Saturday 16 July 2011

Cartagena, Columbia

Stop 2 of 6 Cartagena. Fell in love with this city, I love sea so it had me simply by being on the coast, the weather was hot and humid with a thunderstorm each day, but also thanks to Ronald Bradford we had maximised the time there.

We left Quito hotel at 4am, flew to Bogotá and then onto Cartagena, both flights just a little over an hour with a very rushed connection, although I think flights to Bogotá are like buses they seem to run every hour.

Leaving Ecuador was a little stressful, lots of paperwork and no one spoke English, we had no idea what we were meant to do, but luckily I was travelling with Hans, Ronald and Cindy. Kuassi started with us but had a later flight from Bogotá.

At Cartagena airport we were met by Robin, who like Paola in Quito I had met a few times in Redwood and at OOW. Robin always smiles and just makes you feel good. In the taxi I felt like I was in the Caribbean, many roads with large storm drains and actually we were, Cartagena does sit in the Caribbean sea.

We arrived at our hotel about 11 and my hhonors got me a very nice room right next to the exec lounge, were we hung out a lot of the time, enjoying the food and drinks. We had gone early to get the most from the day, which included lazing by the pool, catching up with the day job and just enjoying our first rest.

That evening Robin collected us and took us to the walled city which was just phenomenal, absolutely beautiful and worth the visit all on its own. It had its own atmosphere and although dusk still warm but not oppressive. We walked around the wall all the way to see the castle, a very long walk but just wonderful. Back in the wall city square we ate outdoors, the square was so alive, hawkers and dancers and although they tried to pester you they soon left if you waved them away.

On Sunday Robin organized a boat trip for us. Our OTN liaison Pablo was going diving and I so wanted to go with him but I had a head cold so had to miss out, but a boat trip sounded great. All the speakers were on board and the boat was quite full, but we did all have life vests. There is an archipelago off Cartagena and the boat was taking us out to see them, but the boat went too fast and when ever another boat appeared there seemed to be a race been the pilots. I really got scared and Robin asked the guy to slow down but he was simply indifferent. However when we finally stopped looking at islands and stopped on a private one for lunch it was fantastic. First we had a swim and then Kuassi and I tried to canoe, except our kayak had a fatal flaw - it had a hole, so we had capsized before we had left the beach. After a great lunch we all retired upstairs to have a siesta in hammocks. Going back we had to go fast to try and beat a thunderstorm but we did get caught by the rain but it was quite refreshing although it did feel like rapid gunfire.

That evening Cindy shared with us the Lonely Planet guide to the boat trips from Cartagena “On the small boats, you are confined to your seat, but you get around quicker and can see more. Reviews are mixed but overall, travellers prefer the big boats for their quality of service. Readers report that pilots of small boats rush around too quickly and safety may be an issue – some small boats have sunk.” – a perfect description of our day!

The next day was the conference and ASOUC were very welcoming, again it was held in a university, Universidad Tecnológica de Bolivar ,perhaps this is something we should learn for other user groups. My first presentation was in the English track and the audience was quite small but they all seemed to enjoy it, in the afternoon the tracks were combined and I had a lot more people for 42 Real Life Examples and it was much better.

Robin had T shirts to give away to the audience and he had us all up on the stage, it was intended that the audience would ask questions to get one but I thin they are intimidated by the language and kept quiet, so Ronald solved the problem, rolled up his T shirt, turned away from the audience and threw it over his shoulder, everyone loved it and so we all did it. It was really good to finish on a high.

There were a lot of storms that day and the roads were flooded but it didn’t seem to deter or even slow down the taxi drivers. That evening we had a quiet dinner relaxing in the hotel and Robin joined us. We made friends again, I forgave him for the boat trip.

On the last day we had a really chill out, knowing that Peru was to be manic. We sat around enjoying the Hilton Executive Lounge breakfast for a long time and then lazed by the pool. This is the life.

OTN Photo Album of Columbia

1 comment:

pablo ciccarello said...

Wooow, great descriptions. You are incredible Debra, you have time to do a lot of things, I´m really surprised. Thanks for the references in OTN LAD. Abrazo grande! Pablo