Last Beach Time for a Long Time...

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, October 13, 2007

Apparently, it was an environmental disaster. They built the coast road between Baranquilla and Santa Marta cutting off the tidal lakes from the sea. As we pass by in a bus the area still looks beautiful apart from the slums on the edges of towns, spilling rubbish into the water.

Santa Marta is a town on the Carribean a little dirty especially since half the roads are ripped up, and the town suffers from mini floods anytime it rains. Our negotiation skills are getting sharper. We name our price at a hotel and they are unprepared to budge so we walk. Thirty seconds later there's the patter of feet and "Señor, señor". Maybe they thought we were bluffing given it was dark.

Breakfast at Restaurant Merkabar, calle 11 from memory. Fantastic value, especially the litre jug of fresh juice. England verses Estonia (football) is on TV and a few washed-out, hungover poms are monopolising the TV, yawn.

Santa Marta is essentially base camp for Parque Nacional Tayrona, so we spend half an hour digging round for some info. Unfortunately the tourist office is closed because it's a long weekend. We check out accomodation with Aviatour, the parks booking agent and they have cabins for $150... mmm, a bit much for our budget.

There's a line of locals for the bus. Strangely they're only taking as many people as seats - maybe because the buses get checked by police on exit from the town. Thirty-five minutes later we're at the park entrance having our bags searched for alcohol. An old chevy takes us into the park for a couple of dollars, then it's a 45 minute walk along a muddy, horse-churned track, winding through rainforest to the beach. It's dirty, which matches my general impression of Carribean beaches. Dirty in that there are plastic bottles and cans, and rubbish floating in the water. I have a swim and it's warm, like bathwater.

We walk on to Cabo, a camping spot on the beach. The've hit the bonanza - it's a long weekend, and every latino and their dog has rolled into town. We have the option of paying an inflated price for a hammock or walking. We walk and again get a "discount".

But I have to say, that this spot is beautiful, lush jungle down to white sandy beaches, blue water, and our hammocks in a small rotunda on a point overlooking the sea. The beach is cleaner, but there is still the odd bottle, and plenty of cigarette butts and ring pulls in the sand. Am I a being a typical Ozzie claiming that there's no beach like home? I hope not as I would be the first to say that the beaches in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland are of equal beauty and cleanliness to any in Australia (though not as warm)!

They also have a restaurant here where we get some local food. This is not the first time we've experienced the Latino's idea of how to enjoy the great outdoors - essentially bring your own music and have a noisy party! Gross generalisation, but I think we're entitled to make it after travelling for a year. We sleep brilliantly in the hammocks with the washing of the waves and stars for company.

Next day we explore more of the park including a small indigenous settlement, a tough climb involving some rock scrambling in the excessive humidity. Lots of leaf-cutter ants, bats, and giant grasshoppers (6 inches long), as well as providing assistance to some local ladies having trouble climbing the large rocks.

We walk back along the beach to Arecifes and are treated to a rose-coloured sunset, followed by a tropical storm with soaking rain and lightning illuminating the whole sky.

Tonight we're staying in another open-air hamaceria with numerous white hammocks draped in mosquito netting suspended from the roof. It almost looks like the mother alien nest! Our hammock neighbours are Oscar and Marta-Lucia, and their friend José. Lovely people with deadpan senses of humour, who invite us for dinner for the following evening when we leave the park.

The arrangement to rendezvous at the park entrance almost goes awry, but at the last moment as we're climbing in a collectivo, we see them driving out in their old Ford Laser.

They have a modern 13th floor apartment in Santa Marta overlooking the sea, and we watch the last of the sunset drinking a glass of vino tinto. Marta-Lucia cooks some spare ribs and myself and composer Oscar play some soulful jazzy tunes till late. When I'm playing a flamenco rhythm, Oscar suddenly breaks out in a passable imitation of an anguished flamenco wail. Very funny if you were there.
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