In the surroundings of the Parque Centenario, under a shining sun is the “La Cariñosa chiva”, a giant wooden cart with striking colors. That is its identification, but there are other fast-paced names of the other chivas, like “La Cucaracha” or “La Corroncha”, which do not go unnoticed by the eyes of the curious. I climb a couple of steps to sit on the comfortable benches of the vehicle, where I will enjoy a unique ride with 30 more passengers who accompany me in this new experience.
I pay 60.000 COP for the ride in this chiva that includes the entrance to the San Felipe de Barajas Castle. The engine starts and we leave from Parque Centenario at 1:30 in the afternoon. We head to the modern and beautiful area of Bocagrande to pick up other passengers who previously booked a space in search of joining the tour. It's 2:30 in the afternoon and Edgar Leal Mendoza, the tour guide, gets up from his post. Welcome to La Cariñosa! He introduces himself and immediately begins to explain the history of Bocagrande and the process that led this area to become one of the most exclusive sectors of La Heroica. La Chiva stops after 15 minutes of travel in the parish of Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro to appreciate and take photographs of the amazing Bay of Cartagena, a visual spectacle.
At 3:10 p.m. we went through the picturesque street of La Media Luna in the Getsemaní neighborhood, towards the monument of Los Zapatos Viejos, to admire this curious work of art made in bronze. Then, we enter the Castillo San Felipe that is adjacent. While we stroll through this fortification, the guide continues explaining, and make us all imagine life during the eighteenth century in Cartagena. At the top, while the Colombian flag is hoisted, the panoramic view of the city is surprising and unique.
The next stop is at Las Bóvedas, located between the Forts of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina. This place has the largest variety of handicrafts in the city. Of course, I bought a hat to continue my journey with the typical garment of the coast. While we arrive at our next destination, the breeze of the Caribbean Sea that enters by the open carriage of la chiva make me fall in love even more with this Corralito de Piedra.
We arrived at the Teatro Adolfo Mejía, the last stop of La Cariñosa, since the rest of the tour is on foot through the beautiful and narrow streets of the Historical Center of Cartagena. We enter the cloister of La Merced to admire the remains of the Colombian exponent of magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez. The bust of the writer, decorated with yellow flowers, is one of the best tributes to an artist I've seen in La Heroica.
Edgar Mendoza explains to us the history of the convent of Santa Clara; how the social classes were divided in the days of the Spanish colony; the construction of the Cathedral Santa Catalina de Alejandría; the history behind La Gorda Gertrudis, a work given by the master sculptor Fernando Botero. Finally, we arrive at Plaza San Pedro Claver, where I decided to buy a scrapbook and take a picture next to an iron sculpture.
Precisely in San Pedro the tour ends, and while I maintain a gigantic smile on the way to my hotel, the people whose hotels are in Bocagrande have to go to the Parque de La Marina, so that La Chiva, the best cultural vehicle in Cartagena, can drop them off in their lodging. This concludes my adventure aboard the most colorful transport of Cartagena de Indias.