We arrived and the taxi was simple and cost what we expected to pay. For our first Cartagena stint we were staying in the red light district of Getsemini in a non-air conditioned room. This proved annoying – the only hope of any real sleep was to whack the fan on full which to its credit was powerful but the downside meant it was like sleeping in a jet engine. Still, lots of fast moving hot air was better than lots of still hot air and once you got used to the noise you eventually passed out. We resolved on night one that we would have aircon on our return.
We took breakfast across the road and set out to explore the old walled city. First impressions are that it lacks the level of preservation that a European or indeed many other ‘old’ cities are afforded – there are a few ugly concrete high rises that spoil any hope of an ancient cityscape no matter which angle you take it in from.
We trotted around visiting various landmarks including the Cathedral (nice but mass started and we were asked to stop taking pictures), the museum of the Inquisition (or as I like to refer to it the ‘this was not used in Cartagena’ museum) and a variety of other churches. We sat on a plaza for a beer and amongst other things were serenaded by a pair of budding rappers which was simultaneously annoying and comical. They got their contribution only after posing for their album cover. Another thing that we’d picked up on at this point was that for whatever reason I had a lot less patience with the hustle here. Being constantly asked to buy a painting (mass-manufactured print) or replica carving (mass manufactured) or any other tat for that matter undermined the place. As always I remained polite to everyone who offered me everything from silver to cocaine but any hope of quietly meandering around ancient quirky colonial streets was lost.
We spied Cafe Del Mar – situated on the walls of the old city and famed for its views of the sunset but it wasn’t open until 5pm so we decided to head back to get cleaned up. By the time we’d dragged ourselves back out sunset was already in motion so we decided to skip it and head for a bite to eat, a bar and eventually to find somewhere we could organise a ticket to Santa Marta the next day. We found a place but it wasn’t open until the next morning. We hit the sack.