September 2009-page 2
Cartagena is supposed to be the safest city in Columbia. There are some 2000 police officers patrolling the old city alone!!! They are everywhere you look, all different levels and types dressed in different uniforms, some with dogs, some with batons, some with guns. The harbour is covered as well, with Coast Guard and Navy patrol boats driving around the harbour 24/7, however precautions still must be taken. At least once a week a dingy is stolen in the middle of night if it is not locked to the mothership. Another unfortunate incident happened during happy hour one night. As all us cruisers were sharing a beer at Club Nautico, someone climbed aboard one of the boats in the anchorage, used the key which was hidden to open the door and stole several thousand dollars from a hidden spot in the boat. Never let your guard down.
The anchorage is starting to get busier, besides cruisers though, there is a whole group of boats that take backpackers from Columbia on a one way trip through the San Blas and drop them off in Colon, Panama or they travel the opposite way, taking a different group back to Cartagena. Some of these backpackers are on motorcycles and they seem to start their trip in Alaska and motorcycle down to South America.
There was a Russian ice skating show/ circus in town that had shows in the afternoon, so we hopped a cab over to the tents. It was a miracle that they were able to put on that show, it was a pretty watery ice rink! But it was a fun show for the kids with lots of magic.
We hired a local guy to clean the bottom of our boat of barnacles. He said that it shouldn’t be that bad after only 3 months of applying the new Seahawk 77 anti-fouling paint (in Grenada), looks like we might have a problem.
Took another trip to the Old City, we went to the Palacio de la Inquisicion. The haunting Palace of the Inquisition is one of the finest buildings in town. Heretics were denounced here, and the Holy Office would then instigate proceedings. The principal crimes were magic, witchcraft and blasphemy. About 800 folk were condemned to death and executed. The palace is today a museum which displays the Inquisitors gnarly instruments of torture a scary sight but the kids found it fascinating to see.
We went to Juan Valdez coffee shop. I had to see that after all those commercials we grew up with seeing Juan and his donkey picking all those coffee beans. Coffee is good and cheap in Columbia. We walked back part way along the wall which is very cool, I just kept telling the kids "Watch where you are going!!!"
To relieve us of the heat, we took a cab to Boca Grande to go the beach. The beach was good, it was dark, black sand but there was lots of waves and it was very shallow. However, the beach peddlars are very persistant! We spent the whole afternoon saying “No, gracias”. It worked for most of them but a massage therapist would not take nada for an answer. She started giving me a shoulder massage while I was sitting in my beach chair, and she kept repeating “Oh mucho stress!” So I relented and I was glad I did because for $20.00 (Canadian) both Chris and I got a full body massage right there on the beach. Other items that we have got a great deal on in Columbia have been dental work, manicures, pedicures and haircuts (for Andrea and I) and prescription drugs which you can buy over the counter here.
Chris took the kids rollerblading and he invited another boat in the harbour with a six year old boy on it who we have had a few playdates with. Turns out that the mother used to be a professional rollerskater in her previous life! So the kids were thrilled, she spent a few hours coaching them on how to do stops, turns and a few other things. You never know who you are going to meet out here!
We have met some local people and although we cannot speak Spanish very well at all, and most people here cannot speak English, they are very kind and generous. The kids and I were invited over to a local lady’s house because she has a daughter Andrea’s age, they played on the street with some other friends as they came over as well. They had a great time. Another cruiser organized a playdate for me with another local lady because she is trying to learn to speak English and she has two girls who are 6 and 7. So the kids and I went over to her condo overlooking the marina. The kids swam at their pool and watched some Spanish cartoons as we ate a pizza for dinner.
Chris finished the instalation of our new sailmail account and pactor modem so now we will be able to email when we are at sea.
We wanted to go to the Naval museum but it when we got to the old city, it was closed because there is some type of election today. So we walked the wall instead through an area that we hadn’t seen yet, now we have circumnavigated the whole wall. We walked through a great bakery and a bunch of street vendors selling fresh squeezed limeade and deep fried bread and bread with cheese in it. Cheap eats.
We have also been fortunate to meet some very nice cruisers as well as locals. Marilyn on Dream Ketch'r, who we are anchored beside, came over as a special teacher one morning. She used to teach Kindergarten so she worked with Cari one morning. As well one afternoon she came over and babysat the kids so Chris and I could go out.