With a planned Friday departure, Thursday was our last full day in the wonderful South American city of Cartagena, Colombia. A Washington Post article from many years ago described Cartagena like this:
Cartagena de Indias is a serendipitous treasure for travelers to South America, a nearly undiscovered city. The old section of the city, behind fortified walls, is a Spanish colonial town that is almost intact. In fact, this city on Colombia’s north coast has changed so little since its heyday three centuries ago that it looks like a classic film set… Cartagena is a magical mix of Spanish colonial architecture and Caribbean laissez faire. The climate is tropical, the tempo laid-back. There are bougainvillea and flame trees and palms, bananas growing outside the hotel window and parrots squawking in the lush gardens. The population of half a million is friendly, and many of the people are extraordinarily beautiful — with golden complexions and green eyes.
I couldn’t say it any better. This has been one of the highlights of our cruising experience. It is with a bit of sadness that we say goodbye to this Caribbean gem, but distant shores call. On Thursday, however, we took one last cheap taxi ride into El Centro, the old walled city to wander the streets and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of Colombia. For me, it was one last chance to enjoy the town, but for Cindy, it was one last chance to buy souvenirs. She had a great time spending around 250,000 pesos. Not only has the food and taxis been very inexpensive here, so are the souvenirs. We found many high quality products for much cheaper than we would have found them elsewhere. A couple of hours of shopping only put an $85.00 dent in my wallet.
We finished the evening by visiting what we were told by several sources to be the best restaurant in Cartagena. Club de Pesca is situated within an sixteenth century fort called San Sebastian del Pastelillo. The fort, on the western end of Manga island is built inconspicuously into the terrain. Its 31 cannons served to help defend the city. The restaurant clearly lived up to its reputation. The view was fabulous as we sat on an area overlooking the harbor. Cindy had a great ribeye steak, while I enjoyed the Festival of Seafood, which was a scrumptious platter of grilled seafood, including shrimp, mussels, octopus, lobster, fish, and crab cakes served with a salad and coconut rice. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten! (And, my entree was only $26.00 at the best restaurant in the city!) It turns out that the restaurant is only about a quarter of a mile from the marina where we tie up our dinghy. So, it was a pleasant walk back to Dalí after dinner past joggers and walkers getting their evening exercise and families playing along the bayshore.
If we encounter no significant speed bumps in the morning, we hope to leave Colombia by around noon. We have to go to the grocery store to provision first thing in the morning. Then, we will meet with our agent to clear out of the country. Then, we hope to find fuel for our vessel at another local marina prior to our departure. We anticipate light winds and seas of less than two feet for our two-day passage to the islands of Guna Yala, also known as the San Blas Islands. These 378 islands are home to an indigenous people called the Guna, an Indian tribe which has remained remarkably isolated from modern Western culture. This place is so isolated that if you look on Google Maps, you’ll find nothing but blurred landscape. All electronic charting is inaccurate, so we will be challenged navigating in and out of the abundant reefs to reach the islands. There will be virtually no wifi or cell phone available. For this reason, there may be no further blogging for a couple of weeks when we reenter civilization on the mainland of Panama. If my Delorme inReach satellite tracker works again, we’ll post updates to Facebook using that device. If not, by the way, you can always find us and track us using our Iridium Go! satellite tracking map found here.