Santa Marta and the art of getting stuck

Sheena came down with a cold while we were up in Cabo de la Vela, so I find myself writing from Santa Marta again. Against all odds, we will end up staying here for 9 nights – the same as Medellin. Normally, travelers just pass through this place, on their way to Minca, Tayrona National Park or to start the Lost City Trek. Our dorm room fills up each evening with new people, only to empty again the following morning.  But as luck would have it we aren’t the only ones who have gotten stuck here – David and Mario from Spain, Shauna from London, and Lenny from the USA have made this a great place to be stuck. We also adore the hostel staff and get closer to them with each passing day. It’s been easy to fall into a Caribbean rhythm of doing nothing until the afternoon and then taking a nap to escape the heat.

Calle 17, Santa Marta

Despite romanticizing “doing nothing” just now, I do tend to get antsy, even when you factor in the heat. After our trip to Cabo, it seemed like Tayrona National Park might not be in our future. We were told repeatedly that with the steep entrance fee ($38,000 COP) and the relatively difficult hike into the beaches (difficult because of the heat and humidity – not the trail), it just wasn’t worth it to go for only a day. Planning food, repacking again, and the prospect of sleeping in a hammock caused both Sheena and I to shudder. But at the eleventh hour, with Sheena hacking in the room, I decided that I had to go, even if it was by myself and only for the day.

I left our hostel at 6:30 am the following morning and headed for the market, where I could find a bus to the park entrance. Miraculously, but pretty much par-for-the-course in South America, the bus was pulling away from the curb as soon as it was in sight – I ran and hopped on in the nick of time. One hour later I was dropped off on the highway at the entrance, only to learn that I was 15 minutes early.. The park entrance is about 10 minutes driving from the trail head, so after paying my entrance fee, I was still left stranded. The buses didn’t want to take me to the trail, as I was the only paying costumer around.

After some time, the driver of one of those buses took pity on me and walked over to a departing bus full of school children to see if they had space. I boarded and took a seat on the floor, greeted by many stares, some laughs, and a few “look at the gringo” calls.

As soon as the beach was in sight I knew I made a good decision to visit. With only enough food and water for the day, my swimsuit already on, and a camera in hand, I felt free and ready to explore.

Cabo San Juan – Tyrona National Park

I’ve always been an advocate for solo travel. I also tend to get more stir-crazy than Sheena. Even though the circumstances were different (her lying around the hostel being sick), we’ve agreed that sometimes it’s best for me to go off and do something on my own. For me this is like a little slice of solo adventure, but with the bonus of returning home to your girlfriend. For Sheena, it’s most likely a relaxing respite.

My trip into Tayrona was perfect in this way. Spontaneously meeting new people seems like something that automatically happens when you travel, but being a couple can sometimes shield you from this. Private rooms, common languages, etc. tend to conspire against being completely open and accepting of new people. On the beach at Cabo San Juan I met a great group of travelers, and even though I felt a little guilty each time they asked where was this girlfriend I was talking about, it felt good.

A slightly easier, but sweatier trip took me back to Santa Marta, where I found my girlfriend in bed, cutting fabric for a new dress of all things. I smiled, climbed up onto her top bunk and kissed her. A good day on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

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Cabo de la Vela – The Middle of Nowhere

“Please come with me! Pleeeaaaaase,” said Lenny, a new friend that we had met in our Santa Marta hostel. He adopted a puppy-dog stare, which on a 22-year-old Vietnamese-American was surprisingly effective. Lenny reminded me of the Pillsbury Doughboy–soft and adorable–and I was a little worried about him trying to do something on his own.

I looked at Craig and said, “Well, we COULD change our plans to go earlier.” I knew that he had been wanting to go to Cabo de la Vela, but to be honest, I didn’t know much about it except that I’d have to sleep in a hammock. Having company on a trip that has a lot of potential to go wrong is never a bad thing since it keeps me from strangling Craig, so I told him we should go with Lenny.

“Yay!” was Lenny’s reaction when we told him we would accompany him to the ends of the earth. It was gratifying to see somebody so excited to hang out with us, but we also knew that he had been trying to convince everybody in the hostel to go to Cabo de la Vela for the past week, and Craig was the only one who had actually heard of the place.

Our preparations began–we knew we wouldn’t need much in the way of clothes; it would be so hot that the only two purposes that they would serve were as 1) a reflection of our modesty and 2) protection from the sun. As we discussed what to bring, the gaps in my knowledge of Cabo were filled in by Lenny’s enthusiasms and by Craig’s cautions.

Lenny: “You can roll down a sand dune straight into the ocean!”

Craig: “Accommodation might be really basic, though. I don’t think they have running water.”

Lenny: “They have really cheap lobster! Lots of lobster!”

Craig: “And the hammocks will be on the beach, out in the open.”

We bought snacks, Lenny made half a dozen PB&J sandwiches, and finally, we were all packed up and ready to go. The night before the journey was to start, Craig began behaving like a boor, a sure sign of either anxiety or stomach issues. After his fifth groan, I decided to ask him what was up.

“I’m just worried about you,” he said.

“Oh? Why?” I asked, as if I’d never had a complete mental breakdown in the face of rustic lodgings.

He gave me a look. “What if you hate it?” he asked, with the implied Like you’ve hated some other, similar things unsaid.

“Well,” I hedged, “I know what to expect, and perhaps if I just keep thinking about it as camping, it’ll be fine, no matter what. Besides, what if YOU hate it?”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “There’s that.”

On that pleasant note, we went to bed and were eating breakfast the next morning when Lenny came out of the dorm, his face a mixture of guilt and pain. He proceeded to detail the previous night spent mostly on the toilet and how he was worried that this present bout of traveler’s diarrhea would not be conducive to traveling for 6+ hours to Cabo.

“I’m so sorry! Please don’t hate me,” he implored, using those damn puppy-dog eyes again, to which I have no defense. In any case, it was evident he felt bad enough about missing out on the trip–his flight back to the States was imminently approaching and wouldn’t leave time for trying to get to Cabo again later.

“We’ll eat some lobster for you!” we called as we left him standing forlornly in the lobby of the hostel. We wouldn’t have our third-party buffer; Craig would just have to allow for some strangling if things went wrong.

Arriving in Cabo took nearly the entire day and involved four modes of transportation: 1) the taxi to the bus terminal, 2) the bus to Riohacha, 3) the colectivo (shared) taxi to Uribia, and 4) the truck to Cabo. All of these modes added up to about $65 for the both of us and were as we expected. Transportation always astounds me in South America. The longest we had to wait for any of these rides was the 20 minutes in Riohacha for another person to completely fill the colectivo taxi. Our only hiccup was the last truck to Cabo. We were dropped off in Uribia on a street that seemed to serve as a public market. We were directed to the back of a pick-up truck, already packed with people and goods, and the driver quoted us a price that was way above what Craig had expected.

“Gasolina es carisimo ahora,” he said, dismissing our complaints. We were about to turn away when he called us back, “Bueno, cinquenta para ustedes dos.” Fine, fifty for the both of you. It was still above our price range, but as Craig and I expect things to be slightly more expensive than we’ve heard, it was acceptable. We climbed aboard and squeezed in on the wooden benches lining the sides of the truck. Almost everybody going to Cabo is either a Wayuu (the indigenous people of the area) or a tourist. In this truck, we were the only tourists. It was strange to hear another foreign language besides Spanish again.

The truck already seemed to be filled to capacity, but the driver managed to fit a few more people in. By the time we left, there were 9 other people ranged around a mountain of sacks filled with clothing and food. The truckbed was covered with a handmade metal and wooden shell, onto whose roof was also lashed some other dry goods. We bounced off, and the Wayuu laughed as Craig put sunblock on; we couldn’t understand what they were saying, but the meaning was clear. Gringos are probably pretty weird to them.

Bracing against the wind in the back of the truck from Uribia to Cabo.

Not being able to shift an inch on wooden benches while barreling down a dirt road was not very comfortable on the rear parts of our anatomy, but we knew that with every stop, the truck would get emptier. Finally, after disgorging one woman and what seemed to be her family’s entire yearly supply of food and clothing, it was just us and we were upgraded to the cushy seats in the cab. About 10 kilometers away from town, we passed another over-laden truck and we glimpsed two gringos in the back, with the same astonished faces that we were sporting after an hour and a half of dusty wind blowing through us.

Our driver stopped and told us this other truck would take us the rest of the way without us having to pay more. We climbed out and handed him the agreed-upon amount. “No, you owe me $10,000 more peso,” he said, bringing the cost back up to what he originally quoted before we bargained him down.

We were furious, but completely at his mercy. “If you don’t want to pay, you can just walk the rest of the way,” he said. It was understood the other truck wouldn’t take us unless we paid him the extra money.

“You lied,” I said. He gave me a smug grin. We paid him, as we had no choice. Getting taken advantage of just because we’re foreigners is always a strange thing… it skirts a grey line between our own privileged status as travelers and the right of locals to charge us higher prices, or at least try to. If the driver had never agreed on a lower price in the first place, it would have been fine. But because he increased his price later when he had an opportunity to do so just really grinds my gears. I think it changes the game from simple bargaining to pure thievery.

It wasn’t a great introduction to Cabo, but the other two foreigners in the truck were a nice Austrian couple who sympathized with us. When we arrived in town, one of the Colombians clinging to the side of the truck said that we could rent hammocks with his family for $10,000 COP per night (about $5 USD). He led us to a three-sided shack situated 20 feet from the flat, waveless expanse of ocean, and hung up our hammocks for us.

Our hammocks. The Austrians were on the other side of the divide.

I should probably now explain my aversion to hammocks. It started in Huanchaco, Peru, a little beach town where we stayed several nights. They had several hammocks there for people to use, and at first glance, they looked pretty inviting. Who doesn’t love napping in a hammock, right? But the problem is that hammocks are reversible. So when you lay down in one, you could, conceivably, be resting your head in the exact same place that somebody else’s dirty feet have just been. And believe me when I say that I’ve seen backpackers with some pretty gnarly feet–you know, those crazy hippies that walk barefoot everywhere. You might as well just smear a lot of mud and dog poop on the hammock, that’s how I feel about it. Hammocks now make me cringe.

But I had brought a couple of secret weapons with me: my sarong, and my sleeping bag cocoon. Together, these allowed me to overcome my totally ridiculous aversion to the hammock by completely insulating myself from it. Nonetheless, sleeping in a hammock for an entire night is not, as most things have turned out to be, as romantic or adventurous as you’d think. It’s mostly just uncomfortable. In natural hammock position, your body is in the shape of a banana, feet and head elevated. This becomes tiresome after awhile (about as long as an afternoon nap). But if you scoot around so that your body is diagonal in the hammock, you can almost achieve a flat position. I figured this out by observing the natives–nearly everybody in the tiny town also slept in hammocks, without pillows.

In most respects, Cabo was as rustic as a civilized town can get. On the edge of a barren desert and just steps away from the ocean, it seemed like a strange, isolated place to build a town. We had arrived in the off season, and it was hard to imagine things being more lively when tourism was up, but we had heard that the place could become so full that a bed or hammock would be hard to come by. We walked through the only street, running between the line of mud and brick houses-slash-businesses and more three-sided shacks like ours.

Desolate little place.

The family whose hammocks we were renting owned a small store, full of dry goods, candy, shaving razors, and dusty boxes of ampicillin. I doubt a doctor lived in town–perhaps the stores dispensed medications as seemed fit? The floor of the two-roomed house was dirt, and there was no running water, as Craig had warned me. All of their fresh water (potable or not) was brought in from Uribia. Just after we arrived, I wandered into their abode (also where we could store our things so they weren’t exposed to theft on the beach), and asked if I could use the bathroom.

The man had his hands full of some kind of raw fish (what would become our dinner), and yelled at the woman to help me. As she bustled around, filling up buckets with water, the man asked me, as they all eventually do, what my heritage was. Asians must be a rare sight in that out-of-the-way place. Finally, the woman said the bathroom was ready for me.

“We use the sea water to flush the toilets, so just use that bucket there,” she said, pointing. O-kay… I was an adult. I could figure this out. After I had done my business, I stared at the bucket.

Then I opened the bathroom door and called out, “So I just put this water in the toilet??”

“Yeah, yeah,” they said.

“Right here?” I asked, tipping the bucket into the toilet bowl.

“Yeah!”

“The whole thing?”

“Yes!”

Oh well, okay. I suppose if I had known anything about plumbing, this wouldn’t have been such a mystery to me, but I always thought pushing the handle down on a toilet not only let water from the tank into the bowl, but also opened some unseen barrier into the sewage system. Craig explained a u-bend to me later.

“Something new for you, eh?” the woman asked after I had marveled at the water swirling down and suctioning away with that same gurgle that I knew so well.

I laughed at myself. “A new experience!” I said. She smiled complacently, probably used to the idiocy of gringos by that point.

For dinner, we had salpichon, a shredded fish dish that is quickly becoming a favorite. There were plenty of moths and flies, but for a wonder, there were no mosquitos! The woman (I never did figure out anybody’s relation to each other) told me that it was too dry for mosquitos to thrive. Hooray! At least one luxury had arisen from the lack of anything’s ability to survive in that desert.

The electricity only ran in the evenings in Cabo, from sunset until about 11:00pm. As soon as it was on, neighbors began crowding into our proprietor’s hut, and they sat glued to the 20-inch TV for the rest of the night. There might not be running water, but at least there were telenovelas.

As soon as we went to “bed”, a cacophony of dog barks began. Since the spontaneous orchestra didn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, I put in my ear plugs and thus deprived myself of falling asleep to the lull of ocean waves. Oh well, the ocean was so flat and still, it probably wasn’t going to be very soothing anyway.

After a restless night trying to find the perfect sleeping position in our hammocks (hint: there isn’t one), we woke to a blindingly hot day. Craig’s bright idea, then, was to hike to a rock, Pilón de Azúcar, which we were told was about an hour away. We set off, and immediately the heat seemed to weigh us down. We had brought tons of water with us, but the rock seemed to taunt us for the next hour; it never seemed to get closer in the shimmering air of the desert.

Hiking to that rock in the middle of the desert.

Finally, we plodded up to it only to discover that it was actually the other side of the small peninsula the town was situated on. Since we had no idea we were even on a peninsula, and the man who told us to hike to the Pilón neglected to tell us that there was a beautiful beach there, we hadn’t brought our swim suits. So we just sat there for awhile, admiring the view and the crystal clear waters of a much nicer beach than the one we were sleeping on, and wishing we could go for a swim. After hiking up and back down the rock, Craig decided that, for our greater good, we should hire a motorcycle to take us back. So we squeezed behind the driver and the three of us rode over the dirt and dust to arrive back safe at our little hammock hut.

Beautiful beach at Pilón de Azúcar.

The rest of the day was spent trying to find lobster (we were ultimately unsuccessful… poor Lenny wouldn’t be able to live vicariously through us for that particular experience), swimming, and laying about. Several times, we had to politely refuse the Wayuu women who came into our huts, selling their hand-woven baskets and bracelets. They would set these wares on top of us as we laid in our hammocks, and then would snatch them up and leave, grimacing, after we had repeatedly said no. We felt bad, but it would have been impossible to buy something from everybody… it seemed a hard life, scraping by on the sales of just a basket or bracelet a day.

The ocean on that side of the peninsula wasn’t very inviting… Craig surmised that it was because of the lack of waves that the water remained so murky. It could also be due to everybody’s using the ocean as their personal sewage system. The night before, I saw the man take a pan of bloody water (from preparing our dinner) and throw it into the sea. Afterwards, he laid down in it and floated around before getting up, washing himself off (with same water) and hauling himself back to the shack.

We were told that the only transport back to Uribia would leave Cabo at 4:00 in the morning. I slept fitfully that night, and woke up several times worried that we’d missed the truck. I had little desire to remain in Cabo for any remaining time–two nights in a hammock in the open air had started to give me a cold, despite how warm it was. Not to worry, we woke up and hurriedly dressed just in time for the truck, which came barreling down the main street, honking its horn into the still, dark night.

After we climbed aboard, the truck drove to the other end of the town and we waited awhile for an Argentine couple to pack up their tent on the beach. We had seen them arrive the evening before and were a bit perplexed–it seemed they were leaving less than 12 hours after arriving. It was a long way to go for an uncomfortable night camping on the beach.

We crowded in and set off. My rear end was completely numb by the time we bounced to yet another stop to pick up more Wayuu people and their goods. This particular stop was memorable because we also picked up a goat. He had been tied to the back of a bicycle, and we had watched, fascinated, as a man untied him and set him on the ground. His legs had all been twined together, and he had been muzzled as well. They set him on the bed of the truck as we all watched, fascinated. It made several, sad, bleating noises and then lay quivering, the whites of its eyes showing.

It was at this point that I noticed the Argentine girl was markedly refusing to look at the goat. Then I realized she was crying. What was going on? Was she a member of PETA? A strict vegan? She couldn’t even look at an animal that was destined to be eaten? Or maybe, as evidenced by their extremely short stay, she’d just been having a terribly shit time and the poor, miserable goat was the last straw. Goodness knows I’ve had several such breakdowns myself–I sympathized with her and the goat. Neither seemed to be having a very good time.

The goat, and an example of the colorful mumus the Wayuu women wear.

When my butt seemed like it was finally going to succumb to the pounding of the hard seats and remain flat forever, we reached the crossroads and switched to a bus that just happened to be sitting there already, perfectly timed. Once again, transportation in South America came through for us. We settled into the air-conditioned luxury and they started playing one of the best bus movies I’ve ever seen: “Escape Plan” with Sylvester Stallone AND Arnold Schwarzenneger. Talk about a killer combination. A mindless couple of hours later, we were back in Santa Marta, coddled by our hostel’s amazing staff.

It was an interesting experience and the most rustic and basic one we’ve had on this trip so far. I once visited family in jungle of Hainan Island, China, who lived similarly; without running water or constant electricity. But they, at least, had a farm and a sustainable way of life. Cabo, in the middle of the desert, didn’t seem like it had as much going for it. A dusty little place, recalling scenes from ghost towns or western movies, it was, at least, a “new experience”.

Finding good vibrations in Santa Marta

It was with a sigh of relief that we arrived in Santa Marta. Our hostel looked exactly like the photos on TripAdvisor, and we desperately needed to be staying some place nice. Private rooms are really expensive on the Caribbean coast, so we’ve been staying in dormitories – something we don’t do too often. The nice thing about being stuck in an 8-bed room is that you’re eventually forced to talk with the other travelers, and they usually turn out to be nice =) We’ve met a super pleasant group of people from England, Spain and the USA, and it’s generally just been a really good time since we arrived.

Getsemani neighborhood, Cartagena – maybe we’ll see you again some day.

Thankfully, the climate seems to be a little more tolerable here too. It’s still plenty hot and humid every day, but there’s enough wind to keep the air from getting too heavy and oppressive.

Bahia Concha – Tayrona National Park

On the way back from the beach we ran out of fuel… A moto driver saved the day by bringing fuel from town. The driver had to use a bottle on the side of the road, and another person’s machete to complete the MacGuyver move.

While the center of Santa Marta isn’t unattractive, the sprawling remainder of the city will never gain a reputation as a nice place to live. Still, we’ve really liked being here. What Santa Marta has going for it is location. It’s close to many beaches, including those within the Tayrona National Park – a popular destination for backpackers and Colombians alike.

Santa Marta old town

Melting Down in Cartagena

I am, unfortunately, one of that annoying breed of persons who likes to state the obvious over and over again. In Cartagena, this meant that about every five minutes, I would turn to Craig and exclaim, “It’s SO hot!” I’m sure this started to get on his nerves, but he was either too kind or too overheated to ask me to shut up.

Cartagena’s temperatures hovered around 90 degrees F, and the humidity stayed at about 80%. This kind of heat is totally opposite from the dry, desert heat that I grew up with in Southern California and can tolerate with lots of air-conditioning. The last time I felt heat with this level of humidity was on a short trip to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, where I recall the phrase “I’m sweating balls” being used quite frequently. To say that we were unprepared for the heat is an understatement. As soon as we stepped off the plane, the heat just seemed to wrap us in a moist brain-numbing haze, and as our hostel was not air-conditioned, there was no escaping it.

Craig already mentioned our disastrous attempt at finding Playa Blanca, a fruitless and exhausting endeavor. The funny thing is that when we got back on the bus and Craig was seething with rage and feelings of impotence, I was feeling pretty okay with it all. I’ve had a lot of meltdowns on this trip, but they mostly happen when I’m confronted by a lack comfort. While sitting for three hours on that bus was not exactly comfortable, long, bumpy bus rides are about as common as mosquitoes down here, and I’ve gotten so used to them that I usually end up falling asleep. At one point on our way there, I woke up to some mild commotion and Craig saying, “We almost crashed into that other bus!”–to which I promptly nodded off again. Near crashes have also become somewhat commonplace.

No, the bus ride didn’t get to me, and neither did the giant torrential rainfall that we drove right into. The turning point also wasn’t having to wade through shin-deep murky water with who-knows-what floating around in it. (Dog shit? Human piss? I tried not to think about it.) I could endure all that with some measure of equanimity… it was only as we were sloshing our way to the Juan Valdez Cafe and I lost Craig for a minute (he had stopped to take a picture and had shouted at me to wait but I never heard him), that my own mental stability started to decline.

The picture that put a chink in my mental armor.

I don’t know if there’s anything worse than being unknowingly separated in a foreign country. It’s a scary feeling, full of panic and anger and consternation. Where is he? Why is he not here? What should I do now? Craig showed up after only a minute had passed, but I was already a bundle of nerves and fear.

“Where the hell were you? Didn’t we say we were going to Juan Valdez?” I hissed, despite my relief at seeing him again.

“Sorry, sorry, I was taking a picture! I yelled at you, but I don’t think you heard me,” Craig replied contritely. A good, diplomatic answer. I couldn’t remain angry, but my energy was gone. Once the rain stopped, all I wanted to do was just go back to the hostel. It wasn’t a great prospect, since it would be as hot and steamy as the rest of Cartagena after the rainstorm, but it was somewhere to rest for awhile and gain our bearings.

Several hours of mindless internet later, I felt renewed enough to tell Craig I thought I’d be okay with going into the walled Centro and walking around. The night air was cooler and the evening was tranquil. We bought some beers and strolled through the cobblestone streets, admiring the colonial architecture and how it was almost like we’d just stepped into Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. All the restaurants looked expensive and the buildings were kept in much better shape than in the rest of the city, spic and span for the hordes of tourists. In that strange, glitzy bubble, filled with horse-drawn carriages and gussied-up club-goers, I felt like I’d made my peace with Cartagena.

Ice cream makes everything better.

Cartagena’s Centro neighborhood at night.

We still decided to leave the city the next day. There’s only so much heat and humidity you can take before you start to crave de-humidified air. But our parting experiences with Cartagena, such an iconic Colombian city, had improved. We are contemplating going back someday, but we’ll be especially careful to avoid both the rainy season, and hostels without air-conditioning!

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.

IMG_3452.JPG

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.