Overall, I spent ten days in the region around Santa Marta, including excursions to ‘la ciudad peridida’ and Tayrona National Park. Five nights were spent at the fantastic ‘The Dreamer’ hostel just outside of town – not bothering to venture into Santa Marta itself – which culminated in four happy hours (8 hours to be precise)! Days were spent relaxing at the nearby beaches or by the pool, watching films, attempting to blog and recovering from restless nights camping, days trekking and the occasional hangover!
A shuttle bus took me directly from my Cartagena hostel to ‘The Dreamer’ hostel just outside of Santa Marta, a rapid 3 hour journey that I spent unconscious. The closest trip I could manage that day was to El Rodadero by taxi followed by a short boat ride to another Playa Blanca. Much like at the previous day’s namesake beach, I enjoyed a delicious fish lunch then found an empty patch of sand to soak up any rays of sun peeking through the overcast skies. The hill sloping down to the bay was dotted with cacti amongst the brown of dead trees.
The drought in the area was further apparent on my day trip to Bahia Concha (shell bay) as we drove through an entire valley of dead trees. Arriving at the bay on my final day in the region, the supposed lush green of Tayrona National Park was not present here either. I finally got a sunny beach day in Colombia, this probably my last opportunity for a full body bronzing session as my journey took me inland, southwards and through the Andes. The relaxation was somewhat hindered by a consistently strong breeze blowing sand in our faces. Local boys wielding buckets soaked the area around us to keep the sand in place, earning a few coins for their efforts.
Lazy Days & Happy Hours
Aside from my days venturing to beaches close to Santa Marta, I tried to make use of the hostel computers to upload photos and catch up with my blog. But the excellent hostel facilities all too easily distracted me from my tasks: behind me films played one after another in the bean-bag lounge, while down below I could glimpse people sunbathing by the pool and hear the sounds of people splashing in the water. I spent many an hour in the pool playing head tennis (25 was the highest rally), compounding the headaches sustained from my night activities.
But it only seemed fair that i had earned this relaxation time after the tough 4-day trek to ‘la ciudad perdida’. And afternoons seemed to increasingly anticipate the arrival of happy hour where a mere 10,000 Colombian Pesos (just over £3) was added to your tab in exchange for two cocktails. The caipirinhas weren’t amazing but the refreshing frozen daiquiris were delicious. After experimentation we evaluated that mixing mango and blueberry gave the best taste out of their wide selection of flavors. As we got to know the bar staff they gave even more generous measures, none more potent than their Cuba libres with a large dose of Colombian rum topped with a mere splash of coke!
I was glad to retain the company of two Australian guys, Cam and David, with their lovely Austrian companion, Stef, after completing a 4-day trek together. Our triumphant return coupled with David’s birthday as cause for celebration. Pool-side cocktails preceded several games of pool, free shots of rum, a little salsa and the birthday boy crashing out in spectacular fashion!
I only ventured out on one of the nights, heading to the nearby seaside town of Taganga. After a crammed taxi ride sitting on the lap of an Irish lass, we briefly checked out ‘El Mirador’ beachfront discoteca and finished with beers on the beach. The night was tarnished slightly by a seemingly friendly local who chatted with two of us until our friends returned from their late night dip. As one girl gathered her belongings she realised her purse – that, unknown to us, she had hidden beneath her clothes – was missing. The fake encounter with the sneaky thief frustrated me and dented my faith in human nature, but fortunately the girl suffered no significant personal loss.