The South American leg of our trip began in the most hellish of ways, flying from Vietnam to Colombia via Hong Kong, Beijing, Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, the latter of the two flights we missed after being denied access to the US whilst boarding our flight in Beijing, then promptly detained by Chinese Immigration for eight hours with no access to food, water or internet (thank you Chinese government censorship), eventually securing a visa from my sister in England and eating heavily into our shoestring budget to book flights onward to Colombia.
Cartagena, Colombia was the ultimate reward for our hardships.
Embraced by ocean on the very north western tip of this great continent, it has bones of fortress walls and a belly of multicoloured colonial buildings, rhythmic salsa drums provide the heartbeat that pumps a melting pot of humankind through its narrow pastel streets; caramel skinned Colombian beauty queens, dark Caribbean street vendors, the olive faces of the machismo youth, police, the elderly and of course us whiteys.
With two days before we headed north, exploration began immediately despite not having slept more than three hours in three days, our deliriousness may have actually contributed to this cities charm as we hazed our way through its intricacy of streets, following nothing but smells of fresh food and music. We bought coffee from a street vendor for 1,000 pesos (25p) and navigated part of the cannon lined fortress walls, imagining a time where boats of white people approaching on the horizon were not there to take selfies with fruit laden street jesters. Remember Francis Drake from school?? They don’t like him much.
This city is for getting lost in, with no real ‘highlights’, this whole place is an immersive assault on the senses. 15th Century churches with grand alters punctuate narrow passageways where you can pick up a little empanada or paella from a street vendor, artisan shops explode in colour out onto the the terracotta balconies, fresh fruit is pushed on carts passing you every minute or so, the sweet Colombian coffee sellers strut their stuff in the shade of the day (I found the older the coffee guy, the better the coffee). This place has it all; history, sunshine, beauty, colour, machismo, music, food and of course big ol’ asses, it is Colombia after all.
As charming and as endearing a place as I have ever been in my life, like Roman/Catalonia fusion all jammed into no more than a square mile.
I fucking loved Cartagena, can you tell?