Last night, I arrived in Cartagena in northern Colombia. And for once, I arrived without feeling like someone just punched me in the knees for 10 hours. And I thoroughly enjoyed Cartagena’s warm greeting.

So much more comfortable than the bus

So much more comfortable than the bus

For the first time on this South America trip, I flew domestically. My options for travel from Medellin to Cartagena were: 12 hour overnight bus that is notoriously dangerous, or $10 extra dollars for a 1 hour flight. Easiest decision I’ve ever made. And my knees rejoiced.

Cartagena is hot and sultry, in a way that’s oppressive and engaging, and forces a smile under a sweaty upper lip. I rolled down the window to the taxi and stuck my hand out just to feel the hot breeze from the Caribbean coast for the first time in over a year. Nice to see you again.

A plaza near the fort

A plaza near the fort

After finding a pretty typical hostel in a hostely area, I went out for a solo stroll. Tourists roamed in search of cheap beers and good music; solicitors offered street food, cigarettes, drugs, and sex. I shook them all off and couldn’t help but smile when a prostitute said she loved me. She’s obviously never tried dating me.

I ended up on an old fort overlooking the ocean, which has since been converted to a series of restaurants and lookout points, all complemented by cannons, ancient walls, and a few corners that inevitably smell like urine.

purported

Looping back to the hostel, I stopped in a bar with a balcony overlooking a plaza and drank a cold Colombia Club beer and watched the people and cars pass. I’m not usually one for silent reflection in public places, but the better part of an hour passed before I realized it and I was thoroughly satisfied the entire time.

I’m meeting my first Peace Corps Colombia Volunteer today and I’m excited to tap into the network. I’m also excited to be sweating. And to be sleeping in a hostel bed and waking up to free pancakes instead of sleeping on a winding bus and waking up to a heavy backpack, and an unfamiliar city at 5:00AM. Let’s do this, Cartagena.

An outdoor cafe at night

An outdoor cafe at night