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cartagena

I arrive in Cartagena, hot and dirty, on a limping bike, a day or so after the New Year, at the height of the busy period. Everywhere is full and twice the normal price.

By sheer instinct, I find my way to Getsemani where there is a more or less happy mix of student houses, cafes and bars, boutique hotels and slightly more reasonably priced (but full to overflowing) hostels. I flag down a friendly woman on a bike and explain that I can’t find anywhere to stay and serendipitously it transpires that she and her partner run what amounts to an informal, and very charming, boarding house.

Gabriela and Bruno have a large house...

...with a shady courtyard full of bikes and an eclectic range of long and short term residents.

Bruno, a set designer and sculptor, has a workshop in the entrance of building.

Bruno.

Gabriela is, amongst other things, a Spanish teacher and I wish I could have had her professional expertise for a month or so longer than four short days that I stayed with her.

The house is ultimately ruled by four cats.

It's a great place to relaaaaxx.......

... and eat tons of fresh food...

...and just hang out escaping the midday sun.

Venturing outdoors offers an opportunity to explore the neighbourhood's well decorated streets. This particular graffiti messages says, "Look after us first, the tourists later."

Around the corner a whole dilapidated alley is devoted to graffiti memorials to Pedro Romero, a Cuban born mulatto* activist of the 19th C in Colombia's first struggles for independence. Romero is a mysterious figure about whom the historical record** has little to say - in either Spanish or English, I discovered.

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Other equally mysterious figures...

...peer around corners...

or exhort, "Resist, Getsemani, resist!"

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...

The resident guardian of the street.

Cartagena was occupied, partially razed, and held to ransom by pirates on numerous occasions during its history. After a raid by Francis Drake which resulted in the destruction of over quarter of the city the Spanish started, over the next 208 years, to fortify Cartagena with a major hilltop fortress...

...and over 11 kilometres of walls...

...around the city.

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The centre of the old town - which is UNESCO listed - is charming and well restored but often overflowing with tourists and cruise ship groups.

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However, you don't have to go far...

...to experience relaxed...

...laid back street life.

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Beautiful details...

....everywhere...

...you...

... look.

Cartagena is still a busy port and has an active marina.

...

My bike is the ugly duckling in this fancy bike shop filled with candy-coloured cruisers in well-heeled Boca Grande. Jaime of Outdoor Caribbean was charming in the face of my ungracious whining about the expense of parts to fix my weary bike and he returned my bike to me far cleaner and shinier than I had given it to him.***

*mulatto = mixed race

**That would be the historical record as revealed by Google, which is probably not definitive.

***But not, it transpires, functioning very much better than it was. There are a lot of small bike shops around Pie de Popa that are probably a far better bet for most mechanical problems.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Cesca | January 17, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Happy New Year Anna. Just catching up with your blog. I hope you had a good break in Europe. Congrats on crossing the Panama Canal. Lovely to see your photos and read your words again. Travel well through Colombia.

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