"Vamos todos a bailar que se formó la gozadera, dónde, dónde, dónde están los que le gusta la champeta. Vamos todos a bailar, que se prenda la discoteca. Vamos todos a bailar, a bailar hasta que amanezca…
(“Come on, let’s everybody dance that the party is set. Where, where, where are the ones who love champeta? Come on let’s turn this disco on. Come on, let’s everybody dance,dance until dawn...”)
This song got “drilled” in my mind the day when, by a friend’s recommendation, I decided to visit La Boquilla, a district located on the north area of Cartagena. I went looking for a delicious sancocho de pescado (fish soup), made with coconut milk, and searching for a place where to listen to champeta music non stop, a rhythm from Cartagena that attracts foreigners who love music and traditions as I do.
I arrived at La Boquilla around 11 A.M. on a May Saturday’s morning. I got there on an urban bus that charged me $2.300 from Cartagena, and the place welcomed me with the joyful atmosphere I was expecting to find. When the bus stopped, the vibrant sounds that you could hear all around predicted a great day, along music, food, a long beach, water sports, arbors, hammocks, beer, coconut water, craft boats, as well as seafood specialties, mangrove trails tour, house museum, handicrafts, and, the most important, happy people in large groups dancing and enjoying pleasant moments. This gastronomic and tourist corridor is located after Rafael Núñez International Airport, 20 minutes away from the Historical Center.
After I took a quick look, I went into the first arbor kiosk I ran into. It was a typical seafood restaurant where I was welcomed by a native man, who was a clear example of the Caribbean culture. After we agreed on the prices of the food and beverages, I ordered a Colombian beer that they served me really cold, just perfect to ease the heat. I laid down on a comfortable hammock, from where I could contemplated the colorful sea. Although it is not a crystalline waters kind of beach, it is the favorite one among tourists and locals that enjoy themselves either on the beach or the sea. The most daring ones were practicing water sports, making of this tourist destination of Cartagena de Indias an even more attractive place.
I can not deny it. There were too many sales on the beach. In less than an hour, over five vendors approached me, all of them on a very polite manner, to offer me cold coconut water, bracelets and necklaces, swimming items, as well as cocktails, jaibas cooked with lemon, guided tours, and even massages.
The natives of this fishing village are happy people. The champeta music reaches the restaurants from all directions. Visitors also bring speakers, and use the sound systems of their cars, turning La Boquilla into a great music corridor, and into a feast where there is only room for enjoyment. At this tourist location there is a “license” to turn the party on.
Those who visit this district, know that they will enjoy and dance surrounded by many local people. This is why this place is a recreation reference for Sundays. If you have another plans, probably the weekends are not the right choice. You can come instead on Mondays and Tuesdays and surely find a quieter place.
Before having lunch, I took a walk by the row of imposing buildings, where luxurious hotels and apartments emerge. With Las Américas Hotel, the Cartagena Morros Holiday Inn, and the Radisson Cartagena, there is wide nearby hotel offer, for all the tourists tastes and budgets. This offer is complemented by the Cartagena Conrad, which is also located at the North Zone.
As I was told, La Boquiilla is the ideal place to enjoy a delicious typical dish from the region. When I ate the tastiest fish soup I have gotten in Cartagena, with the exquisite touch that coconut milk provides, my dream came true. The dish was served with six patacones, two slices of fried snapper, and coconut rice. It made me completely fall in love.
After lunch, I took a well deserved rest. I also went for a swim, and found out that the water in this beach is warmer than the one at Bocagrande. Later, I took a ride on a typical fisherman’s canoe, which took me around the mangrove and through the Ciénaga de la Virgen. This tour -which I recommend for those looking for couples plans- allowed me to contemplate the beauty of the nature that rests under the quiet shadow provided by mangrove tunnels such as the ones known as Amistad and Amor.
This natural destination has a native fishermen population, most of them with African origins. They are humble people, but also proud of their race and traditions. Therefore, around five o’ clock in the afternoon, I watched several man getting ready for their second catch of the day. I got curious and approached their rustic boats, finding out what this sea provides: Jureles, róbalos, and sierras from all sizes. Almost everything is sold on the beach restaurants, which made me think on the freshness of the menu I tasted for lunch. In general, around 15 boats with 12 people, each one approximately, go out fishing twice a day.
One more plan I got to do in La Boquilla, was visiting the Casa del Pescador Museum. It is a bahareque ranch where you can find replicas that revive cacimbas, canvas beds, pylons, awnings, fishing strings, dynamite, pots, and a strategic fishing guide system.
I could not leave La Boquilla without fulfilling my wish. Little by little, I started joining the party and went dancing with some Cartagena people that were hanging out on the same restaurant I was. They showed me the best Champeta’s moves, such as La Camita, La Hamaca, El Choque, El Caballito, and El Golpeteo. The funny part about this last one, besides its name, is that it is defined by making with your hands the effect of the blow that the music has. I danced until I could not move anymore. No wonder this is the current rhythm that musically identifies Cartagena. It delights visitors and locals with its movements, like the American actor Will Smith who got really seduced by this music.
Definitely this place has everything you need to pass the weekend. You just have to be there with a joyful mood..
Recommendation by: Mile.
La Boquilla is located 20 minutes away from the Historical Center.
At 6:00 PM is the beaches closing time.
There is a religious festivity to pay tribute to San Juan Bautista, and it is celebrated with the events of the Pescador Artesanal at the end of June. They constitute a place and time for all the people from Cartagena de Indias to meet.
When Cartagena was completely fortified, both pirates and corsairs, brought boats in through La Boquilla. They used to go across the Ciénaga and besiege the city on the north-east side. That was why batteries were built at the entrance of the “mouths” that are buried underground.