Cartagena: charm, history, heat, and humidity

posted in: Panama and Colombia 2023 | 1

To be fair, Cartagena and the other parts of the Caribbean coast I visited were very pretty. But I did suffer from the heat, humidity, and hungry mosquitoes.

I didn’t blog about the my time in Palomino and on the Río Don Diego. There wasn’t much to say, and the internet was slow and unreliable at our hotel there. The photos tell pretty much the whole story. They just don’t describe how hot it was or how I got eaten alive in spite of liberal doses of DEET.

I’ll stick with Cartagena in this post.

Cartagena is a charming city with a very interesting history. It’s also horrendously hot and humid.

Old Town

The dome of the Cathedral as seen from the city walls
Las Bóvedas (the vaults) were dungeons. Now they are shops selling souvenirs and handcrafts.
Dominican church (Parroquia de Santo Domingo)
La Catedral Basilica Santa Catalina de Alejandria, built in 1612

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

This impressive fortress was built in the 16th century by African slaves under Spanish supervision. The British attacked in 1741 during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, and the Spanish were victorious, which is why Colombia is Spanish-speaking.

Convento de Santa Cruz de la Popa

This convent sits on a hill shaped like the stern (popa in Spanish) of a ship. It is at the highest point in the city, so the views from the convent were pretty spectacular. The convent dates from the early 17th century.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas as seen from the convent
The convent has a nice courtyard


We even got to see some critters in Cartagena.

Tamarin monkey

More pictures from Cartagena are here.

What can go wrong?

I’ve gotten sick or injured when traveling in the past. Usually these have been minor things, and none have ever knocked me down for more than a day.

On this trip I was very lucky with regard to the bad luck I ran into.


Before the trip started, I developed a small hole in a dental crown. I called my dentist, but she was unable to fit me in before the trip, plus there was really no time to do anything about it. But I made an appointment for this morning, my first morning back, so it could be replaced.

Over the course of the trip, the hole grew bigger. Finally, two days before the end of the trip, it came out while I was eating dinner. Fortunately, it didn’t adversely affect my last few days of travel.

The mosquito bites I acquired on the Río Don Diego did have an adverse effect. They were itchy and even painful. But I was able to carry on. They are abating now.


Yesterday morning, my last morning in Cartagena (I was scheduled to leave for the airport at 1pm), I awoke with a bit of abdominal discomfort. Over the course of the morning it got worse and worse. I thought I might need to get medical attention. But then, miraculously, at around 11am the pain went away. I didn’t feel quite 100%, but I was able to travel home without discomfort.

This morning I still felt a little queasy, but I went to my dentist appointment. While I was getting drilled, the pain suddenly returned, and I knew I needed to go see my doctor. I told my dentist, and she kindly drove me to the doctor’s office. He examined me and determined I probably have pyelonephritis, a kidney infection. I got an injection for pain and now I’m on pain meds plus an antibiotic. And I was able to go back to the dentist this afternoon to get the temporary crown.

I am lucky, I guess, that I didn’t come down with this kidney infection a day or two (or a week or two) earlier. What would I have done if that intense pain had struck while I was in a small town or on a hike in the hills? 

I always say if I had actually been lucky, the bad thing wouldn’t have happened in the first place. But since the bad thing happened, I should feel lucky that everything turned out okay in the end.

  1. Luis Carrion

    I lost pretty much all of the content from your last trip, going back to your previous post starting from here. 

    That view from the convento to the Castillo is very cool.

    Hope your kidneys will get better.

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