ColombiaSightseeingSouth America

11/23: Three Drivers, Three Vans, Two Cities, and -1 Hotel

Our last breakfast in Rodadero was the omelette station with a crepe for Ji.

Ji and crepes

Then an 8 AM pickup for our van ride to Cartagena. When we arranged this the day before we were told it would be 3.5 hours door to door service. Perfect. Here’s 100,000 Pesos for the two of us.

Here’s what it actually was:
Van to Baranquilla (we passed flipped over bus and congratulated ourselves for being so smart to arrange door to door).┬áThen, in Baranquilla, our van entered the town, drove around, and then pulled over behind another van. The drivers instructed us that our van to Cartagena was the front van. We got out and switched vans and somehow managed to commuicate with the first driver that we had already paid at the hotel and that we didn’t need to pay him again. Thank goodness for receipts. Van #2 proceeded to careen thru Baranquilla. I desperately needed a banos break and had told him so, and I wondered when (if ever) he was going to stop. Driver #2 of Van #2 stopped his careening van at the company office and ran inside, without stopping to tell me where the bathrooms were. Enter Driver #3, who came out of the office to have us switch vans. Again. Ji was charged with getting us the more superior front row while I went into office to find bathroom. This was, unfortunately, occupied by Driver #2 who apparently had stomach problems. Thus, the careening thru Baranquilla.

So off we went with Driver #3 in Van #3. With him, we drove all over Baranquilla to pick up 3 other people and wondered over and over when we were going to get on the road to Cartagena. One hour after entering Baranquilla and three hours after leaving Santa Marta we finally got on the road to Cartagena. Ji, who sat on the sunny side of the van, MacGuyvered a curtain for herself which i called her “Burka sunscreen”.

Burkha Ji

Peligro. No kidding.

Tanker on River

We tried to nap. An hour and fifteen minutes later, we arrived in lovely Cartagena. Our 3.5 hour door to door service was more like a 4.5 hour “Super Shuttle on Crack”. But wait. That’s not all. Some of the streets in the Old City were blocked off so our driver couldn’t get bus to our hotel. We understood the problem but we had no idea what the solution was since we didn’t know where we were or where we were going. And he rattled off his Spanish so quickly that we couldn’t understand what he was trying to communicate. So he was frustrated. We were less than helpful. And our fellow passengers weren’t thrilled with any of this taking up their time.

During these 10 minutes, Ji looked at the reservation to verify the address while I looked at the map to get our location. The subsequent conversation went like this:
Ji: “Is today Thursday?”
Me: “No. Tomorrow is Thursday. Today is Wed.”
Ji: “Oh.” (she says, calmly) “We’re short one night. Look. The reservation I made starts tomorrow.”
Me: “Uh. Okay. Well.”

At this time the driver dumps us on the street with Spanish directions for where to lug our stuff. Only a block away, but the concern for where we were and where we were going was quickly replaced by the concern that we may not have a place to sleep tonight. (This was standard routine when Jon and I traveled around the world; we never knew where we were going to sleep. But when you only have one week of vacation you don’t want to waste any of that time searching for vacant hotels.)

Finally, Cartagena
The Hotel de Alfiz was an oasis. Giselle the hostess spoke excellent English and found us a room with no problem. There was a little pool just outside our duplex room, and so we settled in very happily.

Hotel breakfast area and courtyard

2nd Floor

Rooftop of hotel

We had lunch at Giselle’s recommended restaurant Cande, a place with white tablecloths and pricey food. There we had ceviche (with mayo? Really?) and a fried red snapper that was very dry compared to the delicious fish we had in a hut in Tagonga two days before. But at least we weren’t still in the van! They did have a tasy plantain eggplant dish and tasty coconut rice. I could eat coconut rice all day.

Cande – wall o’ vines

Wall Pottery

Ji’s artsy shot of the wall pottery – made in Mexico

Fishy fishy

Cartagena Walkabout
While we ate we remembered that we left our wet shoes in our suitcases, so we returned to the room to set them out to dry and set off to explore the walled city of Cartagena. The weather was crazy humid, so after a short time outside we stopped in the Museum of Modern Art thinking we could enjoy the art and get a respite from the heat. No luck; all the beautiful art was exposed to the temperatures. (we have named this Soggy Day #4, for those counting with us). It was a wonderful museum, though. We fell in love with Enrique Grau, whose wide-ranging techniques were featured in paintings and sculptures on the first floor. And the space was gorgeous – thick brick walls and iron bars. We’d learn later that this building was the Treasury and once stored all the gold for the city.

Plaza of San Pedro Claver

Condor by Alejandro Obregon

Sin Titulo by Omar Rayo

Composicion Abstracta by Enrique Grau

Ji and another Enrique Grau piece (can’t remember the name)

Sin Titulo by Ivan Rickenman

Cool space


Space and thick walls

El Tiempo Es Oro by Bernardo Salcedo (“Time is money”)

We then walked (slowly) around and on the old city wall. The heat and humidity was oppressive enough that we ducked into shade wherever we could. Ji was very understanding of me constantly snapping photos or making her pose so I could set up scenic shots. But once we wandered near the “Casa del Mar” – a scenic bar spot – we found a shady spot and waited for it to open so we could order drinks and watch the sun set over the city wall.

Naval Museum

Ji on the old city wall (made entirely of coral)

Me on the old city wall

Self portrait at the Casa del Mar

Pina colada and the Colombian flag

Canon on the Old City Wall

Coral walls

Sunset from the wall

Cartagena Sky

Dinner at Santismo
We showered and rested our swollen feet before walking through the nighttime streets of Cartagena past the famous convent-turned-hotel Santa Clara Hotel to El Santismo. This restaurant is an hilarious twist on Catholicism, heaven, hell, and priests. The dessert section was marketed as “The Seven Deadly Sins”. The decor was filled with colorful religions paintings. We ordered the sampler, a bottle of wine and fish dishes. The food was great but the service was terrible, so we ditched the Seven Deadly Sins (postres) since we figured it would take another 30 mins.


Ji’s dinner

Heidi’s dinner

The check was delivered in this artsy box

Ji’s poor swollen feet

The cathedral tower

Premio Real at Night