Saturday, December 3, 2011

Colonial Cartagena

Our first night in town was the Friday before Halloween, and there was a lot of enthusiasm around Getsemaní, the neighborhood of Cartagena we stayed in.   Party goers were out in full revelry, but so were families, children, teenagers, everybody. 

Getsemaní is the oldest part of Cartagena, but not nearly as well maintained/improved as the walled city.  It is home to many budget hotels and seems to be improving as tourism increases (Hotel Villa Colonial was great, and the owners were incredibly nice and helpful.  After one night there, though, we did move to a cheaper hostel, bringing the room cost down from US$28 per night to around US$15.  There are lots of hostel options, we stayed at Holiday, but wouldn't recommend it over anything else.). We found a street vendor in a small plaza for food, which was deeelicious.  French fries covered in bistec or salchicha and smothered in sauces (mmmmmmmm.....reminiscent of poutine....)  The costumes made for some fantastic people watching while we ate.

Saturday morning the insurance hunt was on to see if we could buy short term insurance (1 month at around US$15 sounded much more appealing than 1 year at nearly US$200) or at the very least identify where the insurance agents are located and what hours they held.  We started with a list of 3 offices, which happened to be supplied by the very same border agent who sent us to the non-existent office the day before, so we were prepared to turn this task into an all day affair. In fact, it was. One of the offices had moved out of a bank building (near the Cervantes statue pictured below) and is now likely the same as the office where we eventually found insurance. Questions led us to another couple of potential offices, all of which would not sell less than a year, but could refer us to yet another possibility. We eventually had it worked down to a 3 step plan for Monday morning:
  1. Go to Seguros Sura office accross from the Botas Viejas sculpture (near the fort).  This office located between the Chevy and Renault dealerships looked impressively large, newly improved, and like a good option.  (A few more clues about its location in this post on ADVrider.)  Monday morning at 7:50am we would be there.
  2. Seguros Sura office in Manga, near where we first came ashore.  Thanks to a post on ADVrider, we could expect to get a 2 month policy there (much preferred over a year, and we would gladly fork over the US$15 difference to stop our search)
  3. Gas station out near the Hospital Naval.  A cabbie told us they offered insurance, but given all of the places we asked, I am willing to bet they will only sell a 1 year minimum, way too much $$$$.
However Monday morning panned out, running an errand like that was a good excuse to explore Cartagena.

(this is the clocktower between Getsemaní and the walled old city)

Within the walled old city, the streets and buildings are much more colonial.

(the walled old city has gone through a lot of renovations and is the center of tourism in town)

Monday morning at 7:50am we were at Seguros Sura, arriving with most of the office workers.  The caja opened at 8:30, when the insurance agent got the paperwork started.  We paid just under 30,000 Colombian pesos ($15) for one month of coverage and were out of town by 10am, on our way along the coast towards Riohacha, where we had a couch to surf.

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