After a series of freezing days in New York, the whiff of the warm and humid air at Cartagena airport felt almost like an out of body experience. Ok, maybe thats a bit too much, but it did feel great as the sunglasses came out and the puffy jackets went in. This beach city felt like the perfect start to my South American rendezvous, throwing much more at me than i was expecting.
It was an eclectic mix of colourful homes mushroomed all over the older fabric, in contrast with the progressive skyline daunting the newer parts of the peninsula. The white towers(our hotel was one of these) almost seemed alien to the warm and cosy residential neighbourhoods. However, the historical fabric with all its charm couldn’t lured us into the walled city every single day and definitely every single night.
This UNESCO world heritage site is definitely one of the best preserved pieces on that list that I have seen. It was extremely heartening to see owners and tenants touching up patches of luscious pink and earth mustards on barely off-coloured walls, to help make the place look impeccable round the clock. Balconies and bouganvillas adorned these facades to give them greater character and with stores and restaurants so seamlessly tucked into the walls. I could not help but click a picture of how even a Benetton store could look so pretty when in Cartagena.
It wasn’t until a few hours that we felt the need to peek into every single courtyard we passed by, which furthered the mystery of the place. Often a time there was a swank little cafe nested in one of these and at times it was like a small dump yard. But the mosaics on the floors, chandeliers from the ceilings and the rustic ambience made each of them look intriguing. On our last night we did manage to find a table at one of these enchanting courtyard restaurants.
But, in spite of the enticing shops and the decadent patisseries, the streets were the most amazing place to be. Every corner opened up 3 extremely inviting streets to enter, and we aimlessly roamed about witnessing hoards of people floating in one part and a quant walk in the other. Street artists, small vendors and food carts thronged plazas that would appear out of nowhere and coaxed us into halting a moment, and taking it all in before we moved on. And some of these plazas were the best places to be into the wee hours of the night entertained by local music and surprisingly mime artists.
An extremely expensive cab ride to the fort seemed a rip off until I reached atop the structure. Breathtaking views of the city, further enhanced by the setting sun made for the perfect goodbye to the city. Watching the sun go down gave me time to take in these wonderful 3 days which I had no idea how they went by, and made me think of what would have I missed had we not made an error with our tickets and booked them for a day earlier than our planned date of departure.
Signing off for Cartagena here, but not for Colombia. Medellin is up next, a whole new world of the latin landscape making sure that i keep coming back to Colombia and more of the continent.
Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash