After a short 1 hour flight we arrived in Cartagena. With a population of just over 914,000 it is less than half the size of Medellin but is unique in the fact that in 1984 it was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site due to its walled city.

The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is located at the top of San Lazaro Hill and strategically overlooks both the land and sea approaches to the city. It was completed in 1536. The eleven kilometers of walls that surround the city were completed in 1538. Most of the work on these structures were completed by African slaves. The purpose of the Castillo and the walls was to protect the city from invasion by foreign countries, pirates and privateers. What’s the difference between a pirate and a privateer you ask? Pirates were outlaws and bandits that sailed around capturing and looting ships and cities. Privateers were basically the same except that they were sponsored by Kings, Queens and countries. As if this somehow legitimized the activity.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Walled city outlined on the left with the Castillo to the right
Much of the wall can be walked
There’s a few motorcycles in the city
From the old looking towards the new
Modern “downtown” area
Caught a rainbow as we headed out for a sunset cruise tour

We stayed in the Getsemani area of town. It is situated within the walls and while the buildings are old, they are undergoing revitalization and it’s becoming a trendy artsy part of town. There are many restaurants, bars, art galleries and artisan shops in the area. The streets are narrow and the lanes narrower still, but at night the place comes alive with roadside food and drink service and music from every shop.

Plaza Trinidad
One of the few not yet fixed up
We had to stop at the Chocolate Museum

Our hotel, while basic in nature, was in a great location and the pool provided welcome relief from the afternoon heat.

Our hotel front door
Courtyard and pool
Another favorite way to beat the heat. Frozen mocha. Yum!

The hop on, hop off bus tour is a great way to get your bearings around the city and jump off at the stops that interest you. We also did a couple walking tours to get some of the history of the town. As a seaport Cartagena played an essential role in the development of the country, even if one of the most common commodities of the day were slaves. Historians estimate that Spanish ships brought more than 1 million slaves from Africa through the port. The Spanish were also interested in the gold and emeralds that the area is known for.

Pano shot of the central port area

The yellow, blue and red stripes on the Colombian flag represent the gold that is abundant in Colombia, the sea as Colombia borders on both the Atlantic and Pacific, and the red is for the blood shed fighting for its independence.

After 4 days in Cartagena, it was time to call it a season and head home. We’ve got a full day of travel ahead of us. Flying from Cartagena to Bogota then to Miami and finally to Vancouver. We’ll have 5 or 6 months back in Vancouver to think about where we want to sail to next and start collecting spare parts for next season.

Official greeting committee at home

Till then be safe everyone.

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