Saturday, January 25, 2014

We made it to Colombia

We must have had 20 dolphins doing acrobatics, spinning in the air and diving under our boat as we sailed along

Dolphins swimming with us for hours

After almost a week in Cartagena, we can tell you if you ever get a chance, come.  The city is magnificent.  When we came in at 3 AM it was lit up like NYC.  Huge bay and lots of anchoring but very busy  harbor.  All day long excursion boats and private boats are going in and out.  By now we are used to the rocking, the Latin music and the Spanish speaking  announcers as they are bringing their passengers back and forth from the Cruise ships.  One arrives almost every day.  The area we are in called Mango  is evidently, a very wealthy area.  We hooked up with our SSCA cruising station host who just happens to own a penthouse on the 16th floor of a beautiful building over looking the harbor. We were invited to sit on his balcony all afternoon and learn about the history of Colombia and the best places to go touring.  What a treat!!!

Typical of the excursion boats going past us night and day

Huge schooner that goes out each day with cruiseship people

Every day since we have arrived we have walked the city.  Since we are right down town, we don’t need one of the thousands of cabs driving up and down the streets.   We put in about 5 miles a day touring a different area each time. 

The “Old City” is a walled area which is the original city with cathedrals, gorgeous old Spanish villas, museums and parks.  Vendors with their carts are everywhere as you would expect.   I have never seen so much fresh fruit in my life.  The Bahamians would be so jealous.   No one speaks English so we have our trusty map, our book called Spanish for cruisers (wonderful help) and the small amount of Spanish we know.

Me with pigeons in the park in the "Old city"

Typical street with tons of flowers on every balcony

Loved this lady, she has a very loud voice and yells "Fresh fruit" in Spanish all day long as she walks along.  Every street has vendors but I loved her hat

Typical colorful houses and balconies all over the city

Another street with flowers

So far we have done fine with only 2 funny episodes.  We were to meet our agent, David in front of a marina.  Harry had gone back into the marina and a man who looked like David was standing there.  I asked if he were David and he said yes.  So I got Harry and we loaded into his car.  We start asking him about our cruising permit and customs and he starts talking about the tour he is going to take us on.  Our wheels started turning and we realized he wasn’t David at all.  We finally got the word across to take us back and he did.  Nice man, thank heavens and a good laugh afterward.  Then yesterday, we were walking through an area called Boca Grande with tons of hotels and beach front etc. (Looks like Miami).  We both really needed to use the restroom so we stopped at a hotel.  Unfortunately, we picked the wrong one.  It was an all inclusive and we were stopped by a guard, taken to the Concierge who then proceeded to give us a guided tour of the whole hotel.  We couldn’t get away and no bathrooms to be seen.  Finally escaped and had a good laugh but then on a major search for el banyos.   It cost us dos cervezas in a restaurant to accomplish our mission.  We also did a 2 hour tour of a magnificent fort with caves and all.

San Felipe Fort
View of the city from the fort
Fort San Felipe up on a hill.  A real sight to see and a fantastic fort

Entrance to the caves.  We had to take flashlights because they are very deep and dark
Most of the city is very modern and clear with huge malls, that put some US malls to shame.  Very large  groceries stores with good prices, tons of restaurants and a very friendly attitude from the people.  When we try to say something in Spanish, they are most helpful.  Between hand gestures, mispronounced words and attempts to put complete sentences together, we are doing fine.  It’s really lots of fun.  We are getting across what we want and we are reading a lot of Spanish we couldn’t read before.  But when the people start talking, I go into a total blank.  I am sure our expressions are priceless when they start talking real fast.
Harry wanted to show how the prices can scare you to death.  A set of wine glasses which really cost $6.00 US but look at that price tag!!!
Colombia has played the Juan Valdez up and have coffee stores that compete with Star Bucks in all the malls.
It is now a week later and I have spent the last week trying to arrange a 12 day inland tour of Colombia.  We have finally gotten most of it settled.  We will be taking 5 flights, 5 hotels, 1 rental car and 2 tours on these 12 days.  We will be visiting the 2 major cities called Medellin and Bogota (the capital) and then a tour of the cafĂ© country in the mountains while staying at a hacienda (coffee plantation).  We will be looking for Juan Valdez!!
 Then we will be spending 5 days in the Amazon jungle in an eco-lodge seeing we hope a bunch of wild animals including howler monkeys, sloths, anteaters, pink dolphins, iguanas, boa constrictors, poison dart frogs, scarlet ibis, macaws etc.  I can't wait.   Trying to book all this in Spanish and on the internet has been an experience but I think we did ok.  We’ll let you know when we get back.
I finally broke down and bartered with a man selling hats.  The sun is very hot and the hat really helps.  There are tons of hats being sold in the "Old city"

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