I awoke, showered, and ate a Clif bar before striking out for pictures. I should mention that I never once woke up during the middle of the night throughout this whole trip, which is extremely odd for me. Normally I am up at 3am and do not fall back asleep until 6am. I came prepared. Boxes of sleeping pills, blindfold, ear plugs, airplane pillow. I had learned the difficulties of sleeping in a group dorm on recent trips.
Entering the old city, I took some pixs after tracking down an Internet café to write home (phone did not work) and look for new affordable lodging.
I walked back out of the old city and was stopped by a gentleman asking if he could be of service. I need to have a sidebar at this point.
The city of Cartagena is very touristy. Maybe not for Americans, but for other Spanish countries. The streets are lined with vendors selling pictures, clothing, candy, hats, etc. They are very aggressive and will basically get in your face pushing pseudo-Cuban cigars on you. Eventually you just ignore them and keep walking, hoping that after a few minutes they will jump onto another wildebeest going in the opposite direction.
When I was approached by this guy I was skeptical, but open to ideas. He mentioned that he could get me an apartment in an upscale area called Bocagrande. He flagged down a car with a man and a woman. I hesitated and made a quick judgment about the situation and agreed (yes, a dumb idea). We went to this apartment building on the beach and they showed me the room. I agreed to $200 for 3 nights. They drove me back to my hostel to gather my things and then returned. On the way back to the apartment, they stopped at the gas station and filled up and told me to pay. I reluctantly agreed as I really did not have a play here. Next we stopped by the military base and called over to a guy with a machine gun. The guy with the gun was just looking at us. I looked back at my driver Alberto, wondering what the hell he was doing. The soldier leaned into the window and asked us in Spanish what we wanted. Alberto then drove off, laughing that it was just his friend Vasquez. I thought, ya I could read the name on his uniform too, but he seemed to be just as much my friend as his. I now realized my consultant was a bit crazy and hoped the fun was over. When we got back to apartment, they left and then returned in 30 minutes. They asked for a commission for finding the apartment. I paid them again because I again feared for my life. They asked me when I was leaving and I said Sat morning. They said they would pick me up and take me to airport. I purposely told them to pick me up 2 hours after I planned to leave to avoid another cash withdrawal.
I left the apartment building which was full of local families. I waved to the security guards who called me gringo and gave me a thumbs up. I felt like I had a 50/50 chance of returning and having all my shit gone, so I carried my important documents on my person.
I boarded a collectivo, a local short bus that owners decorate with crap and transport people around within a 10 mile radius of the city on a not so standard route.
I was off to San Felipe and then the Mercado Berzurto, a local market shown on an episode of No Reservations – Anthony Bourdain that looked interesting.
The fort was interesting looking, but very similar to the forts I just saw on my trip to Puerto Rico. It was also more money than I wanted to spend (20mil).
The currency in Colombia is the Peso. There are approximately 2000 pesos for 1 American dollar. Instead of saying 2 thousand, they say 2 mil, which was completely confusing as I at first thought they were saying 2 milling pesos, equaling a fair amount of American cash. So for example if something was 10mil, it equaled $5. The easy way of doing it was to take 10,000 and cut it in half and knock off the zeros after the comma.
I walked over the market which encompassed the size of a small city.
I was definitely the only tourist here. People were selling tons of American crap, no chance of scoring some cheap handmade Colombian art here.
I found this guy attempting to fix a DVD with a butter knife. Probably Best Buy’s Geek Squad outsourcing operation
The other half of the market was fresh produce and fish.
I walked back into the dark corners of the market until my brain restarted and I knew that I could easily disappear here and be sold next to the red snapper by 3pm.
Across the street was the Convento de la Popa. I read in the travel book that it was not to be climbed alone. And only taxis are safe. From my experience the guide book was a little too much on the safe side and figured I would be fine. I started up the windy streets of a neighborhood. I got about ¾ of the way and a teenager stopped me and asked what I was doing walking alone. I did not know if it was really dangerous or if he was trying to just make a buck, but I allowed him to guide me the remained of the way. I did notice that prior to him joining my wolf pack, the locals did seem to take an interest in me.
Here is a Boa we saw, followed by a shortcut to the convent
After touring the church, I headed back down the hill with guide. I gave him $10 for his time and he asked, “What about his family”. I told him that he was good, but I was not planning on sponsoring his family. I stopped a motorcycle, grabbed a helmet and headed back to the city. For some reason I was not too scared on the back of this bike. It rarely went over 45mph. I just bounded along trying not to hold onto the driver’s waist, thereby losing all of my street cred.
I got back to the apartment and cleaned up. I was going to meet Heidy (my guide/friend) at café Del Mar for dinner. I once again arrived early, and was attacked by a bus load of school kids
They practiced their English on me, taking pictures, wanting to be facebook friends, requesting I write my address and phone number on their shirts so they new where to go when they made it to North America.
Heidy showed up. If you are not aware the Spanish cultural has a different definition of the phrase, “on time” but I was really not on a schedule and was happy to wait. We went to a restaurant that my landlord recommended and then went to a bar, La Casa De la Cerveza which was built on the fort wall overlooking much of the city. After a couple clubs, I was ready for sleep and promised to meet up for a boat trip into the mangroves the next afternoon.
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