Travel diary: Cartagena, Taganga, and a lost city
Colonial ruins, literary adventures, a visit to a local youth centre, time with friends (local, foreign, and new), a Great Search For Accommodation, time at the beach, a lost city… Add in far too many hours of work, and that’s been our last couple of weeks.
Our flight from Medellin to Cartagena was full but uneventful, but the hotel we’d booked had never heard of sound insulation and we spent two nights not sleeping very well. This sparked a great hotel hunt, which landed us at the Ibis on the waterfront; not our first choice but at least the Internet was more or less reliable.
Our first activity in Cartagena was a Gabriel García Márquez tour of the old town — such a great way to get to know the place and inspire me to read another Gabo book, Love and Other Demons. Reading a book set in a town when you’re actually in the town is awesome — I feel a project coming on!
I also joined another Context tour later in our stay, which we talk about in our latest podcast: listen below or read the shownotes of our Deep Travel Cartagena episode.
A highlight of our stay in Cartagena was spending time with friends. We met Julian, another of my conversation exchange partners from my Spanish-learning journey, and our mate Gary came to visit for a few days. Together we headed to the charming beach town of Taganga. Well, not quite together… The transfer company stuffed up the booking and we ended up travelling in different vans.
Gary had to leave after just two nights in Taganga, but Craig and I stayed on. We found a pleasant work rhythm and embarked on another search for accommodation when the hotel we’d booked into for our first few days told us we couldn’t extend as they were full. Although we quickly tired of the set menus at the restaurants along the beach, other establishments like Babaganoush, La Morena, and Bonito all provided us with delicious food. We also found a favourite juice vendor and empanada guy, both of whom we visited regularly.
On Sunday we made the trek across the hill to Playa Grande, expecting a large, clean beach to relax on. We found a small cove lined with restaurants, its beach packed with chairs and its waters full of people and small boats. The water was amazing, as was the juice we sipped while sitting in two of the aforementioned chairs, but packed beaches aren’t really our scene: we returned to Taganga within a couple of hours.
La Ciudad Perdida
Since we’d been working so hard, a bit of time away from our computers seemed in order. Plus it was Easter — definitely time for a holiday! So we joined a four-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida (the lost city). We realised about an hour into the first day that this was our first-ever multi-day guided walk — most of the time we hike independently. Luckily, we had an excellent guide (Jhon) and a fantastic group of fellow-walkers, so our experience was a good one.
The first day started with a transfer to the office and a bit of a wait before hopping in a 4×4, which took us to the small town of Machete (so-called because some of the inhabitants once had a habit of challenging each other to drunken machete duels). After lunch, we started walking… up. About 80% of the four-day walk was either steeply up or down, which was hard on our hearts and knees, but meant we really appreciated the natural swimming pools at each of the camps we stayed at. I was also really grateful that these camps had beds as well as hammocks to sleep in — I’d thought it would be hammocks all the way.
The second day was a challenge, as we got up at 4.40am to beat the heat, but still had a hot afternoon of walking after lunch. On day three we finally made it to the lost city itself, after a pleasant half-hour walk from camp to the base of a hill, followed by a steep climb up 1200 steps. The views from the top and the city ruins themselves were amazing, as was the chance to meet an indigenous tribal leader.
We started our return that same day, and on day four found ourselves back in Machete for lunch. I didn’t want the experience to end, but of course it had to finish eventually, and we said a sad goodbye to our trek mates and made our way back to Taganga.
Next stop: Bogotá.
Our tours were provided by Context and Expotur, and (of course) all the opinions of them are our own.