Onward to Cartagena – our final stop in South America

The car was to be shipped from Cartagena to Veracruz in Mexico and as part of the process needed to be cleaned and prepared for customs and narcotics inspections. We decided to do this at a campground just short of Cartagena, a couple of hundred km’s up the road from where we were. In IOverlander, the campground read as being ‘not as hot as Cartagena’ – a good place to empty, sort and clean everything we reckoned.

We’re not convinced it was cooler, but we were the only ones at the ‘farm’ and the ex-pat Pommy owner was very friendly and helpful. The fact that it rained (poured!) both afternoons we were there made life interesting to be sure! But, we got the job done and travelled into Cartagena to meet the shipping agent as planned, with a nearly clean and well sorted vehicle. On the way in we managed to avoid cleaning up a sloth who was courageously making his way across the road – strange!

Cartagena has the worst traffic we have come across in the past 6 months – and that’s saying something! Most South American drivers (and riders) we have shared the roads with have been somewhat lackadaisical about road rules, but reasonably aware of what’s going on around them and typically pretty ‘laid back’. Primarily though, the conditions of many of the roads mean that speeds are generally lower, hence, there is more time to avoid being hit or hitting someone else who probably shouldn’t be where they are anyway! Cartagena is a city, the roads are still bad but the traffic is frenetic, drivers are impatient, aggressive and noisy! Not pleasant!

However, Cartagena has an intriguing and nationally important history. Like everywhere else in South America, indigenous peoples once lived in the area but it was the Spanish that ‘officially’ founded the port town in 1533. It became a major port as the pilfering of gold from tombs across the country created huge interest, mainly from French and English pirates. Some, like the infamous Francis Drake liked the place so much he returned a number of times and didn’t hold back in terms of pillaging and destroying much of the city. He was later knighted for all his ‘good’ work! Hence it was a race for the Spanish to fortify the city before it would be lost for good. Fortifications happened over many years and the fort you see in the photos above, eventually did the job.

Cartagena has always been considered safer relative to other Colombian cities and looks after tourists well with good food and plenty to see and do. Most of our photos come from the Old City, a beautiful area of Colonial buildings, colour and history.

Adjacent to the Old City, is a beautiful, relatively quiet area called Manga (actually a small island) where we stayed in a big old Colonial house which had been converted into a hostel. We stayed here for 6 days as we prepared the car for shipping.

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This wasn’t where we stayed but it was the best looking Colonial house in the area!

The process of shipping a vehicle from Cartagena in Colombia to Veracruz in Mexico is an exercise in patience that is made much easier having spent the last 6 months in South America. To quote our Shipping Agent, ‘shipping a vehicle from Colombia to anywhere in Central America or Mexico is the most expensive and complex shipping route in the world’. I will write a detailed account when the process is completed, more for my own memories than for any other reason. Suffice to say it is expected the whole process will take about 18 days, of which 4 days is actually spent on the water!

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