On the way to the bus terminal, the taxi driver tells me that the RR along which we are driving is used but only for transporting coal from mines inland. We are taking the long but less traffic way and see the underbelly of S.M. - trash, litter all along the road. I guess it's really a toss up, the litter/trash in Venezuela vs Colombia. Just as much here but in places hidden from tourist/wealthy peoples view, not as spread out as in Venezuela where it is everywhere the same. We get out of taxi and immed. a guy asks 'Cartagena?' and hustles us to a window, tickets, and onto a waiting bus which leaves w/in 10 min., AC, rapid...takes 4 hours.
The road first travels betw coast and foothills/mtns. On the ocean side are orchards - citrus, mangos, bananas...less than an hour out the mtns have been left behind and we're in a flat plain. We see alot more motorcycles, bicycles, even bicycle taxis in Colombia. Most likely due to the cost of gas here which is 4 to 5 times the subsidized price in Venezuela. Regular, poor people are no better off it seems here in Colombia...still live in 1-2 room shacks (maybe 10 x 15'), corrugated metal roofs, wood or cement block walls, close together/side-by-side. Driving along the coastline there are lots of these shack villages, fishermen, hundreds of white egrets fishing as well. On our way to Barranquilla the land is a huge alluvial plain/sandbox...scrub brush, short thorny trees, some standing water but not tidal. Closer to B., small subsistence agriculture, coco palms, gardens. Going thru Barranquilla - huge, sprawling port city - major road reconstruction into 4 lanes, now just big traffic tie up.
Onward to Cartagena, away from the coast, still flat, but now mostly cattle if anything other than scrub stuff. We arr at the large terminal about 2pm, walk thru the terminal and immed catch the 'shuttle' bus into the city center. Walking in the heat/humidity we find (after ckg several others either too costly or full), Hotel Tropical, a corner room, fan, TV and windows/balcony overlooking the street. Charming at first glance, but as the night progresses, it remains the noisiest place we have ever stayed! The streets are very narrow...it took a garbage truck (something rarely seen in the first place) 10 minutes to go by AND it was back in less than an hour again - this being close to midnight. The tourists and other pedestrian traffic lessened by 1:30 but the locals kept up the racket until 4am!!! Needless to say, little sleep.
We move to Hostel La Casona de Getsemani after again searching for a couple hours...this place has only a dbl bed, tiny room, no windows, small bath (the bed takes up 2/3rds of the room space) for 70p ($35 US)! We should have stayed in Santa Marta!