5 February 2017

Road Trip Columbia

Santa Marta, Colombia was the first place where Peter and I left Milly at dock to take a few inland excursions - hike, motorcycle and, finally, road trip by mini bus.  

We left the marina with ten others from five other boats.  First stop was Cartegena for three nights followed by two nights in Mompox.  Each drive took eight hours.  Although the distance was not huge the roads were winding, hilly and sometimes so potholed that our speed diminished to that of walking and our insides were jostled about like a washing machine.  Somehow hours on end on a bus is much more tiresome than the same on a boat.  But the novelty and land scenery was a great change.  The rest of the story in pictures:

The old city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was beautifully and tastefully restored.  Of course, it was full of tourists but also full of Columbians who lived there.  Pedestrian streets, sidewalk cafes, lovely courtyards to peek at as we walked by, green and lush parks complete with resident sloths, lots of characterful street art and crafts as well as delicious looking street food.

Indigenous laid out their crafts on blankets along ancient walls.  

A gate into the walled old city with the Puerta del Reloj and church spires in the background.  Like mine, a favourite colour is mustard yellow, beautiful against the deep blue sky.  The ancient wall was 13 km long and took two centuries to complete.  We were able to walk several kilometres taking refreshment at a bar to watch the sunset over the Caribbean.

This arcade, El Portal de los Dulces, was lined with tables ladened with locally made sweets.  

A few traditionally dressed women sold fresh fruit which this tourist is obviously enjoying.  Arepas de Queso street cart in the background sold a traditional cornmeal thick pancake fried and stuffed with melted cheese.  I plan to attempt to make them on Milly.

A guillotine was one of several gruesome instruments of death/torture in the Palacio de la Inquisicion, the mission of which was to rid Columbia of heresy.  Eight hundred people were murdered during the Inquisition.  Remarkably, considering how they were otherwise treated by the Spanish, the indigenous people were not tried.

The small window in the centre was discretely placed around the corner from the Palacio's main door.  Here people could denounce their neighbours to the Inquisition who would then investigate and condemn.
Lovely streets in the old city had balconies with bougainvillea spilling over the railings.
Reminiscent of New Orleans minus the frenzy.
The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is a gigantic fort covering a full hill.  It is the greatest castillo ever built by Spain in any of it's colonies.  Because of it's strategic location as a gateway to the Caribbean for the plundered gold in South America, Cartegena was besieged by pirates many times.  A series of forts were built at the mouth of the port - this one was impregnable.

The fort had a complex system of tunnels connecting strategic points of the fort for provisioning and quick evacuation.  The tunnels were built so that any sound made by friend or foe could be heard from a great distance, giving early warning of enemy approach or easy internal communication.  It was an eery, dimly lit walk.

A street art tour took us through several neighbourhoods outside the old city walls.  The neighbourhoods are slowly becoming gentrified by boutique hotels and a multitude of restaurants mingling with working class residences.

The gentrification is not viewed positively by many who live in the areas.  As the properties are bought up to cater to the wealthier, the cost of living soars and the residents can no longer afford to live there.  This sign is displayed on several walls, protesting the sale of property to developers.

A popular street food booth on the edge of a busy square - kids playing futbol, couples strolling and dancing, lots of people watching, and food of all sorts from stalls.  This was an assembly line of Columbian-style burgers made only for those with a huge mouth.

The gang heading out from our hotel - 8 of us actually shared a self-contained villa owned by the hotel - on the next leg of our journey.  Two days was not enough in Cartegena.  We would have liked at least 5-7 days.  Beautiful, beautiful city.

Mompox, a remote colonial town, was a bustling inland port on the River Magdalena in it's heyday.  It is, apparently, similar to Garcia Marquez's fictional town of Macondo.  This unusual Iglesia de Santa Barbara with griffin and lion gargoyles and balcony-ringed bell tower, is the home of hundreds of bats which take flight at sunset for their evening meal.  We saw the cloud as we walked the lovely streets nearby. 

Another reason to come here was the reputation of the river tour which went down the river, past small villages and tiny farms, through marshes.  Lots of iguanas and birds hanging out in the trees along with a few monkeys.

Mompox streets and plazas were lovely and authentic, slowly decomposing.  There are a few small hotels so tourists will soon discover it's charm.  
I'm a sucker for flowers.

Even the open front tiendas were works of art with their wares arranged in colourful formation.

Walking the streets with the gang was the best way to see the village.  The sidewalks were raised for flood and too narrow to manage anything but single file.  It felt like a march!

Watermelons delivered by boat on the river.

Street food in the true sense.  We enjoyed a snack before our boat tour.

The town is renowned for filigree jewelry made right in front of you.  Great for Christmas presents.
The boat tour took place late afternoon.  

Going through the marsh which was miles across, the young boy at the front would attempt to pole the growth away while the dad and driver attempted to ram his way through.  

And we were told the rock the boat from side to side to assist.  We made it but not without some vigorous activity.

Delicious pineapples also arrived by boat.

Sweet girls heading to school on the bus.

Happy to be home!