The Columbians welcomed us to their country in fine style, with a long music and dance presentation on the dock that we watched from Deck 4 before we were allowed off the ship. It was a little after 9:30 before we were able to get off of the ship. We walked out to gifts of pinwheels for the kids, fruit, and candy. Quite the welcome to the port!
Since we didn’t have an excursion we walked to the terminal, a short little walk with a great view of the Disney Magic. At the terminal – more gifts! They gave us each a maraca as a souvenir and then we walked through the shop on the way out of the port. Then came the big question – what to do – a white shirted tour guide? Or a taxi driver? From my research, I knew we were supposed to go all the way out of the port entrance, but we couldn’t tell where we were and ended up with a taxi just to go to the old town. Fernando was his name, and he kept correcting my pronunciation of anything Spanish.
On the way he talked us into 3 hours for $50. That seemed fine, compared to the prices we saw posted at the port, so we thought it would be handy to have a taxi available. We first stopped at Fort San Philippe. We wanted to go in but they would not take our US Dollars – the lady didn’t speak any English and told the guys translating for us that she didn’t have change. We didn’t want to get any Columbian Pesos – since we were only here for a day! So we just walked up the ramp to the entrance and back to look around.
From there we wanted to go to the old city. I wanted to start at the Clock Tower, but our taxi driver first took us to Las Bovedas – the old dungeons – converted into shops. Of course he took us to one shop and insisted that we go in. We should have left him right there! It became obvious over the course of the next couple of hours that he was trying to get us into certain shops and was going to get some sort of kickback, even from the street vendors he seemed to invite up to us. We said “No Gracias” in this town a thousand times!!
We did have a nice walk around the old city after we pretty much insisted on what we wanted to see, and I enjoyed taking pictures of the architecture. The old city is very beautiful – with the narrow streets, colorful buildings and balconies with all of their flowers. It is hard to get some good pictures since it’s so tight – even with my 24mm lens. Except for the annoyance of our taxi driver wanting us to go a certain way, and all of the street peddlers trying to sell us sunglasses, hats and maracas, and the ladies with fruit on their hats wanting us to take a picture with them, it was a nice visit. Partway through the walk around the city, Patrick gave Brandon the camera to take pictures and he enjoyed being the “photographer” like me. So now the taxi driver was annoyed with having to wait for two of us, but hey, we were paying him.
After walking through the parts of the old city I wanted to see, we went up to La Popa Monastery, on the hill above the city (again, our taxi driver seemed annoyed, probably less shopping up there!). The monastery was supposed to have the best views of the whole area. It was an interesting drive through other parts of the city. There is a definite difference between the rich houses (block size beautiful homes) and the small shanties that we saw on the hill on the drive up to La Popa. The houses were all tiny, with no real windows or doors, corrugated metal roofs, laundry hanging out. There were lots of cabs picking up and dropping people off, it looked like no one had cars.
Up at La Popa, again there were the peddlers with their wares, as soon as we got out of the car. This time there was even someone wanting us to pay for a picture with a sloth, no thank you (although it was interesting to see a sloth in real life!). By this time we were hot and Patrick was hungry and La Popa was a nice respite. Once we were inside, it was quiet and peaceful with a gorgeous view all around the city. The new city, old city, all of the water, the Disney Magic – gorgeous view. We paused for an ice cream in the little refreshment stand, sat in the shade with a breeze and looked out at the city. That was nice.
We walked around the inside of the convent for a little while, enjoyed and photographed the courtyard, and then figured our 3 hours with our “tour guide” were up and went back to the ship. We were hot and hungry by this time, and felt we had seen what we wanted to of the city. We wished that we had gotten a tour guide, but by this time we were done. When we got back to the terminal I paid the taxi driver and he tried to tell us no, it was $50 for the car and $20 for him and we said we only agreed to $50 and got out of the cab. Trying to rip us off! We were probably the most disappointing American tourists ever – we didn’t want to shop, we wouldn’t go where he wanted us to, and we didn’t fall for the extra $20.
Later, Brandon and I watched us sail out of Cartagena as the sun set. We heard the horn from the very front of the ship (that is LOUD) and Brandon the photographer took some pictures of the sunset behind the new city. A pretty exit from a pretty city.