Since arriving in Cartagena we’ve heard the chiva buses, crammed with tourists and musicians, as they wind their way through the city, a rolling fiesta with an irresistible invitation to party. Tonight’s our night to join the fun.
We taxi over to the hotel strip on Boca Grande where the chivas gather. Three are maxed out with early party-goers. We hop on an empty bus and Mikayla frets that we won’t attract enough riders to make ours a fun ride. No worries. We have to be the party.
At our first stop we pick up three tourists. At another we pick up a couple who definitely are ready to party. They give in to the persistent street vendors and buy a set of maracas and another noisemaker. The man stands up and gently moves his hips as our musicians strike up their accordion, drums and percussion. Oh, yeah! The party is starting.
A tall German-looking woman with platinum hair and her bespectacled partner climb aboard. Later she leads the booty call when our tour guide urges the women to stand up and shake. Then a threesome from Barranquilla—a young married couple and a sister—join our row. Bottles of rum, cola, ice and tumblers are handed out. Oh, yeah! The party is starting.
After the fourth pass by hotel row, our bus rolls out of Boca Grande and heads to Manga Island. We drive by Club Nautico and give a holler to remind fellow cruisers—the old fogeys—what they’re missing. We head to a dual lane byway and for every chiva we pass we scream at the top of our lungs and wave wildly. Cameras flash and shooters are handed between buses. Oh, yeah! The party is starting.
We arrive at Las Bovedas, the ancient dungeons built into the city’s 15-meter walls. Today they’re home to souvenir shops and past them lies the Caribbean Sea. The chivas unload their merry passengers to stare at the black beyond.
After we return to our rolling party, our bus rounds the exterior of Cartagena’s Old City and arrives at the Plaza de los Coches. We disembark in front of the clock tower and head to a disco on the dimly lit plaza.
Fifteen-year-old Mikayla scoots inside Indiana and climbs the stairs to a contemporary disco (Do they still call them discos?) with two DJs and video monitors. Our new friends from Barranquilla join her on the dance floor and soon the 19-year-old sister is making moves that would make a nun blush. The other dancers form a circle and watch her outmaneuver every partner bold enough to challenge her on the dance floor. Oh, yeah! The party is starting.
Mike and I manage to keep our drifting eyes open until midnight when we take our Cinderella home to Happy Times. The party is over. The memories will last.