Thursday, October 25, 2007

El Convento de la Popa and the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. And wouldn't you love to have a gold goat?

October 25, 2007  Thursday

It is pouring rain and predicted to continue all day.  Since we are stuck inside the boat (wimps that we are), I will take this opportunity to try and remember what we have done this week.  Of course the electricity is off; thus, the marina WiFi is down; so this won’t be updated until the power is restored. 

Last Friday evening we were invited to an impromptu wine tasting aboard BLUEPRINT MATCH.  Paul and Michelle had purchased several bottles of wine with intentions of going back and buying more of the best bottle(s).  Tom & Colleen on UNPLUGGED also joined in.  We tasted (actually….drank….) almost 5 bottles of wine between the 6 of us.  Think most of us were feeling a little sluggish the next day.  The Malbec was voted the best.  It was a fun evening even though Bill and Colleen violated a major cruiser rule and got a little heavy into a political discussion.  That topic is usually avoided.

Sunday was another afternoon of Mexican Train dominoes and then the weekly pot luck dinner at the marina.  Nothing newsworthy about either event.  Sunday morning there was a flea market held at Club Nautico for us cruisers to empty our bilges of unwanted stuff.  We sold a set of charts for the Leewards, some double layer blank DVDs that won’t work on our computers and a gallon of paint that we would never use.  I bought 3 springform cake pans and 3 DVD movies.  Bill bought a non-working Mini-M satellite phone.  He bought the phone for exactly the same amount that we sold our crap for.  There is a German electronics guy nearby who might be able to repair this phone.  He does repairs even on the circuit board level.  If he can get it working, then we will have a sat phone for the South Pacific.  Otherwise, we won’t have lost much money.

We spent most of Monday cleaning out yet more barnacles from the saltwater system of our boat.  There were barnacles growing inside the copper manifold and the main outlet hose was absolutely jam-packed full of barnacles.  That was restricting the flow of saltwater to the toilets and air-conditioners.  Cartagena truly is the barnacle capital of the world.  When we first arrived we thought cleaning every 2 weeks would be sufficient.  That was a mistake and we changed to cleaning every 10 days.  That still was not frequent enough so we changed to cleaning every 6 days.  That too was definitely not frequent enough, so now we are down to cleaning the sea chest strainer every other day and cleaning out the intake thru-hull every 5 days.  We hope that cleaning this frequently will prevent any more barnacle growth in the hoses and manifold.  We are very glad that our Amel is plumbed with a sea chest instead of a bunch of different intake thru-hulls.  Most boats would have at least 8 intakes for the conveniences we have on this boat.  That would be 8 different thru-hulls to keep clean of barnacles.  Amel plumbs all saltwater intakes through the one sea chest, so we have only one to keep clean.  Yay, Amel!

Tuesday we did a tour of El Convento de la Popa and the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.  The tour guide was DuranDuran, and he is a fabulous guide.  I think he used to be a history teacher.  He has a great sense of humor, and he sort of quizzes you throughout the tour by asking questions which reinforce your memory of what he has told you about.  Would highly recommend using him as a tour guide if you visit Cartagena.  There were 12 tourists included in this tour, all cruisers.

The Popa Convent was founded in 1607 by Fr. Alonso Garcia Paredes de la Cruz, an Augustinian Recollet Priest.  Later the convent was used by a mulatto who was lured by a renegade Spaniard into believing that one could be granted happiness and prosperity in life only by worshipping the devil in the form of a gold goat.  So they built a goat from gold.  People would bring gold and emeralds and diamonds and deposit these in a basket by the gold goat.  One night the Spaniard and the basket of gold and jewels disappeared.  We think he also took the gold goat. Then the mulatto was sentenced to 7 years of hard labor and life imprisonment.  After Simon Bolivar wrested Colombia from Spanish rule in 1811, the Austinians were expelled from the convent.  La Popa was uninhabited from 1817 until 1961, when Augustinian Friars began restoring it.

La Virgen de la Candelaria is the patron saint of Cartagena and La Popa is her sanctuary.  Her image stands in the center of the altar in the Chapel of the Convent.  Each year from January 28 to February 2 there is a huge celebration in Cartagena and hundreds of thousands of people attend services in the Chapel.  One hundred people at a time are allowed inside the Chapel (don’t know how they possibly fit 100 people in that small space).  People sleep outside on the stone courtyard awaiting their turn inside the Chapel.  La Popa is 512 feet above the city of Catagena and there are white crosses along the street leading up to the top.  These are not markers for accident victims; these are the Stations of the Cross and worshippers pray at each Station as they make their way up the steep hill.  On July 6, 1986, Pope John Paul II canonically crowned the image of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria.

La Popa got this name because it is constructed at the top of a hill that looks like the stern of a boat when seen upside down.  The stern of a boat is la popa in Spanish.

Our next stop was the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the largest military installation in the Americas from Colonial times.  This fort is very impressive.  The tallest part of the fort with the 4 guard houses was built in 1657.  No further construction was done on the fort until 1697.  At that time the fort was enlarged extensively.  These are tunnels throughout the fort.  Some guides in the past told tourists that these tunnels were escape tunnels and used to lead far out away from the fort.  This is not true.  Some of the tunnels do lead to the outside base of the fort, but none of the tunnels ever extended past the base of the fort.  Many of the lower tunnels now are flooded with water because they are below sea level.  Bill went down in one of them to the water level, but I opted not to go down into that hot, dark place that looked like a perfect home for bats.  I did walk through some of the higher level tunnels.

DuranDuran told us an interesting historical story about Lawrence Washington (brother of George Washington) coming from Virginia to Colombia in 1741 in an attempt to free Cartagena from Spanish rule.  Accompanying Lawrence was Sir Vernon from BritainLawrence Washington did take La Popa, but the fort was not taken.  They fought for days and finally at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning Sir Vernon requested a temporary truce in order to remove their dead and wounded from around the fort.  It was agreed that fighting would resume in 2 hours.  But the fighting never resumed because their surviving men threatened mutiny.  Their army was devastated by tropical diseases.  Instead, Sir Vernon and Lawrence Washington returned to their ships and sailed away.   When they left, there were more than 8000 bodies floating in the Bay of Cartagena---their crew and army who had died from dysentery, yellow fever, malaria, etc.  If Sir Vernon and Lawrence Washington had been successful, Colombians and probably most of South America would be speaking English today instead of Spanish.

Again we heard the story of the Half Man.  And, again, we don’t remember all the details.  His name was Don Blas.  He joined the Spanish navy when he was 15.  When he arrived in Cartagena at the age of 23, he had already lost his left leg and left eye and right hand.  Also, he had no movement in his right arm due to a shoulder injury.  All these injuries had been sustained during battles aboard ships.  But he was strong enough to protect Cartagena.  He was the leader at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas when Sir Vernon and Lawrence Washington were repelled.  Stephen Spielberg visited the fort several years ago and spent many hours going through it.  He said that he might make a movie about it some day.  If he does, then we would definitely want to see that movie.

As we were leaving the fort we saw a group of young men dressed in rather strange uniforms.  DuranDuran said they were missionaries.  They all spoke English (sounded American) and call themselves the Caballeros de la Virgen.  Information about these guys can be found at .  I think info can also be found at  but since we don’t have electricity at the moment I cannot check this out.

After the tour we enjoyed a late lunch with Tom on UNPLUGGED and Scott & Heather on SCOTT FREE.  We tried a place a few blocks from the marina that was new to all of us, and it was quite a find.  Nice, healthy lunch for about $2.50 including beverage.  We will go back there.  Wish we had discovered this place earlier in our stay here.

Last night was the weekly Wednesday night happy hour.  Afterwards, we walked to a Chinese restaurant.  Chinese menu written in Spanish; almost as bad as the Arabian menu written in Spanish.  Pollo is chicken and arroz is rice; that was all we needed to know.  Can’t go wrong with anything that says chicken and rice in a Chinese restaurant.  There was a free opera (Pavarotti in The Three Tenors) video in the theater at the fort tonight.  I would have enjoyed it but Bill would never have sat through an opera, especially not a live one.  Tonight there is a free live piano concert, but I do not think we will go in all this rain.

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