At last we have arrived in South America! 🙂
Cartagena is a fantastic city. It’s got old and new towns just like Panama has, it’s also set along the coast just like Panama, but given the choice of the two, Cartagena wins every time. An old Spanish fort dominates Cartagena from behind and impressive walls almost encompass the old town (except where they have been removed for ‘progress’). The old town has great colonial buildings and plazas and is dotted with cool restaurants and bars. There are even a couple of bars on the city walls giving great views both of the sea and the sunset but also into the narrow streets of the city below. We stayed in Getsemani, which is inside the city walls but outside of ‘central old town’. It’s where the backpackers hangout and is a little cheaper (but only 5 minutes from central) Here’s some photos;
We spent about 4 days here exploring and getting used to the money (I hate 4 digit conversions!! £1 is C$2900!) and drinking. We like drinking. We also met up with young Jermey whom I met on my boat from Cartagena to Panama in May and who now lives in Cartagena with his girlfriend. We met at a local bar/restaurant where his girlfriend works as a chief and watched the Colombia vs. Ecuador World Cup qualifier. Yes, you read that right, I watched a football match. All of it! I even bought a shirt for the occasion!! (Fake, of course. £5).
Further along the coast from Palomino is the city of Riohache which is the jumping off point for some very remote beaches even further east. We decided to head here to check out the options and costs of going further east but also because there was a wildlife sanctuary near by where Flamingoes flock to for a few months of the year, and as it happens it was this month! The coach from Palomino was 2 hours so we took it easy and set off around midday. Arriving in Riohache we were surprised by just how developed the city was as for some reason we had expected things to get less developed the further east we went. Though not particularly a big tourist destination there was a couple of hostels here and we stayed at Hostel Mi Casa which is small and a little prison like but clean and friendly. Riohache has a long promenade which is lined with locals selling woven wares to the mainly Colombian tourists and several bars blaring out music at levels only Latin Americans could bare. We stayed for two nights, deciding not to venture further east (for reasons I still can’t quite remember but that were valid at the time I am sure) but we did go looking for the flamingoes and enjoy a fantastic sunset along the promenade.
The Flamngoes; We jumped on a bus heading back west and asked/paid to be dropped at Camerons, the local village for the sanctuary which was supposedly 15km out of town. We chatted and watched the countryside go by and it wasn’t until we realised we had been on the bus for 30 minutes we wondered if perhaps we had missed it. Suddenly though we were at a road checkpoint (there are quite of few of these in Colombia, manned by the army and they do random checks of papers and luggage/cargo) and the conductor shouted for us to depart. Phew! As the bus pulled away we suddenly realised we were in the middle of nowhere. No signs. No road turnings. Nada. Just the check point.
I wandered over to to the army chaps and using my best Spanish asked where Camerons was. After repeating it a couple of times they pointed back the way we came and said “20 minutes”.
We chatted to the Army chaps explaining the situation and before we know it they stop the next bus going that way and tell the driver where to drop us – and they do! For free! Awesome. I wish we had taken a picture of these guys as they saved us a lot of trouble.
There was little information about the flamingo reserve other than it was reached via the town of Camerones so we walked through the village looking for signs. We ended up walking a very long way being touted by mototaxi’s all the way (motorbike taxis). It was a pleasant (if long) was to the beach where the visitor centre was and as it turned out, rather pointless as the centre was closed. However, we paid a local chap some cash two canoe us out into the lake so we could get a closer look at the small flock of flamingoes we could see there (like a little pink island in the middle of a lake).
We made it backs to Riohache without many further excitement and as mentioned we decided it to go further east but to head back to Taganga (a small village just outside the city of Santa Marta and on the edge of Tyrona National Park) with the aim of launching south from there. Which we did, but not until we spent another two weeks on the coast 😉
Next blog; Taganga, Tyrona, the mountain and the shits.