Added to that, the strong Caribbean background of many local people and incredible heat during the day means there is lots of sitting outside watching the world go by. To accompany this you have to turn up your sound system as loud as possible so that you can hear your own music and drown out the loud volume of your neighbour's sound system. Those just passing by frequently find themselves caught in the 'crossfire' between several systems all at once!
Today our neighbours got their sound system going at about 4.30am and at more decibels than most of us could manage without blowing out the walls. As it appears to be Mothers' Day here, he wanted to start showing his appreciation early by playing lots of songs about mothers. It's understandable; he loves his Mum. However, Jen is unsure that her Mum would be very appreciative!
We're staying here in a house owned by Jean, a guy of French-Polish origin who has lived in Colombia for 40 years. He originally bought this house 25 years ago as a holiday home while he was working in Bogota. It was just two small rooms with a tin roof and virtually no facilites. Now it is four small rooms, a tin roof and a few facilities. Over the years he has gradually worked on it and now that he has retired, lives here and rents out a couple of rooms. In true South American style, he's always adding a bit here and changing a bit there and at present each time someone gives him the rent he buys a few more bricks to add on another room and 2nd storey out the back He's a very interesting guy, a linguist, artist and musician, who has seen many changes in Colombia during the time he has lived here. He has very many tales to tell about the old days, some more than a little scary!
So, we've done some relaxing and reading in hammocks in the garden and we've done some diving. We vaguely considered walking over the hill to the next bay but it's just too hot and humid! The diving itself has been very relaxed. It's mostly drifts, where you jump in, go with the current and the boat picks you up where you surface. Much easier than having to swim against currents and your air lasts longer too. You can just admire the sea life around you and enjoy the feeling of floating along!
We actually used two different dive centers but, although all of the people involved were friendly and welcoming, neither has been so well organised that we would give an outright recommendation. The first, Oceano, did not ask to see our certification, much of their equipment was very worn and we had to work hard to ensure everything we had fitted and worked properly. Our guide, Lily, took us to some good sites and was good at pointing stuff out for us (but a bit too happy to handle the creatures, we thought).
However, we were still a bit unimpressed with the organisation in their small boat so we moved to Poseidon next door. They had very considerably better equipment and seemed better organised but in the end the quality of guiding was not so good. On our final dive, without any explanation beforehand or afterwards, our guide spent the whole dive collecting lionfish in a net and killing them! This meant that he didn't do much guiding at all and we all spent a lot of time puzzling over what was going on. When I asked him about it, back on the boat, he said they were an introduced species and were causing an imbalance in the ecosytem. Even so, maybe there is a time for hunting and killing them that's not while you're supposed to be guiding a group of divers! It also seemed very bizarre, as Lily had delighted in pointing them out to us every time she found one!
Well, we've only got 5 weeks left until we begin our flight home, so we decided to take a few days relaxing and diving in Taganga, just north of Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Taganga was, until about two years ago, a traditional fishing village. There is still some element of this previous life left but there has also been a huge growth in the cafes, hostels and dive centres catering for the backpacker trade which has boomed here. It has become known as the cheapest place in South America to learn to dive and thus it is somewhat of a magnet. And wherever there are lots of young travellers, there is lots of partying to be done...