I have been trying to find a positive way of describing our sail from Bonaire to Cartagena and all I can come up with is that it was ‘an experience’. We knew it would likely be a bit difficult (most oysters are skipping this section due to the notoriously horrid weather) and we prepared for the worst however, when the worst happens that never makes the reality any better. Over the four day sail we coped with high winds, huge swell and even a sustained 54+ knots of wind for over 6 hours over the final night. We were taking waves over the side constantly, Oscar executed some textbook jibes and I was very ill the entire four days not eating a single bite of food. It was so wet we were taking water on inside through the window seals, we were trying to wedge ourselves into our bunks so we weren’t thrown around the cabins. It was quite the experience! Thankfully after four days at sea we arrived into Cartagena in Colombia and it is wonderful.
The architecture is stunning, old Spanish style with lots of courtyards and balconies, the food is delicious, the people so friendly and a buzz all over the city creating a fantastic atmosphere of liveliness and fun. I spent hours strolling up and down the winding streets within the old city, looking in all the nicky knacky shops and stopping for a nutella crepe. Oscar and I saw the most amazing buskers in one of the main squares. A group of teenagers were playing drums and guitars and dancing dressed in traditional costume – it was stunning. There was one really young boy on a variation of a bongo who was insane, his drumming was incredible and so fast and intricate, I think even Chad Smith would be impressed.
Cartagena has been host to the usual patterns of European conquerors over the years starting with the Spanish and mainly swinging between either Spanish or British rule. So, we went to explore the Spaniards most successful fort ever built outside of Spain. Cartagena hasn’t quite worked out how to display exhibitions for tourists in museums or indeed in the fort. There is never any dialogue to read, meaning I am sure we have missed a lot of the detail when browsing historic places around the city. However, we did get to explore some of the tunnels inside the fort and look out over every direction of the city which was pretty great. It was quite like a maze inside and apparently it was designed so that the tunnels turned at lots of angles so that any sound bounces off the walls and carries on so that any sound of attack would be quickly heard.
This time we luckily didn’t have to fix any of our rig, especially as it is even hotter here than Bonaire! Instead we had to contend with the dirt accompanying being in the centre of a city, we had vast amounts of dirt building up on the boat due to the wind. It was a battle between me, armed with a bucket and sponge, cleaning the windows and the dirty breeze coming across the city. I can’t say that I enjoyed the challenge, especially when we were then also trying to dry washing on the boat, but thankfully a heavy downpour of rain will fix any remaining dust and being a tropical region we will surely have one soon.
A really lovely surprise was meeting up with a uni friend, James, for an evening and spending some time in Getsemini together, which is another area of the city (and my favourite). It was much more backpacker vibe, something I miss, with lots of people milling about in the streets, eating and drinking and generally just chatting. We got some fresh fruit and rum cocktails and watched incredible salsa dancers in the street.
The next morning we set off early for our next passage to the San Blas islands which are a part of Panama. They are a collection of islands resembling paradise or those photos people post on Monday mornings on Facebook with a quote saying ‘wish I was here’. I am also super lucky as this is where I am spending my birthday!