A geographic and political oddity I have never really understood is the Darien gap. Its a small band of jungle in between Panama and Colombia famous for three things... Orchids, guerillas, and its impassability. Humans have stretched roads of all sorts all the way up and down these two continents but for some reason, in the one place that could connect two huge and diverse continents we just havent bothered. We were willing to cut a huge Canal to connect two vast oceans together just a couple miles away, but even though it must be far easier to do connecting two vast continents together wasnt worth the trouble.
I may just be bitter because it broke up the purity of our overland trip. We had looked into getting a yacht ride but gave up when we realized there was really no way of knowing when exactly one would leave. So, we flew an hour from Panama city into Cartagena, Colombia and entered a whole new leg of our trip.
South America seems a world apart both from home and Central America. Suddenly our burgeoning Spanish helps little with the new and faster accents, stores and buildings have gotten enormous, and it feels like there is less striving here and more being.
Cartagena itself is divided into three parts. It has a huge very well preserved gorgeous old colonial town, a peninsula coming off with long lovely beaches and tall hotels and finally a huge "real" city to fit the bustling commercial, residential and industrial life of this city.
This started as a major trading port for the Spanish. And, being the sneaky SOBs they were the English first crushed the Spanish Navy in a war and then let lose all its former navy leaders go into a life of piracy of Latin America. Sometimes they even knighted the most successful pirates, thus allowing some fortunate individuals to become the two coolest things... a pirate knight. Accordingly poor little Cartagena had to build some really thick walls to protect the gold it was stealing from much of Latin America.
The walls, more or less, helped and Cartagena grew to be a wealthy and powerful center of life for much of northern South America. The rich historical colonial feel also made it a really amazing place for us to get started on this second leg of the journey. I am already enamored with this continent. I love it here.