02.20.2019 - 02.27.2019
We flew on Avianca into Cartagena from Medellín and stepped off the plane to the familiar blast of hot, humid Caribbean air. I think there's nothing like it in the world (at least that we've found yet) and each time we arrive back to it we feel a sense of "aahhhh". Arriving at night was unfortunate as we didn't get to see the ride in from the airport and upon landing in the old city on the deserted shopping street our small hotel was on we wondered if we had made a mistake. We wandered out to have a cocktail and felt like we were in a pretty sketchy area. But we found a cute place not too far away with a roof deck and good Gin+Tonics and all was right with the world. The next day, we realized it was a perfectly fine area just on the edge of the tourist zone and so very quiet at night.
OLD CITY CARTAGENA
The old city is walled by huge fortress walls the likes of which I haven't seen since Spain. They are tall and extremely thick. If you've seen the forts in St. Augustine or Puerto Rico you know what I'm talking about but these go around the entire old city. The tops of the walls are filled with restaurants, plazas, and the corners have fortress structures and old cannons.
This is a view through one of the entryways at street level that shows you how thick they are!
This is the famous clock tower, the main entrance to the old city.
They're where everyone goes to watch the sunset. It felt a lot like sunset pier in Key west.
The best part of Cartagena is walking the streets of the old city and the quarter just next door, Getsemani. The colors of the buildings, the decorations, and the fruit vendors combine into a kaleidoscope.
There are tons of small square with cafes and some shade to enjoy a cocktail or something to eat.
The best concoction here is the Coco Limonada (coconut limeade). Truly delicious!
The beaches in Cartagena aren't very nice. The sand is dark and silty and in the afternoon the winds get so strong they pelt you with it covering you in a fine grit. It also makes the water murky and not that nice Caribbean blue. But we checked it out, got some chairs and an umbrella, a cooler of beer, and had a nice day. The views of the newer parts of the city filled with skyscrapers reminded us of Panama City or Miami.
It's easy to see Cartagena in a couple of days and we had eight days so we decided to head over to the Rosario islands off Cartagena for a few days. The rap on them is they have the better white sand beaches and blue waters. Sounded good to us. You get to them by "speed boat". Yes they do have two large engines and they are boats that go fast but they are seriously just wood boats with wood plank seats and a little padding. But we got there. And...we have to admit to being underwhelmed.
And here I have to digress and discuss the hazards of relying on Instagram and Travel Blogs for information to travel. I'm increasingly realizing that these aren't great sources of information other than for the "how to get there" and "how to get around" sections. Here's the thing...no one wants to admit something was "underwhelming". If you went by IG and blogs, you would think the Rosario Islands are paradise when, in fact, they are pretty grungy and run down. There are more derelict properties than running ones. If this area ever had a heyday it is certainly passed.
Alas, what were we to do when stuck on an island in the Caribbean for two nights? Make coco limonada from the limes! Truly, the place kind of grew on us in a "well this is fun(ky)" kind of way. The staff went out of their way to get us what we wanted within their abilities. As an island where everything is brought by boat, not everything is always available and selection is very limited. But they cooked us three meals a day, brought us a cooler of beer to the dock, and arranged what we needed in the way of transport. After walking the island a little bit, finding a "store" to buy a bottle of rum, seeing lots of pigs and chickens, and feeling a bit intrusive on the islands very poor residents, we decided the best place was our dock. We plopped there for the next 36 hours until it was time to leave.
The water was blue and warm, the sun was shining, and from there it does look like a beautiful place.
Then we all crammed back into the boat for a WILD ride back to Cartagena. In the afternoon the winds kick up the waves (see pic above) and we got soaked as we crashed through four foot swells all the way back. It takes about an hour and a half. We've rarely been so glad to be off the water!
After that, we decided to stay out of the old city for the rest of our stay in Cartagena and booked a one bedroom AirBnB in a high-rise on Morros Beach, complete with pool. Cost=$50 USD/night! I think we'll recover nicely here as we await our departure.
We sail on the Amande for a six night trip to the San Bas Islands and on to Panama on Friday.
Keep up with us on Instagram (for the isn't everything perfect view of our travels haha!) @arrradventures and stay tuned here for the San Blas Islands and the real take on our adventures.