[:en]The 1986 Dutch built, 164.61 m (540.1 ft) ship departs from Colon, Panama and docks in Cartagena, Colombia 19 hours later for $99USD. In our case, our ride took a little more than 20 hours due to delays in Colon. The ride itself was pleasant, the ship is nice but there are some serious issues with scheduling and logistics. The loading bay was almost empty, yet the loading of cars and motorcycles took over 3 hours. We were supposed to depart at 7, we didn’t leave until close to 10. Our arrival was also quite messy, with elevators being held for who-knows-why until people literally run over the walkie talkie holding woman who was only allowing specific members of the guest list to disembark. The food onboard was mediocre at best, a few google searches prior to departing had already told us so but we experienced it first had with our $10USD breakfast. A few hours before departure we stocked up with chilli cans, just in case the food was outrageously expensive, which it was, so dinner on board was a cold can of chilli with a beer. Our ticket bought us two pullman chairs and we were sitting on a theater-like arrangement where people used the floor to sleep, we used our sleeping bags for the first time on a bus/transport, as the temperature inside the cabins was, like we read somewhere else, set to artic. This didn’t take from the greatness of the view when we reached Cartagena, with its majestic skyline and colonial counterpart and where a nice shower and good food awaited us. We met some very cool people on the ship, who have awesome stories to tell some of which we were looking forward to meeting up again in the Colonial city.
A quick glance to our guide book gave us the address to Mama Llena, a popular hostel for it’s proximity to the party area of Getsemani. An area of Cartagena gaining popularity in recent months as an up and coming neighborhood, with new business and renovated houses turned hostels popping up everywhere. Our driver dropped us off and after a quick shower we met up with Michiel, our new friend we met on the ferry, for dinner. Nothing had prepared Danielle and Michiel for our first meal in Colombia, a bandeja paisa. Such meal required some walking afterwards, so we went around the Bocagrande area for a couple of drinks and some ice cream.
We met again the day after to walk around the walled city, one of Cartagena’s most famous attractions and we started to fall in love with the city. The small houses painted bright colors with thousands of overhanging little gardens, the tiny one way streets and the street vendors. At last, a city that looks exactly like the images you see on the internet. Our exploring led us to find our next lodging, a boutique hostel in the heart of the San Diego area (the most colonial part of the city), called El Genovés. It had a tiny little pool in the middle of its courtyard and access to a full kitchen. The two dorm-styled rooms had A/C and shared bathrooms. We were unable to book for the same night but made arrangements to move there the following day.
Our walked thru the old town was fantastic with all the little quirks that comes with it. The tiny restaurants filled with people taking in the beauty of the courtyard. Every turn we made took us into a photogenic scene complete with extras. We visited the famous fort, El Castillo de San Felipe, with its many tunnels and strong stance. It was really interesting listening to all the stories from the voice of one of their bi-lingual guides full of dates and names and stories about the inner workings of the fort. Our night ended with salsa dancing in some of the oldest Salsa bars in the city such as Donde Fidel, along the Clock Tower street. The following day, i nursed a hangover from hell with a Game of Thrones marathon in our nicely a/c’ed room. But, it was all worth it.
We left Cartagena after having fallen in love with all its grime and colors, good food and colonial streets. With all it’s romanticism and overhead vines and we head north, to the northern tip of the South American continent.