Some places you come to surprise you beyond your dreams and for us Cartagena was one of those places.

We arrived early with a 7 am docking and had a 2 o’clock departure so we were pleased to be able to get off just after 7 am with our 8 other tour mates for a private tour with a wonderful local guide and driver.

First we walked along the port to meet our guide for the day and walked through this amazing bird and monkey park.

No one had mentioned it so it was a glorious surprise and we just loved it. 

This little fella along with all the others were super friendly, non aggressive, gentle and didn’t steal anything from anyone, but were happy to eat out of your hand and as you can see James made a friend here. 

Luckily we had been a bit naughty and had a couple of muffins from off the ship to feed them with.

Some of the birds were just as friendly and inquisitive. 

At the end of our day we stopped here again for a longer time and it was just delightful. In this same area they had a walk through Emerald mine reconstruction and it was all free. 

Our trip through the streets and up the mountain to Popa Monastery took us past some of the shantytown homes as well as the more affluent old homes as well. The Monastery is 400 years old, simple in its decoration apart from its altar.

It had amazing views over the city, the old part and the new part with all its skyscrapers and reflective glass sides.

They have this lovely tradition where if you come and pray for the return to health or something special and it works you get a little trinket made of that body part or whatever it was you wished for and it is displayed in cabinets in the church. 
Like a lot of Spanish inspired buildings the Monastery has a beautiful middle courtyard with the buildings all positioned around it. And like most of these courtyards there are lovely trees and gardens planted. A little cool oasis in a hot and sticky climate.

Our guide was fantastic and had so much information without trying to overload you.

Her husband comes from Pittsburg USA and is an artist, she gave us all a poster of Cartagena’s bicentennial which he had designed. It’s a beautiful poster and will travel home safely with us as she had them in a poster roll case as well.
Next up we went and looked at the fortress which is inland a little from the sea as the city already had walls around it when it was built.

Cartagena had been attacked many times and held for ransom twice as well, including by Sir Frances Drake. 

We went into the old town and fell in love with it. 

What’s not to love about colourful buildings, lovely treed squares and amazing coffee.

The woman wearing the bright coloured dresses are descended from African slaves whom escaped and hid a little inland. They have their own language, culture and have begun to come into the city to have their photos taken with the tourists and sell some things at these little stalls.

There is no social handout here so everyone must do their best to survive.

We went past a lady selling home made lunches on the side of the road. We asked our guide what they would consist of and the price.

She told us that she would cook it at home and there would be rice with either chicken, pork or beef a salad, soup and a drink and it would cost around $3 US.
Below are just a few more of our time in Cartagena, we were really pleased at how much we enjoyed it. 

We had refuelling delays and our 2 pm sail away didn’t happen till just after 5 pm. 

It was sticky and hot and we lazed by the pool, along with quite a few others, before it was time to shower and we went to the 6:15 show of an New Zealand comic , then dinner followed by the 9:30 pm show of an incredible pianist and singer Adam Ahern. 

What a day/ night and tomorrow ” THE PANAMA CANAL ” woohoo. Life is great! 

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