I write this from the 10th floor of a medium nice hotel overlooking a shipping yard in Cartagena, lamenting the fact that we aren't burning rubber on our way south.
We rocked up to the dock in Capurganá, the second Colombian town from the border, beaten only by Sapzurro which is a quick hour long hike over a ridge to the north. There are no roads to get here, it is only accessible by boat! We had hoped to catch a water taxi from here to mainland Colombia, ideally Necoclí, but we arrived JUST as the last water taxi of the day (there are two, one at 10am and one at 11am) was getting ready to leave, and we wanted to be sure we were getting a good price, plus we thought Capurgana seemed like a quaint town.
We also had to take care of our entrance stamps for Colombia, which, interestingly enough, seemed totally optional. Nobody was making us get them, we had to go track down the immigration office so we could get it done! The process was pretty quick, and they were super friendly, allowing us to change from our wet clothes behind a giant radiator in the back of the building, but sadly not to use the restroom.
We hadn't been able to use the bathroom yet all day, and Kelly was so desperate to pee that she straight up peed in a puddle behind the radiator! ... Then it was my turn to go change, and she saw fit to let me know about her escapades in the back of the Colombian immigration office AFTER I'd changed standing in what I suspect is that very same puddle.
Anyway, we got ourselves immigrated into Colombia, then set about finding a place to stay for at least a night. We found this cute hostal and both Kelly and I and J and C got private rooms. We ended up staying for two nights! After getting our stuff settled into the room, we poked around town a bit and snagged some dinner before resting it up.
The next day feels more like two because we did so much! We started with a quick jaunt to a tide pool the owner of the hostal told us about, which offered some really nice views of the water on the way down the beach to the pool, and some fun splashing about when the biggest waves would cascade into the pool!
After mucking about in the tidepool for a while, we figured it was time for a snack, then we thought we might try our hands at the hike to Sapzurro! On the way back we spied a sign nailed to a tree advertising tattoos with a WhatsApp number. Wee figured it could be a fun activity to commemorate the experience, so I gave a "why not" message to the number. Once we fueled up back at the hostal, we headed out through Capurgana for the trailhead!
The hike was pretty punchy, with some steep hills, but that made it relatively short as well! We spied a pack of tiny monkeys swinging high through the treetops and a goth toucan. We also heard howler monkeys freaking out, which was pretty eerie. I can't imagine how freaky it would be to try to sleep in the area with that ghostly howling! Most interestingly, though, we saw boat loads of leaf cutter ants. They paralleled the trail in a couple places with their busy highways of ants carrying leaf cuttings to their home and other ants heading back to gather more. We even managed to find the entrance to one of their homes, just a little hole in the ground! Wild stuff, man. Halfway through the hike was the top of the ridge separating Capurgana and Sapzurro, which even had a lookout tower! They also had fun, information signs along the way describing local flora and fauna in both spanish and english.
There turned out to be little to nothing to do in Sapzurro, so we grabbed a couple cold drinks (the hike had us drenched in sweat, it was hot and humid as hell!) and chilled for a few minutes before heading back for Capurgana. While we were there the tattoo guy responded to me and we arranged to meet in Capurgana to get some reference photos to make the tattoo and get it done that night!
We killed it on the hike back and made it maybe a half hour before dark. Kelly made some calls and had some snacks while I got to work on getting the tattoo done. I met him near the pier and we poked around the beached boats to find one at the perfect angle, he took a picture when we found one, then we headed back into town and snaked our way through to his neighborhood where he would give me the tattoo. He and his fiance are working on immigrating to the USA, so they're saving money and working on finding a way to get a job there! We had a lot of fun practicing our language skills (them english and me spanish). They had a lot of side hussles! Their two room home consisted of a bedroom/store selling clothes and shoes, and another room functioning as a livingroom, tattoo studio, barbershop, and nail salon.
The tattoo took WAY longer than I thought it would, I only ended up getting back to the hostal at about 10:30pm! I was so wiped by the time I made it back, I thought it would only take an hour or two, but they were being very meticulous and taking their time to make sure everything was right. I guess that's reasonable, hahaha.
We figured our time in Capurgana was through, so we elected to make for Cartagena. J and C needed to stay for previous commitments they had on the interwebs, but they got seriously lucky and the hostal owner was able to take a credit card payment and give them cash (for a pretty big markup, but hey, it's cash, and they had none). They didn't need to rely on our funds any more, so we temporarily parted ways!
Kelly and I snagged the 11am water taxi to Necoclí and were there before we knew it! This boat was a lot bigger than the ones we'd been on in Panama, so a LOT more comfortable. It was also only an hour and a half, then we were done with boat rides for the rest of the trip!! Thank god.
We still had lots of time before Savannah was ready to be picked up in Cartagena, so we thought we'd stay in the super cute hostal we found in Necoclí for a couple nights. The place was overrun with super friendly dogs and a couple cats, so how could we not stay?? I read a Sherlock Holmes book and we pretty much just lazed about for a few days enjoying the atmosphere.
Time to head for Cartagena so we can be prepared to pick up Savannah as soon as she arrives! It's about an 8 hour bus ride from Necoclí to Cartagena, and boy oh boy it was an interesting one, at least it started out that way. We went to the bus terminal where a guy told us how much it would be and that it was leaving in about 45 minutes. We barely didn't have enough, so I ran off to the ATM to grab some more cash. By the time I got back, the bus had arrived (or so we thought?). We ended up with the driver of the bus that arrived trying to get us into the bus, saying it would take us to Cartagena, and the guy who we'd spoken to before I went to the ATM telling us the bus would be here soon and it would be more comfortable. They were both being very pushy and speaking loudly and quickly in spanish, such that Kelly and I were totally lost in about 2 seconds. There ended up being a little crowd of about 4-6 people around me and Kelly, all trying to explain stuff to us at the same time in a language we didn't speak. Soon we noticed that two people were even filming us on their phones. That was it for us, so we just dove into the bus (which was more of a van), and figured it would take us somewhere and we'd figure it out later!
The bus was calmer, but not much nicer. There was a guy who was pretty clearly very hungover puking into a grocery bag periodically the entire time he was on the bus. Ah, travel.
We ended up transferring to a bigger, long distance bus after a couple hours in the tiny, pukey bus. This ride was a lot more chill, and before we knew it we were at the bus terminal for Cartagena!
We snagged a taxi and avoided the "uber" that didn't exist in the app but was instead across the road from where all the taxis hang out? Weird. We made it to a hotel where we'd arranged a room for a while around 7pm, and settled in! It was a pretty nice hotel, very small and homey, and included a kitchen and a rooftop pool!
I'm combining all these days because we pretty much hung around Cartagena and explored while we waited for Savannah to show up. She was hella delayed at the port in Panama, then delayed again unloading in Cartagena. When we went to get the work started to pick her up, J and C were an hour late for the appointment, which was almost cancelled! That slowed us down a bit, and we ended up with everything taken care of except the mandatory insurance, which it turns out is impossible to get until December 27th, so we're stuck here until then. I have a plane ticket to fly back to North Carolina from Bogota on the morning of the 31st, so we'll have to book it south as soon as we get that insurance taken care of! Anyway, on to Cartagena.
We spent most of our time in Old Town and Getsamani, which are the more touristy areas of Cartagena. Art was absolutely all over the place, and the city is so colorful! There are a lot of small alleys with fun decorations strewn from one rooftop to the opposite over the alleys, and you never know what canvasses you might see hung up on the wall or what graffiti you'll see. We did a fair amount of shopping, because what else is there to do, and I got some "Raybanns" from a street vendor for an entire order of magnitude cheaper than the ones from the store in the mall! We also FINALLY GOT TO SEE SOME SLOTHS!! There's a park in the middle of the city with trees and grass, and apparently it has 8 sloths living in it, as well as monkeys and squirrels! The monkeys were easy to find as they're loud and fast, and tourists like to watch and take pictures of them and try to feed them. The sloths are a bit harder since they're so slow, quiet, and their camoflage is pretty good. But a kid saw us looking around the treetops and showed us to where we could see one and it was LEGENDARY!
We also hit a two hour sunset booze cruise on a sailboat which was not necessarily something we would do again, but definitely not something we regret! It was nice to sip at wine and mixed drinks while watching the city drift past. We did a ton of walking to try to overcome the cooped up feeling and it kinda worked. It was aided by how we knew we had done everything in our power to get out, so it's not like we were sitting around, making no progress because we hadn't done something.
Here are a ton of photos from Cartagena!
Now that we have Savannah back and we're just waiting for the insurance office to open, we moved to a nicer hotel that has a locked parking deck so we know Savannah is safe. My pan-american journey has almost come to a close :'(
I get another tattoo, we go to Cartagena way too early and explore the city for over a week!
If there's something I wrote too little about, make a comment or reach out to ask to hear more, I'd love to answer any questions!