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.
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.
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.
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
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.
After lunch, we went to a local park to see street art.
“More About Alex”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.