Flying into Cartagena we felt a strange sense of recognition. We’d spent 3 weeks backpacking around Colombia in 2016, and both thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It was instantly clear the hospitality and friendliness of the people hadn’t changed one bit. As we had a good 5 days to kill whilst waiting for Betty, we decided to stay a 40 minute drive out of the old town in a secluded hostel which looked really nice on Hostelworld.
As we pulled up we instantly recognised the restaurant opposite the hostel, as one which we’d been to on our last trip as part of a tour! We thought it was only right to visit it again and both enjoyed super unhealthy fried fillets of fish for a couple of pounds. It was good to be back in a cheap country after spending so long in Costa Rica and Panama!
The hostel was nice, but had some interesting features. The shutters on the doors didn’t shut – turns out they were just poorly designed to allow airflow to but because the angle was so shallow anyone could see in and out of our room! They used recycled water for the toilets which left not the most pleasant smell in the room and the kitchen left a lot to be desired. Finally, on our second to last day we realise that we had bed bugs. This would be a huge issue as bringing them into the van was not high on our list of things to do!
As the hostel really was in the middle of nowhere, we filled our days doing life admin and enjoying the cool breeze. We both worked on our CVs, did some holiday planning (more on that to come!) and generally lounged around. On our last day we grabbed a bus to the main town in Cartagena and our first order of business was to wash all of our clothes! Luckily, having washed everything we managed to leave our buggy friends in the other hostel, and keep Betty clean to fight another day!
Our new hostel was right in the middle of old town, and on our first day we decided we’d celebrate a belated valentines day. We hadn’t exactly had the best choice of restaurants in our last location. As a treat, we headed to a rum bar and had gorgeous food, however the drinks were slightly disappointing as they were a little weak. The free hug offered at the end of the meal was stronger than the drinks! So we wandered around the old town in search of a bar but found it to be a little bit lacking. Despite our best efforts everyone just seemed to be walking around town rather than sat down in bars, so we joined in!
The next day we returned to the old town to explore by day. We knew there were some fantastic museums but it can be hard to visit museums a second time round – especially with our less than expansive attention span. So we enjoyed just taking in the old architecture and stopping for the occasional coffee. The cheap places we had eaten in last time had all been replaced by expensive restaurants (go figure) so we left the old town for the afternoon. On our way back though we found sloths in the park over the road from us! Whilst admittedly they likely weren’t naturally found in a park one day we couldn’t help but enjoy the up close nature of them.
That evening we decided to enjoy the sunset on the walls of the old town, just like we did 2 years ago, with a beer from a street vendor. Unfortunately the clouds prevented the actual sunset being seen by anyone but still, the thought was there! Then learning from our last mistakes we headed back into the part of town we were staying in and enjoyed a gorgeous filet mignon steak and much better cocktails!
Then we spent literally 2 full days running to and from the port, naval offices, the customs offices and different banks to pay and release our cargo. It was a truly infuriating process and we hoped to have the van ready by Wednesday but they told us on Wednesday morning we wouldn’t get it until Thursday. The night before we celebrated with yet more incredible sushi which really needed photo feature on the blog. On the Thursday, the day was going well, but we were set back by needing an appointment to release the van! Yes, we had all the paperwork, it had been inspected and unloaded from the container with us present and we had insurance but we needed someone to set a time for us to leave the port! Absolutely crazy, but at 2pm we finally had Betty back!
Over the moon, and a little behind schedule, we drove for 2 hours to a lovely hotel where they let us park in the parking lot and camp, giving us the keys to a room to use a shower and bathroom all for less than £10. They also called us a type of Colombian Deliveroo, a local guy brought us some absolutely stellar pesto and ham sandwiches over!
Next it was on to Bucaramanga, a long drive away and eventually into Ecuador. We now have some timelines to keep as Annie’s Parents have booked their flight to meet us 3,000 miles away in Cusco Peru, and we only have 6 weeks to haul ourselves there!