I could start this post with a clichéd musing along the lines of “Time flies when you’re having fun”, but I think you’ll find that time carries on regardless of your state of mind, so I won’t insult you with a line that your Mum (which is apparently how David Haye retaliates to abusive scousers) probably deafened you with whenever she picked you up from a playdate with your best pal.
Interestingly, however, the last four months have gone rather quickly, and I must admit that I have indeed been having fun.
But I still had to take a moment when I got to my final stop in Cartagena and question where the last third of a year had gone. The answer is actually quite obvious, given that it’s quite easy to eat up that amount of time travelling from one side of a continent to another.
However, it does still make you wonder if time is a concept you can speed up or slow down, but that might be a post appropriate for another time.
And, more importantly, if you’re wondering why I’m only alluding to the fact that I’m going home now, it’s because I channeled the energy of going to university with lots of Americans for four years and put it into frightening the life out of my Mum through the element of surprise.
I have to say that it went pretty well. After convincing her that I’d got a job in a Colombian hostel and would be extending my travels until April at the very least, I proceeded to appear on the doorstep on a typically cold and windy Thursday afternoon – just in time for Palace’s relegation six-pointer with Middlesbrough on the Saturday.
Mum cried. I laughed. She hit me. It was great – just as I had planned.
But enough about me. Just like the opening To Kill a Mockingbird, the ending is just the beginning of this blog post, and I’m not going to do Cartagena a disservice by fast forwarding to the conclusion.
Cartagena is nicknamed ‘The Walled City’, and rather than being code for something a lot more mysterious, it is literally because the colonial old town is enclosed by walls which were designed to protect the city from persistent pirate attacks.
It’s within these walls that you’ll find the Caribbean colour and beautiful architecture that has come to be associated with one of South America’s hipster hotspots.
And the old town isn’t the only thing that’s walled in, as the weather is unforgiving and invariable, and the eternally hot climate is a major reason that tourists flock here from North America for a beach holiday.
But being one of the most popular destinations in Colombia, for travellers and holiday goers alike, it’s unsurprising to find that Cartagena has naturally become on of the country’s most expensive cities.
And although the old town is packed with swanky restaurants and is a great place to watch the sunset, your money will go a lot further if you base yourself in the neighbouring district of Getsemani – once famously characterised by drug deals, but now transformed into one of the hippest neighbourhoods on the South American circuit.
Not only can you find cheaper restaurants serving traditional dishes, but if you really want to soak up the atmosphere of Cartagena, Plaza de la Trinidad is littered with vendors serving up big plates of tasty street food at prices cheaper than a Big Mac.
And while there may be the temptation to stray over the bridge and towards the nightclubs in the highrise and expensive district of Bocagrande, Cartagena feels like a place where less is more, and simply drinking the night away watching local street performers in one of the city’s plazas is arguably more entertaining than shuffling around a dark room to the sound of reggaeton.
Given its prime location on the Caribbean coast, you can’t blame Cartagena for being tailored towards the richer echelons of tourists who flock over from Canada and the States, but it’s certainly still possible to enjoy it without emptying your wallet.
And it was the perfect place to round off four months of wandering aimlessly around South America.
So after one-hundred-and-ten days on the road, approximately four thousand podcasts, and twenty average blog posts later, it’s time to bring this wee story to a close.
Many thanks if you’ve struggled through following this blog since November, and even if you’ve just read one or two posts, I hope it’s managed to raise a smile or at the very least make you jealous.
Next stop, probably the Job Centre. Until next time.