By Ron O.
We’ve been in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia waiting to sail to Kingston, Jamaica. The weather has stopped us, it’s kind of yucky out there so we can’t leave. Inside the bay, though, things have been very pleasant. Go 20 miles offshore and there be dragons.
If you are old enough to know that cell phones haven’t around forever, you also remember the reputation Cartagena and the rest of Colombia had within the US. But today we walk safely through Cartagena’s colonial streets day or night. They are lined with shops and restaurants of all types and qualities. Emeralds and Cuban cigars, are a few of the more esoteric things for sale, along with more mundane clothing, shoe stores and restaurants of all types, both local and international. Chinese, Mediterranean and some US fast food chains are here.
Navigable waterways and some of the original fortress walls are scattered throughout the city. The Spanish came here in 1533 to plunder gold from the indigenous peoples and over the years created a matrix of fortifications for what became a major trade center.
Today, one can sip a mojito or beer while sitting on a 16th century wall next to an ancient canon and watch the sun go down overlooking the Caribbean or hike the catacombs of a castle /fortress built for people smaller than me.
I’ve grown to both love and hate this city. Love it for it’s diversity, history and vibrant street scenes. I hate this city because of the trouble I’m having leaving it.
We left Cartagena on Saturday May 21 for a 4-5 day sail to Kingston, Jamaica only to return after 24 hours of stomach twisting waves and a lot of wind. Our friends/crew, Matt and Samantha had to get back to work so they left by plane a few days after returning. Now, how to get the boat north to Jamaica remains an unanswered question. But I know it involves impatiently waiting for a five day long window of favorable winds and waves.
Of course our passports had all been stamped for a Colombian exit. It was kind of a Laurel and Hardy skit; stamped for entry just a day after leaving. An immigration officer someplace is amused.
Just after we arrived (the 1st time) a piece of electronic equipment needed repair. I was referred to Sven a few blocks away from the marina. Sven was born in Germany, he had lived and worked in North Africa, South Africa, Pakistan and now in Cartagena. He was trained as a lawyer, but soon found his love was repairing electronics and has done quite well doing it.
A self proclaimed philosopher, we ended up spending hours just talking. Past the age where he could retire he’d had a stroke a few years ago and felt work did him good. It was his firm belief, and mine too, that work helped his brain repair some of internal connections that the stroke had broken. Which is one reason he didn’t want to charge me; the problem I presented him was so interesting he felt it helped him as much as it helped me. Of course his wife was way more practical because they needed to eat and stuff like that, so we agreed on a price, fixed or not. An interesting character.
Going back a week… we rented a car and drove to the quaint coastal community of Santa Marta. It was on the drive, during one of the many stops I make to take pictures that we met a family that ran a small fish farm. It’s a particularly poor part of Colombia but they readily invited us onto their farm to and show us around and let us take pictures, their two small kids following everywhere.
My attempt to teach their kids how to take a picture with my digital camera was less than successful, but all of us had fun trying.
As a sometimes street photographer, Cartagena and Santa Marta are full of material. Here are a few:
-Ron May 26, 2016