After my first night I decided in Cartagena to take a stroll. I was staying in neighborhood called Getsemani, which would be accurately described as “demasiado gringo”, meaning that there were mostly hostels cathering to international (somehow mostly americans and brits) crowd. It became obvious since during first 2 minutes walk I was offered 6 times weed and coke, 4 times prostitute, and “various stuff” more than 10 times. It was also a sign of being in very poor part, where tourism and its derivatives is bringing lots of money – any possible way. On my way I found a laundry, where I left the stuff that needed a desperate wash. 3K per kilo, price of 1 beer.
I was told that the nearest beach (Boca Grande) is around 25 minutes by walk. Not so bad, I thought. After 25 minutes I wasn’t even half-way, instead got greeted by police with full pockets search and passport check. The situation was ridiculous, obvious tourist in touristy part being treated like a criminal – the one who helps the economy by spending his hard-earned cash. After few minutes I was released, but the disgust remained.
Later, after consulting with local friend in Bogota, I learned that it could end up worse- they could insert some drugs in my pocket and want a heavy bribe, or else put in jail. So lucky me in beautiful Colombia.
I kept walking towards my destination, and got greeted (this time for real), by several kids (age 14to 17) – who were amazed to see the white face among. They turned out to be some sort of vagabonds – one from Venezuela and the rest from Colombia. They were astonished that I came from so far away solo and asked me many questions about my country and the journey itself.
I left few minutes later, to be approached by the seller of crabs. As a default behaviour I kept rejecting his kind offer of free crabs. Only gave up after he opened one and kept walking with me. I took one, he kept opening others. At fourth I said stop – enough. The ridiculous part was about to begin.
Straight up after saying thanks (and how much) with straight face I was told 28 K. Now, to give the perspective, the full meal in average restaurant costs between 15 and 20 K. I laughed in the guys face saying that he’s crazy – now knowing full well that it is a scam. But it was funny to listen how valuable piece of food it was. I decided that 8 K was enough, (even though I could just walk away and all the guy could do was follow me or beg to pay something). I stated firmly that he either gets 8 K for teaching me a colombian lesson or nothing. He tried to bargain with himself basically, but in the end received 10 K (smallest bill I had on me). He gave me back 1 K saying that he has no more change. Whatever – go your way scammer.
Then I continued on the beach. Every no more than 30 seconds (the walk itself lasted for around 20 minutes) I was offered the seat, weed, coke, wristbands, prostitute, jetski, soda, beer, !crabs!, some other stuff and massage. The last one is interesting, since (this time I didn’t learn the hard way) the masseuses offer free trial, but then don’t stop until you tell them. Then they ask anything between 100-300 K (again, meal at the restaurant is 15-20 K).
In no other third world country (including Cambodia or Philippines) I was being invaded with so many “doing business offers”. It was annoying. Some of the sellers would follow me, offering their “friendship” and help with anything I might need. When I started asking around later this day, I was told that their help will most probably end up with the robbery of everything you have on you, especially after the night with some booze.
To add insult to injury, the beach wasn’t even close to fine quality, and water had visibility less than 50 centimeters. Plus, there were ubiquitious 2 stroke jet-ski running around, making the air stink (accurately) like burnt oil.
Was it all wrong in that part of Cartagena – Boca Grande? Not quite. I found a nice restaurant 2 blocks from the beach, where I was served a very good and filling meal for 16K. I also found a fellow travelled who took care of my stuff when I went to take a swim (didn’t have to resort to that anywhere in the world, regardless it was Fortaleza, Salvador, Florianopolis (as comparable regions) or South East Asia. But in this particular part I wouldn’t leave my stuff unattended for a second, due to massive amount of scammers.
On my way back I took a taxi, since I didn’t feel like being interviewed by police again. The flat fare is 7K in Cartagena, no matter where you go. I had a bill of 10 K and when we arrived the driver was cursing for his mothers life that he doesn’t have a change.
Luckily I had to get my laundry that cost 3 K. I gave the bill of 10 K, and brought change to the driver who was already getting impatient.
Got back to the hostel, just to reserve a bike for another day – hopefully another, more deserted beach will be a better pick.
Upon returning, I decided that it was the party night. I walked around, of course being offered innumerous times drugs or women – or straight up being shouted “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR” and the shouters were somehow annoyed when ignored, few times switches to spanish saying along the lines – heeey, se te dice. To which I would reply I wasn’t interested – at least they put some effort/emotions into action and deserved some reaction.
Reaching the open-air space with loud music, I figured out that there was a party that seemed to be dominated by locals. The entry fee was rather heavy (20 K), but included 8 cans of beer. EIGHT.
Funny thing is that they were distributed in the packages of 4, which basically determined that the party was cathering to larger group more than individuals. Luckily, they had bags, and also could exchange warm beer to ice cold one should such need occur.
So far the quality of women in Colombia was rather dissapointing, after what I saw in Brazil (especially southern). And to be honest, this party didn’t change this perspective at all. They either had a nice rack, or ok looking face, occasionally big tits, but on one hand of reckless lumberjack could count the ones who had all 3 attributes. In the party of more than 1000 people.
One thing that they did on par with brazilian counterparts was perreo – shaking their ass towards crotch of the partner. It looked hot.
I wasn’t too much into social mood, so I was downing my beers and watching surrounding crowd. At one point a really ugly beast – will give her strong 2/10 for being nice, approached me to dance. We danced like half of the song with her, to excuse myself for another beer.
It was a time to call it the night around 1,30 am, even though I was told that the party was going to last until 3.
The stroll itself was great, with riding on the sand most of the time and touching waves – tiring though, since the friction of surface was considerably higher than on the paved road, and also that heat of over 40 degrees was exhausting.
After passing the wall of concrete that consisted of various chain-hotels, I reached the slums. Here it was practically deserted, but still I was offered to come to the bar by basically everyone who had one and was on the road while I was cruising. But it was easier to escape on the bike than on foot :). The beach was also the road – not only there were private cars and motorbikes passing, but also full size buses – rather original way of commuting, I must say.
After over an hour in full sun, I decided to stay in the shade. Not annoyed by anyone I stayed under the banana leafes roof for around 30 minutes (it was midday) and drunk what I had remaining of water.
On my way back I saw a decent looking bar/restaurant, and was surprised that noone came to invite me there. Good sign. Entered there, ordered a fresh squeeze juice (one thing that Colombia has at least on par with Brazil are the juices) and chilled in hammock. Then decided to swim, even though the water looked even dirtier that in Boca Grande on previous day. The guy from the restaurant told me not to leave the stuff on hammock (inside the restaurant), instead to put the bike and bag behind the counter. This much about security in this part of Colombia.
After swim (that lasted long, since the break I had from such pleasure was substantial) I ordered a fish. After proper time of waiting, I received enormous one – that I could barely finish. During the meal thunders started, which usually means that the storm or at least rain is coming. It was about 3.30 pm.
I decided to get a beer and wait. But the waiter told me that I’d better get away from this zone before sunset, which was happening in about 1,5 hours.
Had to take a chance and escape the rain.
Apparently, all the way back the weather was good, without a trace of rain.
Got back the same way, and decided to take another chance tonight. There was supposed to be the independence of Cartagena next day, but you could feel the action already.
Went to the main Getsemani gringo square – Plaza de la Trinidad.
It was fun but also dangerous since many people were throwing the firecrackers in the middle of the crowd – which could result in being burnt.
There was dance show, everyone getting drunk and stuff, all in all a typical backpacker night. I was approached by a girl saying – hey, I saw you walking around solo – would you like to join us? Sure I would! We were drinking together, watching the show and being careful not to get burnt. After some time the crowd decided to move to the party hostel. The cover was 15 K, with nothing included. Plus, from the girls from Brazil who left I heard that it is extremely hot upstairs and music sucks. I decided that brazilians were to be trusted, especially in case of parties, so I decided to hit the square again to down some beers. I got some hints on planning my next travel steps, and the idea of going to San Andres – a paradise island got the seed in my mind.
Decided to hit the bed shortly after 1.
Following morning it was time to see the parade that was the integral part of independence day celebrations.
It was hot as hell when I was walking the big wall surrounding the old town, to the point that I had to lay down in shade and cool down. The weather app said that it was 45 degrees realfeel temperature. Not bad.
After I cooled down I took my space in the wall. The parade started walking half an hour after I took my seat. To put it into perspective, it was a poor neighbor of any, even third-tier carnaval in Brazil. It was nice to watch, but nothing spectacular. On my way back, it started raining. And I mean, raining heavy. I lost the sense of direction and started walking paralell to my destination.
I had a particular restaurant in mind that I wanted to visit, unfortunately it was closed. Also, another one that I visited last night was closed. So I went into indian restaurant that offered extremely good (and big) fish (Pargo) at very reasonable price – 15 K.
All wet I had my meal, and without the energy for further adventure, decided to call it a night. It was the last one before heading to Santa Marta.