Our next Cartagena challenge would prove to be even harder.It ended up taking us two days, including 7 hours on a boat, dollars each and 90 minutes of arguing with a tour company, but we finally got to visit BOTH Playa Blanca and the famed Islas del Rosario.
Treasure troves are natural targets, so imposing stone walls were built around the entire city to protect it from pirate attacks, including those made by Sir Frances Drake in 1586. In addition to the walls, a chain of forts, dungeons and hidden tunnels were built to protect Spain’s riches. The Old Town is still encircled by massive stone walls and consists of the same colonial architecture, churches, plazas and cobblestone streets of the 16th Century.
Horse-drawn carriages clatter down narrow alleys, bougainvilleas dangle from balconies and large mansions overlook the sea.
All the tour boats drop you off at the entrance to an outdoor, natural aquarium where you then have an hour to explore before moving on to Playa Blanca. Sea turtles, bat rays, sharks, and dolphins were all kept in natural seawater, fenced off from one another in various pens.
We took loads of photos and watched a dolphin show.
The only real difference are the trendy bars and luxury hotels.
We arrived in Cartagena without any reservations, so after paying the cab fare from the bus terminal, we were pretty much on our own.We would only be going to the beach and if we wanted to go to the island, we should save our tickets, get off the boat and return the next day for the full tour. we stayed on the boat, perplexed and wondering why we were spending so much time at Playa Blanca instead of going on to the islands.When we got back to Cartagena, we discovered our mistake and decided to return the next morning to see if we couldn’t get back on the boat (for free) and go to the islands. The instructions were only given in Spanish and that damn tour group was LOUD! In South America, however, customer satisfaction is rarely guaranteed and tour companies are not in the practice of compensating a wrong. If a city were able to thrive on intrigue and romance alone, Cartagena would have it made.Founded in 1533, Cartagena was a major port town for the Spanish and also where they stored all the riches they’d plundered from the indigenous people.Think Disneyland if it were only for adults and lacked all the foo-foo Disney characters.