Arrived to a hot and humid Cartagena around 11am, Jess wisely booked a room with aircon. We had a wander around the old city. We discovered an ‘art’ installation, calling it art is a massive stretch in my expertly cultured opinion. There were some nice paintings, sure, but a ring of multicoloured trainers and some stacked wooden blocks is on par with a lot of the ‘street art’ left behind by the stray dogs in the city. To rid this from our minds we went to the Palace of the Spanish Inquisition, we left us very inquisitive as it was mainly in Spanish…. Some nasty stories and torture equipment on show, Europeans were not nice back in the day (not nice being an understatement but Jess says I can’t swear!).
Ended poignant day with some cocktails and a kebab.
Day 40 (Travelling starts at day 40)
Free walking tours Cartagena introduced us to our magnificent guide, Edgar, or Eddy! A 50 year old Cartagenian, born and bred. The tour emphasised the historic slave trade throughout the Americas and Cartagena. As this is a port city it was many Africans first port of call from Africa. The history goes like this, many slaves were brought here by the Portuguese, a boat from Africa would contain between 300 and 500 Africans, 5-15% would die of illness and disease on their trip (as they were packed so tightly anything contagious would spread). The first Africans here were made to chop through the jungle with machetes, clearing ground for buildings and roads. Around the late 1500’s Sir Francis Drake invaded Cartagena, this made the city realise they need defenses built. More Africans were brought over and forced to work all hours of the day and night to fortify the port of Cartagena. (The city walls in the old town are still here, although portions have been destroyed recently as its Mayor thought it was necessary to extend the city, luckily he ran out of funding so didn’t finish the job!). The slave trade was booming, on our tour we saw huge houses of officials who owned many slaves, we saw a road called ‘Calle Factory’ which was a road with a warehouse which held slaves from the port (essentially a factory, checking the Africans health after the journey and pricing them up for buyers in the market). Africans were either bought in Cartagena or it was their first port before being transported inland to other countries. A horrendous history. The nearby town of San Basiliode Palenque was the first place in the world to officially free Africans from slavery. The impact of this era can still be seen throughout the city, from the Palanqueros, the mixed race ethnicity of many Colombians, to the street names and many sculptures of important figures during the abolishment.
It’s a history the city wants to share and it was shared excellently by our tour guide, who held multiple conversations with himself by pretending we were asking him questions:
‘Hey Eddy, yes Chris, why are the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian flags also red, yellow and blue, good question Chris, this is because they were all once part of an area called Greater Colombia!’
‘Hey Eddy, yes Jessica Levy (he loved using Jess’ whole name), What do the red, yellow and blue colours represent in the flag. Great question Jessica Levy, the yellow represents the gold found in Colombia, the red represents the blood shed for Colombia and the blue represents the Oceans of Colombia!’
What a guy.
An early shuttle to Playa Blanca beach and the sun was shining through a layer of clouds. A loooooong lovely sandy beach. Chilled out for the day and endured a couple storms whilst in the sea. Then a lovely Italian for dinner… and came back to the hostel to find a cat in our bed.
Final day in Cartagena, we took a authentic Colombian street food cooking class. A shuttle taxi to our hosts house next to the beach where we first put our mixology skills to use and created a lulo mojito (‘just add one and a half shots of rum yourself’... sure). The Mojito went down a charm mainly due to the blazing sun. We then were introduced to the drink Colombiana, which is just like Irn Bru and just as delicious. A 2 litre bottle of Colombiana and chopped up assorted fruit was mixed and put into the fridge to ferment for an hour! We then tried some local fruits; the tree tomato and maracuyá (from the passion fruit family).
Then came the meal I'd been dreading, shrimp ceviche... But it turns out we were cooking the Colombian ceviche, not Peruvian! As you're all aware, a Colombian shrimp ceviche consists of cooked shrimp (prawns), finely chopped red onion, garlic water, parsley, lime and the special, secret sauce that was going to wow and shock us... Hello tomato sauce and mayo, a standard but delicious Christmas prawn cocktail!
The second half of the course was the fried section (deep fried in lots of oil!). We made empanadas, arepa de huevo and fried plantain. All delicious and rather stodgy but helped down by the refreshing Irn Bru fruit cocktail!
Then a hot dog and a late bus off to Santa Marta.