Lio and I took the bus to Santa Marta. It turned out that the Fiesta de Mar was in full swing with stages set up around the seafront and bands playing. A food market in one of the plazas was selling ceviche and other tasty things and it seemed that the entire town was out and taking part.
We joined in with a Zumba session on the beach – much to the amusement of the locals, we watched a proesson go past but we gave up after two hours when it showed no sign of ending – and then as the most magical orange sunset lit up the beachfront we walked back to our hostel. We had some cheeky little cocktails on the way back as we chatted about our respective travels, life and the universe.
Lio is French and he has had his own fantastic journey before finally ending up here on the Carribean coast. It was his final fling on the continent and I was certainly up for a change of tempo. I hoped to visit Parque Tayrona and I also wanted to do the Lost City trek but both plans went by the wayside. I had lost/had my bank card stolen whilst in Playa Blanca so money was a bit tight. The next few weeks were crazy in their own way. We were joined by Emy from England who was also en route north and who had been persuaded by Lio whilst she was in Cartagena to join us. The three of us met up at the Hostal Jackie in Santa Marta where we shared a dorm and soon we were the best of friends and setting off on our adventure – heading first to Taganga for a night or two.
Silly me! I had imagined that three well travelled people would be resourceful and imaginative and that we would be covering the ground effortlessly. We seemed to sink into a stupor, going to bed very late (if at all), mooching around until lunchtime and then more often than not we realised that we had missed the last bus (or simply couldn’t be bothered to go and find it) and we checked back into whatever hostel we were at again!
We didn’t seemed to do too much over the next couple of weeks except to ‘make a ploof’ – a Lio-ism for swimming in the sea, eat copious papa rellanas (on this stretch of coast they rivalled those in Trujillo, Peru), and laugh. We wandered slowly from place to place, eating and drinking and sleeping and diligently sharing out the bills to the nearest centimo, or dust as Lio tagged the shrapnel that we all carry around in our wallets. Me and Emy were attacked and stung my an army of wasps and poor old Emy had some ferocious sandflies nibble on her ankles. She will probably carry those scars to the end of her days and will forever be reminded of those couple of weeks when the three of us explored the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Taganga is a funny little place. It seems to be populated by people learning to scuba dive and aging hippies who kept the local drug barons in business. We met a lovely guy called Andres, a gentle giant who has an incredible talent for taking portrait photographs of the people that he meets and we met a couple from Spain who were travelling around. We all spent a VERY weird night sat chatting and chilling on the beach which involved visits from the local cops and being searched for drugs. At about two in the morning the majority of the street dogs joined us and flopped down on the sand amongst us and we also had one of the beggar/homeless men circling us for over an hour, yelling obsecnities at us while fumbling around with a stonking great big knife which was tucked into his waistband. It was at this point that I realised that I had settled into life in South America completely as he was not threatening or scary, just a little annoying as we were all trying to chat. and we ignored him like the pesky mosquitoes and the sandflies which were biting us.
The three of us were sharing a little cave of a room in a hostel and as we all just spent the next day recovering we quickly turned it into a pigsty. We had an ensuite bathroom but as the place was so small and there was only a curtain for a barhroom door we soon learnt to talk loudly!
When we finally managed to stir ourselves from Taganga we went back to Santa Marta and spent another night at the Hostel Jackie. Walking into reception we were pleased to get our old room back. Up on the roof terrace I met Martin from an Argentina who explained that yes, the pool table was supposed to have no pockets and only three balls, and no, it wasn’t a pool table at all but a game called billar which was frustratingly difficult to play and made snooker and pool look like childs play.
The next day, or maybe a couple of days later, who knows because by now the days were all merging, the three of us got on another bus and headed up the coast to Palomino. The countryside got wilder and dryer (they are having a serious drought here) and the homes got poorer. Palomino was once a little indigenous community on the coast but now includes some seriously laid back hostels and beach bums.
Our first hostel of choice was probably as far from the beach as you could get – and after staggering back home in the pitch black during a power cut the next day we relocated ourselves a bit closer to where the action was happening. Not that an awful lot happened in Palomino. We did eat some amazing fish in a tiny little local restaurant and we did plan to go tubing on the river, and we did plan to go for a hike …..but you know the drill by now – we didn’t do an awful lot at all.
We bought ourselves a bottle of rum and whilst we were sat on our patio we were joined by the guy next door who I shall call Scot but who originated from Finland. He had been in the area for a while and had been helping on a project to build a treehouse. There was a little bit of alpha male banter happening and then when the guys decided to go together to the shop, me and Emy both looked at each other and announced that they would either end up fighting or come back as best friends. Luckily they turned up later arm in arm and the best of friends! And armed with more rum.
We did manage to get ourselves along the beach to the point where the river joined the sea but we did decline the ayawasca ceremony which we were invited to because we needed to begin to head back down the coast and our respective onward journeys. Rolling into Santa Marta we had of course missed the last bus out again so rocking up at the Hostel de Jackie we treated ourselves to a dip in the little swimming pool and planned our next move.
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