We pull into Cartagena as the sun rises out of the mist. I am struck by the beauty of the white skyscrapers reminiscent of Santos in Brazil. We have only 6 hrs in port so we have to hustle a bit today. We wander off the ship and see a lot of parrots, flamingos, monkeys and peacocks in the little tourist garden. Continuing outside we are met by a barrage of tour guides selling their services.
A well dressed man in a Panama hat grabs us and says he will give us a city tour. We only want to go to the old city so he drops the price. He flags a cab and we all hop in. Our guide is Gino and our driver is William. He offers us a 3 hr tour and he is so nice, we accept. We stop at an old Fort, then in front of a big fortress. There are dozens of vendors hawking tee shirts, hats, cigars, jewellry – but if you politely say no thanks, they say OK. Still, it is distracting.
Gino lived in Manhattan for 3 years and speaks good English. He is 70, goes out dancing with his wife every Saturday night, church on Sunday and knows his history. He handles all our questions. We drive by the beach in the new city and Gino points out a house the Clintons own. Apparently they like to come here to dance too. We stop at an emerald jewellry factory and Marie makes a purchase. Then in the old walled city we walk around among narrow bacloneyed streets. Many people greet Gino and some say he is the mayor.
We look into the St Peter Claver Catholic church. There is a statue of St Peter talking with a native woman outside. St Peter was a Jesuit who would go down to the docks and comfort slaves who were arriving from Africa. Cartagena das Indias means Cartagena of the Indians (natives who eventually won freedom back from Spain). Gino says the government recently negotiated a truce to end the drug wars, but politicians here are very corrupt. This is South America. America seems to be following its leed we think. Gino says his church took up a collection for medicine donations to Venezuela. These are good people.
We’ve had enough of the heat – 47 deg C real feel! Wilhelm takes us back and we all part. We highly recommend Gino and Wilhelm. However, the crowds, the traffic and the heat reminds us why we don’t enjoy big cities as much anymore. Ciau!