A tale of three birds and how we should be happy with what lies in front of us
I was hanging out in Bocagrande Beach when I was the witness of the following szene: right to my left side there were three birds and a half empy plastic bag of chips some kid might have thrown away. Two oft the birds were getting inside the bag with their beak getting out tiny pieces of food and flying away with them to eat. They shortely came back to go for a second round whereas the third one was watching jealously trying to steel something with no luck from the other two birds. Not getting a slice he was going around the bag but nothing happend. I can´t tell if he was afraid to put his beak into the plastic or if he was just stupid but his attitude towards the others was getting more aggressive. When the other two came back, they moved the back so that all it´s content fell to the sand. This was the chance for Mr. third bird but instead of taking advantag of the open buffet he was still so focused on what the other two grapped so that he went after them trying to steal some food instead of picking it up from the floor. He so wanted what the others had he didn´t even saw all the food just lying in front of him.
It´s a nice methaphor – how often do we want the things other people have at that moment whereas all we need is just lying in front of us? We just have to look around.
The freshest (and rawest) prawn I ever ate
One morning I passed close to one of the beaches where the fisherman were just getting back with their boats and putting their net back in. I was fascinated by all the pelicans and herons I saw trying to get some fish out of there. Many people were at work and from what I saw there wasn´t much outcome for the men. Still I got approched from a local holding some prawns in his hand he just got out of the fishing net starting the conversation telling me that the people in Cartagena are quite lazy, that they don´t cook the prawns but just directely eat them giving me one of his prawns with a big smile and an expecting look. I think this is one of this situations most travellers went through and everyone has to reply for himself if you want to try things out or nicely refuse. I opted for the first – trusting that those coming directly from the sea – the quality must be Sushi-like. In those moments the best is just going with it not thinking too much that you are just eating a vivid animal while peeling the skin off. I managed and have to recognize that the taste was actually quite well. Not too different from what cooked prawn taste like. And as I also after a couple of hours I was still feeling well stomach wise this was definitely a good thing I have done (though not sure I would need to repeat).
What to do in Cartagena de las Indias and how long to stay
I stayed five nights as I wanted to give myself time to arrive properly and overcome the jetleg and also had a flight from there five days later. It was way too much time – though of course there are always things to do. If you are on a tight schedule two days are more than enough. The old town and its colonial style is beautiful but quite small so you could visit it properly in half of a day.
The best is to just wander through town not trying to use your city map too much as you might miss some of the nice colonial architecture and anyways it´s so small there is no way you get lost. Worst case just walk straight and on some point you will get to the city wall again so you can just walk from there.
Another nice neighbourhood is Getsemani – also tiny and also a bit turistic but you will find pretty cool street art here and there.
Later go back to the old town, best spot for the sunset is the wall area close to the cafe del mar.
Beaches and Island Tours
Bocagrande looks like a big city with its impressive skyline but once you get closer you find out most of the skyscrapers are hotels. There are beaches but overcrowded.
The same happened to the island tour to Islas del Rosario and Playa Branca on Isla de Baru – the island tours are quite expensive and they don´t tell you beforehand about the hidden costs : you need to pay an additional fee for using the harbour and then every activity like snorkeling is also charged extra. They are just trying to get as much money from the tourists as possible and I just can´t stand this attiutde. I refused to pay more and it was a good decison. The people who went snorkeling didn´t see much but some dead corals and fish.
Playa Blanca was also way to crowded and even once you found a place to sit down there were people passing by every two minutes trying to sell you their stuff.
I stayed in two different hostels: the Bourbon St. Hostel and Green House. The staff of both was more then friendly and I couldn´t complain. The Bourbon has a great design and a tasty breakfast incluing several kind of fruit but unfortunately the air conditioning is just working too well. During the night I got so cold I needed to put my fleece jacket and socks on – which is kind of ridiculous in a city that as around 30°C.
The Green House is the more economic option. I paid the half but bathrooms are quite bad. Nowhere to put your clothes while showering and doors not closing. All in all it really needs some kind of renovation but I got a room with ventilator instead of A/C which is actually hard to find in Cartagena.