Cartagena, Colombia – Day 1

Friday 3rd July 2015

I woke up around 9am and found every excuse possible to take forever to get ready to NOT get out of the room. Seriously, I have travelled a lot in Europe, went also to Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, India, Benin, Ethiopia, and for 6 months in South-East Asia 3 years ago, but….I never went to a continent on which travellers told me all kind of stories about their camera getting stolen, their stuff getting stolen and so on. I never felt like having to care about this kind of stuff before. So here I was alone on a continent from which travellers come back telling you their camera got stolen. Great. I was just scared to get out. I finally made it downstairs to the reception and met Denis and she had a map and I asked where it was safe to go and unsafe to go. There was also Vladimir, a teacher from Bogota who was just checking in and both pointed to me that the yellow bit was ok and very safe to walk around with my camera but the orange bit not so ok, I should only go with other fellow travellers.

Cartagena Map

I was relieved to hear that I could go grab my camera and get out in the streets and take photos. For me, taking photos is part of the trip and if I can´t take pictures to illustrate what I see, to remember, to be able to share, then there is no point. I have been taking photos since my dad gave me my first camera when I was 8 years old, and I just can´t imagine travelling without one!

So off I went in the streets of Cartagena! Whoohoo!

First I ran into a library which was the place where Simon Bolivar wrote the Manifeste de Cartagena on 15th Dec 1812 after the fall of the First Republic in which he explained the cause of his loss, This is known as the first of Bolivar public documents. Later on, Simon Bolivar lead a force to free Venezuela and became famous as the Liberator of 5 nations.


As a library, it was quite nice too. I was really impressed with the choices of English and French books!


After that, I walked around, still not really comfortable yet shooting openly, afraid someone would just grab the camera! Here was my first photo of Colombia street life.

colombia street life

I ran into this plaza.


There was the museum explaining the history of the ancient civilisations which started occupying this area 11,000 years, some even say 15,000 years ago. Here is a timeline of the different periods.


The Zenu Gold Museum was mostly talking about the Zenu people who were there between 200 BC and 1533, foundation of Cartagena by the Spaniards. The Zenu masterised the work of gold.


There were different groups spread in Colombia, here is a map representing the various societies.

map of ancient societies

Most gold objects created between 200BC and 1000 were linked to the ceremonial life and it is interesting to see the type of animals created, for example this one is a bird-mammal figure from the Uraba region.

bird mammal hybrid

This is thought to be a representation of shamans, with feathered headdresses, sticks and breast ornaments.


In the Tolima area and Northern Huila, this may be a man with bat wings and feline tail.

bat man

Apart from the Gold, these civilisations knew how to deal with floods. They had created an ingenious system of canals which would receive the water and redistribute it to smaller canals irrigating crops when the river was over-flowing. They made the most of the water.


Sadly, this art got lost and now the floods mean destruction of houses and crops!

After the museum, I had some lunch to the right of this church.


There I met a really cool British couple living in London, Clare and Ryan. We spent quite some time chatting and decided to meet at 7pm in the evening for drinks. After lunch, I visited the San Pedro Claver museum. He was a priest who cared a lot about the slaves brought from Africa between 1614 and 1654 when he died, and he fought to get them better treatment. He was called the apostle of the slaves.


He was even represented on the church autel as a Saint.


After this museum, I just wandered around in the streets. I saw this bird I had never seen before.


I walked around along the fortress wall.

fortress wall

There are some horse carriages taking tourists around like in other places in the world.

horse carriage

In the evening, the streets were getting busy and full of life


If you don´t have a phone, those guys offer you to make a call for 1 dollar.

call for a dollar

With the night falling and the temperature dropping a bit, everywhere was getting more busy like on this plaza.


These kids were playing some game I don´t know.


It is funny to see that no matter where you go, everyone has a phone in their hands. To the advantage of the guy selling the long sticks to make selfies.


I met Clare and Ryan in front of the Charleston hotel and we had some cocktails there.

charleston hotel

We then had Colombia Club beers on the fortress and then walked around to find dinner. We passed this very busy plaza.


We decided to get dinner on the plaza place of the church, here we were again!

plaza place

Here it was to close a first day in Colombia. Not afraid anymore, at least not in Cartagena! 🙂

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