There is no surf in Cartagena

Sunday morning in Cartagena Colombia. We decide an early start is in order as we hope to accomplish something anything of value on what should be (but is not) our last free day in this little city. Having spent more time here than we originally planned, our frustrations over the loss of control in this journey have settled around us like a thick cloak, heavy with negativity. But this is no place for extra layers and we are determined to shake it off and enjoy the benefits of delayed gratification.

We make our way through Getsemani, only a few blocks from the charming colonial streets of Cartagena’s walled city. At first glance, our place of semi-permanent residence appears to be a filthy and dangerous haven for shady characters and backpackers alike. Yet we find the real heart of Cartagena in the shadowy nooks of Getsemani. Fancy restaurant fronts neighbor buildings in total ruin. Furtive glances through open doorways reveal unembarrassed family rooms where elderly women fan themselves in rocking chairs, eyes glued intently on the telenovela. The sounds rarely cease, vibrant Caribbean reggae beats drift and mingle with the occasional slot machine payout and the almost rhythmic consistency of the cab drivers and their horns.

The view from our hostel "window"

As we sleepily make our way through the neighborhood at 8AM we cannot help noticing the startling quiet. Vacant streets and sidewalks are eerily peaceful. Shopkeepers open their doors with slow, deliberate movements. Even the taxis lay still, parked and seemingly abandoned, it will be hours before they weave their orchestra of discord throughout the city. We take in the incredible silence and make our way toward the Juan Valdez coffee shop.

Just moments after entering the walled city we realize San Martin plaza is not where we remember leaving it. This will not be the first time we wander hopelessly in search of a place we have been before. Once again, the elusive plaza is testing the limits of our antiperspirant. When we finally stumble across our destination, the doors are shut tight and a small sign explains their closure for energy conservation. This town is full of novel ideas. They even restrict the amount of cars allowed on the road each day. Can you imagine an implementation like this in San Francisco?

Little moments like this remind us why we love overlanding. The sun has just barely begun it’s morning ascent and we are already bathed in sweat and on the verge of a caffeine withdrawal frenzy. Sure our truck may be locked up in a port just east of God knows where. And our shipping agent presumes “I can’t do anything about it” is an acceptable answer to all of our questions. But what’s a good road trip without  a little struggle?

2 thoughts on “There is no surf in Cartagena

    • We’re cooling off in the mountain town of Salento. Camping at a great ecolodge called La Serrana (highly recommended).

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