A Rainy Day in Cartagena

I was traveling for work back in October to attend a conference in Cartagena, Colombia. I normally do my homework before I travel somewhere to get the lay of the land, but this time life got in the way and I wound up in Cartagena knowing very little about the city. I’ll write about the city itself another day as it was really interesting. But one day in particular was very memorable.

During one of the conference dinners I met a fellow attendee who was also visiting from the United States. She was staying over the next day to explore the city and so was I, so we decided to explore together. The next morning we caught a cab from our hotel to the old walled city of Cartagena.

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Cartagena is hot — year round. The high temperature is just about always around 88 degrees Fahrenheit. And it is humid — year round. October is the most humid month in Cartagena but the average annual percentage of humidity is 81%! So you break into a sweat walking a single block.

But we had the best of intentions, and we left our air conditioned hotel and arrived at the old city after a standard 10,000 peso taxi ride (about $3.30 USD). We got out of the car outside the city wall and immediately started losing our resolve. As we walked by the hotel Santa Teresa, my friend mentioned that she had gone there the day before and really enjoyed the bar. We laughed and said maybe we would try it out later but of course we wouldn’t start drinking at 10 am.

So we passed it by and began our exploration. After less than an hour we were sweating profusely and determined rain was on its way so back to the hotel we went and stepped inside the bar.

The bar itself wasn’t much to speak of — a few tables and a bar with bar stools. And they don’t speak much English, so we were testing the limits of our Spanish and pantomiming skills. I ordered a rum and coke and my friend had gin and tonic. A few minutes later the bartender appeared at our table with a big bottle of run and a coke and began to pour the rum into my glass. She kept pouring until the rum was almost to the top of the glass, then added a splash of coke, put the coke bottle next to my glass and smiled. And I smiled right back :-).

A few minutes after we got our drinks, it started to rain. A rain like I hadn’t seen in years — hard rain with thunder, lightening and wind. Blowing the trees and forcing everything and everyone off the sidewalks and under cover. The thunder shook the building and the rain pelted down. The side doors remained open so you could feel the wind and hear the rain fall.

We moved to a table by the window, ordered another drink and asked for a food menu. Ten minutes later the best plate of nachos I’ve ever eaten arrived — I wasn’t sure about ordering crab nachos but they were truly tantalizing. We ate our nachos, made friends with the bartenders, traded stories and relished being in a 400 year old walled city thousands of miles from home with no place we had to be.

And then finally after several hours the rain stopped. But by now the streets had turned to rivers. Cars couldn’t get through without flooding and we now waited for the streets to clear.

Around 4 pm we wandered back out of the bar and down the street. The city slightly cooler from the rain and the two of us enjoying our new found friendship

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