Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, October 7, 2017
Treehouse Hostel is kind of a dump compared to Boutique Bourbon Hostel which is in the city walls but my room of only 4 beds has air conditionning - something no one else has. So, after an absolutely scorching day, I'm not complaining!
Nearby is Plaza de la Trinidad, or Freedom Square, which remembers the Getsemani Battalion of Lancers who were part of the November 11, 1811 revolution that led to Cartagena's independence-
After spending an hour or so retrieving my glasses, which I left in my bed at my first hostel - :( , I wandered around taking hopefully some brighter pictures-
Él Torre de Reloj is the one and only original entrance to the walled city. The outside view is boring-
But it's beautiful from inside-
The doors on the street might be closed and the building may look like it needs to be bulldozed, but we have no idea what's hiding inside-
We had a newbie meeting at 10 so me and Hugo from San Francisco/Germany, Margarita from Kingston, ON, Weedle from Germany, Dario from Colombia/London and Powell from Belgium met with Ninka our tour director and Jono our driver to talk about overlanding basics. After, I donned my hat - what a difference! and headed for the San Fellipe de Barajas Castle. It was awesome! Construction began in 1657 and it was expanded in 1762. The first construction was a triangular bonnet, or outwork at the top of the hill with four sentry-boxes, a cistern, warehouse and barracks for 20 soldiers and four artillerymen with 15 cannons. More information is available at http://fortificacionescartagena.com/en/the-castle-of-san-felipe-de-barajas/
First communion! Everyone was wearing white, including many of the moms who walked behind the procession. They were on their way to city hall-
The red wooden staircase was the only way into the castle. All the enemy had to do was block it and life stood still inside-
The bell tower announced visitors and is right above the staircase-
Inside there are numerous tunnels. Many have not been excavated. One series goes down, down, down until you are walking in water up to your knees. I turned back before that!
Lunch was at a local restaurant - sopa de pescado, complete with a couple of chunks of cassava. I didn't like it much! It reminded me of the sardine soup I made during first year university! pollo guisado (stewed chicken), coconut rice and ensalada. Él Plato de dia is the best deal: soup, main course and a drink for $3.50 Can. The coconut rice is a Colombian specialty and it was delicious. I may be eating more rice!
I couldn't stay away from the walled city so went back looking for an ATM. The first one didn't work-that's always scary because you start to think that none will accept your card and then what will you do! The second one worked but it only gave me a few bills. I was freaking out because I thought either the machine ripped me off or I had punched in the wrong numbers. I always take out the maximum allowed because the machine usually charges $5 and my bank also charges $5 so I always want to make it worth it. Finally I counted my money and had just received large bills - no rip offs!
On a corner on the Portal de Los Dulces is a loud bar that plays videos of salsa music of bands from the 70s. Customers stare at the large screens and move to the beat. The walls are covered in photos of I'm presuming famous Colombians who have visited. I am sure the workers will be deaf after a few months of working here. I could only stand it for about 15 minutes-
The fruit ladies were around again-
We all went to the Hard Rock Cafe for a "get to know each other" event. Dario and I were visiting and he said he had an old friend named Lucy who owns a few emerald stores. He hasn't seen her for years and I had seen one of the stores very close to my first hostel so away we went. They had a very happy reunion! After that, I gave Dario a short tour of the walled city. Imagine - me a tour guide in Cartagena!
We came upon a wedding at The Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver-
And the bridal party entered the church under a huge hydrangea arch. What was so weird about it was there were only 20 or so guests. If it wasn't for the tourists, the church would have been empty. Dario, a Colombian, said it's all about the show. The flowers would have been very expensive, as would using the church. I'm not sure who they might have been showing off to but....
The hydrangea arch is in front of the entrance to the Sancutary of Saint Peter Claver-
Tomorrow we're leaving for Taganga at 8 am. The adventure begins!