the squares which entranced the kids and definitley made you feel you were in a different country.
The following day was Sunday so even larger ratio tourists to locals so Colin is now decidedly put off this much raved about city.  Went in search of a cheap lunch time eatery but only found it had changed hands and we were in a very different place and price range.  And when it came to paying the bill our card refused to play ball ahhhhhhhh colin is now really not enjoying his experience here.  Amazingly  the restaurant suggest we come back another time and pay,  where is London would this happen?  But I decided to stay with Z whilst the boys go in search of City Bank.  1 hour later still no boys and the folk with a new baby on the table next to us ask if they can help and pay for us..............   This is Columbia a very poor country and here we are with offers of being bailed out by resturant and customers alike, and dispite Colin he is starting to see another side of the place.
and  Great doorknobs
Monday and we try again, this time we take another route into town and joy of joys we find a much more real viberant place,  We find a wonderful square where locals and police chill in the shade and kids run around status, then we stray off piste a wee bit further and fine a street full of local lunchtime restaurants.  With out a clue about what we are doing we step up into the most crowded of them all and stumble through our order. 
Sometimes it's best to do some research about a culture before chancing upon local lunch, we order double what we need, the food was good and onlyu $20 for the four of us including fizzy drinks and beer.  The rest of the day we ambled around street markets selling pretty much anything you like shoe laces, key cutting and fresh squeezed limonade among the many things we realise we require.  The only thing now is we need to work out what the going price is, without being paying rediculas gringo prices
We have been hard at school for months now so feel we all deserve a holiday,  so our time scale is far more relaxed and the most stressful part of the day is no longer.  Looking back now I'm not sure what we did most days but, it mostly involved trooping about the city and discovering the place. 
Our first real experience was the City Market,  set a little out of town and definitley not on the tourist map.  But it was about a 40mins walk from the Marina so good for us to walk.  A thunderstorm kick-in halfway there so we found shelter and were joined by other locals and joy a mobile coffee seller,  So Colin shared our biscuits and we laughed and did a bit more sign language about children.  Storm over and we head into the Market, only now it's ankle deep in mud, with steam rising.  Ill equiped in our flipflops or rather slip slops the place was a feast to the eye.  Every conseavable plastic item for sale with every spare part of a Kitchen appliance, even if it was made in 1966.  Moving on from the plastic quarter we move on to the Meat section.  You can buy pretty much every bit of an animal here but the most novel way of displaying your dead chicken was to slice it open to show that it has a early form egg inside, Z quite liked this bit!  Then before loading up with veg we find a ally selling, well noice small 4X5 stalls side to side down an alley blasting music and not much else to see other than folk immobalized in random plastic chairs, we just didn't get it.
The kids hated the whole market experience, we loved it and managed to stock up with veg and fruit very reasonably,  most notably 50 limes for 30pence, Tesco's take note.
On the way home we stopped off for our, by now, daily lunch of soupa followed by chicken or meat or fish shallow fried, Rice, Plantain Fritter (which we all love now) and salad (Comida Corriente).  We've become wise and only order two set meals that come with freshly made fruit juice,  but it's enough for us a family to tick the box of main meal of the day.  We're treated with suspicion initially but soon after the banter begins and our Spanish continues to develop with the aid of flapping hands.  Our favorite place was on Place de Trinidad in the area of the old town called Gethsemini (very biblical)
The walk there takes you down a side street with the most graphic and political graffitti
The nights here can be a little hairy when a storm picks up from the South, and on night 4 this happened,  and flippi-d-digit it was yet another sleepless night, with boats dragging within feet of us.  We watched an amazing rather hair-raising, watching a boat try and stop their swift progress through other boats.  Not one shout or yell was heard from the husband and wife team, but with gusts up to 35mph he was jumping in the water unrapping ropes that caused yet more torment in an already nasty sea and thus stopping them from being able to get  out of trouble with the engines.   The other boat next to us and who's space was being crowded was a 20 something foot boat with couple and new baby on board,  and we think we're being adventurous!
Other things we loved about Cartegena  Colourful buses and tiny taxis
 Fruit sellers on the side of the road and the best freshly squeezed lime juice from a cart 
Plump avocados and saleswomen   Buying cheap reading glasses to exchange of lobsters in the San Blas
The kids education took it's turn in the form of street life and museums, a wonderful Modern Art Gallery, the rather gorie but very real Museum of the Inquesition. 
Sadly for us and thankfully for the kids we were unable to read any of the exibitions but when you get to the chamber of torture you need very few words to explain,  We streached Cosmo on the rack to help him understand that particular torture, we all placed our heads under the guiliteen just to get a feel,  bloody nerve racking, and some of the horrors that were practised were too graffic to escape there usage.
The Castle has to be one of  the best we have ever visited with a maze of deep dark tunnels leading deep into the bowls of the castle,  they are dimly light and at some stages your wading through water,  to find some tunnels that can only house a person the height of small child.  The kids assisted with the flying of the Columbian Flag and then we headed off to lunch with Steph and the Boys. As we wound our way home we stumbled upon a soft ball game in by the old town wall and was invited to go dance with some of the old timers,  who have some great moves to sway with.........
We visited the gold museum to see pre-columbian gold artifact and beautiful  inca style jewels.  The place was mobbed with school kids paying more attention to Cosmo and his blond hair than Gold, to which he asked,  'why do those girls keep bothering me?'  Given how lovely they were his father became the colour of emeralds.  The Attention to Cosmo continued to be a theme in Carti,  young women coming up to him ruffling his hair with the very bold steeling a kiss or two.      
Z and I where able to sneek off one afternoon after our family lunch out and buy some Emeralds,  Zinnia to keep safe for her 18th and for me to keep safe until I'm 50,  you can't come to Columbia and not buy a little of the green stuff,  We then went on to meet the boy and Fin at the castle to go and  see a music concert given by the citiy's Music of art students.  Our children are not known for their levels of concentration but the setting in the castle walls and the heavy accent of south american music in these young peoples voices kept them entranced for over an hour.
Cartagena definitley has it's industrial areas,  I loved the fabric area,  finding yards of t'shirt material that I can now knitt rugs with.  Colin darted around the city in search of fan-belts, batteries, oil filters or to find a man to create a lock and strop of your new dingy.  Whilst starting by foot he then ventured into a taxi and then discovered the joys of the motorbike taxi,  like I say everyone finds a way to support themselves here so if you have a motorbike and a spare helmet you've got a buisness.   So for the guy on the street needing to get across town for 2000 peso (or 75pence) you can be delivered door to door.
We met a wonderful group of folk in Carti,  and despite first impressions of a sterile old time we discovered it had a great big heart and remains beautiful with it.  On the final day the kids held a 1,000 peso store at club nautico but to premote the store Zinnia had to announce her sale over the radio net,  she practised practised and forwent an evening story just so she could practise again.  And once on stage over the airways she announce her shop word perfect, leaving her parent exceptionally proud.
We were in a rush to get out in the end, so we could return Bonaires dingy before they head east,  but after a almighty rush we found our props so gummed up with barnicals they were unable to even open, thus giving one last night in this great city and for Colin to go for a last night fling with the old boys on the dock (Bob and Steve on Viva who had lots of information about Ecuador).