I got to the airport in Panama City really early in case my flight was cancelled or rescheduled. Since the power outage on Monday most flights have been affected but I was lucky and mine was fine. So 4 hours at the airport time to read my Lonely Planet and catch up on a blog or two, or three!
When I arrived in Cartagena, I met a lovely couple in the border control queue – the immigration card was entirely in Spanish so I wanted to check I’d filled it out correctly. You fill in so many immigration cards you eventually work out what everything is but I wanted to check.
It turned out Tally and Caryn were from the UK and had been to most of the places I wanted to go already, so immediately I picked their brains, got on like we’d known each other for years (the kind of friendship that only happens when you travel) and also shared a taxi into Cartagena.
My hostel, El Arsenal was lovely, it was just outside the old walled town in Getsami. It had a cute little pool and the staff were really friendly. I’d definitely recommend it – its 10 mins from the clock tower and 10 mins from Plaza Trinidad which has yummy street food.
The next morning I met the girls for the free walking tour of Cartagena! Our tour guide, Edgar was amazing; so much energy, enthusiasm and such love for his country it was infectious. If you are doing an English speaking tour, try to get Edgar. He was brilliant, and he ended up knowing all our names. He got to know mine a little early on and definitely practiced with it – felt like school again!
Edgar walked us around the old town, explaining about the past, present and future of Cartagena and Colombia as a whole. It was so clear to see how proud he was of Colombia and how it had changed over the last 20 years. He showed us museums to visit, places to eat, areas to watch the sunset from whilst entertaining us at the same time.
He explained the differences between the balconies – the colonial ones and the typically Colombian. Did you know it costs somewhere between 4 and 7 million dollars to buy a property in the old town!!! Which is madness, and why only really wealthy Colombians that aren’t from Cartagena live inside the walls!
After our tour we took Edgar’s advice for lunch and went to a locals restaurant with a 8,000 pesos menu and a 22,000 peso’s menu. The 8,000 menu was definitely going to come in handy!! The chicken came with a soup to start and a massive seconds – definitely would only need street food in the evening. The plantain was good too, the sweet variety which is much nicer in Colombia than the salty fried Panamanian version.
That evening, following another of Edgar’s suggestions we sat on the wall watching the sun set out to sea. It was pretty beautiful and it’s funny, it doesn’t matter how many sunsets you see, they are still all amazing.
We had a beer and watched the sun go down! Lots of people were drinking outside of the cafe but obviously it was Tally, Caryn and myself who got told off by the police and told not to drink in the street ( well I think that’s what he said!).
After our failed beer it was street food time! And yummy it was. Chicken and sausage kebabs, washed down with a mojito – I could get used to this.
Day 2 in Cartagena was mud volcano time! Sadly I have no photos of our time in the mud but it can only be described as one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done. 1) it is not a volcano, it’s a man made mound with mud in the middle, 2) you queue up stairs to huddle around a tiny square of mud with about 20 people in it, 3) you get massaged whilst floating in mud ( you literally cannot sink) followed by getting out and walking down the steepest/slipperiest stairs ever and 4) finally you are cleaned in the lagoon by a very overzealous woman who feels you would be cleaner out of your swimming costume! Having said all that, it’s totally worth it! Hilarious experience, like nothing I’ve done before 😊
The photo below is not my photo but so you get the idea!
Most people I’d told I was going to Colombia were nervous that it was dangerous and that I shouldn’t go on my own. The Colombia I have seen so far, I have felt safer in than Panama, the people are so friendly and the street food yummy! I’m looking forward to the next 2 weeks.