Cartagena is hot. Like REALLY hot. When I told everyone in Colombia I was heading here there first response was always, “I hope you’re ready to sweat.” They were right.
I arrived in town Saturday evening, still extremely hungover from the last night out in Medellín. Cartagena is a touristy beach town where people go to have a good time. Good times were not to be had that evening as I knew I wouldn’t be participating in anything wild, but I did stroll around and explore the city on a Saturday night. I stayed at Viajero Cartagena Hostel, in the middle of the Old Town, a preserved, which is a walled-in, colonial city. It looks a little bit like New Orleans in some spots or Havana (I’ve never been to Havana, just judging by the pictures). If I had to sum up Cartagena in two words, they’d be hookers and cocaine. No, I did not indulge in either, but the number of offers that came my way just by being a gringo was overwhelming. The Old Town is also filled with street vendors trying to push necklaces, cigars, paintings, and restaurant menus. Literally every corner, it does get annoying after a while. Quite frankly, you can see most of what Cartagena has to offer in a couple of days. Take a stroll around the city, then head off for other spots on the Caribbean coast that offer a wider variety of sights.
On my second day here, I walked to Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a large Spanish fort used in the 1700s to ward off pirates. I met another American in line, and we spent the day together exploring the city and grabbing food. He and I had a lengthy conversation about his experiences with Ayahuasca, which I plan to do in Peru this upcoming April. It didn’t take long for me to get a sunburn here, and as I write this, my shoulders are stinging and red. Besides the heat, Cartagena was pretty relaxing for me. I finally got to chill out for a few days after a nonstop two weeks. I took advantage of the time and planned out some logistics in Brazil and Peru. I’ll be in Brazil beginning this weekend and will be spending a full month there. Pretty excited to experience Carnaval!
The highlights of the stay here were scuba diving and learning how to surf. I took a day trip to Isla Barú, a very nice beach about an hour outside Cartagena. Apparently, this isn’t the best time of year to go underwater because there isn’t much to see. I should’ve read up on that before booking, but at the very least, I got to get some practice in. Also, I made a new friend from Colombia who helped be my translator for the day.
I don’t have too much to say about this place. It’s hot, it’s touristy, it’s pretty, and did I mention it’s hot? All around a good time to relax after the hustle of Medellín. It takes a lot to plan all of this travel, so buckling down and researching takes a lot of my time. Tomorrow I’m heading down to Leticia and then into Brazil to explore the Amazon. I’ve got my malaria pills handy, and I’m stoked to get off the beaten path for a little while. I’ll write a recap about all of that next week.