Curacao to Cartagena
25 December 2008
It's Christmas morning. We woke to a balmy 85 degrees and a nice 15 knot breeze, making it feel quite comfortable on the boat. A relief from the heat and humidity we've endured during the last few months, partly because there has just been no wind. But mostly because we're in the tropics, only 10 degrees from the equator.
We're anchored in Bahia de Cartagena de Indias, just alongside the old city of Cartagena. We've been in Colombia for a few months now, pleasantly surprised at how much we're enjoying the culture, the music, and, most of all, the Colombians.
Like most people, we thought that Colombia was a dangerous country to visit, with drug lords and kidnappings and anti-American hatred. However, Colombia has changed over the last 7-10 years, and other cruisers reported that is very safe, and one of the countries they most enjoyed visiting. So, after much research, we decided not to bypass Colombia on our way to Panama after all.
On our trip here from Curacao, we found the Colombian coastline mostly uninhabited, and quite dramatic, with rainforest covered mountains, and enticing little coves just begging to be explored. We loved Bahia Guayraca, which was part of a large national park. A fisherman, Reynaldo, took us hiking in the hills behind the little fishing village, showing us the remains of some pueblos of the indigenous Torona Indians, and it was fun hunting for pottery chips and other artifacts. Leaving Bahia Guayraca, Rick caught a huge tuna, which fed us well for many dinners and lunches!
But the highlight of Colombia so far has been Cartagena, the oldest city in the Americas. The walled Centro Historico has been renovated, and is perhaps the most magical city we've ever visited, just dripping with history and exploding with culture......Latin music and dancing in the streets, ancient cathedrals, impressive forts, horse-drawn buggies, and vine-covered balconies overlooking narrow cobblestone streets. We can see the old city from our boat, and hear the music till wee hours of the morning. It is indeed safe here, especially in the old city. The Colombianos love Americans, and often stop us on the street to ask us about life in the States. Needless to say, our Spanish is getting quite good!!!!
Just a quick sail from Cartagena are some lush, lightly populated islands called Los Rosarios. After a month of indulging in the vibrant city life of Cartagena, it felt great to swim in the crystal clear water, to kayak and free dive, and to do some serious stargazing! A hike to the small pueblo on Isla Grande, which was really quite small but the largest of the islands, was like a walk back in time. A small community of people surviving on fishing, living in thatched roof huts with dirt floors, happy barefoot kids running everywhere, and big smiles on every kind face we saw. We spent hours listening to stories that some locals freely shared with us, about their lives there in Los Rosarios, and their quiet little community.
After we left Venezuela last year, we spent some time in the Dutch Antilles islands of Bonaire and Curacao, enjoying the Dutch culture, but not the Dutch prices! Bonaire was a delight, as the entire island is a protected marine park. The diving is spectacular there; the reef is alive with a biodiversity of fish and coral life that is supposedly unrivaled in the world. We did over a hundred dives there, and identified over 300 varieties of fish, and well, we just really had a blast!
After the holiday festivities here in Cartagena, we plan to head west to Panama. We are looking forward to exploring the San Blas Islands, an archipelago of about 360 islands that stretch from the Colombian border to the Panama Canal zone. Only a handful of the islands are inhabited, and the only inhabitants are the Kuna Yala Indians, an indigenous tribe that fought with Panama in the 1930s for the right to self-govern, and so century old tribal laws and practices are intact and in place. We are busy preparing the boat, and provisioning for months of sailing among these beautiful, remote islands.
We hope that everyone is enjoying the holidays. May this new year bring joy and love to all! Please write when you get a chance....we will have internet access until we leave for the San Blas in mid-January.