The night bus to Cartagena took 13 1/2 hours, getting us in at 7:30am. It had the most leg room of any bus we’ve been on and even had a boys and a girls toilet which we thought was bliss (we all know that men struggle to pee in a stationary toilet, never mind on a moving bus and honestly on the Cuzco to Lima bus we don’t think that any of the men managed to get even a drop in the toilet going by the 2 inches of liquid sloshing round the floor…).
It was an easy journey and we enjoyed once again seeing life on the road at night, it’s amazing how alive some places are in the middle of the night.
About 5am travelling along the coast we saw big flashes as if from a thunder storm, but no thunder or rain, which made us wonder if it was the lightening phenomena in Maracaibo, Venezuela but we think we’re too far away to see that, so maybe it was a storm out to sea? Either way the sky was lighting up like the northern lights.
When we arrived we got on a bus to town because our budget doesn’t run to a taxi that far out of town (7 kms). Usually local buses to/from the city bus terminals are difficult with our big rucksacks as they’re small buses so they get in the way (locals don’t usually take luggage on terminal buses) but because this bus started from the terminal and it was early we could strategically place ourselves in the seats next to the door which was perfect. The local women sat next to us showed us where to get off – gotta love Colombians they only have to see you get your map out and they’re in there.
Places to stay listed in the Lonely Planet have of course put the prices up e.g. 32,000 pesos for a shared bathroom, so we wandered down the road and scored an ensuite with balcony for 25,000. Ok so it was a bit minimalist e.g. the bed had a sheet to lie on and 1 pillow and we guessed that it doubled as a love hotel by the ‘madam’ that ran it (confirmed when she gave us change and we saw the stash of condoms in the reception desk drawer). But it was quiet, safe and perfectly adequate and we were chuffed to have found somewhere so cheap because our budget needs a break.
3 words sum up Cartagena ‘beautiful’, ‘hot’ and because it’s so hot ‘laidback.’ You can only explore at a leisurely pace and a whiff of a sea breeze is bliss. Our days were spent shade seeking wherever we went and the evenings we spent chilling on our balcony.
On our second morning we got up early and explored the old town thoroughly while it was slighter cooler and quiet, before retreating to the shade of Parque Bolivar when the sun broke the cloud, where we enjoyed coffee and a mountain of heavenly tropical fruit for breakfast from the local street sellers. While in Cartagena we also got ourselves haircuts and chatted to a nice guy who lived illegally in New York for 3 years (until they kicked him out) and now sells marijuana for a living (perhaps surprisingly he didn’t try to sell us any).
On our last evening we had a picnic by the waterfront for dinner and watched a nice man hop over a bridge, squat and have a poo into the water (right next to 3 main roads) which was lovely!
Next stop we’re heading east along the coast for some proper Caribbean beach destinations.
- Quite a few people in Cartagena can speak some English
- Cartagena is the only place in Colombia that is internationally considered to be safe but it didn’t feel any better than anywhere else we’ve been in Colombia
- Coffee from street sellers is REALLY hot and Emma has the blisters on her finger tips to prove it
Click on any image to enlarge and scroll through