I have a precious kitty-cat sitting next to me that I get to love on in the hostel. I wish she could sleep with me, I miss my Gracie snoring in my ear! The food has been yummy here so far, although I honestly miss Korean and Mexican! It is quite plain food, but I seirously can't wait to try the cow tongue.. a restaurant I've been to twice serves it, nom-nom-noms! :)
Tips for Cartagena:
Although I've only been here for not even two full days yet, the city is quite easy to grasp. If you start off without a map (just be sure you have a landmark for how to get back to your street.. mine was the tallest building in el centro) and just wander around, you're sure to see a lot. If you follow the tourist map only trying to go to specific places, I seriously think you would miss out on a lot.
My hostel is in Getsemani, it is truly seedy like you read about online/in guide books. However, I think it gives it a bit of charm.. but not at night! At night, it is dark with scary people milling about! The hostel I have stayed 2 nights with is 'Casa Viena'.. it is simple, small, a bit dark, a bit hot, but the staff is great (speak a bit of English!) and I've met a few people. Luckily, it is part of a chain of hostels in Colombia, so I can pay them for my next hostel, and have it pre-booked! www.colombiahostels.com
There was a girl in the street earlier today who bent over to tie her shoe and a guy walking buy just grabs her butt. I still can't figure out if 'maybe' they knew each other.. but she didn't seem the least bit concerned, no bendejos or chingados about it. She did have some mega booty shorts on, as they all do! The strange thing on the streets is really what they sell, you can buy used electrical outlets, used locks, used lighters, shoe laces, sunglasses (which the Colombians do not wear) and lots of fruit.
The fortress, Castillo San Felipe, is a rip-off at best, however there aren't too many 'tourist' attractions, so all of the tourists seem to gather here. I did enjoy walking around and finding some shadows to write my journal in.
Bocagrande was nice and relaxing. There were many people swimming, the water was very warm, and it looks like a completely different city from the old city. Not as much character, but great for day trips to the water!
If you're going to stay in Cartagena, as a backpacker I would recommend Getsemani because it is the cheapest... more upscale, definitely stay in el centro it is SO romantic and nifty!
El centro (also called the old are walled city) which is the super colonial area has plazas to drink in at night.. very Spain-esque. And there are many places to dance salsa, ole'! During the day, the streets are crazy with people everywhere, taxis trying to run you over, carriages carrying, and fruit stands abound!! There are cathedrals you can visit, and the sea is directly behind it. If I had the choice, I wouldn't leave it! Although the 'real' Colombians seem to be on the outskirts living their daily lives. It's very much like taking a step back in time.
As a 'tourist' I haven't been harassed as much as in Thailand, people seem to give up after a short while when trying to sell you things or beg for money. You get plenty of whistles, te amos and hello beautifuls as a woman. I have not felt uncomfortable thus far, however, I have not been walking alone at night. The first hour or so was a bit unnerving walking about with no real place to go, they can pretty much smell your fresh off the plane-ness! I honestly think if I dressed sluttier I would get harassed less.. strange huh? Dressing more conservatively makes you stand out like a sore thumb (I've never understood that phrase)!
So far, it definitely seems like Colombia will be much more expensive than many latin countries, the buses and hostels are both much higher than they would be in Ecuador or Peru... so I am secretly awaiting my time to go there!
Tomorrow I will grab breakfast, some cash, and hopefully a watch then head to Santa Marta around 11AM. It will take a bit over 5 hours to get there, and my hostel is already paid for, weehoo! It is supposed to be an amazing hostel, with a bar and everything within it, so I'm hoping to meet some more people (hopefully people headed to Ciudad Perdida). There is a beach within walking distance and the office for Magic Tours that I will do my Ciudad Perdida trek with is located 2 blocks away. I'm hoping to get a small-ish group for the trek, I've heard stories of people having 30 people in one group when it should be 12, and will possibly hang out at the beach in Santa Marta for a day or so to get the best group!! After that, I plan on heading up to the Guajira Peninsula where there is no electricity to hopefully be completely emersed in Spanish.. and maybe find someone to do English/Spanish lessons with!