For our six week trip in Colombia, I wanted my Peruvian wife to see just about everything: Bogota, Medellin, the coffee region, San Andres, and a pueblo / finca relaxation. I couldn’t squeeze in Cali, a city I still haven’t visited. But I made a priority for what seems to be the Machu Picchu of Colombia, the crowning jewel for tourism, Cartagena. I booked a two day trip.
I hadn’t been anywhere on the Coast yet. I’d heard horror stories of the heat, and if there’s one thing that doesn’t mix with big, white, hairy guys like me, it’s heat. Our first day I realized it was worse than I had heard. It’s hot as fuck and humid. It’s undoubtedly the closest climate to hell on earth that I’ve found. I could never live there. It’s so hot you have to drink beer to tolerate it. But then you end up drunk and generally useless at 3 pm. That’s what happened to me anyway. Our last day it rained and that was worse, the humidity had me sweating more. So we spent a lot of time in our air conditioned hotel room. We didn’t do anything aside from exploring the Walled City and the nearby San Felipe castle.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a giant fortress where the Spaniards repelled British invaders in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. I have no idea how those guys fought up there in that heat wearing military uniforms. I would’ve died. The sun beats even harder up there. But it was worth the visit.
Also noteworthy about San Felipe is that a porn film was shot there. It’s almost become a tradition for the Colombian costeños to shoot pornos at their historic sites. Later another porno was shot at a historic clock tower. Also a Cartagena paintball club was used, but Cartagena isn’t the only city that can’t help using its famous places for pornos. The main soccer stadium in Cali had a porno shoot. So maybe it’s a Colombian thing more than a Cartagena thing.
Speaking of porn, since Cartagena is a top global destination for sex tourism, I thought it was going to be crawling with whores. I was pleased to see absolutely zero. Then again, I was locked into the hotel room by 9 pm with wifey every night, and we didn’t go to any rumba areas. Maybe the city is crawling with them, but I didn’t see any of that. So that was a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, I was offered cocaine twice in two days. Given I was only alone momentarily to buy beer in tiendas, that puts Cartagena way ahead of Bogota’s La Candelaria and Zona Rosa combined for pushing drugs on tourists.
I can see why people say you have to visit Cartagena. It’s a beautiful city, as you can see in the pictures below. But the pictures don’t capture the agony of the heat. HELL ON EARTH.