Our next destination was Cartagena, a beautiful port city on the Caribbean coast which really has everything. It hosts one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia, there is the beautiful cobbled streets and colonial buildings of the old town, and then the newer skyscraper district. We spent four nights in this beautiful city in a hostel called Arsenal Hostel just outside the old town. To get to Cartagena we got on the boat in Capugana then took a 9 hour bus journey to the city. Our first night we were tired from the journey so we dumped our bags in the 8 bed dorm and walked across the road to a small outside food-court with 6 different food vans. Here we had some seriously delicious sushi rolls and then went to sleep.
With our first full day we decided to explore the old town just a short 5 minute walk from our hostel. We left quite early after the free breakfast and could already understand how hot and sticky we were going to be for the next few days. Once through the arches of the old town the buildings completely changed, colourful buildings with beautifully decorated balconies, churches and monuments surrounded us.
After walking around for a while we decided to explore the ‘Museo del Oro Zenú’, this museum holds a collection of gold among other pieces such as pottery of the Zenú people. There is a further section upstairs that explains the fascinating engineering practices of the Zenú people.
By the end of the museum it was time for lunch, we had heard of the famous ‘La Cevichería’ and thought as we are probably only going to be in Cartagena once we would treat ourselves to some delicious ceviche. This very small restaurant doesn’t take reservation so to get a spot you just queue outside the door until they open at midday. By 12:15 we had a table inside and were deciding what to have off the big menu. We settled on the large bowl of mixed ceviche – octopus, prawns, conch, squid and the white fish of the day. The marinade was lemon and mandarin juice, coriander, mint, garlic, olive oil and pepper.
After lunch we decided to head back towards the hostel, but first we stopped for a photo in front of Calle Stuart (what are the chances when nobody can say Stu’s name!!) and a quick stop in the lovely cathedral. The cathedral was huge and very impressive. By this point it was peak heat time (over 40 degrees Celsius) so it was time to head back, get our swim gear on and swim in the pool. Later on that evening we joined up with everyone from San Blas who were in Cartagena too (quite a lot as you can see from the photo below) and went out to different bars and clubs. We went from having beers in a public square with some delicious street food, to a cool rooftop bar, to finally a great Latin club till 4am.
The following morning was a slow one needless to say. After gradually surviving the morning in the swimming pool keeping cool and hydrated we set out to find a place for some lunch. We set out to an arepa restaurant but stumbled upon another one on the way which was in a back garden and looked nice and cheap. For those who don’t know arepas are corn based dough with fillings. Niamh had one with coconut fish and Stu went for the mixed meat and cheese arepa. One each filled us up enough for lunch and set us back less than 4 pounds in total. By the time we finished and got back to the hostel it was time to watch the second half of Belgium vs Brazil in the World Cup. What an incredible game and congratulations to Belgium for sending Neymar home! After the game and another swim we ventured back into the old town to go food shopping for the night. Instead of heading straight back we watched the sunset on one of the walls. Stu had read the best bar to watch the sunset was Cafe Del Mar, however you can just chill around the walls next to the bar where drink and food vendors are in no short supply, it is free and you can hear the live music from the bar.
For our 3rd and final full day in Cartagena we got up early to catch the England vs Sweden game. We were still thinking it was coming home at this point! After the game we spent some more time by the pool just chilling, reading and keeping cool. After we set out into the old town for some lunch, after walking around aimlessly for a while we settled on one Caribbean sausage arepa and one shredded beef. We stayed here a little bit after eating to watch some of the Russia vs Croatia game too. With lunch done we went to El Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. When we first drove into Cartagena we saw a huge building on top of a hill thinking it was this. When our taxi dropped us off nowhere near the hill and in front of a castle (surprise surprise) it came a bit of a funny shock. We later found out the building on the hill is a convent you can visit, unfortunately we ran out of time. We paid our entrance fees of $25000 COP and started heading up to explore. The castle was built by the Spanish in the 16th century in a strategic place over land and sea to fight off invasions and attacks. The castle played a paramount role in fighting off the English the following Century. The castle itself is composed of parapets, batteries, a complex tunnel system and bunkers. We were there in the afternoon so had some incredible views over the entire city.
That evening we went to a rooftop bar up for couple of nice Mojitos and Margaritas overlooking the clock tower in the old town. The mojito was amazing and the rooftop had incredible views over some of the harbour and the old town. Best of all cocktails were 2 4 1 whilst we were there hence managing to enjoy these lovely drinks without breaking the bank. After the drinks we went back for food before meeting up with some friends. We headed over to their hostel, went back to the rooftop party we were at the other night and ended up in a small techno club. Not many people there at all but the music was good and the crowd that was there was a good one.
Our next article is about the incredible area of Minca so stay tuned to hear about all of the activities we got up to there including the journey up to our hostel.