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Colombia Facts...

Capital City:  Bogota
Population:    39.5 Million
Highest Point:  Christobal Colon, 18,947' in the Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta range of the Andes
Area:  440,000 sq miles...about the size of the four corner states combined
(Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah).  It can be divided into three
main land regions: (1) the Coastal Lowlands, (2) the Andes Mountains,
and (3) the Eastern Planes.
Currency:  Colombian Peso...currently about 2,800 pesos = $1 US
Language:  Spanish
Major Products:  Coffee (Juan Valdez country), emeralds, gold, coal, rice,
bananas, beef cattle
Government: Colombia is a republic.  The country's Constitution was
adopted in 1886 and has been revised numerous times.  The country is divided
into 23 states or departments, 9 national territories and a Special District,
which consists of Bogota (like Washington, D.C).  Each department has a
governor appointed by the president and an assembly elected by the people.  
Puerta del Reloj
The clock tower gate is a symbol of Cartagena. Several spires and
towers can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city and the Clock
Tower is one of them. An integral part of the city wall, this is the main
entrance to the walled city.  Passing through its wide, shadowy portals,
there are several vendors selling cigarettes, candy, books and the
ubiquitous lottery tickets.  Once inside the city wall, you arrive in Plaza
de los Coches (carriage Square), former site of the slave market. The
original clock was replaced in 1875. Of the three entrances to the city,
this is the only original gate.
La Catedral - The most familiar sight in the old city of
Catagena is the spire of the cathedral. We were able
to walk through it and had the opportunity to attend a
Mass one evening.  Construction began in 1575 and
was completed in 1586.
Las Murallas - The walls encircling the old city of Cartagena were originally begun in 1586, however
nature and war destroyed them and they were rebuilt several times.The walls in place today were
constructed in the 1700's to protect the city.  At least 10 feet thick and as much as 30 feet thick in parts
and ranging from 20-30 feet high, they provide a formidable barrier to entry at other than the gates.  
Ramps and stairs around the city allow you to climb to the top and walk the ramparts for an
unsurpassed view of the city streets and buildings. The area inside the walled city is called “Corralito de
Piedra”.  The walled city itself is referred to as “Ciudad Amarullada”. Below the city walls are the old
dungeons, Las Bóvedas (above, right). They were also used to store munitions, but are now used as
stalls for vendors selling souvenirs and Colombian crafts.
India Catalina
This is considered a masterpiece of sculture by Eladio
Gil.  The bronze Indian woman symbolizes the native
people of Colombia.  A smaller version of this statue in
gold is also the Colombian version of "Oscar", given for
excellence in films.  It is said that Catalina, a beautiful
and couragious warrior, was captured and sold as a
slave.  Don Pedro de Heredia released her and used
her as an interpreter in 1533.
Castillo de San Felipe - The walk up to the fort was fairly steep and arduous considering how hot it was.  We rested in the shadows of the massive
walls and porticos and ducked into tunnels when we could to get out of the sun and heat.  Views of the city from the fort were stupendous on this clear
sunny day and the panorama laid out before us made up for the sweat expended on the way up.This massive fort, built in 1657, was constructed on a hill
overlooking the old city and provided protection for the harbor and the city below it.  From the city wall, we were able to view and photograph the fort
and India Catalina, both significant landmarks of the magnificent city of Catagena. Views of the city from the fort were stupendous on this clear, sunny
day.  Above the modern fuses with the old. You can see the spire of San Pedro Claver to the left, the spire of the Clock Tower Gate is offcenter and to
the right and the spire of the Cathedral is far right.  The wall is in the foreground and the Caribbean sea is beyond the city.
Plaza Santo Domingo
Iglesia Santo Domingo (St. Dominic’s
Church) is the oldest church in the city,
constructed at the end of the 16th
century.  It faces the Plaza Santo
Domingo, a hotspot for open air
restaurants, antique shops and emerald
factory stores. The entire center of the
plaza is open air restaurants with any
number and variety of street vendors
and performers.  Vendors sell hats,
sunglasses, jewelry, watches, coconut
shell combs and trinkets, t-shirts,
paintings.  You name it, it's for sale.
Los  Balcons - Most houses in the old
city have balconies which are profuse
with bright flowering plants and trees.  
They are enchanting to view and take
your breath away with their astounding
color and contrast.
s/y Nine of Cups
Colombia is the only country on
the South American continent with
a coast along both the Atlantic
Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The name Colombia
was chosen in honor
of Christopher
Colombia also once included the
countries of Ecuador, Venezuela
and Panama.
Punta Gallinas, only a few kilometers from
Cartagena, is the most northern geographical
point of the continent of South America.
Cartagena de Indias
(Cartagena of the Indies), not
to be confused with the city
of Cartagena, Spain for
which it was named, was
founded in 1533 by Pedro de
Heredia. Cartagena is the
capital of the department of
We arrived in Cartagena  at dawn on 18 May 2003 after a 74 hour, 455 nautical
mile trip from Santa Cruz, Curacao.   We sped along downwind with 25-30 knot
winds and 8-10’ following seas and averaged 6 knots. As we approached the city,
we could barely make out La Popa, the  citadel hill behind the city and the cityscape
of old buildings mixed with new. Arrival in Cartagena signified the end of another
passage: Trinidad to Colombia.
There are two entrances to Baia Cartagena. One is used by the big cruise ships and
freighters and is called “Boca Chica”. It’s about 2 miles longer passage.  The other
is for smaller boats and is called Boca Grande. The Spanish built  a submerged wall
across this opening to keep out foreign invaders.  A small cut has been made in the
wall now and is marked by navigational buoys, but it’s very narrow (less than 50’)
and if you miss it, you hit the wall.  We held our breath going through, but we never
saw less than 10 feet on the depth meter. Once through the narrow Boca Grande
cut into the bay, we were told to head for the Madonna.  We weren’t sure what that
meant until we spotted her in the middle of the harbor. ..just waiting for us.
Club Nautico is our home in Cartagena.  The people
are friendly and the price is right…$1.85/day for
anchoring out and using all of their amenities including
fresh water, cold showers, laundry service, dinghy
dock, bar & restaurant. Contrary to many opinions
about Colombia, Cartagena is a safe city. We walk
around with minimal concern, exercising common
sense as we would in any city, including the U.S.  
Donkeys and carts are still used here to
transport small loads and we see them
frequently on the local streets near the
In 1552, the city of
Cartagena was reduced
to ashes after a
devastating fire.
Subsequently, Heredia,
the governor, prohibited
building with materials
other than bricks, roof
tiles, stone, masonry and
Local beer: Aguila
A Walking Tour of the City…put on your comfy shoes and let’s go!
Club Nautico
Boca Grande
Castillo San Felipe
India Catalina Statue
We took a few sidetrips, but this is basically the route we walked mostly on top
of the city wall.  The whole journey is about 8 miles roundtrip. The city of
Cartagena is incredibly beautiful.
The downtown area is about a 15 minute walk from the marina. Our first
stop was to visit  the “Muelle de los Pegasos” at the head of the city dock.
This is a whole family of bronze winged horses. The stallion is to the left and
the mare with winged foal close to her side is to the right. The detail of the
beasts is captivating.
Streets of
Our view from the wall
allowed a wonderful
vantage point for
photographing the
lovely streets that
radiate from the plazas
throughout the city.
Some great knockers...We
spied these distinctive bronze
door -knockers and thought they
were fantastic. Maybe we can
get the Nine of Cups logo made
into one? Of course, there’s no
door on the boat, but…
We wandered through the city
after descending from the wall
discovering and admiring all there
was to see.  The old circular
theatre to the right is abandoned
now, but is still picturesque. El
Circo Teatro  was originally a
bullfighting ring and also used for
theater in the round productions.
It is now condemned with no
apparent hope for renovation.
Not all is beautiful. This barrio along the river
reflects the other side of Cartagena and the
conditions of the poor.
Café del Santisimo was an elegant dining experience.
The food was gourmet class, the ambiance was
delightfully romantic, the wine was included with the
meal and flowed endlessly, and the service was
impeccable.  The bill:  $28.50 including tax and tip.
It must be the season for moths here and Jelly has
been in moth-catching heaven. We hear her all
through the night (she sleeps the entire day!) running
back and forth on deck, chasing moths and keeping
the boat safe.  Sometimes, she brings them below (I
hate that part) and lets them go, but usually it’s an all
out effort on her part just to keep watch for the pesky
critters. One night around dusk, however, Miss Jelly
was sprawled out on the saloon sole, sleeping away,
when a huge moth  flew in the hatch. I thought it was
a bird; it was so large. David chased it around for at
least 5 minutes trying to catch it, tripping over the cat
in the process. Old Jellybeans twitched her tail once,
but never even opened her eyes to partake in the fun.
Such a lazy old cat girl.
A mariachi band serenaded us as we sipped cold beers and Guillermo the Victrola man walked from table to
table offering to play his one 78 rpm record on the ancient wind-up Victrola on his shoulder.  We compared
trying to make our way into the plaza past all the street hawkers as similar to running the gauntlet.

 I’ll take mine black…some coffee facts!

  • The United States ranks as the largest consumer of coffee.  
 Americans drink about 400 million cups every day.
  • The scientific name of the common coffee plant is Coffea arabica.  
 It originally grew wild in Ethiopia.
  • More than a hundred kinds of coffee are sold in the United States.  They may be
    divided into three general groups--Brazils, Milds and Robustas.
  • According to legend, coffee was discovered in Ethiopia when goatherders noticed that
    their flocks stayed awake all night after feeding on coffee leaves and berries.  Coffee
    reached Arabia in the 1200's.  Coffee comes from the Arabic word qahwah.
  • Before its use as a beverage 700 years ago, coffee was used as a food, then a wine,
    and then a medicine.  Coffee moved from Arabia to Turkey during the 1500's, and to
    Italy in the early 1600's.  Coffee houses sprang up throughout Europe in the 1600's,
    and people met there for serious discussions.  Coffee probably came to America in the
  • Coffee growing was introduced in Brazil in the 1700's.
  • Expressions such as “coffee break” and “coffee house” are part of the idiom in most
    languages now.
  • Juan Valdez is alive and well…living in Colombia! He represents more than 300,000
    small coffee growers whose lifework is to individually cultivate each coffee tree.
  • The coffee fruit is called a berry.  It begins to grow while the plant is blossoming and
    ripens from green to yellow to red.  The average plant produces enough berries each
    year to make about 1½ pounds (0.7 kilogram) of roasted coffee.


  • Colombia supplies 90% of world’s
    emeralds (and I got my share!)
  • The emerald is a rich green gemstone
    that is a variety of the mineral beryl.  It
    owes its color to minute amounts of
    chromium in the crystals.  
  • The value of an emerald lies in its color
    and its freedom from flaws and
    inclusions (other substances enclosed in
    the crystals). High-quality emeralds can
    be more valuable than diamonds.
  • There’s an emerald store on every
    corner in downtown Cartagena and
    street hawkers entice you to buy.
Time Zones
Moving east into Colombia, we’ve entered into a
new time zone: Bogota/Lima/Quito. This happens to
be the same time as the Central Standard Time Zone
in the U.S.  Colombians do not change their clocks
for Daylight Savings Time so no adjustments are
ever made here.
From Colombia, we sail to the
San Blas Islands of Panama.
    Return to Home Page
but trust'll enjoy visiting the San Blas
much more!
Zapatos Viejos - This bronze sculpture
was built in honor of Don Luis Lopez, a
poet and native of Cartagena, who became
famous for his sonnet to the “Old Shoes”.
While visiting the “Old Shoes”,a man asked
if we wanted to hold his pet sloth. Yup, a
genuine 3-toed sloth from the jungles of
Colombia.  A very docile little creature with
huge claws (all the better to hold on to you,
my dear!) and what appears to be a
perpetual smile on her face.  We chocked up
1,500 pesos (54 cents) to our entertainment
budget under the heading  “sloth handling”.
Though travel throughout Colombia is not
advised, travel within the department of
Bolivar, where Cartagena is located, is
considered safe. We went with Andy, a
local guide to visit the Botanical Gardens
and a caiman breeding farm.
Time to leave Colombia…
The wind was on the nose heading to Islas
Rosarios so we motored all the way. As
much as we loved Cartagena, it was good to
be on the move again. It’s only about a 20-
mile trip to the Rosarios, so we got in by
about 4pm. The light was still good and
allowed us to negotiate the narrow entrance
between shoals and coral heads and into a
lovely little open lagoon with deep, clean
water. The entrance is marked with two
cement posts, one quite askew (we assume
from being hit once too often by boats trying
to get in the entrance).
We stayed for two days in the Rosarios,
visited the aquarium there and then headed
for the eastern most border of Panama...the
San Blas Islands, land of the Kuna.
The gardens were pretty lackluster, but the
caiman farm was great!.
My favorite photo...I call it "Heads Up".
Just happened upon two tortoises  sharing a
romantic moment. Don’t be offended; it’s
only nature, but yes, he was smiling.
Every time we walk through the old city, we
find something new. This is Plaza de Coches
(Carriage Square). The archways  conceal
the Portals de los dulces (Portals of Sweets)
where candy vendors, ice cream parlors and
sweet treats await.
Plaza de San Pedro is a large bricked plaza
highlighted by the beautiful 17th century
San Pedro de Claver church. Like many
plazas, it is open to pedestrians and horse-
drawn carriages (coches) only. Street
vendors sit on the church steps plying their
wares. You can hear the clip-clop of the
coches’ horse’s hooves on the bricks.
The beautifully arched windows of the San
Pedro restaurant, location of our wedding
anniversary dinner 2003. David surprised me
by providing a horse-drawn carriage ride all
the way back to the marina!
Excerpt from a letter home:
“The heat…oh the heat…let me try to describe it
to you since it’s not like any heat I’ve known
before. It is stifling, steamy and suffocating in its
intensity and thickness. Yes, thickness…it’s hard
to breathe sometimes it is so hot.  Just sucking in
air is a chore and it burns your nostrils.  We drink
tons of water. David takes salt tablets if he’s
working outside for any length of time.  We’re
constantly covered with the sheen of sweat on our
bodies.  Our clothes always show large wet
patches.  Stepping into or out of the shower
renders no difference…we are just as wet in or
out and toweling dry is a farce.  We wear
bandanas around our foreheads when we work so
that the sweat doesn’t drip into our eyes and
sting.  David wears his like a pirate so that he
keeps his pate from getting burned as well. We
watched an Indiana Jones movie the other night
and he was in this part of the world hacking his
way through the dense jungle wearing a leather
jacket…I don’t think so!
The Boca Grande area is the high rent district
and also where the resort hotels and beaches
are. It’s about a 4-5 mile walk from Club
Nautico and very scenic.While walking along
the beach, we happened upon a sand sculptor
name Rebotero who was hard at work.