Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cartagena by Chiva

High above Cartagena on La Popa
I signed up for an afternoon "chiva" tour of Cartagena. What's a "chiva"?

That is a chiva. It's a colorful bus can hold a few dozen turistas on a bilingual tour of Cartagena. The chiva started auspiciously as a gentleman took my voucher (I had prepaid at my hotel) and put me on a different "chiva" -- there were several, operated by different companies -- and then disappeared. I didn't know what was up, but with a combination of my limited Spanish and the help of the lone English language speaker in the general, the matter got resolved and I got put on the correct "chiva."

This chiva. It was confusing at first because we headed into the Bocagrande ("Big Mouth") barrio without any explanation of what we were doing or why we were there.

Except to take pictures of the Caribbean from a moving bus.

Eventually, I was able to figure out we were picking out additional passengers from the beachfront hotels of Bocagrande. After about 45 minutes of this, the guided tour part of the tour began and off we were.

The first Kodak photo point was somewhere along the water, where we could get a view of the part of Cartagena called "Little Miami," due to the fact that it is nothing more than a string of high rise condos along a beach.

The main port is visible here under the fronds:

And when you stop at a photo visit on a tour, what time is it?

Selfie time! As you can see, in this one, I am using all my powers of concentration to take the definitive, perfect stickless selfie.

We soon arrived at the first of the two real destinations on this tour. The Fortress! Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.

Bur before we go in, let's take the time to appreciate a statue near the entrance of the fortress.

OK. Statue appreciated. Off to storm the fortress:

It's never too early to take a fortress selfie:

Soon our whole group was at the top of the fortress:

We went inside the walls of the fortress, going where only those defending the fortress previously dared to tread.

And I learned something very important inside those fortress walls:

People were a whole lot shorter back then.

What better way to detoxify from the claustrophobia of walking through the low fortress walls than to get back out into the open air! And selfie-photograph one doing it.

At the top of the fortress was a giant Colombian flag, the kind that is so big you would swear that it would only be flown at a 24-hour gas station.

The modern Cartagena visible in the picture.

I am posting this one in case you wanted to see a selfie of me sans shades.

And here's a friendly little kid hanging out inside a castle turret.

And the view from the turret?

Narrow, that's what the view from the turret is.

This is Emanuel, who was videotaping the tour for sale to us turistas.

I bought one because why not. But I did not buy anything from the gift shop at the top of the fortress.

Even though it was staffed by a sleepy car in a chair. Time to load back into the chiva.

And go to the next Kodak photo point:

A big of pair shoes.

And a policeman under a tree. I mention that police officer not just because he is under a tree, but because there really is a heavy presence of police, military and private security in Cartagena and in Bogotá. I may complaint about the "police state" in the USA, but here in Colombia, it really has made the place feel not just safer, but safe.

I think the purpose of this photo stop was to get pictures of the other side of the fortress, the side that would be seen by marauders and invaders bent on ransacking and pillaging Cartagena -- and stealing the gold that was being shipped to Spain from the Colombian interior. But we weren't marauding or ransacking. Not enough time! Off to the next stop.

La Popa. The highest point in all of Cartagena.

And that means great views. And, by the way, that's not smog or pollution covering the city. It's steamy fog. This is the steamy tropics after all.

Let's check out El Convento de la Popa, shall we? Starting with the courtyard.

Let's check out the chapel:

Enter with due respect! And be respectful when taking selfies in front of the altar. And in fairness to "selfie at the altar" girl, it is an impressive altar.

Tha's La Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in the center. I'm guessing she's visiting from Bogotá. Need more perspective?

And outside the chapel area is a work of art depicting the infamous "Adoracion del Cabron":

A priest interrupted an act of goat worshipping by some African slaves by throwing said billy goat off the La Popa mountainside. One last look at the courtyard of El Convento de La Popa:

I am but a shadow of the man I used to be,

Speaking of shadows, the chiva returned to the walled city when the shadows were started to grow a little long.

So it was time for me to exit the chiva and scurry inside the city walls.

Where I would be kept safe by the police presence.

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