Bogota blew us away. We stayed in the old town, which is never the ‘real’ town, but was none-the-less a spectacular experience. It was peppered with cool coffee shops (JB happy!), trendy bars, amazing buildings, and some fabulous food. The only shame was that we only had 24 hours to enjoy it.
After mundane morning missions to the ‘lavanderia rapido’ et al, we did a swift tour of the Museo Botero de la Republica which housed Picassos, Monets, Dali’s and an exhibition of the famous Colombian figurative artist and sculptor Fernando Botero.
Over a sophisticated lunch in the museum restaurant we played a heated game of Exploding Kittens (to be recommended, if not for the other diners!)
In the afternoon we opted for a walking tour to make the best of our limited time. We hit all the Old-Town hotspots, and got a good overview of the history of the country as well as sampling various tasty local nibbles to keep our energies up.
Our tour culminated in a game of Tejo (where you (drink beer and) throw rocks at paper parcels of gunpowder until they explode…….)).
Next stop Cartagena for some Caribbean action. An hour after landing we were off on a Treasure Hunt around
the Old Town. This involved dressing up as pirates, and trouncing around the town with our guide Ronald as we solved puzzles using historical facts, visited important sites (festooned with treasure clues) and worked our way through the maritime museum. Every town should have a child focused walking tour like this one. Maybe my learning capability is commensurate with a 10 year olds’, but I learned more on this tour than at any of our others to date, and it certainly hit the ‘learning needs to be fun’ requirement (for all ages!).
Cartagena Old Town has amazing walls, which I enjoyed daily for my sunrise runs. After seeing zero runners out in Bogota (and very few in the whole of Chile), Cartagena walls were awash with them. There was good camaraderie and even a bit of sweaty high-fiving which I duly embraced.
The highlight of day 2 was a trip to the Chocolate Museum where we learned how to make chocolate from bean to bar! We roasted beans, made chocolate tea (surprisingly good!) with the shells, and then ground the nibs to a paste to make various other products from. The end product was a triumph despite the girl’s mutinous reaction at being provided a Hello Kitty mould….
We mixed it up on day 3 with a cycling tour. This exposed us to more of the extremities of the city, and one of our mounts was a tandem which brought much excitement and a certain amount of repressed frustration from the adults who commanded the front seat! JP lead the charge. He was in his 5th year of dentistry training, and guided at the weekends to make a buck. He packed in the facts, but also transparently shared his perspective on whats really going on with the country and its people today, which made for an interesting afternoon.
We splashed out on the
last day of 2018 with a boat trip to the Rosario Islands. We negotiated hard for the ‘last boat left available in the WHOLE of Cartagena’ and ended up with a rather snazzy 42 foot launch. It came with a ‘concierge’ who turned out to be JP’s Auntie Denise. She knew absolutely noting about the Rosario Islands (she usually works as a bank teller), except being able to point out the ruin of Pablo Escobar’s abandoned house. She was a ‘hoot’ though and a definite enhancement to our day.
The ride out was smooth, and it was fun to watch the skyline of Cartagena disappear with our wake. First stop were some ‘natural pools’ over a fairly battered reef. There was a lot of swell so it was fairly trixy snorkelling but we saw some fun fish including parrot fish and those blue ones with electric blue spots that I’m never able to name. Next up was a sunken plane which was being besieged by about 10000 tourists simultaneously and was essentially a swirl of sandy water. If you dived down deep enough to engage some serious ear pressure you could touch its tail. The experience was fairly underwhelming, but mildly satisfying reach the target when most of the tourists were blobbing on the surface.
We lunched on fresh seafood in a lovely shack reminiscent of some of Formentera’s gorgeous eateries. Such was the peak of peak season that after lunch we requested an hour on a quiet beach and ended up on the tiniest patch of sand between some mangroves, but Bella and James managed to dig a hole on said postage stamp, so all was well.
Then we decided to do a fly-by Cholon, the party island, to check it out. Suffice to say I was (thankfully) not overcome by reminiscent urges to jump into the water and drink revolting sweet cocktails with the rather obnoxious clientele while various thumping beats clashed for omnipresence. The girls were (thankfully) also horrified, although I suspect that sentiment won’t endure too far into their teenage years…
After persuading our captain that we could handle rough water (the swell gets right up as the day goes on) we ‘bought’ ourselves an extra hour to visit Playa Azul which was the picture perfect postcard Caribbean beach (as deserted by the less boat-brave tourists). We then bounced our our way over the waves home to Cartagena, screaming with glee all the way.
Our New Year’s evening festivities kicked off with pizza overlooking one of the gorgeous plazas, and then a walk round the town and up on the walls. Most of the locals grab tables and chairs and either sign up to pre-bought dinners, or bring picnics and just hang out and soak up the atmosphere. We struggled a bit to stay out/up, so squeezed in a movie, and then headed up to our hotel rooftop at midnight to enjoy some of the spectacular fireworks going off all over the city.
Bella and I hit Getsemani on our last day in Cartagena (poor old Em was laid out having battled through NYE with a horrible throat infection). We had signed up to a group tour, but turns out all the other groups were too hungover, so we lucked out with a private tour with Willy. Getsemani is a mix of traditional one-story housing for ‘humble’ people, and a burgeoning backpacker community. The tour was a great insight into ‘real’ living, most of which happens on the street which results in a warm and colourful community vibe. We tasted lots of street-cart food, bought ‘lollies’ from a local house, enjoyed the street art, bumped into some locals dancing salsa (I joined in to Bella’s abject horror), and ended up joining a street full of game-players. The women played cards and the men played dominoes. We grabbed a table and had our own domino tournament where Bella displayed some serious strategy nous, and only lost by a nose to Willy.
Oh yes, and we saw a mama and baby sloth hangin’out in the park!
For our last night we kept it real with a bab on the pavement enjoying the street shows (got the best of 2 Michael Jacksons who circuit the town). We then cheesed it up with a horse and carriage ride which was a fabulous way to enjoy all the streetlights.
This marked the end of our Christmas holidays, and we moved on to Santa Marta to meet up with Rob again, and kick off the ‘Spring’ term (although its decidedly summer here right now!).