Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cartagena, 200 years and a lot of foam

After getting back from the San Bernardo Islands and packing up the tents, we set off for Cartagena a little after 5pm.  For Nic and I it felt slightly strange as, after all this time, this was our last truck journey.  It was also the bumpiest.  We had had worse bumps in the past, to the degree that when Nic was asleep he was actually bumped out of his seat and onto the floor, but this was consistently very bumpy.  Poor Izzie had to do this in the dark – can’t have been easy.

We arrived in Cartagena after 9pm, to find that there was some confusion with the hotel about where we were to stay.  After some discussion, we all had somewhere to sleep and a few of us went out to find dinner.  The place we found had a little kitten in it which we assumed belonged there as it was hell bent on playing with the tablecloth on an empty table and bringing it and the rack of serviettes down on top of it.  You would think once might be enough, but no, twice was necessary.
the emerald museum

The next day we were all moved into Marta (the owner’s) newly converted building.  She has a mini empire in Cartagena with two hotels and three other buildings with rooms in.  They were still putting the beds together as we moved in, but the standard was good so we were happy.  Externally though it is just a plain wooden door on the street, so it feels a bit odd just walking up to it and knocking for Marta’s son to open up and let us in.

traders in traditional dress

We took a walking tour of the city on our first full day. Cartagena, being north of the Darien gap, was the ideal port for the Spanish to transport the gold silver and emeralds that they mined in South America, so huge amounts of wealth passed through the city.  But where there is great wealth, there will be people who want to steal it, and Cartagena became a principal target for all of the many pirates in the area.  The Spaniards’ solution was to wall in the city.  The old walled (or now partially walled) city remains full of old colonial buildings, although many of them now house shops, restaurants and hotels for the tourists.  We visited the gold museum and the emerald mine’s trade shop, where I was highly tempted by a rather nice ring.

sculptures of traditional roles

We also passed through a square with a number of sculpures depicting tradional Cartagena scenes, including women walking with bowls of fruit on their heads and the guys who go around with an ice shaving machine selling shavings of flavoured ice.  And these weren't lost traditions, we saw them, and they guys selling tintos, or flavoured coffees from multiple flasks, all of the time.  This was more the Colombia that I had expected, to see with its Caribbean influence and flamboyance.
Cartagena party time

 On the way back, we got sprayed with foam.  Now normally this would be a concern, as it would probably be the forerunner to a robbery.  But here and now, this was just a bit of fun.  November 11 2011 is the 200th anniversary of the independence of Cartagena, so this week or so is a huge celebration.  There are carnivals, parades, concerts, fireworks, and lots and lots of foam being sprayed around.
a foamy Nic

We have six nights here, so we expect to get a bit more foam before our time here is out.

dressed for the parade

party at the parade

more foam at the concert
NB:  We didn't do a lot in Cartagena except wander around, join the party and get very warm and a bit more foamy. We did have an amusing encounter one evening that reminded us of the scene in Love Actually with the japanese businessman at a hotel reception.  A group of us had just been out for the evening and the two Belgian girls were leaving to fly out the next day. Some local guy started chatting to us as we were saying our goodbyes and watched as each of them in turn came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss.  He looked a little bemused, but then presumably decided that this was some kind of tradition for us and did the same.  Strange but harmless, and quite amusing.

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