More Cartagena, Colombia

I was so excited to see Cartagena. It looked gorgeous from the water, and I had read a bit about the city and the interesting historic section which was supposed to be an easy distance from the port.

What a disappointment! Well, not Colombia, or Cartagena, but our experience with the little bit of it that we were able to see. We got off the ship and wound our way through a very interesting park sort of place with flamingos and other birds.

When we emerged into the taxi stand, we were instantly overwhelmed with taxi drivers trying to convince us to ride with them.

We settled on a taxi driver who agreed to take us to the historic section for $5/each, so we and our friends set out. Before the car doors were hardly open at our destination we were accosted by a man selling hats, and another selling sunglasses, and then more selling beer, drinks, cheap jewelry, and so on. This was pretty much how the whole morning went. Unless we were a bit off the beaten path on a side street, we were constantly approached by aggressive people selling things. The area was beautiful but it was very hard to enjoy it. It’s too bad that the museums were all closed too, and even the church was closing its doors as we were leaving. But, I still did manage to get some photos!

The best part of our time was the taxi ride back to the ship. I think the driver sensed our frustration and wanted to show us a little of the city, so he took us on less than a direct route so we could get a sense of what the area was like. Everything was very clean and mostly white, and very attractive. He recommended that we come back again in a plane and stay in a hotel so we could get a better idea of what it is really like in Colombia.

I would love to explore more of Colombia. When you are on a ship full of tourists though, you’re like prey so it’s a whole different scene than an individual walking around the city. We were all so discouraged we just went back to the ship for the last few hours we had at this port. Now I was also apprehensive about our next ports. Were we going to face more of the same everywhere we stopped? (thankfully we didn’t, and we had a good time at the next places)


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Cartagena, Columbia

The first stop on our cruise was Cartagena, Columbia. I was very excited to visit here! This was my first glimpse of Columbia and South America, and I was curious to see what it was like. We woke to a beautiful sunrise, and coming into the city was spectacular! It was a clear day with blue skies and blue water, and as the city came into view it was gleaming white in the sunlight.

We docked right next to the container port which was really interesting. I had never seen such a port in action, and even though it was Sunday they were unloading the boat next to us as well as a couple others on the other side of it. So, between that and securing our boat, there was a lot of activity when we arrived.

Cartagena has an interesting history, and there is a Wikipedia article here. It was plundered and fought over by many people, but the Spanish were the main occupiers. Today it is a thriving city with a lot of industry, much of it based on petroleum products. Tourism is also an important business. The container port is the busiest in the country.

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New Travel Adventures

We have been on a cruise with limited (expensive) internet, so apologies to everyone I haven’t answered. I’ll be catching up over the next few days. There were no limitations on photo taking though so you have been warned. There are lots of photos to come! Our cruise went to Cartagena, Columbia, Caracao, Bonaire, and Aruba, so I will post a bit about each location.

The ship left from Colon so we went with another couple to Panama City where we spent the night. Then, the next morning, we drove to Colon to board the ship. I was interested to see a little of Colon since I’d never been there before. I had heard that it is a more depressed area with higher unemployment, crime, and more problems than other parts of Panama. There also tend to be more dark skinned people, mainly descendants of Jamaican canal workers brought in by the US. The little I saw did not contradict what I had heard.

Panama City is always interesting. As always, there is construction everywhere and activity everywhere you look. We stayed at the Hotel Milan which I had heard about for some time, but was new to me. It was a nice hotel in a good location near lots of stores and restaurants, so walking around the neighborhood was interesting. The hotel was fine, and the room was large and comfortable but the poor air conditioner was nearing retirement and wasn’t quite up to the job. I usually choose hotels that include breakfast, but we had a very adequate breakfast in the restaurant on the ground floor.

I had some fun taking photos in Panama City of vendors, dodging traffic to sell various things.

Once we got out of the city the trip to Colon was fairly quick and easy on good roads all the way. We did have to go through part of Colon on our way to the port though. The city was very crowded and traffic crawled along, giving me a chance to take a few photos along the way.

We boarded the ship on Saturday in the early afternoon. The ship left port in the late afternoon, traveled all night and docked in Cartegena, Columbia on Sunday morning.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

For this challenge, document the movement (or stillness) of a street: tell a story with your snapshot, capture a scene that reveals a bit about a place, or simply show us where you live — or a path you often take.

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Help Needed

If all of my readers would contribute only $2, the goal would be reached. Since that may not happen, YOU contribute $5 and make sure things happen.

Peter, the organizer, doesn’t want me talk about him because he’s not doing anything special. So, I won’t tell you that he’s a doctor from the US working with people in La Chureca, a garbage dump in Managua, Nicaragua. We have exchanged a few emails but I won’t tell you how my heart ached to hear him say he used to cry at night knowing the people who came to his clinic went to sleep every night in a garbage dump.

(from Wikipedia)

(from Wikipedia)

He would like you to know about Maria Teresa Fernandez de Vega, who was Vice President in Spain. Her visit to the dump shed light on the problem and started improvements which included a recycling facility, jobs, housing, and school for the people living at the dump. Conditions are better now for many of the people, but they are still very, very poor.

There are students who want to go to university but this takes money, very little by our standards but an impossible amount in their world. Jobs are very hard to come by and aren’t flexible around a class schedule, so students often give up their dreams. Peter believes that a computer lab will change this. Students can work on line and earn enough to continue their education. Read about it at the link above which explains it far better than I can. Peter supports himself and his clinic with his on line earnings, so he’s in a good position to help.

I know there are a lot of good people doing good things in this world, but I happen to know this one and think a lot of his efforts and compassion for these people. We are so lucky by our circumstances of birth. We were not born in a garbage dump like the children there. Hopefully we can ease a little suffering for other fellow human beings.

Let’s surprise Peter and show him how just a little can add up to something significant!


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Cabalgata – the Parade of Horses

I have never seen so many horses! Someone said there were 5000 horses and riders participating.

The parade, or cabalgata, takes place every year on March 19th and people come from everywhere to participate. We have been seeing horses in people’s yards and empty lots all around the neighborhood. On the day of the parade there were people riding horses through town, driving them in trucks, and putting them in every sort of available space.

The parade was supposed to start around 3 PM. My neighbor said we should go around 1-2 PM so we can find a space to watch since there will be a large crowd. We actually went about 3:30 and we still had to wait for over an hour for things to get underway. But, when things started happening there were hundreds and hundreds of horses coming down the street! We were lucky and ended up at a gas station on a sharp angled corner. The parade came up on our right, turned in front of the gas station, and proceeded down the street on our left. We had a perfect spot to see everything!

If you want a feel for what it was like there, watch this 3 1/2 minute video.


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Panama Canal Boat Trip

The Panama Canal is fascinating and I’d always wanted to take one of those boat trips up the canal. I found a good deal on a partial transit, so this was the basis of our plans to spend some time in Panama City. Of course I took tons of photos so it was hard to narrow it down to this (still fairly large) collection.

The trip was great and we had a wonderful guide, so we really learned a lot. I have included some links at the bottom of this post if you want to read further about some of things in the photos. And, of course for general information about the canal, Google will bring up many sources.

This was a great trip and I’m so glad we got to do it. I have heard about the Panama Canal all my life, and it’s importance to the whole world. Never in my life though did I think I would actually see the canal, let alone travel on it.

Below are some links to more information about some of the things we saw, and my favorite webcam.

The first is a WEBCAM that I used to watch in Florida while I spent hours at my desk doing paperwork. This Live Ships Map is also cool because you can look up information about the ships in the canal.

Biodiversity Museum by Frank Gehry - visit the Official Website This is the colorful building on the Amador Causeway, and the only work of Frank Gehry in Central America. We were told that if you view it from above, it looks like a toucan in flight.

Bridge of the Americas, the first bridge we passed under. The guide told us it is customary to kiss your sweetheart as you pass under it.

The Nordic Wolverine, the oil tanker that proceeded us through the locks.

The Centennial Bridge, the second bridge we passed under.

The Genius Star, the cargo ship we passed in the Pedro Miguel lock.

The Culebra Cut, the narrowest and most difficult part of the canal. It was also a huge challenge in the construction of the canal. Our guide told us that when the canal expansion is complete, there will be another passageway so ships can go in both directions. It will greatly increase the daily capacity of the canal and there will no longer be scores of ships parked in the water, often for 2-3 days, waiting their turn to go through the canal.

The Northern Dancer of Gibraltar, the tanker that looked like it needed new paint.

The Gunhild Kirk, the British oil tanker we passed in the Culebra Cut.

The El Renacer Prison - an article about the arrival of Noreiga there.

The Hafnia Crux, and Danish oil tanker that also passed us in the Culebra Cut.

The Titan is the huge crane that was built in Germany in 1941 under Hitler’s orders. The US got it as war booty and it was in Long Beach CA for many years. It was eventually sold to Panama in 1996 for $1. Shipping it here in pieces, refurbishing it, and putting it back together cost a bit more than that, but now it is used when a door to a lock is removed for maintenance.

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Hiking up Ancon Hill

Ancon Hill where we stayed in Panama City is a very interesting place with a lot of historical significance (read more about it HERE). It is also a nature preserve, and there is a good road that you can use to hike to the very top of the hill which overlooks the city.

We had such a good time staying here and experiencing this area! Usually we are in Panama City to catch a flight out, and this was the first time (since our very first time in the country) to go to the city just to enjoy ourselves.  The main purpose was the canal boat trip that we had booked (photos coming soon), but since we couldn’t go until Tuesday we decided to enjoy the city a bit. I’m really glad we did.

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When we stayed at La Estancia, not only did we see lots of birds, a family of moneys were also frequent visitors. According to my research, they are Geoffroy’s tamarins, a small, furry, and lively monkey. We had such a good time watching them, and they were also quite tame, not minding at all that there were people close by. One afternoon while they were waiting for fresh bananas to be delivered, one even took a cookie from Joel’s hand.

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Ancon Hill Birds

One thing we loved at La Estancia was all the birds. The staff had a bird feeder and hung out bunches of bananas and there was always a variety of birds coming to eat. You could sit out on the terrace and watch them, which was really pleasant. What a great place to relax and enjoy nature.

Little by little I’m sorting photos and catching up on events of our trip. I also need to backtrack and post photos of the huge horse parade that happened right before we left. Sometimes there’s just a lot of things going on!

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