Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Finally done with paperwork, with the bike dropped off, it was time to enjoy Cartagena. Only problem was that I was tired out, and it was unbearably hot during the day in Cartagena. I ended up spending quite a bit of my time during the day relaxing and doing nothing, but the nights were perfect weather for wandering around the streets.

After we all got our bikes out of the container, we agreed that it warranted a celebration. So that evening, after dropping the bike at the shop and stopping back at my hostel, I did like I usually do and headed to someone else's hostel to hang out. Mitch and Julien were both staying a hostel in Getsemane, the neighborhood adjacent to where I was, so I walked over there to check their place out.

While it wasn't as nice as Viajero hostel where I was, and didn't include free salsa lessons or game nights, it was half the price my place and had a relaxing, family vibe to it. For the evening, we picked up a few beers around the corner and sat and talked with the other residents - it turns out that the family vibe came from the fact that some of of the people that we were hanging out with were part of the family that owned the hostel.

After a bit of hanging out, the three of us went out to wander around the neighborhood. The previous nights I hadn't been much outside the historical center, so it was cool to see Getsemane and what it had going on. There was a square a few blocks from their hostel which was packed with people, vendors, street performers, and a mix of international travelers and either locals or Colombian travelers.

Still some Christmas decorations up too.
After enjoying a little jam session in the square for a bit, we continued wandering around Getsemane towards the historic center. On the way, we chatted with some Argentinians who had set up a makeshift grill in the street and were slow-roasting some rather large cuts of meat.

They were selling what they weren't eating, but we declined due to it being $30 a steak (and still an hour left to cook, according to him).
Some street art in the alley.
We made our way next to the bay and into the walled city - the entrance with the clock tower is quite stunning, and there were quite a few tourists posing for pics in front of it - and wandered up and down the streets there too. It seemed like every few blocks there was another little center of activity, whether it was an African dance troupe backed by eight drummers, or a breakdancing crew.

No cardboard needed, just elbow and knee pads.
After wandering around a little longer, we headed back to their hostel and sat and talked with two of the family members of the owner of the hostel. It was an interesting discussion, including the 22-year old mountain biker with a 5-year old kid giving life advice to Mitch, who's old enough to be his father. (Mitch's faces of scorn during this discussion caused Julien and I quite a bit of enjoyment.)

It was a good evening despite the tiny mosquitoes bothering us, and by the time I was ready to leave it was actually pretty late. I didn't realize that, however, until I got out to the streets and noticed... no one. Well, not quite no one - a few scantily clad women yelling "Amigo!" across the street at me, and two cops on a motorcycle riding by extremely slowly while they both eyed me suspiciously. But the neighborhood is a safe one, and I got home to my hostel and got some rest.

I woke up slow in the morning due to a dark hostel room and AC to keep me cool, and by the time I got moving I really didn't have the energy to do much - not to mention it was blazing hot outside. But I did have to take a trip over to the bike shop, so I caught another motorcycle taxi over there at 11:00 to talk to them. Of course, they hadn't looked at the bike much yet and were still looking up parts, so he said to give him a call around 2:00, so I caught another motorcycle back to the hostel and relaxed for a few hours, chatting with a few of the other hostel residents who were coming and going.

At 2:00 I attempted to call the shop, but again my lack of understanding of Colombian Spanish coupled with the difficulty that a telephone conversation brings led to me not being able to understand what he was saying at all. I had tried communicating by email earlier too, but even that was proving difficult both because of language barriers and, I'd find out later, a lack of communication between the owner of the shop and the secretary who was apparently in charge of email. So at 3:00 I finally decided to just go over and talk in person again, meaning another round trip motorcycle taxi.

I finally got most of what they were saying when I got there - the secretary knew a tiny little bit of English, which was enough to get across a few of the points I wasn't getting in Spanish, and with most of the things figured out as far as what I wanted and what they needed from me, I went back to my hostel. I wandered around the historic center a bit, but mainly just relaxed after a stressful few days, and other than a trip back over to see Julien and Mitch one last time (since they were heading out in the morning), I just stuck around the hostel.

The next day wasn't much different. I spent the morning at Viajero, and then moved in the afternoon over to Mitch and Julien's hostel (even though they were gone) since it was half the price. I caught up on some blog posts, Netflix-binged a bit on the good internet (all of the Bourne Trilogy straight through), and relaxed. Other than a trip to the motorcycle shop with a wad of cash to pay for the used parts that the shop owner had found in Medellin (another round trip motorcycle taxi), I didn't go out during the day much. I did find out that the motorcycle wouldn't be ready until the next Friday, however, which meant I was going to do some traveling without the bike while I was waiting for parts.

That night, though, I got to have some fun again: Clement (one of the French travelers I met in Guatemala) had arrived in Cartagena, and he had a group of friends with him as well. In the evening he stopped by my hostel, and then we went out and met some of the people he'd spent the 5-day San Blas islands tour with.

The rest of the group was two guys from Argentina, one from northern France, and four girls from Pays Basque, which meant a lot of Spanish and French and close to zero English. We met up at the square in Getsemane where I'd been a few days before with Mitch and Julien, though quite a bit later. After some beers and sitting around in the square enjoying the crowd, we did a tour through the historic center (mostly quiet by the time we got there at 1am) and then back to Getsemane, until I finally called it a night, exhausted from the fatigue of trying to communicate in two languages that I'm nowhere close to mastering. The only nice thing about communicating with them was that most of them spoke French and Spanish both, so if I accidentally slipped back and forth between the two, no one batted an eye.

I'd planned on heading to Santa Marta the next day, but as I hadn't looked up any buses or planned anything I was going to do there - and I'd stayed out late as well - I decided to hang around one more day. Clement transferred over to my hostel during the day, and we relaxed and hung about the hostel as I planned my next few days.

In case you hadn't noticed, that's a theme for me in Cartagena - I really didn't explore the town much at all during the day, even though I'm sure there were things to see and do (I didn't even look any of them up, for that matter, so I don't even know what I might have missed). I feel super guilty spending my time like that while I'm traveling, but I really didn't have the motivation to do much else. And, I had to keep reminding myself, part of what I wanted to get out of this trip that I didn't get out of my US trip a few years before was to be able to relax and actually spend a bit more time in the same place, rather than constantly moving around or constantly being active. Still, I was torn between feeling like I needed to relax, and feeling like I was wasting my time.

But the nights, well there I didn't have any problems. Since I'd stayed around an extra day, I went out that night again with Clement and his group. This time I had a bit more energy - and we went to places with a bit more energy - so after meeting up in the Getsemane square again (and buying cheap beers from a guy who lives there and sells them out of his window) we ended up spending the whole evening going from bar to bar and dancing. It was a really fun night, and since dancing requires very little talking, was quite a bit easier on my mind as well.

And then it was time to leave Cartagena. Knowing I wouldn't get the bike back for a while and feeling antsy to do something, I booked a bus to Santa Marta, and in the morning headed out.

I think if I'd known from the beginning that I'd be spending seven nights there, and if I'd planned from the beginning that I wouldn't do much during the day, then I would have enjoyed Cartagena quite a bit more. The people were fun, the evenings were great, and the food and drinks were amazing. I'd like to think that it could serve as a reminder to me to not put expectations on my travel, in order to let myself just enjoy it how it goes, but we'll see.

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