We arrived in Cartagena after a strange, long travel day. It was pretty hard to believe that we flew from Panama to Fort Lauderdale, FL and were now walking off the plane in Cartagena, Colombia. Finally, we had made it to South America! A few days prior to arriving in the city we booked a hotel in the Getsemani neighborhood. It was an awesome location for good food, local flavor and a small but lively square. We also chose this place because for once we didn’t have to inquire about parking. Our plan was to explore the town for two days and drive off into the sunset in Pedro once he was off the boat. It didn’t happen like that, but we’ll stick to the story for the sake of the blog.
The first evening we wandered about aimlessly. We hadn’t realized how close we were staying to the old walled city, so after making our way serpentine style through the streets of our own neighborhood we walked under the warmly lit arches into the old city. We were blown away by the colonial architecture, mix of old and new and bustling nature of the area on a Sunday evening. After losing ourselves in the many streets, finding the outer wall and the ocean, and watching the sunset over the cathedral, we found some street food and indulged on arepas and chorizo, bagged to go style. With only having had about 4 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period we called it a night super early and were excited to see as much as we could the next day.
In the morning we had received an email from our Argentinean shipping partners stating that they would like to take us to get the proper insurance to enter the port. They had arrived a few days before us and had already taken care of their portion. The insurance costs a little under $25 USD per person and the first item on the coverage list is accidental death. Eric was the only one who needed the insurance, as I was not allowed into the vehicle until after it left the port anyway. After getting the insurance taken care of we had the rest of the day to explore and wait for another email from Leopoldo stating we were ready to receive the car. Now, I’m the type of person that extends all holidays, celebrations, etc., so Eric is prepared for me to call something out of the budget an “anniversary dinner”, although 4 days prior to the actual day. That’s love. And the restaurant we went to that evening, Maria, was just that and amazing. In all honesty it was chosen for the name, Eric was super turned off by the décor, but we left with stomachs full of lobster ravioli and chorizo & shrimp risotto, with a bottle of carmenere to top off the night.
The next morning Leopoldo sent an email saying to meet at 8 am. We had breakfast and Eric walked over to their hotel only to return in 45 minutes. Apparently the port had informed Leopoldo that they were still waiting on a document to be released. Around 11 am, after coffee and crepes for breakfast number two, Eric received the go ahead and went on his way for a very long day. Since our process was obviously being extended by at least an extra day we now needed to move to a place that offered parking. Luckily we found an awesome little hotel just on the east side of the old city, where I went with our packs and waited for updates from Eric. He returned around 4:30 that afternoon, sadly without the car. There was an issue with releasing the original bill of lading, thanks to our shipping agent not completing the payment by around $50. The staff at the port left Eric and Leopoldo with a “maybe tomorrow” as they left empty handed. Although not what we planned, Eric took a dip in the pool, we had drinks on the deck and the evening ended in a small square with great falafel and some more local beers.
The following morning, Eric left early for the port again. After the run around of paperwork, copies, payments, extra payments, and waiting he finally sent me the email that Pedro was free! The hassle of shipping a car was pretty unbelievable, but as the only reliable option we made the decision to push through and bring Pedro to South America. The rest of the day we continued to wander, soaking up the beauty and hidden gems that Cartagena had to offer. That night we celebrated Pedro’s return and our last evening in the city with mojitos and pizza.
All in all, our grand expectations for Cartagena were met. The energy of the old city, the architecture and the colors and the people all made it a place we would love to return to, especially since it’s only a 3 hour flight from Florida. While planning our next move, we had heard that Barranquilla and Santa Marta were great stops along the coast, but we were just ready to be out of the heat. Next up is our journey to Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy in search of some mountains and chilly weather!