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NEWS of 03/04/14

Finally the "real" time for tourism rang: the carriage ride, done, the remarkable door of the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower ) in which we enter the city every night, also done . We decide to pursue. Twelve kilometers of ramparts that surround the old city are well suited to a morning visit and allow you to discover the perks tourist streets. The bus terminal, street vendors , the South American atmosphere resurfaces in the suburbs of the city , you just need to depart from two or three streets to find a less “sanitized” Cartagena.
The tour of typically touristic sites is dispatched in a morning: the convent of Santo Domingo with its panoramic view , Fort San Felipe with excessive fortifications and old cannons, and a strange sculpture of bronze zapatillas where every tourist wipes his sweat in the time for a photo. Nicer and less crowded, it’s time for a rest in the few museums (free) that surround a nice shady place. Conditioning of modern art museum is more valuable than the very very special works it houses, but it’s especially the gold museum that attracts us. Tiny statuettes formed 2000 years before always leave wondering about the ability of these people to work the material precisely and finely compared with European techniques even 1000 years later...

Official Tourist box checked, we wander randomly to suit the mood of the photographer drew from street to street by his watchful eye. Thus we take a Sunday morning the market direction, the real one, guaranteed with no tourist !
We are the only non- Colombian people two miles away, and our approach is a little shy when we get input on the shelves of fishermen. Their dark eyes shine under the scales of prepared and gutted fish in the street, watched by hungry black-headed gulls. It stinks to disgust us to fish for the rest of our lives...
Rare and very significant fact, the camera is here extraordinary sesame to invite in place. The mood is very happy, and after being a little prayed, the photographed people return Bruno from stall to stall, making us travel the full market according to their family and friendship ties. The smiles are genuine, and even some refractory (including super mama who sells coal) let coaxed by a bottle of water or seeing the result on the tiny screen of the device. It is teeming with noise, life, Colombian people delighted with our visit or with this beautiful Sunday morning, impudent kids, stylish teenagers, tired grannies selling everything in this colorful bazaar. The meat is in the form of very long and fleshy pink sausages, stacks of local fruits and vegetables are associated with strawberries and grapes imported from Peru, the gleaming hodgepodge kitchenware gives way to spice boxes for perfumes miles, multicolored plastic knick-knack "made in China" hold their own, the tidy textbooks are used , and some cooked dishes odors wrap this image-sound-smell festival, awakening our senses.
Only tourists on the horizon, however no feeling of insecurity touches us in this popular area, close to the old city profusely protected. It's time to enjoy!
Fusing ourselves with immediate pleasure in this environment so far from our comfortable boat lives, we fill the thrill of discovery and adventure just a short distance from the "tourist area ". 200% colombiano time for a ride full of charm !

After this enchanted visit, the memory comes back: Cartagena was theoretically a refueling stop on the road and weather to Belize. So when finally the lull is announced in the uninterrupted breath of trade winds of February, we decide to sail without delay, eager to discover what looks like the advertised "lake version" of the Caribbean Sea.
With 900 miles ahead of us, no need to switch to the Pacific for doing miles ! About 5 days + 5 nights (or 6 days, as Bruno said, I can trust him…) to 7 knots.
A last sunset on the buildings of Cartagena, a last evening in the old town, a last warm marina night without air. Everything is ready ! Yogurt, chocolate creams, and home cooked lentils (with smell of cooking ideal for sea preparation at teatime), pizzas and lasagna to freeze unexpectedly, seasick pills handy (we never know, maybe be the Northwest road is not better than the East...). Movies in the iPad, shoals recorded on the electronic chart (there are full on the way that is better to avoid...), hard motivation, it should be okay !
Adios Cartagena, and thank you for sharing these treasures !

* Tapimar, Tapicero Profesional, Juan Luis Vargas Durango, 311-4391971, juan_tapiz@hotmail.com

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Cartagena de Indias , technical and touristic stop, colorful

Mid-February , taking advantage of a small inviting weather window , we send the whole sails with a beautiful caribbean winter day (sun and 30 °C) to join Colombia. At 200 miles from San Blas, eastern side (!) stands Cartagena, a city of fantasy for sailors with strong stomach.
From a reliable source, the port of Cartagena ideally located on the road of the West Indies occupied a prominent place in the history of world exploration. The gold coming from the pillage of Aztec and Inca neighbors empires, and emerald mines buried in the nearby mountains, brought a rich and sulfur breath to the citadel. Pirates and adventurers of all kinds (English, French...) coveted and regularly attacked the Spanish bastion in the past.
A must stop for “all-around-the-world” sailors ...

The front wind thrills Thetys getting again the better of our marine capabilities. Fortunately the reward is at the “rendez-vous” after another difficult night watch: the glow of the rising sun silhouetted against the Colombian coast !
The arrival in the vast bay of Cartagena is magical. Skyscrapers of the Bocagrande peninsula sparkle in the sun, playing our eyes with colored roofs of the old city listed as world heritage by UNESCO. Thetys slips into the anchorage of the marina at only a short distance from the towering ramparts that protect the old citadel.
Our pirates’ souls wake up, quickly feeling better with a good slice of pizza eaten on a high color place in the old center.

After a first night of recovery at anchor, the comfort of the marina seems more suited to city life. Although priorities are discussed (...), "provisioning" and "odd jobs" will undoubtedly be a lot of activity here, in addition to tourism. Access Thetys by a simple footbridge (even shaky) will greatly simplify our lives. And we make no mistake, the past two months in the San Blas and future trip Belize - Bahamas will not give us that opportunity to find a real supermarket before June. We are hard at work !

Surprise, our Carthaginian stay begins with unexpected reunion. Our slaps that show service trample the banks towards our first evening on land when we see Houbara majestically parked at the end of pier at the neighboring Club de Pesca. Their Sunreef catamaran of 82 feet is too long ! René and Paulette are on board, met last year on the occasion of a remarkable evening on a lost and windy tiny island of the southern Cuban coast. We celebrate in the bubbles and smiles this unlikely event , which once again proves that the earth is round ... And enjoying at fair value all class and care taken to dinner by their Belgian crew , Anton and Clémentine .

More convenient and much less romantic, we warmly get down to the "to do list". Coming into Colombian papers are managed by a single interlocutor, an agent who embarks passports and boat papers leaving us just a visiting card ...
That done, let’s go for the festivities: two diesel tanks filled, two engines drained, two hulls scraped, new cushions for the helm stations, a clean mast, a jib newly screwed, stainless steel shining in the scorching sun of Cartagena. The sky is bright blue in the morning, there is apparently no cumulus clouds in the Colombian azure... By late morning the fan boat is at work. Especially the little air that comes from the city brings us more dust than fresh... Fortunately dock water flows at will for Bruno, beginning his daily struggle against the ocher dust covering the city and Thetys.
While I battle with internet: weather forecast, administrative things, updating our website..., Bruno does not even stop to breathe. As a result, the technical todolist narrows at high speed. The ship’s boy is effective and not stingy with perspiration ! The canvas guy* makes us a great job, smile appears under drops of sweat!

Essential step in any good stop self-respecting, food provisioning are on the agenda. Our Spanish is enriched in a small preliminary localization: the Arequipe will lengthen our list, weigh down Thetys and enrich our pancakes parties ! The discovery of Colombian "Dulche de leche" (thick caramel) signifies the disgrace for Nutella, poor substitute for the French “caramel au beurre salé de Vendée” (salted butter caramel from Vendée) ran out since a long time.
The checkout beats all records: 2.8 million pesos, our best score in six years around the world ! At the height of the budget, kindness and service are included, and a trolley crack driver brings all back to the boat, jumping merrily pitfalls along the dock, and stopping in extremis before our balanced footbridge. Do we have enough for three months this time ?

All these tasks duly paid daily with the care that characterizes us (Bruno is watching you...), parties are break synonymous ! At a time when the blazing sun dips behind the towers of the Peninsula, tinting in red the anchorage ruffled by gusts from end of the day, we discover the atmosphere of the streets of Cartagena.
Bocagrande neighborhood and its buildings have no charm, this does not stop us from still enjoying an evening at Carbon de Palo, excellent meat table where a pitcher of sangria sends us into orbit.
Between eateries, great restaurants, salsa tunes and drinks, we meet Gonzalo, atypical Spanish guy who invites us for dinner at his sister’s home. Taking us to the game and unusual opportunistic encounters typical for “all-around-the-world” travelers. Just like the mixed population that haunts Cartagena, this evening counts only one Colombian guy for one German, two French (us), two Spanish, one from New York, and one Brazilian. Our Spanish level rose significantly although it is still much too small for us not to have headache after 3 hours of "chattering" or rather attempted to follow the discussion. Unless it is the mojitos ???

Our other evenings are spent exclusively in the old town, well protected with the ramparts. To locate a little the neighborhood we treat ourselves to a big city tour by horse carriage, which brings us back from several centuries. In the rhythm of hooves and the honed, imperturbable and monotone speech of our driver, we perceive the surrounding charm: wood hanging balconies, orange torches that illuminate the cobbled streets where pedestrians stroll to the sound of music wafting from bars and restaurants. Old wooden doors open onto patios renovated with care and taste, Colombian people apparently have nothing to learn from the rest of the world in terms of decoration. Elegantly mixing modern textures, old stones, antique wooden floors, or wrought iron that shine under the indirect lighting of multiple candles, each entry is an invitation to discover the talents of creative and qualified “chefs”. The contrast between the classic Colombian postcard of dusty coca fields and this lovely old Spanish town redesigned with style and elegance challenges us. Cartagena is the opposite of the image we had of Colombia.

Untimely reminder of the 21st century, the yellow Japanese taxis sized yoghurt pots plying the narrow streets honk to attract customers. But tourists are in a strolling mood, enjoying by feet  each colorful place by the time for having a drink on the terrace listening to the street musicians, or buying some souvenirs on carpets that cover the chipped steps of dry up fountains : bracelets and ivory colored panama are apparently conventional souvenirs from Colombia!