Monday, February 15, 2010

Sweating It Out in Colombia--Jan. 23

The Colombia flag...

We arrived in Cartagena (pronounced Carta-hay-na), Colombia in the early morning. Cartagena has one of the finest natural harbours in this part of the world and was coveted by all exploring nations, including pirates.

Colombia was originally populated by the Chibchas Indians long before the Americas were discovered. They were excellent goldsmiths and skilled in weaving and pottery. Unfortunately, this was their downfall, since the explorers plundered the Chibchas for their emeralds and gold.

Cartagena was founded in 1533 by the Spanish who discovered that the interior of Colombia was rich in gold and emeralds. These items flowed into Cartagena for shipment to Spain. To defend against pirate attacks, King Felipe II ordered a protective wall to be built around the city. However, Cartagena was victim to five sieges during the 16th century, the most famous led by Sir Francis Drake. After Drake’s siege, Spain redoubled its efforts to fortify the city, and the massive stone wall around the Old City was constructed. This investment paid off; when England attacked in 1741 with a force of 24,000 men and 186 ships, Cartagena was able to successfully defend itself.

The huge labour force required to build the wall and the fortress came from many slaves who were brought from Africa by the Spanish.

Currently, the drug lords have supposedly been chased out of Colombia and the tourist industry is thriving. We were greeted by many small boats.

This guy was asking the passengers who were watching him from their balconies to throw him money. Ummm, this should have been our first clue of how this day was going to go!

It looks as if this was once part of a fortress…

We headed off on our tour of the city. The licence plates here are plain and simple.

There are many parts to the city of Cartagena. This was on the outskirts of town in a poorer area.

We landed at our first stop of the day, the Fort of San Felipe, which represents the most important work of Spanish military engineering in South America. It was also stinking hot and a steep climb up!

Here we are nearing the top. You could see a different side of Cartagena with the new modern city in the background. Look at all the tour buses! We were greeted by many vendors as we made our way up.

We were already in a sweat and it was only 10:00 a.m. Oh dear! One of the many vendors selling anything from “real” silver to beads to hats to perfume.

And if you don’t have anything to sell, you dress up and charge people to have their picture taken with you. The ones who snapped his picture and didn’t pay him were quickly shown an upturned hand for money. He had a sword…I wouldn’t argue with him!

This was our tour guide, Herbert. They had neat system where we all wore battery packs with earphones, so we could hear whatever he was saying no matter where we were.

This part of the fortress was built in less than a year, very impressive for the 1600s. Imagine how many people worked on it!

Another of the “vendors.” Herbert obviously had his favourites as he would deliberately take us over to some and completely ignore the others.

Jim gave him $1 and then he insisted on having his picture taken with me. Oh joy!

We headed back down and with one final look, we were off to our next destination. One thing we quickly discovered…Herbert walks fast and if you want a picture, you better snap it quickly! He had decided to call us Herbie’s Angels, and so he would tell us everything he could think of in his thick Spanish accent, then turn on his heel and says “Herbie’s Angels, this way please!” and you better keep up!

The flowers are absolutely beautiful.

Herbert stopped to buy some throat lozenges. He was talking so fast and it was so hot, that he was almost choking himself!

Kids playing soccer as the bus flies by...

There was no lack of yellow taxis…

Statue of La India Catalina who was captured by the Spanish and sold to a high ranking official. She returned to Cartagena with a Spanish captain who used her as an interpreter.

This is the City Hall…

This was our first shopping stop of the day. This is Las Bovedas (The Dungeons). These have all been converted into separate artisans shops, much like the Barracks in Fredericton. Not only do you have the shops, but you pass the street vendors on the way in. Avoid eye contact!

We were here for 15 minutes, so you had to do some quick buying. We picked up a few postcards. Later when we went to buy stamps, we were astonished to find out that they were $3 US each! That's the most expensive stamps I have ever purchased!

This is all inside the walled Old City, and at this point we left the bus and began our walking tour. One of the many narrow streets…

Another one of the Herbert’s favourites. Sitting or standing still in the heat and humidity would be one hot job! Another $1 here…

A man with many hats to sell…

Some of the local police…they all look so young. We didn’t see nearly as much police presence here, as we did in Guatemala.

She was cute…another $1 here!

This guy was selling tomatoes and onions…I was trying to sneak pictures so they didn’t ask for a $1!

We were glad to find a bit of shade on this street.

And yet another of Herbert’s favourites. He said this guy was the shortest performer. At first I thought it was a child, but realized it was actually a little person. I am not sure what the other guy was standing on, but he looked like he had sprouted some white legs! Another $1 here...

One of many Catholic churches…



This is the courtyard behind the church

We walked through Parque de Bolivar, named for Simon Bolivar. He was known as the Liberator for his efforts to free the colonies from Spanish rule.

Here is a statue of him in the center of the park. A plaque at the base says, "Cartagenians: If Caracas gave me life, Cartagena gave me glory."

Shades of Trafalgar Square…I see a pigeon problem in the making!

We are entering the Inquisition Palace. This was the home of the tribunal of the Catholic Church, where everyone they viewed as a heretic was questioned and sentenced. Their methods were quite brutal.

This was a witch’s chair. You could be branded a witch if you were a small person. They would take your height and if your weight was less than what they deemed it should be, you were labelled a witch as you were light enough to be able to fly. If you weighed more, you were fined for the pounds you were overweight. Crikey! This whole weight thing has been going on for a long time!

The Guillotine with Herbert demonstrating…

And the hangman’s noose…

We had tried to book one of the horse and carriage rides, but unfortunately they were full. It would have been a much easier tour, although we wouldn't have had Herbert's commentary.

Oh wait! Some Colombia breakdancers…another $1 here! These guys were quite good. He has his legs wrapped around the back of his neck. They are strong and agile!

Love the little balconies…tourists in abundance!

We’re at the San Pedro Claver Church, which was built in the 1600s. This church was built to honour Saint Peter Claver, the patron saint of slaves.

Magnificent domed ceiling…

Now this is an altar!

Pedro Claver’s remains are entombed at the foot of the altar. Yup, a skeleton.

Our last stop was at about 1:00 p.m. at the Naval Museum, where we finally got something to drink. Did I say it was really hot?! We got a quick break to watch some local dancers and then it was off again. But at least we got back on the bus. There were a lot of sweaty peeps on this bus now! Leaving the museum…

Now we are leaving the walled Old City…

Lots of nice apartment buildings…

Our last stop of the day was a shopping area. The first store Herbert brought us into was an emerald store. One of the first items we looked at was $31,000 US! Hmmmm…let’s just back out of here! We found a coffee shop upstairs and were happy to sit in air conditioned comfort for the 40 minutes of our stop.

On the bus again, we are heading back to the ship! Yay!!

We whizzed by the walls of the Old City…



Last glimpse of the wall…

View of the fortress…I am glad we climbed it first. I think everyone would be too pooped now!

Oh good heavens…I would not want to have this job. Back breaking and sweaty…did I mention it was hot?!!

Just about all the tours landed back at the ship at the same time, so the buffet was a madhouse! We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to our cabin to shower and cool down. As we were sailing away, this tug boat was doing circles for amusement, I guess.

Goodbye to Cartagena…I’m glad we visited but I don’t think it would be on my list of places to go back to. One of many beautiful sailboats…

Last view of the skyline and we’re off…

Tomorrow we are back at the Panama Canal...

No comments:

Post a Comment