Over the next 2 months we enjoyed Cartagena. The Marina was really nice and every morning there is free coffee to enjoy and incredibly cheap breakfasts. A glass of fresh squeezed juice, a plate of fruit and a plate of eggs, bacon and toast all for $2.00. How can you beat that, it costs more to buy it from the supermarket. Here we started to meet many English cruisers and became friends with some who we later visited the sun blass islands with.
Cartagena is a large city with a lot of history including a great deal of raping and pillaging. Most of new Cartagena isn’t attractive at all, just your basic, ugly square houses with bars on every window. Smog and dust everywhere, really difficult to breathe. Then you go into the walled city established in the late 1600’s after the attack of Francis Drake. Holy crap! Gorgeous! As soon as you pass through the clock tower there is a huge plaza called the Plaza de Los Coches. Sadly this square was once used as a slave market. Cobbled streets with beautiful street lamps lit romantically at night. Horse drawn carriages everywhere taking tourists on a slow tour of the city. Beautiful houses with colonial arches and balconies, museums, art galleries and beautiful parks where at night traditional dances can be watched. You just have to sit in the park and vendors selling beer, food and ice-cream bring you anything you wish. (within reason). We frequented colonial Cartegena many evenings after the heat of the day. We found a theatre that showed arty movies with comfy lounges and you can bring your own beer. We also went to the old opera house and sat in one of the boxes upstairs to watch a Cuban band. Just walking around the old city was a history lesson.
Dimitri and I went with a few people one day to the famous mud baths in the highlands outside the city. You ride to the rim of an inactive volcano cone that is full of water. On the edge of the lake there is a small hill that looks like a zit. Long ago mud would bubble to the surface so the locals turned it into a pool. As the mud overflowed they would shore-up the sides until it reach a height of about 30 meters. You climb up the staircase and lie in the warm mud. It’s so dense that you can’t sink. Actually, even standing up is possible with great dexterity. So you get completely covered and the local guys massage you. I don’t remember the last time I felt so, completely, relaxed and weightless. It is impossible to sink; it’s like swimming in warm chocolate custard. Then you waddle down to the lake, -not easy to do when the mud dries- where women will wash you off. They ask you to squat in the water and remove you swimsuit for them to wash. I wasn’t too sure if those pecker entering parasites existed there so I declined and washed it as best I could while wearing it.
On the return trip we stopped at a lovely beach side town and had lunch. The set menu wasn’t very appetizing but, cheap enough. After a few beers and a swim, to dislodge remaining mud, we returned to Cartagena and showered again. Man that stuff was persistent.
Dimitri went to Florida to get all the equipment in order to cross the pacific and when he returned we worked from morning to night getting ready. All final provisioning was done by mid November and then we were ready for the San blas islands. We had completed our upgrades and repairs, or so we thought. It is an old cruising boat after all. Sails had been repaired, the liferaft and it’s lovely new frame were installed, our EPIRB was mounted, the new cutter stay and running backs installed, starboard water tank repaired ( it broke again later) etc., etc. We also installed a new roller furler that was such a generous gift from Greg and Liz, we were touched. So off we went towards Panama and the canal.