27 May 2012

Here's mud in your eye!

At the castle
San Felipe Castle viewed from Manga, just outside the old city
I took advantage of my former TNT colleague Frances's weeklong visit to do some things I hadn't done at all or since my initial visit to Cartagena 3 years ago! Not only does Cartagena have a 400 year old wall that encircles the old part of the city, there are also various defensive forts around the city leftover from colonial times. Frances and I visited the famed San Felipe "Castle" where I learned that George Washington's older half-brother Lawrence had been among the British troops that attacked this fort in 1741. He was there as a colonist who had volunteered to fight with the British navy, led by an Admiral Vernon. Later, when Lawrence inherited a Virginia estate, he renamed it Mount Vernon, after this admiral whom he admired. We Yanks now know Mount Vernon as George Washington's plantation home. Funny how surprising connections like this one come up; who would have thought there was a connection between Cartagena and Mount Vernon?

Enjoying a typical lunch at Playa Blanca: fish, coconut rice, & fried plantains
But I digress....back to the fortifications! This castle is readily seen from various points in Cartagena. It truly is impressive all of the huge walls and forts that were built around this city. I'm working on visiting more of them as well as learning more about their history.

We also took a day trip out to the Rosary Islands, a group of 27 islands which apparently from above look like they are linked together like a rosary. It is a protected area with some good snorkeling. We happened to go on the one day in the 6 months of my stay in Cartagena that it was cloudy (and it even rained), so the visibility for the snorkeling could have been better, but still it was good seeing colorful fish, coral, and touching a sea cucumber (icky feeling!!) . We then spent a few hours on a nice beach out in that direction, Playa Blanca, which was jam packed for the three-day weekend. Who knew that so many vendors could be around offering you so many things...jewelry, water, food, there were even "bars" in wheelbarrows; they'd make you a cold drink in nothing flat. Coco Loco, anyone?

Just floating....
The next day was the ultimate in Unique Things to do Around Cartagena: a dip in a mud volcano! The Totumo Mud Volcano is only about a 40 minute trip outside the city but I hadn't yet been; a group of us went and it was pretty surreal. You are literally floating in what they say is an over 2500 foot deep pool of mud. You have the option of getting a brief massage while floating on your back (& then your stomach, keep your face up!) and can then hang out in the "bath" as long as you like. Later, they wipe you down as you get out and then you hop into the lake to get cleaned off, with the help of local women if you like (who are very aggressive in getting you cleaned up, your suit doesn't stay on with them!!).

And I did get mud in my eye. My advice is: don't! (Although the people at the volcano are experienced in helping you get it out should it happen....still, it's sore for a few days!)
We are avatars!
(Which one am I?!)

More photos can be seen here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great update and cool photos! Interesting about Mount Vernon.