After more than three months in South America we finally arrived to our last destination there, the walled city of Cartagena. The absurdly beautiful city sits on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia and makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. Every corner and street is a photo opp and you can’t seem to get enough of the feeling of walking through the ancient streets. The city was founded in 1533 and served for many years as a hub for the Spanish empire when it still ruled much of South America. The walls of the city and natural rock reef were constructed as the city continually was being plundered by pirates and other nations throughout the 1500s and 1600s for its gold. These walls now add to the allure of the city which bustles within, mostly focusing around tourism.
Our good friend, Sarah, was still with us so the three of us stayed in a great little hotel, Balcones de Alhelí, right in the center of the city within the walls. We spent each day walking around the city by ourselves or with a free walking tour, snapping countless pictures and trying to not pass out from the heat. We learned we could only do about two hours at a time walking around as anything more turned us into worthless sloths so we just would go back to the hotel or a restaurant to get some solid AC before starting again.
In addition to city exploring, we joined in on the festivities surrounding the finals of the COPA America soccer tournament (or fútbol as its referred to everywhere else in the world). It was really fun to be able to root for the U.S. soccer team down here and we were even more fortunate to have the U.S. play Colombia. Now THAT was an experience. Sarah, Katie, two other friends we met down here and myself were in a restaurant packed with Colombians and clearly the only ones routing for ‘merica. We learned quickly that their fans are 1000% more die hard than we ever will be. While we cheer and clap around shots on goal or scores, they cheer, blow horns and go bat shit crazy every time their team touches the ball. It was definitely an experience to see and frankly, Colombia winning probably saved us from getting a ton of shit post game. When we lost, we thought “oh well.” If they lost, we might have been beat up by even the five year olds who were just as die hard as their parents.
In addition to the activities within the city streets, we took a boat tour one day to a nearby island. It was a smooth operation as the company picked us up from our hotel, drove us to the boat launch, shuttled us to the island, provided a great buffet lunch and pool/beach lounge access, then shuttled us back in the same process later in the afternoon (about $40 USD/person). Was nice to get out of the beating heat in the city and just kick back on the sand.
To us, this city was the perfect ending to an unreal South America leg of our trip. We ended our three-month venture south with new memories, perspectives, friends and luckily no issues or food poisoning along the way. On to Europe for the next round!