It's overcast as we dock in Cartagena Columbia. The dock is right next to the cargo container shipping area in what seems like an industrial zone. It's warm and humid here. Wonder if it's always this warm here?
We get ourselves together and head up for a quick breakfast for 9:30am meeting time to get checked in for our tour. I'd forgotten some m&m's in my backpack and had to take them back to the cabin, as we had been warned that food of any kind was not allowed into Columbia, subject to a $250,000 fine. "Don't risk it for a biscuit". All we need to get off the ship is a room key, and government issued picture ID, but other than the cruise staff checking us in for our tours, we don't have to show the ID to anyone. In fact, we don't even go through customs. Strange. And Disney security is the only one scanning bags as we get back onto the ship.
Everyone is broken up into groups and assigned a picture and color, we are green Sebastian, the crab from the Little Mermaid. We scan our room card to show that we've left the ship and find our tour bus. Waiting on our bus seats are radio receivers with a single earpiece so that we can hear our tour guide Elkin on the tour, a horse drawn carriage ride through Cartagena, mainly the old walled city. Unfortuneately, just after we get on the tour bus to take us to our tour location, it starts to rain.
I'm glad I'm not driving, since it's seems to be a maze of narrow roads with lots of twists and turns and confusing signs. Motorcycles pass by on the narrow part between our bus and the curb. Elkin points out landmarks and gives history lessons on different sites as we pass by and occasionally tells our bus driver to stop so we can look out our windows to see what he is talking about. Once or twice this happens in the middle of the road and a chorus of cars behind us start honking for us to move.
Elkin says that Cartagena is a tourist town, and the main revenue of town comes from tourism and visitors. It's the start of the cruise ship season for them which will run to March or April. Cartagena is also a popular vacation spot for the people of Columbia. After about 20 minutes of driving from the port, we arrive at where we are to pick up our carriages. There are 24 of us on the bus, and 6 carriages, 4 tourists per carriage. Elkin joins one in the middle of the convoy to speak and our radio receivers will allow us to mostly hear him. More than a couple of times his voice crackles in and out, but we think we hear most of what he says, with his spanish accent.
The carriages have canopies up due to the rain, but they don't seem to work very well. Ours in particular doesn't mate up very well, and while the seats are mostly covered, the center part where our feet are is recieving a pretty steady drip of water running off the top in several areas. Also, with the canopies up, and Stacey and I facing backwards in the carriage, we only have about a foot and a half of space to look out from the carriage on either side. No views forward, back or up. The carriages look old and well used as we bounce around the bumpy roads of the old walled city.
The architechure that we can see looks amazing. Very colorful and has a Pirates of the Caribbean kind of feel to it, but we can't see much, and the bumpy ride means I'm sure any pictures we try to take will turn out blurry. The rain lets up briefly and Elkin orders the carriages to stop to lower the canopies. Wow, that is so much better. This part of the city looks so cool, but we only get a block or two before the heavens open up and again and the canopies are being brought up to again mask our view of everything.
There are locals wandering around, some trying to sell the tourists stuff, some with their merchandise covered up on the sidewalk with plastic to protect it from the rain. Some different looking people with faces painted as well. Can't tell if they are performers or members of a voodoo cult, but we aren't stopping to find out. Some of these people look like what we would find on Vancouver's eastside. Don't know if I'd want to walk these streets on our own, but I do see some tourists doing just that. What I do see, though, is a lot of police and security. The police are wearing what looks like green safety vests, and they seem to be everywhere.
I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Good that they are there and make you feel safer, or bad that they need that many to try to keep people and tourists safe.
We finally arrive at our destination in the old city. A former prison area, where in a row of "dungeons" are now tourist trap shops. Elkin tells us to shop at dungeons 10, 11, 13 and 15 only to get the best deals. Can you say "kickback"? Apparently, his cousin works in dungeon 10, so maybe this is a family business.
The carriages come to a stop and we're asked to get out. With the rain still coming down and the canopies overhead, you have to stick your leg out to the edge of the carriage or onto the metal step on the side of the carriage to get out, as there is no way to stand up with the canopy there. I put my foot on the step and push off with my other foot to stand up to get out, and, with all my weight on my left foot on the metal step, it slides off the slick metal and my foot lands in the gutter where about 3 inches of rain is quickly flowing by. I feel my right knee hit the metal guard on the carriage floor and my left leg strafes along that guard and then down across the metal step as my foot splashes into the water. The carriage driver, who is standing nearby on my left reaches out to steady me, but the damage is done. I can hear Stacey asking if I'm alright, and I finally get my other leg off the carriage and take a couple of steps onto the curb in front of these dungeons to gather myself and let everyone else get off. That hurt!
I can only see my right knee, scraped up slightly and dirty, and my left leg hurts, but I can't see the damage. Stacey says I've scraped it pretty badly, and will have to clean it well when we get back to the ship.
A tour manager is sent over to me in the first dungeon we are in to fill out the paperwork. It's just name, address, cabin number and a description of what happened. I don't get to read much of what the papers say. The man must have seen some confusion in my face and flips back a page to try to show me it's nothing I need to worry about, since I've already just described what happened. The report is required by the cruiseline and the other pages are only necessary if I need an ambulance or a hospital. It's tough to follow his thick spanish accent, but I don't think I need a hospital or ambulance.
The group is given 20 minutes to shop at these dungeons. Typical tourist garbage, magnets, carving and cheap gold/silver emerald jewelry, and I'm not in a cheerful buying mood. Stacey asks for a washroom, but she says it's disgusting and she'd prefer to hold it. Outside the dungeons are people constantly trying to get your attention to try their wares that they are holding, t-shirts, belts, wooden shakers, lace tableclothes, hats, etc. Most only seem to know a few basic english phrases. I'm pretty done with this place and our tourbus has arrived to pick us up, so we get on. We don't get any souvenirs in Cartagena.
After Elkin goes to find one missing pair of asian tourists who are buying something, we are off again to head through the city to see other landmarks, stopping twice for 5 minutes photo-ops, one near the water with our ship in the background, and the other near the main fort at the old city, a large impressive structure. Stacey stays on the bus, and I only get off at the fort to take a couple of pictures.
I see Elkins cousin at the fort. It looks as though she has brought a carload of the same people we saw at the dungeons with the same wares for another go at us. I get my pictures and go and get back on the bus. My leg is starting to stiffen up and hurt a bit more.
After that stop, our driver takes us back to the ship. We leave a tip for him and Elkin, using some of the Columbian pesos that I had brought with me for the trip. We get back quickly on the ship for Stacey to find a washroom and me to get my leg cleaned up. Stacey takes a few pictures of my leg. It's starting to bruise.
We were told that there was a gift shop near the port so we again leave the ship and walk a short way to check it out. Outside the shop are a few fenced off areas, with flamingos, and parrots. We see what looks like black swans, an iguana and several peacocks, just wandering around. Stacey wanders taking pictures. There's not much else there so we go back to the ship for a late lunch around 3pm, but I'm not feeling so well. I'm feeling feverish and have a sore throat starting up, and my leg is tender.
We go back to the room to watch a movie, but I'm feeling warmer and warmer. We go to catch the early show, an illusionist, who is just ok. I'm feeling sick and not enjoying it. We go back to the cabin after and I flop on the bed. There's a message from the port adventures officer but I can't get ahold of him to return his call, so we leave a message. I crawl off to bed while Stacey orders room service for herself. I'm not hungry, just very tired and sore and feeling sick. I debate going to the ship infirmary to get checked out, but it's after 7:30pm and should be closed now. I'll just sleep it off.
Stacey talks the officer who calls us back and says we can go there if needed, just have to call the nurse on duty. Dinner arrives for her sometime after 9:30pm and I stop fighting to stay awake. I have no idea when Stacey goes to bed. I'm done. My only fear is that the scrape on my leg has given me some kind of infection, but I figure that my leg would be hurting more if that were the case.
I wake several times during the night with a sore back, sore throat and sore leg, but I'm too tired to care and keep sleeping. I don't leave the room until after 1:30pm the next day. Ugh. Going to get some food, since I haven't eaten in almost 23 hours. Not really hungry, but know that I should.
Hopefully Cozumel will be better.
Kim =) and Stacey :)