Cruising Cartagena and Rosarios
08 December 2008 | Cartagena, Columbia
Cole suddenly grabbed Ami's shoulders, held them firmly in each hand, looking at her in the eyes, and said sternly, "You are with the Burgess family. It's all about food. Repeat after me. IT'S ALL ABOUT FOOD." That about sums up Cartagena. When cruising, if there's good restaurants, offering all kinds of cuisine, at prices sometimes cheaper than what it costs to buy it fresh from the grocery store, you'll find Zen there, saving water, propane and human energy. But most importantly, while in Cartagena, meals were shared with other friends. Putting memories in the scrapbooks. Folks on "Albatres" took us to the Casa de Espana in Old Town for authentic Spanish paella and a verbal tour of their homeland, the Canary Islands. Eating Italian, in a central piazza with Tara Vana, while being serenaded by live saxophonist playing the Godfather theme song was classic Columbia. You can quickly gather why, other than Grenada, this has been our longest stay in one single place. At first glance, I wondered if this city, with such a lure to cruisers, would weave its spell on us. We couldn't swim off the boat, ferry and fishing boats are zooming by, and anchoring is so tight it's like parallel parking in Back Bay Boston. But...after a few days and trips to the Old Town, the lure was real and we were hooked. Having a couple of pre-teen kids onboard, our "field trips" to Old Town were usually history based with ice cream as a bonus for all involved. Touring Castille de San Fillipe (a castle/fort) was a half day event, covering hundreds of years of battles, pirates and secret tunnels. It was so enjoyable with a private tour guide, fee was only $40,000 pesos (about $20) for 4 families and over 90 minutes of cool stories. The Museo of Modern Art had a beautiful exhibition on show and the Phototekka Museo gave a photographic history of the city. To wrap up our final night in the city, we took a horse and buggy ride from Old Town to the marina, about 20 minutes. El Gato, the horse, broke into a canter and we laughed and sang the whole way home. Departing Cartagena, we left with 2 other friends, "Albatres" and "Tara Vana", bound for the Rosarios, a little group of islands just 20 miles south of Cartagena. Tara Vana, our local visiting professors, have taught our kids to play the steel drums and now, spent an hour teaching them to water ski. They have a tried and true kid-proof method for teaching water skiing, and it worked like a charm. We had a bit of an early Christmas on Zen. A surfboard and a pair of waterskis, both used, are our gifts to the kids. Islas Rosarios was all about watersports...kayaking, skurfing, waterskiing, snorkeling and swimming, but not just plain swimming, swimming with dolphins! It was a last minute discussion that Ami had with the woman who ran the local aquarium. "Sure!" she said, $50 per person, private swimming with the dolphins. It was a life experience we couldn't pass up. Cammi and Cole got to do it together for about 30 minutes, playing, petting, kissing and riding on the two dolphins with the trainer's guidance. Cammi wrote in detail about the event on her blog. Our final life experience at the Rosarios was given to us by a local artisan, Jose. He invited us and Rick and Ami on Tara Vana to visit his local pueblo. At 9 am he was smiling and ready to meet us at the dingy dock. The roads were dirt paths, heavily trodden and swept clean. There were no vehicles, maybe a bicycle or two, and the roads are bordered by large trees that act as a shade canopy. We toured the local school. It houses 12 teachers, 5 grades and 300 children up to the age of 12. After that, the lucky kids are relocated to the mainland for secondary schooling, the rest go to work in the fishing or artisan industry or take a job at a tourist hotel. The huts that lined the roads consisted of dirt floors, tin or thatched roofs and many happy smiling locals. After meeting Jose's lovely wife and 3 children, we learned the villagers are very pleased to see Americans and Spaniards. Why? There was an American man who wired many of the homes and small shops with solar panels for electricity. A group of Spaniards got together recently and provided about 20 desktop computers for the local school. Jose also explained that in November, they held a mock election in his pueblo. Obama beat McCain 349 to 1. They too have high hopes for the next US leader. We wrapped up the tour by purchasing a couple of handmade necklaces for our kids and giving Jose's children some candy. In return, Jose gave Tom a necklace made of local stone, pearl and coral. You may see it in a photo or two. As we move on to the San Blas Islands, away from our close friends, Ami and Rick, we carry very special memories of the Columbian city and her beautiful surrounding islands. This morning, as we anchored in the pristine San Blas Islands, home to the Kuna Indians and their traditional culture, we noticed our neighbors are a "kid boat" too! New islands, new friends, and we'll meet up w/Albatres in 2 days...a new chapter in our lives is about to begin.