Cartagena is a famous sea port on the Caribbean Coast in northern Colombia. Thirteen hours north of Medellin, it’s the hottest place I’ve been on my travels so far. At the beginning of winter it was averaging a humid 33ºC.
Cartagena is famous for being the seat of the Spanish Inquisition from where, in their lust for gold, they destroyed many of the South America’s native cultures. It was also one of the most popular plunder sites for the infamous pirates of the Caribbean.
To defend against the pirate attacks the city was surrounded by a thick wall. Five hundred years later and the wall is now a World Heritage site with Old Town – the well maintained area within it – a popular tourist destination.
Old Town is not large, taking only 20-30 minutes to walk around. And while car traffic is permitted along the thin streets, it’s not uncommon to see people being ferried around in something little more eco-friendly…
While no longer needed to protect against pirates, the wall is used by day as a major walkway around the city and on weekend as a place to dance the salsa. While the murky brown waters and rocky beaches of the coast are not wonderful to look at, and are dangerous to swim in, they do offer sea breezes providing some relief from the muggy heat.
To defend the walls cannons were placed along its length. Now only the barrels remain protecting Cafe del Mar, a popular but expensive restaurant and nightspot.
In the distance and under repair is the Palace of the Inquisition, a regular stop for party buses most weekends. The buses, each having their own salsa band, drive to many places around the city, eventually finishing at the party zone of Old Town.
You can get lost in the romance of Old City, in the sea, the sun and the charm, until you round the corner and discover New City on the other side of the harbour.
Next, I’m back on the Malaria tablets as I head along the coast to Taganga, a small beach town beside Tayrona National Park, the gateway to the jungle and Colombia’s Lost City, Ciudad Perdida.
The World Wanderer
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