Cartagena, Colombia

Casa Pancho – Cartagena

After the final 9 hours drive on Oct 6th,  we drive into Cartagena check into our beachfront Airbnb in the el Cabrero district and meet Omaira – our host. Casa Pancho is a ground floor unit within a 4-story apartment building near the old city and it has AC in the bedroom and its mostly clean so we make do with what it is – except the internet is not working. We’re here until 10th and then we’re off to a new Airbnb nearby anyway so we make do and play tourists instead in the walled city.

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The Old Walled City

Cartagena is primarily defined by a city surrounded by a wall built in the 1500s by the Spanish. The old city is protected and fortified with stone walls and inside is Instagram worthy picturesque buildings everywhere. The first day we take a stroll with Zozi and instantly, people are looking at her with a very curious and confused face. We saw so many stray dogs on our drive into Cartagena and we know that she is not as welcome and loved. But that’s our normal so it’s ok.

In the old town, we visit La Cevicheria – a restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain in 2008. It’s quite expensive at $40,000 COP per bowl but the ceviche is very well balanced and delicious. Would i return for it? this is our first ceviche place so we aren’t sure yet. Sitting on the “patio” turned out to be a mistake because every street vendor stops to try and sell you something – sunglasses, hats, drawings, dresses, a customized rap song…

On another day we visit La Mulata – a restaurant recommended on the iOverlander app*. The prices are much better and the food is not bad. The ceviche? Not as good, so maybe La Cevicheria is better than expected.

Most days in Cartagena…

We take Zoe out for a walk so she gets some exercise and then we bring her home to rest in the AC room. She doesn’t last more than 1 hour in the 30-degree heat anyway. Then we go out just the two of us to look at places she can’t go. We usually don’t go out at night since most advisories warn against it due to potentially dangerous situations. We’ve heard some stories of people being robbed or pickpocketed because they flash their foreign wealth (This is also why I’ve only been using my phone and not my DSLR and the quality of the photos aren’t as good).

One of the walks we went on with Zoe, we see two American looking girls in bikinis on the beach and there are some local guys trying to talk to them in Spanish. I think the girls were trying to pretend they don’t understand so they would leave them alone. On our way back we the same two girls being led by another group of older guys down an alleyway. This time we follow because well we have a dog people are scared of so maybe we can help if they are in trouble. Turns out, they were being taken to the local police and they were waiting for their statements. Down the street, we see another group of locals and police and it’s the guy we saw earlier bothering them on the beach. He is covered in blood and in handcuffs. No idea what actually happened, but just to be smart we take some extra measures to be safe in the future.

Steve doesn’t quite trust our neighborhood so he doesn’t let me take Zoe out alone and every time he takes her out I keep an eye out from the apartment just in case something happens. Let’s just say we felt a lot safer in Bogota than Cartagena. After 5 days in Casa Pancho, it’s time to move to another Airbnb 5 minutes away.

*iOverlander is an app where people who travel similarily like us contribute information and their experiences about where to camp, eat, avoid etc. It’s been a lifesaver for us on more than one occasion.

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