Originally, our plan was to spend two weeks in Santa Marta and then move on to Cartagena (pronounced Carta-hay-na) for Christmas and the New Year. Our anchor and chain, sent in for re-galvanizing, was supposed to take 7-10 days, but was eventually, only returned the day before Christmas.
This extended our stay to three weeks, to include two great Christmas parties with the cruisers that had arrived in Santa Marta, enroute to Panama. The first was a paella dinner the day before Christmas, compliments of the Santa Marta marina management.
On Christmas Day, we had entertaining team games between the cruisers, a pot luck late afternoon BBQ dinner and Secret Santa presents. Eating, drinking and great fun was had by all, until late in the evening.
We set off bleary eyed early on the 26 th to do a two-day sail to Cartagena with a stopover halfway at Puerto Velero to use our water maker and fill our water tanks (the water in Santa Marta was not potable). The sailing was great with 15knot north-easterly following winds, all the way to Cartagena.
We arrived in the anchorage outside the Club Nautico Marina late afternoon, to check into the marina the next morning. Cartagena is a modern city, built around the historical town with defensive walls, dating back to the 1600s
The historical port of Cartagena, entered through the narrow passage at Punta Castillo, is today a modern harbour, with an incongruous big statue of the Virgin and Child in the centre, marking a shallow area. The harbour is surrounded by high rise buildings, reminding of the Downtown Core and Raffles Place in Singapore.
A walk to the top of the biggest fort in Cartagena “Fuerte de San Felipe de Barajas” gives a good introduction to the layout of the old and the new cities.
In front of the fort is the statue of Don Blas de Lezo, about whom Colombians are heard to say: “Because of him, we don’t speak English”. This Basque naval hero, after a long career whose battles cost him an arm, a leg, and an eye, was appointed Commander of the Spanish Fleet at Cartagena in 1737.
When British Admiral Edward Vernon came gunning for Cartagena with a fleet of ships and men, many times the size of that under de Lezo’s command, de Lezo sank many of the English ships and held off the attack until the start of the rainy season when tropical illnesses ran through the English crews and Vernon slunk away with one-tenth the number of men and far fewer ships than he started with.
There are restaurants along the waterfront and a block away is a big, well stocked supermarket. The old town centre inside the defensive walls, is a 10 minute walk from the marina. Below follows a number of our un-annotated photos, to give you the flavour of the old town. The first lot taken in the narrow streets and alleys of the residential area, followed by the grander buildings in the centre. The people living on these alleys don’t have gardens, so they gather in the streets at sunset, with lively Spanish music playing. The ladies in colourful dresses are called Palenqueras – they are the food, fruit and veg sellers in the old town.
We cycled around the old town a few times to visit the gold museum and the museum of modern Colombian art. It also gave us the opportunity to explore streets which we had missed before. There is just so much beauty and art in this town, that it leaves you breathless. We had an interim goodbye BBQ on Esprit, as some of the younger cruisers wanted to head off to go kiteboarding at Bocas, west of Colon and the Canal. There is a lot of encouragement from them for me to take up the sport, but I am ambivalent about this as it sounds too much like excessive exercise at 73.
After two delightful weeks in Cartagena, we will head south this weekend, to explore the Islas del Rosario, Archipelago de San Bernardo and Isla Fuerte on our way down to the San Blas Islands north of the Panama isthmus. We will report back on the above islands, when we reach the Panama Canal at Colon, as we don’t expect good phone or data reception during the next month. Until then, enjoy 2021.