No Sleep Till Cartagena

by julesfric

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to wait on someone else’s schedule to do the things I want to do. When I found reasonably priced tickets to Cartagena, Colombia, I knew I had to go. Because of work deadlines, I had a short window where I could book my trip. I asked a few friends if they’d like to join, but unfortunately none of their schedules fit with mine. I was off to Colombia on my own.

Most of my friends and family members had the same reaction “What do you mean you’re going to Colombia alone? Aren’t you scared? What about the drug cartels?”

I assured them I would be fine. Reminded them I have a working knowledge of Spanish and fear is relative. I live in the most famous city in the world- Everyday I get to say “I am in New York City,” and I am certain there are people who would be terrified of that same phrase.

So on a plane I went on Sunday morning, but first I had to get through Saturday night. A dear friend of mine is on the committee for an annual ball benefitting sudden cardiac arrest. This year I attended and I had a blast. The most amazing swing band with a packed dance floor. Not to mention open bar. I didn’t get home until 5:30 AM, which left me about a half hour to shower and head to the airport. I desperately tried to stay awake at the gate and as luck would have it, couldn’t sleep on the plane. Oh, I should also mention about 4 weeks prior to this I twisted my knee, so for this event and my trip, I was in a knee brace.

My first day in Colombia was a wash. I spent it napping and watching the American Superbowl. Watching football in Spanish,  I kept yelling “Ah, No! Que Paso?! was he safe?”

I spent 3 days/2 nights on Isla Baru at the most charming bed and breakfast. I had my own little paradise where I sipped the best mojito in my hammock, cuddled with the dogs, and went to sleep to the sound of waves crashing. One of the days I took a cab to Playa Blanca to see the gorgeous turquoise waters. I put my Spanish skills to good use as I chatted with some of the locals and defended myself against scammers. This gringa won’t be taken advantage of! The water was so calm that even with a knee injury (and the warning of my physical therapist) I went into the ocean. Perhaps the best meals were the one provided by my hotel. The fish was so spectacularly tender it tasted more like fish. One night the power went out on the entire so dinner, which is a group dinner among all people staying in the house, moved to the beach. A beachfront dinner with a bonfire under the stars!!! People pay hundreds of dollars for this at fancy carribean resorts.

Told you the views are great 😉

In Cartagena I stayed within the walled city. It reminded me of “Love in the Time of Cholera” hearing the horses walk along the cobble stoned streets. I arrived to the city a bit before dusk. For dinner I insisted on ceviche. I went to a restaurant the hotel recommended. Early in the morning I knew the ceviche was not agreeing with me. I happily settled for some toast and fruit for breakfast. There’s something about the butter in South America- I can eat pan y montaquilla every day!

Being a New Yorker, I thought I could walk the 20 minutes to the markets. Boy, was I wrong. I decided to make a short detour of about 10-15 minutes, and this was the death of me. Yeah, I’m a New Yorker and summers in the city are grueling, but nothing is like the Colombian sun. I was sweating profusely when I arrived to the market. I went from stall to stall looking for bottled water. The heat, upset stomach, and low calorie breakfast was a trifecta for heat exhaustion. Once I found water, I sat atop the fortress wall, slowly sipping it. No use- I caught a cab back to my hotel, I needed to sleep. When I woke I bought a can on coke from my hotel. REJOICE COKE! I don’t know if it was the bubbles, sugar, or caffeine, but it brought me back to life, and just in time to get covered in volcanic mud!

One thing I noticed about Cartagena is that you have to begin your exploring around 3PM. I went during the windy season and that’s the time the wind begins to kick in. The city almost comes to life after 3PM. When I returned from the volcano, feeling much better, I grabbed a few arepas from the street and settled in for a walk around town. The next morning I grabbed a few souvenirs, a coconut water or two, and said goodbye to Cartagena.

I came back tan and with another country crossed off my bucket list.