Time to move on. While in Popyan we decided to fly to Cartagena. The easiest way was to go to Cali and fly from there. We looked at the main airlines LAN and AVIANCA. Both were charging about £120 per person. Kieran at the hostel said 'Have you tried Vive Colombia?'. Apparently they are a new budget airline and have only been operating since May. Ok. Generally a sentence I wouldn't hear myself saying is 'I'm flying on a Colombian budget airline'. Having said that the ticket was only £65 and money talks. We went on their website and bought two tickets. They have 3 A320 airbuses as their fleet. Ok they have been bought on EBay but sometimes you have to take a risk or two. While I was putting the credit card details on the site it had a drop down menu headed 'cuentatos'. We checked the dictionary and Google translate. Best match was 'Shares'. We had no idea what it was. It gave me a choice of 1 to 36. Maybe it was how long my credit card had to run so I went for 36. It turns out it was how many payments did I want to make for the bill. w***.
Anyway we were soon at the airport. Check in was painless. They knew who we were and that we were on the flight. Unlike Ryan scare or Sleezyjet they gave us a 20kgs luggage allowance so no surcharges. Like our budget airlines there was no seat allocation so when the gate opened it was a slight scrum.
We are old hands now so a couple of elbows and an eye gouge or two and we were in our seats. The seat next to me was empty until the last moment when a chap in a sombrero sat down. The usual flight safety drill was done. You know how it is pointing, air masks etc. The difference was this one was done with lots of laughing and cheering. Very strange.
Down the runway we went and were soon airborne. Fortunately we stayed that way. It was only an hour and a bit flight. One thing about South Americans is those that speak some English like to practice. The chap next to me soon clocked me and introduced himself. So far so good. Then he told me he was from Cartagena and flying home from Peru to see his Mum. Still ok.
Then he told me he was a church missionary........Sirens, alarm bells wah wah wah. Then he gave me his card and asked me if I was a Christian. I'm thinking is it an offence under Colombian law to kill someone in international airspace? Stay calm Vic.
Sorry cocker you've got the wrong Gringo I don't believe in god. He seemed a little bemused. I'm guessing he hadn't met one before. He kept chatting telling me about his work and how he was building earthquake proof houses in Peru. It passed the time. As we landed he shook my hand and gave me a pamphlet about god and asked me to read it. I was so touched I passed two waste bins before I threw it away!!
We landed safely. I thank the pilot but I'm sure my mate thanked god.
In a taxi and off to the hotel. As I've said before booking off the web is hit and miss. Cartagena is a tourist hot spot and prices are high. We had had a couple of cheap months so our budget was ok and we decided to spend a little more. Good call. We had a small boutique hotel with a lovely quiet room. It had aircon and boy were we going to need that.
The taxi driver was on work experience and took us to the wrong hotel first but eventually found the correct one.
Cartagena is a very old city. It is enclosed by a city wall, has narrow streets and is overlooked by a fortress. Compared to most places it is very expensive. It's interesting how different people view people. I knew Sir Walter Raleigh had been this way. Tatties and baccy etc. What I didn't know was that Sir Francis Drake had been here to. Now if you ask an English person about him they would say he was a naval hero who defeated the Spanish Armada and stopped us from having to say Buenos Dias. Round here they call him a pirate!! Apparently he sailed by and shelled the place. They sell 'Francis Drake' cannonballs in the local shops.
Cartagena is a very pretty and photogenic city. It is also very hot and humid. Phew. As well as the taxi driver we think most of the shop staff is on work experience. Restaurants have expensive food and wine but s*** service. Slow and often wrong. We ordered one mixed kebab and salad and one chicken kebab and salad. 25 minutes later we got one mixed and one beef. When you point it out they don't apologise but merely put their hands to their face and look shocked.
We did a bus tour of the city. An experience but basically we saw what we wanted. We decided to go for a mud bath at a local volcano. Tourist info booked it for us. We were told we would be picked up at 8am but to be patient as traffic can be bad. Ok we thought. We didn't have to pay until we were collected so no worries.
We got up at 7am to have breakfast first. 8am came and went. 8.30 came and went. At 8.45 we asked the hotel to phone the company. We will be there at 9.15 they gleefully said. Ok we agreed they have until 9.15. After all it's only an hour and a quarter late!!
At 9.15 we left the hotel and headed off into town. 5 minutes down the road and a puffing young girl in a tour uniform with a clipboard runs up to us. 'We are here' she breathlessly says. 'Very nice' I reply. 'You were meant to be here at 8am'.
Hands to her face, shocked look.....'No No No who said that?' she pleaded. 'Bye bye' we said and walked away.
Time for a coffee. Do you ever feel that some days will never go right?
Into a posh coffee shop. 10 minutes to get the menu. 10 more minutes to order. One tea, one cappuccino.
10 more minutes for it to arrive. Made and delivered by another work experience placement. I call over the manager. 'Excuse me mate but does that look like a cappuccino to you?'. He smiled, scowled at the waitress and went and made me a proper one. Colombia, alongside Kenya, it's probably the top coffee producer in the world. You would think they could make a cappuccino.
I don't think Colombia is going to win my 'Favourite place in South America' award.
s*** I nearly forgot. I've had a problem with my ears. Nothing new they just get a bit bunged up and I can't hear. In England it's a visit to the GP and the nurse irrigates them. Easy and free. Here I have to go to a hospital. The receptionist tells me to come back at 3pm. I duly oblige. The A&E dept is like the Harrods January sale so I'm seeing a private consultant. I've written out my problem on Google translate so she knows what to tell the doctor. In I go. 10 minutes later my ears are irrigated I have a prescription for antibiotics and I'm £60 lighter. Never knock the NHS. Unfortunately my insurance excess is £100. Always knock the insurance industry.
Tonight is our last night in the city. We've been out and found a nice restaurant at a reasonable price. I'm now tucked up in bed with a glass of red writing this. Bliss.
Oh, one last thing. We bought some postcards to send home. 'Do you sell stamps?' we asked. 'No' was the response.
'Is there a post office?' we enquired. 'No' she replied. A chap who spoke English and wanted to practice intervened. 'We only have a post office for local post' he said. 'You can't send post overseas'. It seems that the only place to send our postcards is in the capital Bogota and that will cost $5 a card. Looks like no one is getting cards for a while.