Our journey to Cartagena was on a tourist transfer bus that picked us up from La Brisa Loca, made a couple of quick stops then headed to Cartagena. Looking out of our windows on the journey we saw our first taste of poor rural Colombia. There were miles and miles of simple, often unfinished, terracotta brick or concrete box houses with corrugated tin roofs on small, sometimes rubbish strewn, plots opening onto unpaved roads. Some of these were more elaborate, plastered and painted at the front, with additional sections, front walls and gardens, but many were basic 5m by 3m boxes that had obviously been put up purely to provide a roof over the owners heads.
In many ways rural Colombia reminded me of Africa, and shows that in a country that in many ways seems very developed that there is still a population living in very real poverty and a high level of wealth inequality between the cities and the countryside. At the other end of the spectrum Colombia’s cities have been a surprise, offering a similar variety of quality products and services that you would find in any European city. From the food we’ve eaten, especially in the more locally orientated restaurants in Bogota, it is clear that Colombia has a large and culturally astute middle class. On one of our first days in Bogota an old Colombian lady had told us (when we told her where we came from) that Europe was the first world and that Colombia was a third world country. We were puzzled by this comment at the time but while we still don’t necessarily agree with her, we can at least start to see where she was coming from.
We arrived in Cartagena from the east which took us past the airport and pretty much straight into the historic centre. We were dropped off at El Genoves, our hostel for the first night.