Alex Rocha and the Real Cartagana Tour

 

I was super excited to go to Cartagena, Colombia. I was even happier to know that Alex Rocha an Afro-Colombian from Cartagena conducted tours in various parts of the city. I was interested in several tours that he offered and communicated with him prior to arriving in Colombia. He picked me up from Rafael Nunez International Airport and off we went on the Real Cartagena Tour.

I hopped in the van with other tourist. I thought that they were all together but quickly realized that they were solo travelers from various part of the USA. As a result of this tour, I had friends to hang out with throughout the remainder of my stay in Cartagana. Don’t be afraid to travel solo, you never know what friends you make along the way.

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Colombian Salsa and Tropical Musical Singer

As I walked out of the airport, the heat, and humidity slapped me in my face. I was thinking to myself; If hell is this hot, I am determined not to go there! LOL. Alex told me that this is how the weather is all year long. Yikes! I don’t know how you can really prepare for the heat but bring loose clothing, drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Cerro De La Popa:

Cerro de La Popa was discovered by the Spaniards and is now a church located on a hill with beautiful city views. African slaves and Indians worshiped the Buziriaco which resembled a goat. The story says that Fra Alonso De la Cruz Paredes had a dream that he was supposed to place the Virgin Mary in the highest part of the city. The monk went to Cartagena on the hill of La Popa and threw the goat down hill. It is now known as the Salto del Cabron. A painting now represents black Virgin and is now a patron of the city.

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“Buziriaco”

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City views on top of Cerro de la Popa

Market: 

The markets are the pulsating heartbeat of the city. In the market, friendships are born, people trade, eat, yell, sleep and make a days living wage. I enjoy the market prices, they are usually cheaper because you can barter or trade items.

In the market, we tasted avocados bigger than your fist, ate juicy mangoes, sweet pineapples and shared a local dishes.

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Remember I mentioned the heat earlier. We stopped at one of the stalls and I almost passed out due to the extreme heat. Imagine feeling the warmth of the open stove and the burning sun from above. I sweated profusely while eating delicious food. We ate shark, rice, beans, and plantains. I wiped my brow, took a bite, wiped my neck, took a bite and repeated until my food was finished. LOL

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Shark, rice, and plantains

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Next stop was Alex’s home. His wife prepared lunch for us. She made coconut rice, curry chicken, beans, salad, fruit and freshly squeezed juice. Remember to bring your appetite and an empty stomach. After finishing this tour, my belly and taste buds were satisfied.

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Street Art: 

After lunch, we went to a local park to see street art.

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“More About Alex”

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TH: How was life before becoming a tour guide?

AR: I left school in the 8th grade because I thought that school was not cool. During the ages of 17-27 years old, I became heavily involved and addicted to drugs.

TH: How has your life changed since then?

AR: One day, I was invited to church by my older sister who is a Christian. Only about 20% of the population in Cartagena are Christians. That one day in church literally changed my entire life. My heart was touched by God and I become saved, a born-again Christian.

TH: When and Why did you start the Alex Rocha Youth Center?

AR: I started the center because as a young teenager I didn’t have many opportunities, Lack of guidance led me to make bad decisions. In 2012, I started the Alex Rocha Youth Center. It is located in the San Francisco neighborhood of Cartagena and is apart of my home. I have 65 children ages 8-14 year old. They come to the center after school and we teach them English, as Spanish is our primary language. In addition, we teach them about life lessons such as values and integrity. We often go to various events and do recreational activities such as playing sports. I receive no government assistance and I fund the program through tips from organized tours such as the Real Cartagena Tour, donations from individuals and travel groups such as Nomadness travel tribe.

TH: How did you become a tour guide?

AR:  I’m married and have a family of 6, so more importantly I needed to support my family. I started off by interpreting for my friends and saw the need for tourism. I eventually received an official license to become a tour guide.

TH: I highly recommend Alex as a tour guide if you ever visit Cartagena.  Please contact him at Cellphone/WhatsApp: +(57)3137425792 or Email: rochasabe7@gmail.com. You will receive a great tour and you will be giving back to the Alex Youth Rocha Center Unfortunately when I visited his home the children were in school, hopefully, I can return back and volunteer at the center.

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50 Comments

  1. What a story of triumph, to over come and then give back. That is awesome. I love fruit so I would have been in sheer heaven. The market would be my favorite place to go. That heat though, that is a great warning.

    • Yes, I love how he saw a need in the community and decided to be the change that he wanted to see! The markets are always an interesting place to go see and be!

  2. This post made me laugh out loud. I love your writing voice! I’ve been following a couple of your posts and I have to say I’m so proud of you for crossing borders like you do. Great job and be safe!

    • I’m glad I could make you laugh! I really appreciate the comment about my writing voice. Sometimes I wonder if people read blog post anymore but this lets me know I’m going in the right direction.

    • Thank you Chelsea! I’m not a big fruit eater but its something about fresh fruit, its delicious. That is one of my favorite visuals as well! when I saw the background, I knew I had to get that photo opportunity. LOL

  3. Beautiful! I enjoy learning about new cultures and people’s firsthand experiences with them. Thank you for all the details. Amazing visuals!

    • Thank you for reading Valarie! That is one of the reasons why I love traveling, I enjoy learning about people who are different from me.

  4. When I think about my time in Colombia, I smile at my memories of the street arts. It was dope to be in South America and see black faces. It was one of my first solo travel experiences and for that I hold it near and dear to my heart. And YES, it was hot! lol

    • Its funny because I always said I never see street art when I travel! I saw so much dope street art in Colombia and I loved it! We have something in common, this was my first real solo international trip!

    • Thank you so much, I really appreciate the feedback. Please feel free to subscribe to receive updates about future post on Colombia 🙂

  5. This is very helpful. My husband and I are planning a trip to Cartagena for my 30th birthday this fall and I want to go on a tour with Alex but am curious about pricing. Do you remember about how much you spent on the Real Cartagena tour in USD? Any info you can share will be a big help! Thank you.

    • Cartagana would be a great 30th Birthday, I went to Thailand for my 30th Birthday and had a blast! I spent $60 for this tour, thanks for this question Ill add the price in the blog post. I also recommend the Palenque tour which is $80. Follow the blog by subscribing, because I will be posting more about Cartagena.

  6. Colombia is on my bucket list. The food looked amazing, and it is nice you were able to experience it like a local. How fortunate you were to be able to have the guide’s wife cook for you! So cool.

    • Yes the food is great, I wish I could have some right now. LOL Yes I love hanging out with the locals because they give you a different perspective that you would get as a tourist.

  7. I think if I visited Cartagana, I’d never leave the market. The food looks incredible! Love how you tried all the dishes there before having lunch, haha. And thanks for the interview with Alex. Lovely to see how tourism can have a direct positive impact on the locals.

    • LOL the market is def a cool place to check out. Same thing we said, we thought the food in the market was lunch. LOL I agree, I love the fact that he is showing pride for his city while making an impact in his community.

    • Wow, how cool that you received a post card. I went to Guatape and loved the small city as well as climbing the rock. I highly recommend Colombia and hope that you are able to go soon. 🙂

  8. Oh my goodness this looks amaaaazing.

    The food (both at the market, and then again at Alex’s home) looks sooo good. You must have been totally stuffed at the end of that tour.

    I really love all that artwork too. 🙂

    • I loved going to his home, although he was a tour guide, taking us to his home made us feel like family. Yes I was stuffed at the end, I didn’t know it included all the food. LOL

    • Thank you so much, its one of my favorite photos as well. Let me know if you have any questions before you go to Colombia.

  9. Please excuse me while I go book flights to Colombia…! What an amazing looking place! And that food looks so yummy. It’s made me hungry and I’ve only just eaten dinner!!

    • Yessss you should definitely book flights ASAP, I initially had planned to fly to a Africa but I’m glad that I was able to go to South America as an alternative. Yes the food was super yummy 🙂

  10. Cartagena looks like the most colourful city and the view from Cerro de la Popa looks spectacular! I know my housemate recently went to Cartagena but I don’t think she experienced half as much as you! Looks epic!!

    • Hi Claire, when I seen the view I was like I have to get a picture here. LOL! I hope your roommate had a fantastic time. It was an epic trip

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