Meeting Old Friends – Cartagena, Colombia

TRIP INFO BOX

Route Barranquilla, Colombia – Cartagena, Colombia (90A)
Distance 123Km
Travel Time 2 hours
Road Conditions Great tarmac
Weather Hot, windy
Terrain Hilly, dry coastline
Food and Petrol Frequent
Accommodation Hotel Familiar, Cartagena

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The bike has been diagnosed and now we are waiting for Honda to find the replacement parts. While we wait we have the bike at our disposal. Our lovely friends Adriana and Morana whom we met at Casa del Mono in Coro, Venezuela, are in town and we want to meet them, so we take a drive down to Cartagena for the weekend.

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The ride down takes us along an arid, hilly coast line, not at all what we saw on the way to Santa Marta. The road is great. It’s a windy ride and becomes more so in the afternoon. The bike is chowing oil like never before now. By the time we reach half the 123Km distance between Barranquilla and Cartagena I have to do a top-up, and that is after a complete oil change just before the ride.Closer to Cartagena there is a turn-off to a mud-volcano - you can go there and bathe in the crater, apparently it’s good for your skin.

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As we reach the the historical centre (we are unsure about how to get in) there’s a moto taxi guy waving at us and telling us we are not allowed turn into there with a motorbike as we will have trouble with the police. There are in fact some signs showing that motorbikes are prohibited from entering the streets of the historical centre, but our hostel is there, so we will have to chance it. In Cartagena’s historical centre it can be tough to find a hostel with parking attached, even for a motorcycle, but we have a tip from our friend Garrett, for a place called Hotel Familiar (44000COP/dbl, shared bath, kitchen, wifi) who let us ride the bike into the courtyard via a ramp. It’s not suitable for big bikes though.

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Cartagena is a colonial city with a lot of interesting history and beautiful architecture. The dominating feature – aside from the modern high-rise peninsula further south – is the massive fortress, perched upon a hill with a view to the sea. Really an incredible piece of engineering, considering it was built hundreds of years ago. (Then again it becomes less and less surprising that the ancients were able to build things far more durable and aesthetically superior than the things we erect today.) It’s a tourist attraction worth a visit!

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On entry we meet a Canadian chap who’s into motorbikes. We talk and I tell him next time we would get a KLR instead of a NX4. He says he bought a KLR new and got engine problems after 7 months, and received no service from the manufacturer. He says that Kawasaki is getting their parts manufactured in Thailand or somewhere now, so the quality is not the same. Sounds like regardless what bike you buy today, you’re not assured of quality by any brand.

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It’s hot here, very hot! We walk around in the blazing sunshine and look for the next place we could stop under a shady umbrella and drink a cool beer. The city itself is a Unesco heritage site, meaning that there’s a good deal of cash coming in to keep the place in good shape. The old centre is very beautiful indeed. It’s a fantastic city! There’s an international film festival going on at the moment so films are being shown in varous places, even projected on to walls in the public squares. There’s a great atmosphere.

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I do not recommend eating here…

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At night we meet with the two Slovenian girls from Coro. It’s great seeing them again. They’ve been working hard with their tour group, guiding them from Venezuela all the way here, and now they’re getting a night off. We go to a posh wine bar with glass and mirrors all round. We have great fun listening to some of the reports of the tour they have been guiding for the last couple of weeks.

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There’s some other people there celebrating a girl’s birthday. Turns out she’s a star in a famous novella (soap opera). We join them afterwards to a live music event – some African-descended stuff – where we get to meet the rest of the crew and take photos with the director who’s just won some kind of oscar award.

Sadly by 03:00 the girls have to leave us and catch a bus, along with their tour group, back to Venezuela. We’ll miss you!!

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Next day we check out a hostel on Calle MediaLuna in Cartagena. Three young Scandinavian girls have just come in with their luggage, from a taxi. As they approach the reception counter the one girl leaves her little hand-bag with her Ipad and wallet and whatever else in it, with her backpack. Only two metres behind her, but in a fairly busy entrance area. When she turns around again it’s gone. KEEP YOUR IMPORTANT STUFF ON YOU ALWAYS AND DON’T LET IT OUT OF YOUR SIGHT! They have cameras in the hostel but the reception folks aren’t being very quick about checking the footage. I don’t fancy her chances of getting her stuff back.

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Also a very interesting thing to do is visit the Gold Museum. This contains a whole lot of old gold artifacts from local civilizations, as well as a lot of historical information about the country, its civilizations and its mineral wealth.

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Market stall selling the traditional Colombian sombreros…

Leaving Cartagena I see the oil level is really low again and I need to another top-up. We get back to Barranquilla in the dark.