The appartment we rented for Nicks birthday was on the spit of land to the right of the airport. The modern high rises fill the long stretch of Baranquilla beach. It is a wealthy area catered to affluent locals and ex pats. After 'slumming' it in hostels for the past 5 months the plush apartment was an amazing treat (thank you Linda and Andrew). We hadn't realised how much we had missed home comforts - a big comfy couch, a clean kitchen to cook in all by yourself that is stocked with all the utensils you would ever need and our own washing machine that we could use as much as we wanted! Sad I know, but you definitely appreciate the smaller things once you have been living in crowded hostels for a while.
The view of the apartment was amazing, overlooking the deserted stretch of Caribbean beach. Once the fridge was stocked with copious bottles of alcohol and beers we sat on the balcony and soaked up the Cartagena heat with a frozen margarita. Pep and Melinda arrived a few hours later and the partying soon got going. Nick and Pep got to play a round of golf on a prestigious course which Nick thoroughly enjoyed whilst Melinda and I enjoyed chilling in the apartment and the infinity swimming pool.
The luxury soon came to an end after a fun (boozy) weekend and we ventured into Cartagena's stunning colonial walled city. As we arrived in the bustling city we found it bizarre to see so many people again. We were so used to living in the quiet apartment block with no one around for 4 days and had forgotten all about the outside world! The 4 of us weren't looking forward to going back to an 8 bed dorm after living the high life for a few days but I was very excited to get to the hostel and meet Charlotte, my best friend who I hadn't seen in over 6 months. She has been travelling south through Central America and luckily our paths crossed in Colombia. It's definitely true what they say about best friends, it isn't about being inseparable it's about picking up from where you left off as if no time has passed. After reuniting like giddy kids at Christmas, a big crowd of us all headed out for drinks.
Cartagena is renowned for being unbearably hot. Some say the reason for the constant heat is because the sea breeze doesn't get past the walled city. To cool down we took a boat trip to a nearby island with transparent turquoise waters and soft white sand. My first Caribbean experience was definitely what I had imagined, pure paradise. Fresh lobster for lunch and water sports in the sea, I suddenly thought to myself, it's not too bad being a backpacker.
The architecture in Cartagena's old town is stunning. Bold and colourful colonial buildings line the narrow cobbled streets with flower baskets hanging from every balcony. The atmosphere is buzzing, theres a constant sound of cheerful chatter coming from the friendly locals and numerous food carts line the streets selling exotic fruits and refreshing freshly squeezed juices. To soak up some of the rich culture we visited the Spanish Inquisition palace which is now a museum that displays all the horrific forms of torture methods favoured by the Inquisition and the history of Cartagena's port and sieges during the colonial period. The Spanish didn't get much right when they ruled South America but I have to say they did get the architecture right in Cartagena, renowned as the Caribbean's most beautiful city.
To round the day off we watched the sun set over the sea at Cafe del Mar. A popular gringo spot that sits above the city on the fortress walls with panoramic views of the old town and the Caribbean.