Adiós Colombia

We spend the last few days of Colombia soaking up the mountainous scenery and trying to enjoy the country as much as we can before we head to Ecuador – so we make a quick stop at Campground La Bonanza. Kika opened this campground after Overlanding with her family of 5 for three years. We share her Morrocan hospitality of warm mint tea, fresh croissants, and endless advice on our journey south.

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Campground La Bonanza. Zoe with new friends!

We spend a couple of nights at Campground La Bonanza and meet up with the swiss overlander couple. Since the southern region of Colombia has some safety issues (think Guerrillas), we decide to travel together until we cross into Ecuador. We travel to a park for the night and hang out in their comfy van for the evening sharing drinks and stories. Then we drive to Ipiales to spend the night near the border so we can get an early start for the border crossing the next day.

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Blurry Group Photo! (Anna, Steve, Pascal & Virgine) – Missing (Zoe & Quito)

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Santuario De Las Lajas – disco lights sort of ruined its beauty. In the daytime, the church looked like Rivendell

They’ve done all of Central America and for us – this is our first border crossing so we are happy for their expertise. Plus, spending 4 nights together sharing drinks was really an unexpected pleasant surprise.

Our method to the madness

How do we travel? Well, first we find places that would be interesting to visit. While we have good intentions on doing all the must-dos of the country, many times South America’s ever-changing landscape forces us to pivot.  Many times, we meet people on the road who tells us of places we haven’t even read about, so we make another pivot – and more often than not, it’s worth the pivot.

We start planning up to 2-3 days in advance on where we will eat, sleep and what we plan on doing. It might stress other people out not knowing where they will be, but we’ve always traveled this way and having the flexibility really helps with the sanity aspect. Even though you might have planned really well, maybe the entire highway comes to a halt because of a rock slide and now we have to wait 4 hours (it hasn’t happened to us, but wouldn’t be surprised if it did).

Final Thoughts on Colombia

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Our last morning in Colombia

Colombia was warned as dangerous, filled with kidnappings, and surely we are going to have to keep looking over our shoulders. Instead, it was filled with friendly and helpful people who are proud of their country, and breathtaking landscape changing by the hour. Sure it was really slow traveling through the roads and the driving methods are questionable, but overall it really was amazing. It was the perfect country to start our South American journey and we are so so glad we took the time to really drive the country.

Onward.

Los Nevados National Park, Colombia

If you’ve read our post before, you now understand it takes.. a long time to get anywhere in Colombia. The drive to Los Nevados National Park was no exception. It is a 7-hour, 280 km journey through the mountainous roads that are riddled with cliffs, construction and what feels like crazy buses trying to run you off the road.

However, without driving through Colombia – you truly haven’t seen what this country has to offer. With palm trees and rolling hills, it feels like we are driving in Hawaii one moment, and then next it changes to the mountain ranges that resemble the jungles of Thailand.

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We finally arrive late in the night to the Los Nevados National Park, a volcano just outside the coffee axis of Colombia. The wild camping spot we found sits at 13,120 ft and considering I’ve gotten altitude sickness every single time, we take the medicine welllllll in advance. The next morning, the views are covered with constant clouds that bring rain and then sunshine within a span of 15 minutes. While beautiful and breathtaking (literally) I have a sharp toothache and Norma’s steering doesn’t feel right.

This is what Steve woke to on his birthday.

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After a long journey into and around the nearby town of Manizales, we try and find a mechanic or a dentist. It’s Saturday afternoon on ANOTHER long weekend, so we have very little luck and Steve decides we have to head to a big city before the steering gives out 100%. So we drive the 4.5-hours past the coffee axis into Cali – the 3rd largest city in Colombia.

We message a dentist – Dr. Carlos and he agrees to see me on a Sunday and speaks English – THANK THE LORD! Time to fix Norma and keep on heading south.

 

 

Bogota, Colombia

Mina de Sal de Nemocon

On our way to Bogota, we stop off at Mina de Sal de Nomocon – an old salt mine. The mines are interesting and from the shallow saltwater pool, the reflection looks like the ground is falling beneath you.

Bogota

We decide to stop by Bogota for a couple of days to resupply –  Steve needs new pants and I need a belt. Since we know this city pretty well, we’ll be staying in Bogota for a few days to get the supplies we need – like pants, belt, etc. Steve ends up finding his hiking pants from Tatoo – a Colombian outdoor clothing/gear store. We also have a chance to visit Min Mal – a local restaurant highlighting ingredients and cooking methods from Amazonian region of Colombia.

We also meet up with Pascal & Virgine who have also stopped by in Bogota and we go for a disappointing dinner in the Usquen park area. The company is good so its all ok! Since we know we’re going towards the same regions – we know we’ll meet again! Guess who loves Bogota? This dog.

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Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Villa de Leyva

Listed as one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia, we decide to stop here for a couple of nights. We pack into a free campsite at the edge of the city and spend the evening walking around the town. It looks very similar to Barichara with cobbled stone streets, whitewashed walls, and terracotta roofs. On Saturday morning, the market square starts filling up with local farmers and produce, restaurants, clothes, and handmade goods.

 

The Exchange

We eventually meet up with Pascal, Virgine & Quito who have already met up with another Swiss couple (Nina & Timo) who have travelled upwards from Ushuaia. For the next day exchanging tips and ideas while getting wine, dinner, empanadas. It’s so insightful since – we have no idea where we are going in the next few months. We have some ideas… but since everything in South America is so far apart we never know if a place is worth taking a 5 hours detour.

 

After a joint breakfast on the 2nd day, we are the first to depart to Bogota. Pascal & Virgine will be coming down to Bogota in a few days and Nina & Timo will be going to Guaimaro and Barichara. Time to hit the road!

 

Las Gachas, Colombia

Las Gachas

To break up the drive to our next destination, we decide to visit the Quebrada Las Gachas – a riverbed with bathtub-sized holes where the river runs through them. The road to Las Gachas was littered with gigantic potholes and trucks wiping around blind corners into oncoming traffic, but the spectacular landscape distracted us from these annoyances. We arrived at 5pm to the trailhead but decided to save the hike in the morning. Instead, we set up camp and played chess. Steve started teaching me so we have things to do if the weather sucks or we have no internet connection. The first game? He won in 4 moves. Now he is actually walking me through the steps – we are still on our second game 3 days later.

We had a crazy rainstorm that lasted most of the evening so we took shelter inside Norma. At one point, we could not hear ourselves talk since the rain was so loud. Early in the morning, we took the 20-minute walk through the valleys to get the to Gachas. We had to walk through someone’s property so we pay them $1,000 COP each. Can you imagine having Las Gachas in your backyard? The walk takes you through the most beautiful rolling hills and the views made it feel like we’ve stepped into another country. Surely, this can’t be… Colombia?

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The walk to Las Gachas

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Zoe falling into the hole. They are about 1-2 meters deep so plenty of space for her to swim.

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The entire stretch of the river is lined with these holes, it’s quite interesting.

The Gachas were interesting, but we couldn’t find any information on what caused these massive holes. Maybe underground water channels caused the sinkholes on the riverbed? After a short hike back, we pack up and left for Villa de Leyva – named one of the most beautiful towns in all of Colombia.

Barichara, Colombia

Barichara

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A small town in the countryside of Colombia filled with cobblestone roads, white walls, and red-tiled roofs. It’s a town that looks like it was built for a fairytale so we decide to stay at least for a couple of days. The city’s climate is in the high 20s all day and then around 3pm, the cool afternoon wind comes in and the evenings are nice and chilly 15-17 degrees. It’s perfect weather for us. We find a campsite run by a Dutch couple nearby that many overlanders have recommended called Guaimaro.

Guaimaro

Julia – an architect and Joep – an archeologist, has built a beautiful home (based on permaculture) and campsite just outside of Barichara. Almost all of the construction materials were recycled/repurposed from the previous buildings, and the large stones were excavated from their property. They use the sun to heat up the water for a beautifully built outdoor shower surrounded by big tropical leaves and stones. Due to the scarcity of water, all the grey water at the campsite is recycled using a plant filter which is then used for toilets and watering the garden. It’s a thoughtfully designed and beautifully made Finca they’ve taken seven years to perfect. They are currently adding in two more outdoor shower/bathrooms (they get lots of campers), and eventually adding a small natural pool. If you are looking to do a workaway program near the countryside of Barichara, Colombia – you can find them here (https://www.workaway.info/en/host/125846781179).

When we arrive, we meet a couple from Australia (Daphne & Danny) who is doing a work away program and traveling around South America for a year. There is also a French couple name Solene & Julian who have been traveling parts of South America for 5 months also doing a workaway. And Kelly, a sole backpacker from Estonia, has just started her journey. Couple of nights in, a Swiss overlander couple name Pascal & Virgine with their Dog Quito also roll into Guaimaro. There is a communal kitchen so we make dinner, hang out, and talk about our journeys. It lets us know that the idea of traveling for 7 months isn’t radical, but the norm within this kitchen.

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These wonderful people shared their stories and experiences – we’re so grateful to have spent 6 days with them

We ended up staying 5 nights at Guaimaro. During the day we hike the 45 minutes to the town of Barichara, get lunch, fresh produce, then walk back and spend the day researching, reading, and planning our next steps. After 5 nights, we are sad to leave especially, Julia’s freshly baked bread – but we pull ourselves away and go to our next steps to Las Gachas.

Bucaramanga from the sky

(almost) time to go

After picking up Norma, we take a look to see if everything is ok. We are supposed to be leaving for Aguachica tomorrow at 8am and Norma doesn’t want to start. At 9pm, we knew we weren’t going anywhere tomorrow. we message our host Marco for the Airbnb and he says no problem of course we can stay another night. He really has been a lifesaver.

After lots of trying different things, Steve takes apart the starter motor and cleans it and voila she starts. Because we went through the storm in Houston and then she sat idle for a while, she had a bit of rust. But regardless, we delay leaving by one day to give ourselves room just in case anything else comes up. So we have one more day for Steve to recover a bit more from the cold and rest. We have one last meal in Cartagena and then pack up Norma to go.

A fork in the road

In case you missed it, there were large protests happening in Ecuador beginning of October. The government got rid of the gas subsidies thereby increasing the price of gas to double or triple rates overnight. Borders were closed, there was a state of emergency with curfews, and the people brought the country to a standstill by blocking all major roads. Now, they called to stop in protests after 12 days but since the “peace talks” aren’t going so well between the indigenous leaders and the government – they are planning another massive protest on October 30th. Why does this matter?

Well, in order for us to get anywhere down south to Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina.. etc – we have to go through Ecuador. Now, we’ve been talking to other overlanders and they’ve been stuck in Ecuador with limited options. We don’t really want to be putting ourselves in danger unnecessarily so here are the choices we have.

A. Drive as quickly as we can through Colombia and Ecuador before the protests can begin.
B. Drive slower through Colombia and see how the talks unfold past October 30th.

Considering we’ve already been in Colombia for a month, we originally wanted to do plan A. But…We haven’t really been able to explore Colombia outside of the two major cities. So because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), we opt to slow down.

Floridablanca

Just about 4 hours (175km) from our last stop in Aguagchica, we arrive in the city of Bucaramanga and Floridablanca. It’s in the mountain andes ranges so the temperature is much cooler than the Carribean coast. We find a small paragliding shop/restaurant/campsite/home of Oscar overlooking the city of Floridablanca and we know we’ve made the right decision.

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As soon as we arrive, Oscar welcomes us to his property and just as we pull into the property, someone is taking off to go paragliding. We go talk to him to inquire about the price and its $80,000 COP for 15 minutes or $30 CAD. Back home, it’s about $300. Steve decides this is a great opportunity and might as well while we are here. So we both end up going up. I honestly thought it would be so scary being so high up with nothing to hold in place but a harness. It was a complete opposite. It was peaceful to be up there and you feel like you are just floating in the air like a bird would be.

In the evening, we rest up and look to the fields and see fireflies flying around the field. We hear monkeys howling in the background and every once in awhile we hear the mangos falling from the tree behind us. Even though we didn’t get much sleep because of a neighbor’s birthday party until 2am, we finally feel like we are seeing the country that we came to see.

Next? off to Barichara – often described as the prettiest town in Colombia!

Esperamos “we wait”

Norma finally arrived on Thursday October 17th at 10:00pm. The process for unloading a vehicle involves many many many steps and considering our Spanish is basic at best – we hired Ana Rodriguez (a customs agent) in Cartagena to help us with the process. Lots of people choose to save the fees of an agent and do it themselves. And looking back on how complicated the process is – hiring Ana was the best decision we made.

Warning – This post is really really long. Long story short – Ana saved our lives and we got Norma after a lot of waiting. 

Wednesday, October 16th

We go to meet Ana at her office for the initial meeting and ask questions (using google translate) and get the paperwork started. We’re optimistic at this point and think – o it will only take a day or two. After using google translate to communicate (Ana only speaks Spanish) for a couple of hours, she says we have to wait until the shipping company Hapag Lloyd responds to our request.

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Bill of Lading usually gets sent to the address listed on the shipping document and at the time of us shipping our vehicle (in September), we only had our Airbnb address in Bogota. She is asking them to cancel this being sent to Bogota and have us manually pick it up at the office in Cartagena. We go back to the hotel and wait. She requests this at 11am and doesn’t hear anything back.

Thursday, October 16th

We finally hear something and after paying for an invoice on our behalf, Hapag Lloyd has canceled the transfer of Bill of Lading to Bogota. At 4pm, Edgar (a driver hired by Ana) comes to our hotel to pick us up and take us to Hapag Lloyd. But the 7.7km drive takes us 50 minutes. FIFTY MINUTES because of the traffic. It’s too late and the office closed so we turn around and go home.

Friday, October 17th

8:30am – Ana picks us up with a driver Edgar to go to Hapag Lloyd in Cartagena. Apparently, Hapag Lloyd in the US hasn’t received notification from the shipping company that we’ve paid the invoice thereby releasing the Bill of Lading. We contact Obed in Houston to ask since we paid the full invoice three days ago. The nice man at the desk in Hapag Llyod says he has to receive confirmation and then he’ll give us a bill to pay at the bank.

I have a pretty bad cold at this point and I’ll sleep anywhere. We wait for Obed for three hours at the Hapag Lloyd office and then Ana says she can drive us back to the hotel while we wait. I think she felt bad hahaha. Finally, at 3:30pm, she says we have to come back and they’ll release the Bill of Lading. If I am not there to pick it up before they close at 5pm, we have to wait until Monday morning. We get a uber and a man who felt like the most careful and slowest driver in all of Colombia takes us there. I mean he signaled when he was making a turn and did shoulder checks (which is.. not very common in Colombia). With 10 minutes to spare and finally we get our Bill of Lading!! I’ve never been so excited to see a man stamp a piece of paper.

Saturday, October 18th

Last night, we had a crazy amount of storm – I mean thundering and tons of rain. so at 6:30am, we wake up to what sounds like Zoe walking in puddles. And yes yes it was Zoe walking in puddles of water. The storm last night had leaked the water in from the balcony so about a cm of water had come in and pooled in our bedroom. Thankfully, we didn’t leave anything on the ground.

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At 8:30am, we go to the Port and try to arrange an appointment to meet with an inspector who has to sign off on the actual contents of the container before we can do anything. Before any of that, we have to pay the port fees. Guess what hasn’t been generated ahead of time? The invoice. So we meet with a nice man named Harold who says we have to wait while the system generates an invoice related to our container. It takes the system (or Harold) 3 hours. We get charged for the port moving the container because they placed in the wrong area and it’s much more than we estimated.

We’ve been having trouble with our debit card and haven’t been able to take out cash so we only have US cash.  Guess what the port doesn’t take. Creditcard or US cash. They only take Colombian Pesos. We only have half of the invoice amount in Colombian pesos. And if we don’t pay this today, then we delay things even more. Ana fronts us the Colombian pesos by asking her husband to get the cash for us. She literally saved our butts.

After another hour of waiting, we finally have a booking for Monday at 8:30am! The inspector will meet us at the Port when the container is opened so that we don’t have to do multiple trips. We are done at 3pm.

Monday, October 19th

7:20am – Ana and Edgar come to get us and we finally go to Port to unlock the container. Wait. we are going to a different port. Turns out, Norma is actually at a different port then we did the paperwork on Saturday. We get there and Daniel, a lovely man (who speaks perfect English), comes to get me. I am the only person who can go since I am the owner of the car. The inspector we scheduled on Saturday isn’t coming so we just go ahead with the process. We go the container and after waiting another hour for the supervisor, the maintenance guy, the bolt cutters, the battery, and jumper cables – we finally get the container opened and there she is!

Now, I check over to make sure everything looks good. Take pictures of the car, the VIN, and the plate and then Ana sends it over to the inspector ahead of time. We do a damage report and then we leave Norma there. We drive to another building – DIAN – where we have to get an inspector to sign off on the pictures I took and to grant us a temporary import of Norma in Colombia. We wait. again.

In order to take Norma home, we have to have him sign off before 11am and it’s 10am when we arrive to drop off the paperwork. The port won’t let you drive the vehicle until you get insurance. You can’t get insurance until we have the temporary import permit. They won’t sell you insurance past 12pm. If it’s past 12pm, you just have to wait until the next day to buy insurance.

It takes the guy 70 minutes to sign off and Ana has to frequently go back and check to see if he is actually working on our paperwork. I mean, he was supposed to show up at the port so he could do it there. but I guess it was an empty promise. After excruciating 70 minutes, we finally get the paperwork at 11:10am and we book it to the shop that sells SOAT (insurance). Most places will only sell your insurance that starts the next day, but Ana brings us to an office where they will let you buy for the day-of and we make it with 20 minutes to 12pm. WOO HOO!

We get the insurance, go back to the other Port (we went to on Saturday) and file all the paperwork we’ve gathered (Bill of Lading, the Inspection, The Temporary Import from DIAN, and the SOAT insurance). Then the last waiting period. They have to file all of this and then give us a letter to authorize the release of the vehicle and verify that we can indeed drive away with it.

Now, all of Colombia takes a lunch break from 12-2pm. I am not joking. Most businesses will close from 12-2pm while all of their employees go and have lunch at the same time. Given, they start their day earlier and end later – but you can guarantee that no business is getting done during these two sacred hours. So, now we have to wait again.

At 2:30pm, we finally hear back and got the paperwork. After more waiting and verifying at the port, we finally drive Norma out at 3:30pm. We go back to Ana’s office to say our thanks and goodbye. We can honestly say that we would have lost our minds if we had to do this ourselves. During the impatience and annoyance, she laughed at funny things and took the pressure off. And times when every single representative we went to would shake their head and make us wait again, she took the time to explain everything by typing it all out on google translate. She is hardworking, giving, and honest person and we are so glad to have met her. We talked about her visiting us in Canada, but she said maybe – because it might be too cold. hehe. THANK YOU ANA! ❤

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If anyone needs the services of Ana (importing/exporting to Cartagena) – you can find her information on her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/tramiteexportacionvehiculoscartagena/

Tropical Hosts

Most times Airbnb is a really good option for us. We can’t usually do hotels/hostels because –

  1. we don’t get a kitchen – means eating out a lot
  2. hotels usually charge extra $$$ for having a dog
  3. hotel policies usually don’t allow us to leave Zoe alone in the room
  4. the wifi usually sucks
  5. we have to pay for laundry (we have limited clothing on us so every week we have to do laundry)

So while we wait for Norma to get on a ship and meet us here, we’re playing the Airbnb Hop. On Thursday, we go to meet the owners of another Airbnb – let’s call him Paul. We’ve been seasoned with Airbnb now and make sure to check everything with Paul – the AC (check), Wifi (check), laundry (check), no bed bugs (check) –  ok looks good. It’s not the nicest place but so as long as everything is functioning we decide to make do.

We haul everything over in our backpacks and walk over to stay in this apartment for the next 8 days. This is where everything starts going south real fast. We’re in the tropical climate and they wear shoes inside so we take a few minutes to mop and clean the floors. Now onto the kitchen to do some cleaning and then the first host appeared. A cockroach.

Look, Casa Pancho (our previous Airbnb) also had a cockroach and a lizard in the bathroom. But it was just the one, maybe two at most. And nowhere in the bedroom or kitchen – just the bathroom because well there was a hole in the wall and we were on the ground floor. So, while I am really not used to it – apparently it’s normal in tropical climates to see them from time to time.

So when we go to the new place which is on the 8th floor and see a cockroach in the kitchen it freaks me out a little bit. The more Steve touches things in the kitchen, the more hosts come out. After another cockroach killing spree, we hope that it’s the last of them and go out to get some pizza to have a serious talk.  Are we really going to stay here? Maybe we just need to get used to it? Maybe it’s because no one has lived here in a while?  It’s already 7pm and dark, where would we go? Wouldn’t we lose the money we already paid to Paul?

We decide it’s ok, we’ll just tough it out for tonight and see what we can do tomorrow. We take refuge in the bedroom with the door closed and the lights off everywhere else to do research and see if there is anywhere nearby we can move to. We find an Airbnb in the Bocagrande neighbourhood and it’s a bit more than what we are paying but at least we’ll enjoy ourselves and have some pool days. We read through all the conditions and it says nothing about Pets. Just as we are about to leave, the host messages me to say that I need to send her a doctor’s note to say that my dog is required for emotional dependence and that building rules have changed. I message her to say that there is nothing in the listing stating this as a condition and after an hour of back and forth she states that it’s best if we just cancel and don’t come at all.What.the.hell. I ask for an immediate refund and to be honest, I think I took out all of my frustration on her. Sorry lady. bad timing.

After this defeat, Steve gets up to get some water and turns on the lights in the living room and see 8-9 cockroaches skidding away. They had all come out in the darkness.

NOPE NOPE NOPE

It’s already 9:30pm, we don’t really have any hope but a man named Marco responds to say we are more than welcome to come and take a look at the Airbnb right now and dogs are not an issue. We immediately pack up our essentials and find an Uber (which took an hour) and finally arrive at the apartment at 11pm. We thank him for meeting us to late and he says it’s no problem and Steve goes up to take a look at the apartment while I wait downstairs with Zozi. At this point as long as the cockroaches don’t outnumber us, I can make peace with it.

Steve comes back with the biggest smile – “it’s reaaaaallly nice”. ok. That’s that then. We go upstairs and it is a brand new apartment that’s been renovated (we’re the first ones to stay). Marco gives us a tour and we finally sigh a relief and unpack. I am extremely thankful for how much we lucked out.

The next day, we go back to drop off the keys at the other apartment and to get the rest of our stuff we left in the night. And the first thing we see is a giant dead cockroach by the door and about… 2 more in the fridge.. and a few more throughout the apartment. Paul messages us and says a thousand apologies and he will directly contact Airbnb to give us a full refund – which he did. So seeing this many “hosts” isn’t so normal.

Until we get Norma back, we’ll be in this nice apartment. I imagine this will be the last Airbnb we’ll stay in for a while. This is a very touristy neighborhood, which means it’s much safer for us to walk at all hours and there is enough for us to see. After this round of Airbnb shuffle, we miss Norma more and more.

Btw, she’s supposed to arrive on Thursday, Oct 17th at 1pm!

Cartagena, Colombia

Casa Pancho – Cartagena

After the final 9 hours drive on Oct 6th,  we drive into Cartagena check into our beachfront Airbnb in the el Cabrero district and meet Omaira – our host. Casa Pancho is a ground floor unit within a 4-story apartment building near the old city and it has AC in the bedroom and its mostly clean so we make do with what it is – except the internet is not working. We’re here until 10th and then we’re off to a new Airbnb nearby anyway so we make do and play tourists instead in the walled city.

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The Old Walled City

Cartagena is primarily defined by a city surrounded by a wall built in the 1500s by the Spanish. The old city is protected and fortified with stone walls and inside is Instagram worthy picturesque buildings everywhere. The first day we take a stroll with Zozi and instantly, people are looking at her with a very curious and confused face. We saw so many stray dogs on our drive into Cartagena and we know that she is not as welcome and loved. But that’s our normal so it’s ok.

In the old town, we visit La Cevicheria – a restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain in 2008. It’s quite expensive at $40,000 COP per bowl but the ceviche is very well balanced and delicious. Would i return for it? this is our first ceviche place so we aren’t sure yet. Sitting on the “patio” turned out to be a mistake because every street vendor stops to try and sell you something – sunglasses, hats, drawings, dresses, a customized rap song…

On another day we visit La Mulata – a restaurant recommended on the iOverlander app*. The prices are much better and the food is not bad. The ceviche? Not as good, so maybe La Cevicheria is better than expected.

Most days in Cartagena…

We take Zoe out for a walk so she gets some exercise and then we bring her home to rest in the AC room. She doesn’t last more than 1 hour in the 30-degree heat anyway. Then we go out just the two of us to look at places she can’t go. We usually don’t go out at night since most advisories warn against it due to potentially dangerous situations. We’ve heard some stories of people being robbed or pickpocketed because they flash their foreign wealth (This is also why I’ve only been using my phone and not my DSLR and the quality of the photos aren’t as good).

One of the walks we went on with Zoe, we see two American looking girls in bikinis on the beach and there are some local guys trying to talk to them in Spanish. I think the girls were trying to pretend they don’t understand so they would leave them alone. On our way back we the same two girls being led by another group of older guys down an alleyway. This time we follow because well we have a dog people are scared of so maybe we can help if they are in trouble. Turns out, they were being taken to the local police and they were waiting for their statements. Down the street, we see another group of locals and police and it’s the guy we saw earlier bothering them on the beach. He is covered in blood and in handcuffs. No idea what actually happened, but just to be smart we take some extra measures to be safe in the future.

Steve doesn’t quite trust our neighborhood so he doesn’t let me take Zoe out alone and every time he takes her out I keep an eye out from the apartment just in case something happens. Let’s just say we felt a lot safer in Bogota than Cartagena. After 5 days in Casa Pancho, it’s time to move to another Airbnb 5 minutes away.

*iOverlander is an app where people who travel similarily like us contribute information and their experiences about where to camp, eat, avoid etc. It’s been a lifesaver for us on more than one occasion.