cartagena - salsa clubs, football and even some culture

  • cartagena main road past old city
  • statue with my name
  • cool colourful buildings
  • one of the quirky roads
  • church in old town
  • inside the church
  • tickling the botero statue - seconds before being approached by the party king
  • tav getting arty on it
  • new city in distance
  • looks like a shady drug deal going on - part 1
  • looks like a shady drug deal going on - part 2
  • not a style i should go for...
  • cop car - it's a golf cart!
  • street with good cheap food
  • view from fort
  • colombian flag
  • picaboo
  • picaboo too
  • tav, blinded by daylight after the dark tunnels
  • sexy back!
  • are you not entertained.....
  • i am sultan!
  • why is tav stroking the canon?
  • taking culture and dropping it a few levels
  • where shall we party tonight?
  • outside the stadium
  • home fans with flag
  • home team entering stadium...chaos
  • flares
  • flag over crowd
  • clean pitch to play on
  • crowd going wild with penalty equaliser
  • police escort - even for the home team
  • statue in town center that looks like a sexual position - use your imagination

Tav and I flew into Cartagena international airport on Friday the 21st of August, with Nina, the Australian girl we met in Bogota. The flight was delayed, but we still saved about 16 hours over the bus ride. Being hit with the hot humid air of the Carribean when I walked out of the plane was a bit if a shock. I was expecting Cartagena to be hot, but didn't imagine it would be like this. Within 5 minutes we were sweating pretty badly.

The 3 of us jumped in a cab and headed out to the Hostel Media Luna, just outside the old town. Quite a cool hostel with an excellent courtyard that has a small swimming pool in the middle - essential in this humidity. After checking in, Nina, who'd been here before decided to show us around the old town and find us a good, cheap place to eat. The old town here is beautiful and is the reason why Cartagena is known as the most romantic city in South America - not when you're travelling with buddies though. The whole old part is surrounded by a town wall, and the buildings are all colourful and colonial style. Walking around this place is an experience on it's own. Round every corner there are small cafe's, restaurants, food stands, fruit stands who all seem to be playing salsa from some or other sound system. Nina says it reminds her of Cuba in some ways. We walked past one square where they have afro-caribbean musicians drumming away and dancing. After a long search we found a good, cheap place to eat, across from a bar that was playing great salsa. A few minutes into dinner, some local performers started doing some crazyass dances in front of the square - very entertaining.

Later that night we went a few roads down from our hostel to Club Havannah. A Cuban salsa bar that serves the most expensive drinks I've paid for since coming to South America - we were paying 14000 pesos (nearly 5 pounds) for a rum and coke, which I think is daylight robbery round here. There was an excellent salsa type band playing, but unfortunately the atmosphere wasn't as great as I had heard. One funny bit of the night was when I we spotted a ponytailed dude sitting at the bar and we joked how he was probably some massive drug cartell guy. A while later we happened to end up sitting where he had previously been sitting, and a few sips into my drink, the barman asked me to get off my chair. I figured it was because a barlady needed to get through or something, but to my surprise he had asked me to move so that Mr Druglord could have his favourite chair.

The next morning what was hoping would be a bit of a lie in didn't happen because by 8am the heat in the room was already unbearable. Tav and I decided to go do some old town exploring by day. The town by night was spectacular and in the day it was quite eye opening. Most of the dudes look like they belong in some drug mafia movie, and most of the wmoen, well, most of them look like they would be in the same movie I guess. One shady looking character dressed in full on Colombian attire with a Panama hat on approached me when he heard my accent. "Hey my friend, you from Australia or New Zealand, main?". I told him I was from South Africa. "Nice main, did you bring me some diamonds?". The he proceeded to say, in a very south american accent "Hey main, I throw the best parties round here, main, and my parties have everything, you know what I'm talking about main, everything, in London you guys call it charlie, don't you?" Then said we should go round to his bar later so he could give us details of his party that night - very shady character, so needless to say we didn't go there. A while later I bought a bottle of water off a street vendor, for 4000 pesos - about twice the usual price. He then offered me oysters and I said I didn't like them but he insisted that I "try", so I figured he just wanted me to try them. After I had 2 and felt like I would vommit, he asked me for 20000 pesos, I argued that he had offered then to me, so he said 10000. I gave hime 4000 and walked away. What a bastard!

Back at the hostel the 3 of us were chilling in the pool, when Nina came up with a cracking joke (anybody non-south african or who hasn't been around South Africans won't get the joke...."What do South Africans and Israelis have in common? Heey,bru!" hahahaha  - NOTE: Several people I have told this to after first writing this thought it was a crap joke. A while later an English dude called Simon came up to us and asked if we'd be interested in going to a football match with him later. We all said yes and organised to meet at 6:30 to get a cab out to the stadium. The match was between Real Cartagena and Barancila Juniors - a derby. After arriving at the stadium, we were approached by a ticket tout selling tickets for 12000 pesos (about 4 pounds) so we accepted, but on the terms that he would walk in with us in case they were fake. He said he had no problem with that and then also took us round to a football shirt vendor where we all picked up some very cheap Cartagena shirts (as we were sitting with their ultra crowd). Going through security to get into the stadium was a bit of a strange experience. Firstly, we were all told to take our belts off because we weren't allowed to take them in as when things get heated they get used as weapons, or to hang the opposition. So, they were going to confiscate them, but our tout offered to keep them for us at a price of 1000 pesos per belt until after the match. We had no choice but knew we would probably never see our belts again.

The match wasn't great quality football, but the atmosphere was electrifying. The usual sort of thing you see on telly at south american matches - flares, things being thrown at the pitch, constant drums and shouting....crazy stuff really. We were all given a role of paper to throw onto the pitch when the teams came on. Juniors scored first and everybody on our side went quiet. Then the Cartagena keeper saved a penalty and everybody went ballistic. I'm talking dudes climbing up onto the fence and the cops beating them down, flares going off, just mayhem. Then Juniors scored another goal, again our crowd died down and remained that away until about 4 minutes before full time when Cartagena we given a penalty and scored. This time the crowd went nuttier than the previous goal. So many people climbed onto the fence that the cops kinda just gave up beating their hands. After the match we rung up the ticket tout and low and behold, he answered the phone and came to meet us to give us back our belts and claim back his 1000 pesos for each one. And in true Colombian style, he wasn't happy with just that and insisted we buy him a few beers. We pretty much told him to piss off and walked away. When we got back to the hostel we went upstairs to the roof terrace for a few drinks and then headed to a few salsa clubs, but I couldn't really get into the party atmosphere so called it a relatively early night.

In the morning, we decided we'd been in Cartagena long enough and booked an afternoon bus to the carribean village of Taganga. Before catching the bus we went up to the Cartagena fort and wondered around in the dark tunnels. Pretty claustrophobic at times, and hot as hell. By the time we got to the top of the fort, the back of my shirt was soaked in sweat (as seen in the photos).

At 4pm we boarded the shuttle bus to Taganga - 4 hours away.