Walled City and More
Arriving at the home of Luis Carlos was like to visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a number of years. Carlos and his family welcomed us at the door with warm smiles making us feel instantly at home. Even though they spoke no English and I spoke very little Spanish, somehow we were able to communicate as though we understood each other perfectly well.
Carlos’ home is located in the Cielo Mar district of Cartagena just one block from the beach. To get there were rode right along the coast about seven miles east of the old Walled City of Cartagena.
Once we got settled in, I did my normal Google search to learn a little about the history of this region. I found that the Puerto Hormiga Culture, that lived in the Caribbean coastal region near the Cartagena Bay, appears to be the first documented human community in what is now Colombia. Archaeologists believe that around 6000 years ago the center of the culture was located near the boundary between the present-day states of Bolívar and Sucre. In this area, archaeologists have found some of the most ancient ceramic objects of the Americas dating back to 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is thought to have been the relative mildness of the climate and the abundance of wildlife, which afforded the inhabitants a comfortable life.
These societies ruled the region until the Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s and settled the City of Cartagena in 1533. After that there were a series of wars between various European forces. Sometime in the early 1800’s the Bogota region of Columbia declared its independence from Spain. It is still unclear to me when Cartagena officially became part of Columbia. That’s for another Google search when I have time.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we spent our first morning on land retrieving our motorcycles from the Stahlratte. That evening we decided to go to the Old Walled City to tour the area and have dinner. As the name implies, that portion of Cartagena is indeed enclosed in a defensive wall with cannon emplacements that were built several hundreds years ago. The wall surrounds an old colonial town with streets barely wide enough for a single compact car to pass. Walking around we found many restaurants, night clubs, parks, residences, churches and old historically significant buildings. We also passed by the Swiss Consulate. Dinner that evening was at a great little sidewalk café that served awesome sushi. There we relaxed and watched the crowds of people in the nearby park.
The next day we got some needed exercise walking several miles down the beach past the modern high-rise hotels and condos. These modern buildings eventually gave way to much more modest structures constructed somewhat haphazardly by the locals who occupied that part of the coast line. One of the interesting things we observed as we walked along was that the buses drove right on the beach next to the small boats and swimmers. For a few coins, you could jump on the bus and ride back into town.
That afternoon we went on a tour of the mangrove forest that inhabits the far east section of town. We rode the “beach bus” to the area where the mangroves begin and then hired a boatman to take us on a ride through the waterway. The waterway highway is extensive and for some not familiar with it, they could easily get lost. The homes located near the entrance were some of the poorest we have seen in all of our journey. But just a few miles away, there is obvious wealth.
That night we went back to the Walled City to again walk the streets in search of the perfect restaurant. This time we found a pizza place that served some of the best pizza I have ever eaten. Odd that we would find great pizza, and sushi the night before, where we least expected it. After dinner, we had a beer at the KGB bar, which was decked out like a tavern you might find in Moscow.
Our last full day in Cartagena was spent at a Juan Valdez coffee shop -- like a Starbucks and serves excellent coffee -- and another hike on the beach.
That evening we went to an area a few blocks from the Walled City that had a distinctly bohemian feel to it. The streets were even narrower than the one we had seen before and there was graffiti art everywhere. Some of the pieces were so stunning you just had to stop and stare for a while. We were also treated to an impressive street dance performance.