We walked Cartagena mostly by night. In the mid-day we took shelter from the unrelenting heat either on board Ñyapa or venturing out occasionally to find air conditioning. We had a well worn path along the waterfront in barrio Manga, across the bridge and through the city gates to Plaza de Trinidad in Getsemani ( an older barrio of Cartagena but outside of the historic center, Colombians still live in this section). This was one of the first places we took Kendall and Alli after they arrived for their Christmas break and culturally I think it provided a dramatic contrast to our own world in the USA.
In Getsemani, although there are tourists of the backpacker variety, tourists from the cruise ships generally stay within the confines of the historic center. Here, the prices are less and the streets are filled with Colombians socializing in the cool evening air. Because it is the holiday season there are lights strewn across the narrow alleyways and the residents have pulled tables and chairs out to eat, drink and chat with their neighbors. Children run wild everywhere in Getsemani, and in Plaza de Trinidad they fill the square with rowdy shouts and boisterous soccer playing. Every night here a man brings his food truck and sells hamburgers, sausages and platters of food. It is worth the wait to stand in line for a uniquely flavored hamburger that must be clutched in two hands to eat.
A few blocks away is the famous salsa club, La Havana. The cover charge is steep by Colombian standards but there is live salsa music every night. The evening we visited it was packed with a mix of Colombians and international travelers, all dancing around the centrally located bar. I think that I could devote the rest of my life to learning salsa and never be able to move the way these people do as naturally as they breath!! Hips, shoulders and feet all move independently to the rhythm of the music. In contrast, I look like a stiff robot. I know this because Alli talked John and I into joining her for a salsa class where they have large, full length mirrors!
Not all our evenings were spent in Getsemani, it was also pleasant to go into the historic center, walk from plaza to plaza and people watch. Frequently there are street performers and many artisans selling jewelry and crafts also line the streets. On New Years we wove our way through Cartagena, climbed up to the wall where we stood and watched the fireworks display light up the new year. It is possible to walk around Cartagena along the wall which surrounds it and from this vantage point you can look down upon the bougainvillea covered balconies into the narrow streets below.
At the end of our six weeks spent in the historic city of Cartagena and our two and a half months in Colombia we were ready for new sights, adventures, and cooler temperatures but it was still bittersweet when we hauled up the anchor in the darkness of the early morning to leave for the San Blas Islands of Panama. Colombia has become one of our favorite places. Friendly people in a vibrant community atmosphere who love to laugh and find joy in life is hard not to like and next year when we are shivering in the depths of a cold northeastern winter we will no doubt think back to our time here with longing.