Caliente en CartagenaApril 30 in Colombia
As we checked out of our accommodation in Bogotá, and just before catching our flight to Cartagena, we were confronted by the woman at reception, who quizzed us, in Spanish, about a supposed missing, small hand-towel. We explained that there was only one in the room when we checked in. At one point, it seemed that we may not be allowed to leave the premise without said hand towel being accounted for but after a few phone calls we were freed from our prison and allowed to continue on our journey. Fortunately, we had factored in additional time into our schedule and made it to the airport before check-in closed.
Our apartment was located within walking distance of the historical centre but far enough away from the tourist area of Bocagrande to get more of an authentic, local experience. The walk to the historical centre in the hot and humid climate wasn't exactly pleasant nor was the dump a few hundred metres down the road. In the mornings and afternoons, people (and wild pigs) would come scavenging for whatever treasures they could find amongst the rubbish that seemed to be randomly dumped in a vacant block of land. The area was certainly a contrast to the historical centre and Bocagrande with its high-rises and beachside abodes, and definitely not the images on the postcards and tourist brochures.
Cartagena was established by the Spanish as a city to defend its territories from attack from pirates and/or the English. The fort, Castillo de San Felipe Barajas, commenced construction in 1536, at a strategic point on the peninsula of the city. But once Colombia (and the rest of South America) gained independence, the fort fell into disuse until it was restored in the middle of the twentieth century. Beneath the fort are tunnels that could store weapons or explosives that could be set-off if the enemy were successful in reaching the walled area. In 1741, the fort came under attack by the British. According to the Spanish version, if the small armed forces of Colombia had been defeated by the enormous fleet of Britain, South America wouldn't be speaking Spanish today but English. While the story is more than likely over-exaggerated, it would have made life easier for us over the last five and a bit months.
After soaking up some of the historical parts of the city, we ventured to some of the beaches near Bocagrande and Playa Marbella. Perhaps we are spoilt in Australia with our vast coastlines of sandy beaches and clear water that it is difficult for other beaches around the world to compete in comparison. While they aren't pebble beaches, they weren't quite the postcard perfect images that we were expecting, but nice enough if it wasn't for hawkers and women trying to offer massages. Definitely the weather was hot enough to spend the day laying about soaking up the sun and cooling down in the lukewarm water.
During the middle of the day, the weather became so hot and humid that all we wanted to do was to search for shade and air-conditioning, although Jason would have the air-con blasting so much that Ricky had to wear extra layers, looking like an Inuit in winter. We've also started a bit of tradition of going to the movies to improve our Spanish and to avoid the heat. This time, the new Peter Rabbit movie was on the playlist. While still suited to children, it was a bit above intermediate Spanish for us. It certainly wasn't Peppa the Pig, which we have had on high rotation, as it's the only program that we can understand without subtitles. Soy Peppa! Oink oink. Perhaps by the end of our travels we may have moved onto something more advanced.
Next stop: Panamá City
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