A new year in Colombia and time for a new destination for Wanderlust and the crew. Having topped up the boat with Colombian goodies we treated ourselves to one last meal at The Balcony at Ouzo restaurant. This had become our favourite in Santa Marta as they have a rather eclectic menu of quality food, nice wines, good service, an open kitchen and a great location on one of the squares where we could watch the street entertainers from above. What more could we want ?
The following day we had a great sail to Puerto Valero for an overnight stop en route to Cartegena. The ever present Armada came onboard to check our papers and wish us a good journey onward to Cartegena. Despite reduced winds the next day, we made good time towards Cartegena and all too soon the ultramodern high rise buildings came into view - an impressive skyline that is visible from a long way out at sea. We were enjoying our relaxing cruise down on the head sail when we had a call from the rally crew to tell us to hurry up as the welcome cocktail party was starting soon ! Obviously we couldn't miss out on free cocktails and nibbles so we put the iron sail on to assist our passage into the fortified city.
The area allocated for the Suzie Too Rally boats was in a fantastic location – a view over the old walled city one way and the new area of Bocagrande the other. The Armada made regular patrols around our yachts and Club de Pesca provided us with facilities for secure dinghy mooring, internet, rubbish disposal etc... It was only a 15 minute walk into town too – fabulous. After a great welcome and catch up with our rally chums, we took a stroll to a local eating venue where an outdoor eating area was surrounded by kitchen vans selling a wonderful selection of foods. We had a choice of empanadas, tacos, pizza, burgers, sushi, bbq, crepes, pasta, etc..etc.. A great venue for a large group as everyone could eat their preferred type of food.
Next morning it was time to start exploring this new city and our first stop had to be a look in the trees at Santander park. I know this seems odd, but we had been assured that sloths lived in this park and we were very keen to see them. We were unlucky first time, but perseverance paid off later in the week when we struck lucky. Fascinating creatures who share the park trees with some lively red squirrels. The old walled city was as wonderful as we had been led to believe and we enjoyed a stroll around the busy streets, shaded by colourful balconies and full of entertaining street sellers. The Naval museum provided amusement as we read about the “pirate” known as Sir Francis Drake and behaved like big kids in the submarine and war ship exhibits.
The Christmas and New Year lights were still in evidence and provided pretty, colourful illumination during our evenings out. The Colombian passion for music and dance was again expressed in the streets, clubs and at the convention centre, but it didn't feel quite as lively as Santa Marta. Perhaps we were not looking in the right places ?
The highlight of our visit to Cartegena has to have be the arrival of our lovely friends Betty and Dave from Gran Canaria. As luck would have it they had booked a Columbian holiday that coincided with our visit and enabled us to share a few days together on board Wanderlust in this amazing country. We had a wonderful time catching up, laughing, eating and drinking. We even managed to squeeze in a day sail to Playa Blanca, getting thoroughly soaked on the way back to our anchorage. All too soon we had to wave goodbye to our friends and then it was our turn to wave goodbye to Cartegena and visit some Colombian islands.
We spent a night in Isle de Rosario, but decided to continue on to Tintipan so that we could visit Isla Islote which we had seen a BBC video about. Islote was built by local fishermen and is now one of the most densely populated islands in the area. The local people were very welcoming, but we felt that we were intruding on their island and didn't stay long in the end.
After a couple of nights at Tintipan we had a very slow drift down to Isla Fuerte in light winds; a laid back arrival that was reflected in the culture of this new island. We really liked the casual feel of Fuerte and the contrast to other areas of Colombia that we had visited. We spent an extra few nights here waiting for a weather window to cross to Panama, which gave us time to take some walks around the island, relax at the La Playita Hostel and play our favourite Mexican Train dominoes on the beach. Our rally chums provided a little excitement one evening as they were on their way to our yacht and their dinghy engine failed. Unfortunately we didn't have our dinghy and engine in the water to enable us to rescue them. As they drifted out to sea in the dark, we decided to call the friendly Amada who we knew where in the next bay. They responded immediately and the sight of their flashing lights approaching was obviously enough to scare our friends engine into action. We called the Amada back to let them know our friends had rescued themselves, but they very kindly said they would still go and check all was well with our friends.
With the arrival of a suitable weather window our small flotilla raised anchors and set sail for our next destination – Panama. Our overnight crossing was not without drama when one of our rally boats suffered a break in their forestay, but the experienced couple on board managed to get their mast secured with fellow rally members escorting them onwards to Panama. You can be sure that the rest of us went and double-checked our forestay fittings the next morning !