Colourful Cartagena - Colombia
After 3 weeks in Central America, we moved into South America - Colombia! Once again we arrived at night so we got a taxi to our Hostel - El Genoves which was inside the impressive city walls which are lit up at night!
El Genoves is in a great location and everywhere is within walking distance, so the next morning we got up and explored. Cartagena is the hottest place we have been so far, reaching over 30 degrees and it's full sunshine all day with no cloud cover.
The Old City (anywhere within the walls) is where you see the Postcard Picture colourful houses and beautiful churches. We wandered around, took lots of photos, went into some of the churches, admired statues and the souvenir shops that you can find throughout. There are lots of restaurants, bars and museums too. We climbed the stairs on to various sections of the wall and walked almost the complete set of remaining walls but there's NO shade when doing so. From here you can really see the contrast in the modern high rise Commercial District and the Old City.
It was really hot so we ended up spending some time in the afternoon relaxing as the Hostel had a pool which was perfect to dip your feet in (personally found it a bit too cold to want to jump in!) When venturing out again in the evening we found the gateway to the Old City which is a lovely yellow facade with a clock tower and you can walk through to get in or out of the walls!
The next day we walked to Castillo San Felipe but when we were just seconds away from arriving, two men on a moped drove past and stole my friend's bag with all her things. Therefore just be very careful and vigilant when you leave the 'safety' of the walls. It can happen anywhere in the world but unfortunately for us it was in Cartagena - so when we left it was bittersweet. We loved the city until that point but we'll always remember it for the men who stole the bag.
Whilst at the police station in Bocagrande we saw the main beach that the tourists head to. Sadly it was flooded at the time but it looked nice and like a proper "holiday beach" with sun-loungers and umbrellas to rent and people selling drinks and various other bits and bobs to obliging tourists.
On our last morning we had a tour booked - La Boquilla Mangrove Forest Tour - to visit the Mangroves which are about 25 minutes away from Cartagena. We were picked up and driven along another flooded beach and through an even more devastatingly flooded village to an estuary of the sea. From here we got in a tiny canoe and were steered through the Mangroves for an hour. We highly recommend this, it's an Ecotourism scheme and you get to see lots of Crabs and various Birds hanging out around the Mangroves. And there's a complex system of tunnels which are naturally left behind the way the Mangroves grow. So you go through The Lost Tunnel and The Secret Tunnel and The Short Tunnel and so on. It's humid in there and full of Mosquitos and bugs so take bug spray! Also take a camera as the photo opportunities are great, from the Sea to the biggest Lagoon which is 38km to the narrow Tunnels and The Mangroves, watching people fishing or locals swimming... it's a great tour and a good way to see locals doing their daily routine and also see the Mangroves whilst supporting ecotourism and sustainability!
On our last day we went back to Castillo San Felipe which costs 25,000 Pesos to get in (around £6.50) and has some great views of the city and it's an interesting place to visit. There's the main bits and the viewing deck, a small cafe and a gift shop but the main attraction is the tunnel system which goes underneath. It's dimly lit and it's fun to walk around in darkness and work out which way to go!
We went to a Cuban Restaurant very close to the hostel which was amazing, I had Red Snapper Fillet with Rice and Plantain - if you're heading to Cartagena try to find this lovely restaurant.
After that it was time to pack our bags and head to the Bus Station, we took a taxi but the traffic was and can be crazy so allow yourself an hour and a half at busy times. It took us over an hour!
Then it was time for us to get our first overnight bus from Cartagena to Medellin...