Sunday, November 4, 2012

Into the Heart of Darkness

It was a hard day into night

 Plans were made much earlier in the day with Henry ( to meet at Café del Mar ( a fabulous bar atop the wall, on  point -yea the tip of the city of Cartagenas de Indias. It is Friday night, with 3 big conventions in town and joint is hopping. There is the Beauty Pageant, the Cheerleader Convention and the Board of Tourism of South America. We’ve had a hard day wrangling apartamentos con amigos. No sooner than we have gotten all our baggage into the new, ice cold room, it’s time to grab a cab into El Centro. Most cabs cost about 6000 pesos (or 3 dollars) no matter where you tell them to take you.
Atop of the wall, which is probably about 50 feet across- perhaps more -extends a gorgeous vista of the Caribbean and Boca Grande. Breezes curl my hair; like a red headed mulata.  One pays dearly for the chance to sit atop the wall. Our 2 mojitos and 1 beer cost as much as a dinner for 3 in most restaurants. It’s like going to Hirams; go there, have an expensive drink and leave for a place much cheaper.

Following the wall, through the narrow streets and even narrower sidewalks we glide toward our destination. It is important to know that taxis drive like bats out of hell and everyone walks in the streets as the sidewalks are full of holes waiting to break you ankle. Taxi’s dodge street venders, horse carriages, police and anything else that moves. Suddenly, boom! Harvey spins and the taxi screeches to a halt. Harvey has been clipped on the right arm, thank goodness with the rearview mirror which naturally bends, as designed for standards. Thank goodness Harvey has had a drink! Henry screeches at the taxi driver who is contrite.
We find ourselves in the middle of a square near the clock tower. Tables are set up tightly, full of folks out on the town. This is the famous square where the CIA agents picked up the prostitute. It’s a lively place of my liking with the prostitutes, mimes, fire eaters, break dancers, salsa dancers and the always present Chiclets salesmen. Beer ensues.  

It’s time to go home. On the other side of the wall, a large rumba is happening in conjunction with the Beauty Pageant.  On the enormous stage are a 10 piece band, 2 singers and 2 women dancers dressed in sparkling outfits. We linger to listen but it’s late, we’re tired and this rumba will last the entire night. Pushing thru crowds of partiers, we are separated by a few bodies – not as bad a Gypsy Kings concert. I have an eye on Henry the other on Harvey. This is when I see the silly string maneuver deployed on Harvey. Henry has warned us of this our first day. Kids spray your face and the natural tendency is to raise your hands. This gives an opportunity for another person to put their hand into your pocket and pick it! 

It is the best of all circumstances in retrospect. Harvey has been paying for drinks all night and had little or no money in his pocket. Everything else is in the safe. When Henry finds what has happened he becomes livid and vibrating with anger. He is more upset that we are. Harvey has lost a passport before, this is nada.  We both concur, that we have had the whole traveler experience and have come thru relatively unscathed.
Off to the expensive and cold hotel room. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

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