Now, Colombia…that’s a serious “ker-ching!” – a new country for us both!
We were at sea this morning and around lunchtime, as I was “chatting” to my work colleagues who were receiving “OFSTED vibes”, I happened to look out of the window and saw Cartagena on the horizon, appearing from the mist like the emerald city. The Captain had said that visibility was around 10 miles, so at this point, we didn’t appear to have far to go.
Except that we had been listening at the port lectures and we knew that the way into the harbour was not by the obvious “Boca Grande” entrance, but by the smaller deep water channel to be found at the “Boca Chica”. We made our way onto the outdoor deck and listened to the commentary as the pilot joined us and the Captain steered us through the narrowest of channels imaginable. Good practice for the Panama Canal, perhaps?
Terry, our port expert, had spoken of the challenge of getting to Cartagena and of the remains of the 17th century Spanish fortifications which can still be seen and sure enough, as she talked us through the last stages of our journey, there they were.
There too was the dredging operation, maintaining a clear passage through what appeared to be pretty challenging waters.
As the newer, smarter city centre skyscrapers came into sight, we became excited at the prospect of setting foot in Colombia for the first time.
It was a beautiful afternoon and the statue of the Virgin Carmen in the harbour was pointed out to us as the patron saint of navigators, who offered thanks on their way out to sea, we were told. But in the modern world, the role of the navigator extended to chauffeurs and taxi drivers too, which meant that this figure carved from Italian marble had renewed influence..
We turned right at this point and headed to our berth.
Another port, another tug boat.
In no time at all we were turning 180 degrees and reversing into the empty space.
As we did so, we noticed the old town of Cartagena and looked forward to getting a closer look at what appeared to be an attractive city.
We’d heeded all warnings about removing jewellery and the cheap Casio watch I bought at Heathrow was the only adornment left. I’ve become quite attached to it, though, even if I do need my hero to adjust the time each time we lose/gain an hour!
I got the impression too, that some crew members were looking forward to everyone going off to explore the city, because they were starting to clear the decks for a party tonight.
In fact, as we left the ship, the sun loungers on the pool deck were cleared away and the crew were all working at full speed to move furniture around. This was going to be some party, for sure!
So, in the capable hands of Sergio, our excellent tour guide, our group of 20 left the ship and headed into town. Learning a little about the city and its inhabitants, we headed first for the Popa Monastery, driving through the busy streets and spotting one or two interesting sights.
We saw the candy floss man making his way across a busy street on our way to the monastery and then spotted him relaxing later in the afternoon, the stick of pink bags leaning against a shop doorway whilst he snoozed in the sunshine.
As for the little cart, well, I’d spotted one of these down one of the side roads before I’d got my camera to hand, so I was delighted to catch a decent picture of this one. Not that they were commonplace here, just rather typical of the simple way that some Cartagenians move their stuff around.
So, here we are. Sergio has labelled us all with his name and attached the sticker vertically on each of our left shoulders – a somewhat unusual way to wear a sticker, but who were we to complain? The twenty of us in his group spread ourselves out rather in the modern coach which was taking us to the monastery at the top of the hill and though I’d love to spend another hour or so telling you all about it, I’ll wait until tomorrow to do that. We are in Cartagena overnight, we’ve just enjoyed the best party out on deck this evening and when we set sail after lunch tomorrow, I will not only have more time to tell the story but might even have a few more additions to enhance it as well.
Suffice to say that, as we toured the museum of the Spanish Inquisition, I thought of those friends who have been entertaining OFSTED