We arrived in Cartagena after a delightful romp from Curacao. 480 nautical miles downwind in 88 hours. We landed the sixth fish to strike the lure - a fine mahi mahi, half of which remains in our freezer. The seventh strike broke our reel... and obviously haven't caught anything since.
Ten years ago, a cruising sailor would be foolish to approach the Colombian coast... while Venezuela was considered the finest cruising destination in the region.
Times have certainly changed since then.
This drastic change is due, in my opinion. to two national leaders - Bill Clinton and Hugo Chavez. President Clinton steered vast ammounts of US Dollars and Aide to support Colombia's drug eradication program and anti-smuggling efforts. Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, has made Venezuela a corrupt socialist state causing countless people to go hungry as a result of runaway inflation and is quoted as saying "attacks on Gringos will not be investigated" resulting in the escalating reports of robberies and murders of cruising sailors as of late. In my opinion - Venezuela is best avoided now-a-days.
Politics aside... Cartagena is rich in history and beauty and the most affordable place we've stopped in the Caribbean since sailing away from St Thomas, six months ago. Our passage and arrival couldn't have been better as we made use of a weather window of fine sailing across gentle seas with a dawn arrival at the start of a city-wide, week-long festival celebrating Cartagena Independence including a sail-in and parade of tall ships from around the Atlantic, music, dancing, fireworks, pagentry, military air shows, food and fun... lots of fun!
Today we walked from Club Nautica into the oldest section of the walled city for a look around at the usual Gringo Tourist sites including museums, cathedrials, parks, shops, restauraunts, people watching, etc. Sensational! Without question, the highlight of the day (for me anyway) was finding myself colse enough to the current Miss Colombia to give her a kiss! I may have made her day! My wife captured the moment with her camera. And what a great foto! Immagine the most beautiful and elegant young woman in the world, dressed in a jaw-dropping evening gown... getting kissed by a grizzled, old, sweaty, over weight gringo sailor on shore leave. Get the picture? A mermaid and a walrus may describe the moment captured on digital memory stick.
Tomorrow, a bunch of us (three boatloads of kids & grown-ups) are hiring a pro tour guide to take us around the historic sights of the city, because I reckon that if there's one place to go on a tour in the Caribbean - Cartagena would have to be the finest.
We plan to stay through the weekend and sail direct to Bocas del Toro, Panama in order to meet family who are flying down from the States for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday - less than two weeks away.
From there, we'll poke around the San Blas and Colombian Islands in an attempt to return to Cartagena for New Years Celabrations in this fabulous port.