After two painless flights I arrived in Cartagena yesterday and am in awe of its charm and beauty. The narrow cobbled streets are exactly what one would expect of a mysterious Caribbean city with a history of pirates and “many a tale of times past”! At night the streets come alive with dancing and activity. The street art is interesting with bronze sculptings in the parks and squares. I’ll take photos and share them in a blog.
Some of the major streets are being re-paved so navigating the city is a bit tricky but if you’re not in a hurry the chaos is fun. Last night I met some young people from London at an outdoor café near Trinidad Square where locals and tourists party until the early hours of the morning. They’re on an extended trip throughout South America and were good fun and entertaining. May meet up with them again on Wednesday for a tour of some of the small islands nearby. It’s been over a year since my last adventure through Turkey and Eastern Europe, so the opportunity to travel again and explore exotic South America is exciting!
Will enjoy the warm coastal climate here in Cartagena (80s and 90s) for at least a week. Nicknamed The Walled City, it’s also known as Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of Indies) and Cartagena La Heroica (The Heroic). After Cartagena, I travel inland over the Andes to Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Then it’s southwest to the city of Cali on the banks of the Cauca River – the second largest river in Colombia. Cali is known as Colombia’s capital of fiestas, dancing, and salsa, so it seemed a natural for celebrating the New Year. Some side trips near Cali include Isla Gorgona, the colonial city of Popayan, and archaeological sites at Tierradentro and San Agustin. In January it’s on to Quito, Ecuador, a city I visited briefly before en route to the Galápagos Islands. Quito es muy hermoso and I’m looking forward to exploring its secrets and spending leisurely time there.
My modest but cozy and private Cartagena accommodation is in the Getsemani Area. Getsemani is known as the bohemian neighborhood of Cartagena where locals outnumber tourists and “real life takes place in art-filled streets”. Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s Nobel Prize-winning author, set many of his novels in Cartagena. Re-reading Marquez’s novels after this trip will add richness to his stories.
Haven’t planned many details beyond these major points of interest in Colombia and Ecuador. After acclimatizing and learning to navigate new territory, there will be many interesting side trips. I’m visiting South American countries that don’t require entry visas for US citizens. The ambitious itinerary includes Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela – it sounds like so much and hoping I’m up to the task!
Beyond the no-visa limits in each country, there isn’t a timeline for lingering. With so many captivating places to visit, the choices are difficult! I’m happy and feeling fortunate for this special time in Colombia learning about its history and culture and enjoying the warm climate, friendly people, and magnificent scenery. Espero que mi Español básico mejorará a medida que el viaje avanza!
Adiós, más tarde!