|Cartagena, Columbia Wednesday, 13th October, 2004.
Took on our pilot off a little fort right on the sea at Bocachica to guide us to our berth at Cartagena. This city was founded in 1533 and is steeped in historic areas with forts that were constructed to protect the city from pirates & Spain's enemies. The famous English pirate Mad Dog Morgan laid seige on the city successfully as did Sir Francis Drake. I think the French had a go too but I don't know the outcome - I won't offer my thoughts for fear of being branded anti-French.
A very modern and large container port has been established here. The dock area & harbour were very clean and functional. We took a guided tour through the old city which is enclosed by a protecting wall built from coral, rocks & lime with a circumference of about 7 miles and up to 50 foot thick in some places. On leaving the bus we were besieged with wave upon wave of the most persistent blowies you could imagine. I immediately thought of a money making venture selling tee shirts to fellow tourists emblazoned with:
"NO - I DON'T WANT ANY
OR ANYTHING ELSE
NOW !@#*^ OFF & LEAVE ME ALONE"
When I tried it out the blowie said " Wanna buy a dictionary"
What a pity it was that this spoilt what would otherwise have been a fascinating tour. Wonderful old buildings that you see in the movies were everywhere. It was also very pleasing to see so much restoration & preservation work going on in this area. The city's oldest cathedral was built in 1575 & features an enormous hand carved, gold plated wooden altar. Narrow streets with plazas and buildings built up to the street with huge wooden doors are the feature of this area. If the equator is hotter than this place I don't want to go there - unbearable.
After a walk through this area we were taken to yet another tourist trap where we were again ambushed by blowies. The shopping centre was, according to the guide, "the number one souvenir shop in Cartagena". In reality it was more of the same cheap junk they had been trying to flog us in the street earlier. Additionally the next shop & the ones after were identical. Then on to have a quick look at the largest fort before heading back to the ship for lunch.
After lunch we hired a cab & guide who took us back to the Old City & this time we slipped under their guard and only had to ward off a couple of dozen of them. Had a guided tour of the Palace of the Inquisitions where the Church tortured people into confessing they were witches. The rack looked painfull particularly the fifth rope which was attached elsewhere other than on the limbs. A general stroll in the streets together with a browse through some leather goods shops completed the afternoon session. A much more enjoyable afternoon.
Back on board we started of north for Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Tomorrow is a day at sea.