A horrible, no good, very bad day in Cartagena

It probably started with a pretty uncomfortable night, actually. The humidity here is like a blanket that is wrapped around you too tight; your skin feels like it can’t breath properly. And there are mosquitoes. Stealthy, fast and tiny coastal mosquitoes. After sleeping fitfully and waking up with bites, we reluctantly started our day. What’s the best way to appreciate the Caribbean? Head for a beach! We were recommended Playa Blanca, so we did some errands (sweating through them) and boarded a bus headed out that way.

The hostel staff assured us that a moto from the bus stop to the beach would run no more than $4,000 COP each, so it was a bit of a shock when the 6 guys circling around us, trying to get us to choose their moto, were quoting us more than two times that amount. I never expect the price to be what someone has told us it should be, but more than 2 times wasn’t what we were prepared to pay… After talking it over for about ten minutes, we reluctantly decided to turn around. It was probably one of the worst bus rides I can remember just to get out to that point (1.5 hours of bumpiness and going in circles), so the decision wasn’t made lightly. I felt defeated and pretty angry. Should we have blown the budget? Maybe, but the splurge on a flight from Medellin was still fresh in my mind.

On the way back to the city center it started to rain. Then it started to rain very, very hard. The streets became little rivers, with motorcyclists abandoning their rides at the curb and taking shelter in nearby businesses. Everyone started taking cover, and traffic ground to a halt. We stared out the windows of the bus with amazement, then a little bit of annoyance, and finally hopelessness. We were stuck in a river of water and cars. Rain started to come through the roof and the closed windows, causing most people to abandon the window seats.


Several hours after starting out, we were back in the Getsemaní neighborhood, jumping out the back door of the bus into a couple inches of water, then wading ankle deep to cross the street. We took shelter in a Juan Valdes coffee shop for another hour, and then slowly made our way back to our accommodation.

Cartagena is supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in South America. I have seen some glimpses of that, and I was so excited to walk around with a camera in hand.. I’m fighting the urge to run away as soon as possible – so that we can try our luck somewhere else on the Caribbean coast.


2 thoughts on “A horrible, no good, very bad day in Cartagena

  1. Deep breath. The hard thing about a long trip is your brain still treats it like vacation and gets upset at the idea of wasting a day. Its okay, bad things happen, you guys are having an amazing adventure and though humidity, mozzie bites and people ripping you off leave sour tastes, don’t let it taint your image of the place. Reset expectations, remember how well things have gone in other towns and the great times you’ve had, and dig deep. Tomorrow, will be better, I’m sure. Wishing some good luck and better circumstances your way :). You’re doing great, promise.

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