I could have gone straight from Brazil to Peru, but I really wanted to spend some time in the Caribbean. I flew from Leticia via a chilly Bogota as it was the only way out, and arrived just after the sunset into Cartagena. I could see dark beaches from my taxi into the city which somehow only cost me 10,000 pesos (£2.50), the cheapest airport taxi I’ve ever taken. I woke up early the next morning – thank you Amazon rainforest – and was too excited/hot to sleep anymore so got up for a walk around the old city.
It was very beautiful, but you could see that it only seems to be for tourists these days.
I got some mango and pineapple in a cup for 2000 pesos (£0.50) and was soon asked if I’d like to take the boat to Playa Blanca – the best beach near to Cartagena – which would include lunch. It was 8:30am and so, so hot so I thought the beach would be the best place to be. I got them down to 50,000 pesos (£12) from 60,000 (£14). I definitely could have done better as this didn’t include the ‘tax’ of another 14,000 pesos (£3). They took me off to the tourist harbour, where we all sat and waited for somebody with a clipboard to shout your name. I was told my boat was at 9am. The ticket said 9:15am. We eventually got on the boat at 10am… Colombia.
I didn’t know the boat would be quite so full (room for a little one?!) but the breeze was lovely once we finally got going. I ended up having lunch with those two who got caught in my selfie, the lady saw my iPhone and whipped out her iPad, asking me to take a look at why she couldn’t take any more photos.
There’s no actual place for the boats to stop, so they pull up on the beach and you have to jump off. The beach was very busy with lots of people trying to get you to take a seat, go snorkelling, buy a coco loco, have a massage (“chica, you need a massage”), buy a bracelet etc. I went off for a walk and found the little caves.
Which had a bat inside so I didn’t stay long. Eeeek. I don’t like anything that flies.
And walked back down the beach, negotiating a sunbed for 10,000 pesos (£2.50) for the day.
I can never get over how the sea in the Caribbean can be that warm. It’s lovely but not quite as refreshing as you really want when it’s so hot. My fear of fish seems to have gone, as I didn’t mind these cool, yellow and black, stripy fish swimming around me.
Everyone selling stopped for a chat and asked if I was coming back tomorrow. “I’d love to but the journey is too expensive on the boat.” The man selling bracelets told me about the beach cabañas at the other end of the beach where you can stay the night, and how I could take the bus from Cartagena for a lot cheaper.
At 15:30 the boat was ready to take us back to Cartagena. By that time the wind had picked up, and it was probably the most terrifying boat I’ve ever been on. Forget the one in Greece, or that awful one in Spain. We had to hold on tight as the speed boat jumped over the waves at least a metre high, landing hard making me lift out of my seat each time. Never again!
I wasn’t quite ready to leave, so the next day off I went to find the bus. Here I saw the real Cartagena, passing very busy markets and small villages with bumpy dirt tracks. I arrived back at the beach and my private double room on stilts, which I got for 25,000 pesos a night (£6) – cheaper than my hostel sharing with eight. I planned to stay one night. When I arrived I told them to make it two.
The next morning I woke up on the beach! It was amazing. The next day I decided to stay for three.
Eat, swim, relax, repeat. The beach huts are all very basic. I had electricity for a few hours in the evening when they put the generator on, and there’s no running water. My shower was a bucket of fresh water (not sure from where) and a jug. A litre bottle of water to drink was 5000 pesos (£1.20) to buy.
Never had I realised how precious fresh water is until you don’t have any.