March 6th-9th, 2015
From Cartagena I hopped in an early morning taxi with my sailboat bunkmate Jeff while Mitch, Jazmin and Pat followed in another cab from their hostel in Getsemani. We travelled by the marina and had a last glimpse of the Quest, our boat that had safely brought us over from Panama and then I also recognized a few other ships that were docked nearby. They looked very similar to military ships that I’ve seen in Victoria and sure enough I saw the Maple Leaf flag flying on both decks. Must have been a third of our navy sitting there! Nice, a send-off by my own country.
At the bus station we shopped around for tickets as multiple companies offered transportation to Santa Marta. We started at 22,000 pesos, then 20,000 and finished on 18,000. I double checked with the guy: “Es directo si?” “Si senor.” Well sure enough it wasn’t quite direct as it stopped many times on the way but also once we reached the city of Barranquilla, we were told to switch buses. In my broken Spanglish I tried to ensure with the conductor of the original bus that we wouldn’t have to pay any more fare but sure enough, once we were under way in the new bus we had to fork out another 3000 pesos each, only a $1.50 but it was more the principle of the thing.
A not so fancy town on the coast:
This old guy got on the bus after Baranquilla. I actually moved my day backpack so he could sit down if he wanted to but he had other plans. He took out his "Waist Speaker" and began to preach to the occupants of the bus. I meanwhile was listening to music and writing a blog entry but I took off my earplugs long enough to hear words like "Dios" and "palabra"...the word of God. I couldn't help but think of something I saw on the Internet that read something like "Religion is like a penis, it's okay to have one and be proud of it but you shouldn't take it out in public."
Reaching Santa Marta we bid farewell to Jeff who planned to stay there and organize going on the 5 day Lost City trek. The rest of us were heading another 70 kilometres onwards to the small town of Palomino. I had read that there was some tubing on a river there and it was also a little closer to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, some tall mountains that stretch right out to the coast.
Palomino seemed to be a one street kinda town, well at least only one paved road, which happens to be the highway. The four of us hopped off the crowded bus and followed some vague directions I had from the website of the hostel we had booked which was called “The Dreamer” and it looked fantastic online, complete with a pool, sand volleyball court and thatched roofed buildings. Soon our dusty straight road which passed by some very basic local housing with the odd kid playing about or elderly person sitting watching the world go by turned into a trail passing by some farmers’ fields with crops or grazing horses in them. It was a stark contrast from Cartagena earlier that day.
We found The Dreamer Hostel and it did not disappoint, it was like being at a holiday resort. I ended up extending my stay from 3 to 4 nights as I liked it so much. The restaurant served up great pizzas, the dorm was alright, the staff were friendly and the grounds were great. It was only about fifty meters from the beach but one negative was that the beach wasn’t super stellar. The wind often blew hard, the waves were punishing and the water was murky brown for the first 100 meters out until it turned into a more appealing light blue colour.
The entrance to the hostel from the beach:
On the left is the main restaurant and bar:
The volleyball court...with palm trees holding up the net on either side. Playing the ball off either palm tree was legal.
This building housed three, or maybe four dorms, including mine.
The nice looking, but not overly functional pool:
What a lovely place.
And the murky water:
On the first day at the bar I met a couple from Belgium, Anna and Bram (as in Bram Stoker he kept telling people who couldn’t get his name at first). Bram had a shaved head and was sporting a massive beard which he’d been growing for their entire six month trip, I’m sure to Anna’s slight dismay. I gather he was normally clean shaven back home. Another couple we met a day later was Ole and Julie from Denmark who had recently lived and worked in Vancouver for a year. Together with the Aussies and a few other people at the hostel there were some pretty competitive beach volleyball games played each day in the late afternoon. I joined in for a few games one day but was a pretty obvious anchor to my team, plus the sand on the court barely covered some hard spots which caused all of us to suffer a few scraped knees and elbows so that was enough for me…spectating in a chair with a cold beer in my hand was more appealing.
One afternoon I took a long walk along the beach to a river mouth about two and a half or three kilometers away from the hostel. Pretty spot but it was still a bit windy so I found a little sheltered cove around the corner where I could hide form the wind and the sun and read for a while…very nice and peaceful.
This wasn't the main river, but pretty nonetheless.
Looking back down the beach:
Here's the main river on the right:
It was a nice coastline:
My little sheltered area:
My last Aussie friends from the Quest sailboat experience, Mitch, Jazmin and Pat left after three nights to head to a place called Minca, in the mountains up from Santa Marta, while I stayed one more day and went tubing down the nearby river with the two newly met couples, Anna & Bram and Julie & Ole. We found a tubing company right near our hostel so we each grabbed an inner tube, threw it over our shoulder and hopped on a motorcycle taxi to take us about 15 minutes to the river put in (with a seemingly mandatory stop for beer in town on route). The river was quite lazy and slow and at first we weren’t super happy that it was overcast but later on when the sun did come out when we were close to the ocean we almost immediately felt fried so it was a good thing that it wasn’t out the whole time, as it did take us between 3-4 hours to reach the sea.
The European couples were staying a few days longer at the hostel, which I could understand as it was a lovely place but I had to peel myself out of there and continue on…there’s a lot more of Colombia to see!