10 September 2010
CARTAGENA 1ST TO 10TH SEPTEMBER
Our time in Cartagena, Columbia has been very enjoyable, although short. We are desperately trying to brush up on the Spanish as communication is important in a foreign country and as Debbie says, we feel a little intimidated by not being able to speak fluently. I suspect that by the end of our trip thru this area we will be talking like locals.
We are anchored off Club Nautico, which is undergoing construction, in the suburb of Manga. The water is muddy brown and encourages healthy barnacle growth. Lots of floating debris and floating grass islands. We have had to get our hull and propeller cleaned before departing after only 10 days in the anchorage!
The highlight in Cartagena is, in my opinion, the Old walled City, known as Centro. It is European Spanish beautiful and the photos I post will give a better idea. Narrow streets, overhanging balconies decorated with trailing plants and bougainvillas. The architecture is stunning , very romantic and eye catching with the earthy colours mixed in with the bright blues, orange and reds. Solid large old wooden doors with smaller doors inset. Old churches, sculptures ( by El Gordo ) and many Plazas and parks dotted around the old city where everyone hangs out in the shade.
Street vendors selling everything from fresh fruit beautifully presented in little cups to virtually anything you can think of. Also many boutiques both international and Columbian selling leather goods, artifacts and emeralds and more emeralds ( very expensive ).
On one of our walks through the old City the men were approached by a suave gent who was offering an unbelievable rate of exchange pesos for dollars. Very tempted the men begin to negotiate, although warily. This went on for some time and eventually the money began to change hands, again with everyone watching carefully. Just as the dollars were going to be handed over, Vossie caught the slight of hand trick and snatched back his $ 100 dollar note, whereupon the trickster turned on his heels and hot footed down one of the streets having been caught out. A small crowd had gathered during all of this and all were warning not to have anything to do with these banditos ( would have been more helpful before the fact ). Well, lesson learnt and we were ready the next time .
We visited 2 very interesting museums in the Old City. The Museum of the Spanish Inquisition being the first one. The priests of the Catholic church invented very simple, deadly and efficient machines of torture to inflict pain and thus get the required confessions. Undoubtedly there were many sinners and guilty people in this period of history. For example, there was a list of questions being asked during the torture session to determine if one was a witch, which undoubtedly one was, after days, if not weeks of torture . Unbelievably barbaric customs and one must consider that this was only about two hundred years ago.
The second was the Gold Museum which was very interesting. The history of the various groups of peoples which populated Columbia and their skills in the manufacturing of gold jewellery and other adornment for the rich and powerful and in the agricultural field, managing the irrigation of the fertile growing region when the yearly flooding of the rivers would otherwise have caused devastation to the area. The history is too much for me to elaborate on here in this blog but would make for very interesting research.
Food is really a good deal here. The typical local meal " la corriente or sopa y seco" consists of a good bowl of soup, a fruit juice and a plate of rice, beans, veg, salad and either a piece of meat ( carne ), chicken ( pollo) or fish ( pesca ) The cost of this hearty meal ranges between $4.00 to $6.00 depending on the restaurant.
We have been using the taxis here quite often and at a very reasonable rate, typically 5000 pesos, about $3.00. There are also motor bikes taking one passenger or a bicycle with a 2 wheeled cart behind ( similar to our rickshaw guys in SA). Everyone needs to make a living.
In conclusion, a very vibrant and colourful city and we are happy with our decision to have spent some time here.