Colombia Part 2: Cartagena

On December 31th, we were leaving Bogota and flying north to Cartagena. Milena and I thought it could be busy at the airport, but had no idea what we were in for. When we arrived, there must have been 500 people in line to check bags…it was really scary. We were both happy we booked with LAN Airlines and could use my status to bypass the line. So what would have been over 2 hours to get through, was only 5 minutes. Yea!!

Airport check in line snaking all around.  Over 500 people waiting to check in - yea for my Gold Status!

Airport check in line snaking all around. Over 500 people waiting to check in – yea for my Gold Status!

 

New Years Eve

After hearing that Cartagena is one of the largest parties in Colombia for New Years, we decided to spend it there and I’m glad we did. While getting ready, we had the traditional pre-party snack of champagne, string cheese and Doritos! Sometimes you enjoy what you find.

New Years Eve dinner and drinks before going out. That is local Colombian string cheese

New Years Eve dinner and drinks before going out. That is local Colombian string cheese

 

It was an all out party in the walled city. All the bars, restaurants and streets were full of fun people out to celebrate. There were street performers, vendors selling food and drink all over the streets and we made our way all around to see it all.  Milena and I even found a great wine bar to duck into for a break from all the street partying (and clean restrooms – added bonus!)

Wine bar we found out on New Years Eve in Cartagena

Wine bar we found out on New Years Eve in Cartagena

The night ended with a great fireworks show over the walled city and ocean and it was worth the wait.

 

The following morning was a lazy one of course, but we thought we would wander the walled city and find some lunch. It was the perfect day to explore as most business were closed and the streets were really empty, which allowed us to take it all in with a little peace.

We also decided to try to go to the famous restaurant called “La Cevicheria” which was featured in The TV Show, “Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Colombia”. This was one of our favorite places to eat. Each time we walked by there was a massive line out front (as they don’t take reservations). We thought if we went off peak time on New Years Day, we may get in and we were right. Going at 3 in the afternoon was the perfect off peak time and we only had to walk 30 minutes (not the usual 2 hours or so). We ended up sitting next to a group of girls we were drinking with on New Year’s and made friends with another guy. The whole meal was about a 2 hour experience from time time we ordered to finished, so two bottles of wine later…we were all good and the food was outstanding. We were already planning on what day we could return before we left Cartagena.

Best food ever at "La Cevicheria".  We ended up going twice in 5 days.

Best food ever at “La Cevicheria”. We ended up going twice in 5 days.

 

Cartagena Walled City

The walled city was very quaint with beautifully decorated buildings and colorful homes. When heard it was easy to get lost inside the walls and we did. Part of this was due to the fact that the streets kept changing names (on the same street). It was fun to wander around, see all the colors. There were so many beautiful buildings and colorful doors…here are a few of my favorites.

Some of the beautiful doors in the walled city

Some of the beautiful doors in the walled city

 

We decided to walk on top of the city wall on our way to the best sunset bar on the wall. It was right at the perfect spot to see the sunset…and why not? It was quite spectacular.

Walking the Wall at Sunset

Walking the Wall at Sunset

 

 

Another city view

Another city view

 

 

One night we came across a few plaza’s. This one had a cute little grandma making empanadas and her granddaughters would cook them up. They were delicious (for $1 each).   One variety even had a cracked egg inside which cooked into a perfect fried egg in the fryer.

Little grandma making empanadas in one of the plazas.  They were delicious!

Little grandma making empanadas in one of the plazas. They were delicious!

 

Café Havana, where Hilary Clinton partied all night.  Too bad it was closed both times we tried to go.  Wasn't meant to be.

Café Havana, where Hilary Clinton partied all night. Too bad it was closed both times we tried to go. Wasn’t meant to be.

In one of the many plazas in the walled city of Cartagena

In one of the many plazas in the walled city of Cartagena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't seen a Hard Rock Café in years, but it was alive and hopping in Cartagena

I haven’t seen a Hard Rock Café in years, but it was alive and hopping in Cartagena

 

Rosario Islands

Milena and I decided to do two days of diving and spend one night out on the Rosario Islands. The islands are part of a national park and about an hour boat ride away from Cartagena. It was totally worth the trip and glad we spent the night and got 5 dives in. On the boat ride over there, one of our dive masters brought her new Dalmatian puppy, which was just precious. So we all got a little puppy cuddles (well that was when Milena wasn’t hogging the puppy). She was missing all the puppies she works with at home, and became the puppy’s surrogate mommy for the next 2 days.

Milena was in love with this Dalmatian puppy

Milena was in love with this Dalmatian puppy

The scuba diving was outstanding and I would highly recommend. We had one of the best night dives ever and I got one of my favorite photos of a colorful octopus plus bright red crabs and lobsters.

Awesome octopus we saw on a night dive.  Couldn't believe I actually got a photo of him with all these colors.  There is no retouching or enhancing.  Amazing night dive!

Awesome octopus we saw on a night dive. Couldn’t believe I actually got a photo of him with all these colors. There is no retouching or enhancing. Amazing night dive!

One of the crabs on our night dive in the Rosario Islands

One of the crabs on our night dive in the Rosario Islands

Morry Eel in the Rosario Islands

Morry Eel in the Rosario Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some photos for the Rosario Island Resort we got to stay in.

The ocean front resort in the Rosario Islands

The ocean front resort in the Rosario Islands

Enjoying a drink after our diving in the Rosario Island.  Super nice pool by the ocean front

Enjoying a drink after our diving in the Rosario Island. Super nice pool by the ocean front

This peacock kept cruising by our hotel room in the Rosario Islands

This peacock kept cruising by our hotel room in the Rosario Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water Slide Fun!

Water Slide Fun!

Milena liked the water slide

Milena liked the water slide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (Mud Volcano)

We read about this mud volcano that was about an hour drive from Cartagena. Just for the record, it’s not a volcano. It’s a really fun, very buoyant soft mud pool. I read it runs 2 miles deep so that’s impressive. We weren’t able to ever touch the bottom and just bobbed around in the mud. What’s funny is everything we read said…it’s such an odd experience, but so great at the same time and a must do. So we decided to give it whirl. I’m glad we read about this first as the basic plan was this:

  1. Get transport out there. We got a day trip for about $25 US (volcano trip and then a stop at Bocagrande beach with lunch).
  2. Bring lots of small bills for tips (9,000 pesos per person) as you have to tip everyone 3,000  peso each (guys that use your camera to take photos, the person providing the mud massage and women that wash you in the lake).
  3. Climb up (and then down) the rickety stairs (if you call them stairs).   Wait in line while you watch everyone else’s reactions to the mud experience.
  4. Once you climb down into the mud pit, you are pushed over to the massage corner and get a mud massage for about 3 minutes. Simple but nice.
  5. Once the massage is over, they push you to the other side where you can hang out in the mud and bob around as long as you like
  6. Once you climb out of the mud pit, someone wipes all the excess mud off you so it stays there and you have to walk down these steep and slippery stairs and head to the lake to clean up.
  7. You can have one of the woman bathe you and clean you up. We read they will take off your swim suit top and wash out as well (which was good as it was covered in mud – but I’m glad I knew this up front). The water was very muddy where you were bathed, so no one could see anything.  I would recommend bringing an older swim suit as even after washing in a washing machine at home, the mud didn’t all come out.  Maybe there was other sticky mud or something that is now a permanent reminder of that fun trip.

A few of the photos from our experience:

Hiking up to the top of mud pit

Hiking up to the top of mud pit

The stairs down with little village beneath

The stairs down with little village beneath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The line up to get into the mud volcano and about 30 people you were floating with at once

The line up to get into the mud volcano and about 30 people you were floating with at once

One of the camera guys that would take your camera and then photos of you when you are in the mud pit.  He was a serious business man

One of the camera guys that would take your camera and then photos of you when you are in the mud pit. He was a serious business man

 

The Mud volcano, climbing down into the mud, and moving back to the "mud massage area".  Good fun!

The Mud volcano, climbing down into the mud, and moving back to the “mud massage area”. Good fun!

 

Milena and me before and after the mud

Milena and I before and after the mud

 

Part of the process was allowing women to wash off the mud down in the lake.

Part of the process was allowing women to wash off the mud down in the lake.

 

Some local kids at the Mud Volcano - they were just swinging and enjoying the day

Some local kids at the Mud Volcano – they were just swinging and enjoying the day

 

View from the top of the mud volcano

View from the top of the mud volcano

After the volcano, we spent a few hours at the Bocagrande Beaches, where all the fancy hotels are located. The lunch was pretty bad so we decided to go walk on the beach and see what we could find. We loved this local mango seller and had him slice a fresh one up for us with a little fresh lime. So good!

Fresh mangos on the beach in Cartagena.  This was the Bocagrande beach

Fresh mangos on the beach in Cartagena. This was the Bocagrande beach

 

More of the beach in the Bocagrande part of Cartagena

More of the beach in the Bocagrande part of Cartagena

The mud volcano was an unique experience and I’m glad we went. Milena and I were the only English speaking people on our bus of 30 people, so the guide tried to help us and communicate with us in English. This was all good until the end of the tour. As the bus dropped everyone off at hotels, they never called our hotel, we weren’t really sure where we were and at the end of the drive, we were the only ones left on the bus and “supposedly” they already went to our hotel, but our guide didn’t know what hotel we were at. They were going to just drop us somewhere and make us get our way back to the hotel, but we finally were able to request/demand a drop off close to our hotel.

We spent out last night in town wandering around the walled city and taking it all in and getting lost in more plazas and streets.  It was such a fun walled city to walk around in.

Underneath the clock tower in the walled city

Underneath the clock tower in the walled city

We had planned our last dinner to be a little nicer and it was quite a treat. As we got to the walled city early, we decided to get a bottle of champagne (with flutes) and wander the plazas drinking as you can easily drink in the streets.  It was almost like Vegas!  Anyhow, when it was time, we headed to our restaurant, called Vera, which was delicious!  I would so highly recommend it but reservations are essential. See details below in logistics.

So that’s it for Cartagena. Great 5 days in town. Now we are heading east to Taganga (small fisherman’s village outside of Santa Marta).

Logistics:

Cartagena Hotel – Our Cartagena hotel was so poor…I can’t even mention it there. But it was New Years and you get what you get.

Rosario Island Hotel – We stayed at Coco Lisa hotel which was ocean front with an amazing pool. We booked a hotel through our dive center as a 2 day package. Too bad once we got to the island, there was no reservation at the place we were supposed to stay at. Plus where we were supposed to stay was not suitable. We got the puppy owning dive master that was helping us to get the dive center manager in touch with us (and he was on the island with us). So after some discussions…we got moved to this much nicer hotel and were quite happy.

Hotel Room in Rosario Islands - Coco Lisa Hotel

Hotel Room in Rosario Islands – Coco Lisa Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This island hotel was great for us as an overnight, but there were lot of “day trippers” that come out at 10 am and leave at 3pm. It was very peaceful both before and after they were all there, but a little busy with all them there during the day. It was a nice place to stay for the night since we did two days of scuba diving.

Restaurants:

  1. La Cevicheriawww.lacevicheriacartagena.com (featured in Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Colombia). Amazing as noted above.
  2. Vera – Great dinner that a friend recommended. Reservations are required (as 2 seatings at 7:30 and 10:30 only). It was always busy and attached to a nice hotel  www.tcherassihotels.com/dining/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *