Exploring Colombia: Sunburned in Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia

by Joshua on April 7, 2012

After a great first week exploring Bogota and Cali, my Colombia trip hit a low point when I arrived in Cartagena. Not that Cartagena is a terrible place to visit. It just isn’t somewhere I care to ever see again.

We arrived on a Friday at 10:00am. I was looking forward to hitting the beach as Cartagena is well known for its hot Caribbean climate. The plan was to check in to the hotel and then take a ferry to a nearby island beach. Well, we arrived at the hotel and we were underwhelmed by the accommodations. Dirty sheets and a shower with no shower head. No matter, I was sure things would look up once we made it to the beach.

After inquiring at the hotel’s front desk, we were told that we’d missed the last ferry. Apparently this mystical ferry only runs until 9:30am. What is that all about? Never mind, we were told we could hire a private boat to ferry us across.

Within fifteen minutes of leaving the hotel, I’d been ripped off by a cab driver and mobbed by about twenty young men with motor boats all vying for my business. I was completely overwhelmed by the scene and so I went into my convenient defense mode. “No, I don’t speak Spanish,” I repeated to the mob as I shrugged my shoulders.

After some tough negotiations by my sister’s friend (who happens to be a Colombian national) we were on a rickety motor boat skimming across the choppy waters. We landed on the beach within ten minutes and again we were mobbed by a group of locals who wanted our business. I’m not mad at the locals, they’re doing what they have to do to survive. Still, as a tourist, I was tired and just wanted to lay on the beach and be left in peace.

Quick tip – when you spend time in a tropical environment, no matter how tired you are, don’t forget to apply sunblock. I did apply sunblock to my chest, arms, and legs, but for some reason I forgot about my back before I dozed off. Big mistake.

When I woke I put my shirt on as we headed back to the hotel and felt as though my tee shirt was covered with needles poking into my back. Back at the hotel I took a cold shower with no shower head. It felt like I was being sprayed with a garden hose. And my back was on fire. I was burned on my back worse than I’d ever before been sunburned.

Needless to say, the next couple days were less than enjoyable. We found an outdoor pharmacist where I bought aloe and a soothing skin cream that I wasn’t able to identify. I tried to make the best of my two days in Cartagena as we toured the walled city. I must admit, even in pain, the walled city was pretty cool.

I suppose I’d have enjoyed Cartagena a little more had I not gotten sunburned so badly. The architecture and food were great and it was interesting to see many more black people here than we’d seen in Bogota or Cali. All in all, I was ready to move on to Barranquilla and experience Carnaval for the first time.

Check out more of my Cartagena pics here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rose April 21, 2012 at 8:08 am

I’m sure the secret service also do not ever want to go back there again…. LOL

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