Tag Archives: Colombia

23-24 December 2018:
Cartagena, Colombia:
A Hot Place in a Hot Place

By Corey Sandler

We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon evening and morning at a hot place in a hot place: Cartagena.

We arrived on a Sunday aon the day before Christmas Eve and this city of nearly two million people was in a party mood. Then again Cartagena is almost always in a party mood. They call it rumbeando.

Here are some photos I took in the decorated streets and at sunset as we enjoyed a cold beer and celebrated the setting of the sun.

All photos by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved.

Cartagena, La Heroica, was one of Spain’s treasuries in the New World, along with Havana, Cuba.

As Spain extracted gold, silver, pearls, silk, and almost anything else they could move from the Americas and beyond from the Phillippines, China, and Japan, the had to sail their galleons through the Gulf of Mexico past the real pirates of the Caribbean.

Cartagena grew wealthy from that role, and as a result of the massive fortifications put in place by the Spanish.

Today the city is one of the handsomest places in this part of the world, a rich stew of Spanish Colonial architecture, Spanish and indigenous food and music and dance, and the money left behind by modern tourists.

All photos and text Copyright 2018 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)


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By Corey Sandler

Welcome aboard. I am happy to share some of my photographs taken aboard Viking Sky on our journey from Miami to the Panama Canal and back. 

Viking Sky at anchor off Key West, Florida

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2018: Key West, Florida

A bird’s eye view of a Viking Sky tender
An ancient lock on a shipwrecker’s warehouse in Key West
Instituto San Carlos, the headquarters of the post-Independence, pre-Castro Cuban community in Key West
The files of the former Consulate of the Republic of Cuba in Key West

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2018: Belize City, Belize

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

Altun Ha, first built about 900 B.C.E.
Altun Ha, near Belize City
The ruins of the ceremonial site were only rediscovered in the 1960s
Altun Ha near Belize City. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cities and ceremonial sites of the Mayans and other ancient peoples in Central America and most are still covered by earth and hidden within forest. Archaeologists say they are probably safer that way, since there is not enough money to protect and preserve them all once they are uncovered.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2018: Carambola Gardens at Coxen Hole on Roatan Island, Honduras

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

Emerging from the shadows of the forest
A tiny hummingbird flits into view

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SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2018: Along the Tortuguero near Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved.

A two-toed sloth, just hanging around
A common basilisk hidden in the green forest. The creature is better known as the Jesus Christ Lizard because of its ability to run across water when necessary
Shadows in the water
A blue heron observed us from the shore

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018: Colón to Panama City on the Panama Canal Railway

We arrived early this morning at Colón, Panama on the Atlantic Ocean and spent the afternoon in Panama City on the Pacific. Although I have made the transit of the isthmus more times than I can remember, this was the first time I did so by rail.

The Panama Canal Railway was begun in 1850 and completed in 1855 as the first mass transit across the isthmus of Panama, replacing the very difficult trails through the jungle. And then the railway became an essential part of the construction of the Panama Canal itself, when work was begun first by the French in 1881 and then redone and completed by the Americans in 1914

The American effort required the rebuilding and relocating of some of the track because the American design was based on damming the Chagres River and creating a manmade lake as the means of transit between the seas. The track today includes some of its 1850 route and some of the 1914 relocated path which parallels the Panama  Canal.

Today the railway serves mostly as a “dry canal”, carrying freight from the Atlantic to the Pacific in containers mounted on flatbed train cars, but it also runs a few passenger trips for tourists each day.

A modern diesel-electric locomotive powers the Panama Canal Railway today on a 48-mile crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Containers and flatbed railcars, part of the “dry canal”
The railway track parallels the canal, here crossing on a trestle over the Chagres River which is the source of the water for Gatun Lake and the engine for the operation of the locks
At Gamboa, near the midway point of the canal, stands “Titan”, one of the largest floating cranes in the world. It was built in Nazi Germany in 1941 to service U-boats in Kiel. After the war it was seized by the U.S. as war reparations and brought across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California where it served for nearly 50 years at the shipyard there. (Its local nickname was “Herman the German.”) In 1996 it was moved once again, this time to Gamboa where it is used in the maintenance of the locks of the original canal
An old piece of railroad equipment on a siding near the train terminus at Balboa on the Pacific side
Modern Panama City as seen through a thicket of pleasure boats at the Pacific end of the canal

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018: Partial Transit of the Panama Canal

We arrived early this morning at the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal and then rose up three locks to Gatun Lake, which today was at its maximum level of 86.7 feet above sea level.

Once we reached the lake, we made a U-turn and then made our way back down to the Atlantic Ocean. In modern cruising language, this is known as a “partial transit”, which sounds like an oxymoron to me.

I have been through the Panama Canal more times than I can remember, and it is always a thrill. I spent the day up on the navigational bridge offering commentary about our partial transit. Call it an up and down excursion…

The view from the navigational bridge as Viking Sky climbed the stairs at Gatun
One of the electric locomotives, or “mules” of the Panama Canal. The mules (the name is derived from the original means of moving barges along the Erie Canal in upstate New York) do not pull the ship; instead their function is to keep a ship centered in the lock chamber
In the early morning, we passed below the nearly completed bridge at the Atlantic end of the canal

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

All photos by Corey Sandler, 2018. All rights reserved. All contents copyright Corey Sandler and Word Association; this website is not produced or endorsed by Viking Cruises.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018: Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena in Colombia is one of the best preserved old Spanish colonial cities in the new world.

We had a lovely day in Cartagena, although we were not alone: four cruise ships in port, thousands of tourists in the streets, and painful traffic jams.

The best time to visit: after hours, when the vendors and the selfie-sticks have gone home.

The old city of Cartagena
The dome of San Pedro Claver Church in Cartagena. Claver was known as the “slave of the slaves”, begging in the streets to help the poor Africans brought by the tens of thousands to Colombia
A golden display of indigenous art
A work by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, champion of a style known as “Boterismo.” He obviously thinks large.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2018: Nassau, Bahamas

So, we weren’t supposed to be here in Nassau, Bahamas this morning. But a combination of bad weather and other factors in the Western Caribbean caused us to cancel calls scheduled for Montego Bay, Jamaica and then George Town on Grand Cayman Island.

We sailed two days eastward along the south side of Cuba and then turned north toward Nassau for a final port of call.

Nassau is an interesting place, mostly because of its history as a British colony somewhat similar to Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos. It was a place of plantations (and therefore slaves), and its success drew in pirates and privateers and attacks by the Spanish who contested some of the same waters.

Today, the English are still here with a Royal Governor and the police force look more like British Bobbies than the ones in London. The Spanish and the pirates are gone, and in their place hordes of tourists. Many of them arrive by cruise ship at the huge port which can accommodate five and sometimes more large ships.

One of our favorite places to visit is Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican/Episcopal church at the corner of King and George streets. The structure is handsome, with the current building dating from 1841 on a base that dates back to the mid-1600s.

But it is the collection of plaques and other remembrances that line the walls of the church that fascinate. Any one of them could generate a novel, or at least a lecture for me.

Small, medium, and large at the dock in Nassau. Viking Sky sits between the luxurious private yacht Turquoise and the huge and loud Disney Dream

A Viking long boat on the Viking Sky’s funnel catches the morning sun

Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau

A bit of old Nassau, hidden in plain sight

Echoes of Colonial Britain at the Governor General’s house on the hill

Safe travels to all.

To send me an email,  click here: www.coreysandler.com/contact-me/

19-20 APRIL 2015
 Cartagena, Colombia: La Heroica

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived in steamy Cartagena in the afternoon and overnighted, catching our breath in one of the most handsome old Spanish colonial cities of the New World.

Cartagena was the Fort Knox, the Las Vegas, the Tower of London: one of the principal offshore gold repositories and warehouses for the Spanish.

And for that reason it came under attack many times.

Colombians call Cartagena “La Heroica.” The Heroic City.

Here are some photos I took on this visit to Cartagena:

CARTAGENA, APRIL 2015. All photos by Corey Sandler

La Popa Monastery

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Within the Walls of the Old City of Cartagena

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In 1533—35 years after Columbus sailed nearby and almost a century before Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620—Spanish explorer Don Pedro de Heredia founded a settlement he called Cartagena de Indias.

Cartegena of the Indies, to distinguish it from Cartagena on the Mediterranean in southeastern Spain.

In 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa and his men walked across the Isthmus of Panama and became the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean from its Eastern shore.

The Spanish soon got into the business of conducting trade with Asia from what is now Mexico and California as well as pillaging Central and South America.

Traders brought back spices, silks, porcelain, ivory, and lacquerware. And there was gold.

Much of the Asian treasure was carried up and over the Cordillera to Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, then reloaded onto galleons through the Gulf of Mexico…the home of the real Pirates of the Caribbean.

Cartagena became the central warehouse for the treasures that came from Asia and much of the gold and silver taken from the Americas.

And it also became one of the principal targets of the real pirates of the Caribbean.


Spanish King Philip II, known as “the Prudent,” did not like losing his stuff to pirates and privateers. And so he hired Europe’s foremost military engineers to design and build Fuerte San Felipe.

The massive network of seven forts and defensive walls average 40 feet high and 56 feet thick. It became Spain’s largest fort in the Americas.

Today the heart of old Cartagena is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets that open onto broad formal plazas. Street names change from block to block.

It might remind you of Istanbul, or Mdina on Malta. But instead of Muslim calls to prayer, it’s salsa and vallenato music all the time.

Cartagena’s history includes the sad story of slavery, the cruelty of some of the Spanish including a branch of the Inquisition, and more recent devolution into narcoterrorist chaos.





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After many years of neglect, Cartagena—the jewel of the nation—has been reborn.

For those who have a bit of money, the city is a Caribbean playground: A wild party in a place of great culture. They call it rumbeando.

“Partying, dancing all night, getting drunk, waking up early to go to the beach, then doing it again.”

All photos copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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