Here Comes the Sun, doot'n do doo

Trip Start Apr 07, 2013
Trip End Apr 21, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Santa Marta,
Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting to and from Tayrona was a major hassle but it was absolutely worth it. The sky turns light a full half hour before the sun comes up, and as uncomfortable as the tents were we couldn't wait to get out of them and onto the beach. By 6am our toes were in the sand. The clouds were mostly gone and we were the only ones around, waiting for the sun to make its full appearance. As soon as it did Brittany was in the water and I was snapping photos. This place has that "screensaver" look, and I knew the clouds would be back before long so I had a short window to capture it. Once I had my pictures and Brittany was soaked through we packed up for the hike, then taxi, then bus, then walk back to Santa Marta. We could've stayed longer but we were happy with what we did and Brittany was getting a bit cranky. She's having a hard time getting used to the "bring your own toilet paper, oh and toilet seat too" approach to restrooms we've found here in Colombia. I get not supplying TP, but the seats? Somebody down here probably has a giant room stacked with them (it's an epidemic). She was ready to get back to a hostel with basic provisions, so we left.

We saw all the familiar things on the two hour hike back to the main road until we got near the very end. Just a foot off the path something hopped and caught my eye. It was a black and yellow dart frog! These frogs are very small and hard to find at any time. What are the odds one would just happen to be right next to the path as I walked by, and that I would actually notice it? I must have taken a dozen pictures. That frog made my day! It was a fantastic end to an otherwise grueling hike. The clouds had come in but it was still soooooo hot. The frog made us, or at least me, forget the sweat.

Once we reached the road we boarded yet another insanely slow bus and crammed two bodies into a space big enough for half of one. I wanted to find some other place to stay than Aluna, just to mix it up a bit, but by the time we got into town I was too lazy to do much pavement pounding and just stuck with the familiar. Before getting there we had to find an ATM. The bus ride had taken every one of our very last pesos, so we were as broke as broke gets. The nearest cash machine was about eight blocks away, but we had to walk through a street market to get there. All kinds of raw meats hanging on hooks, gigantic blocks of cheese fermenting in the sun and absolutely no air circulation coalesced into a supremely pungent and (fortunately for you) indescribable smell. It didn't just overwhelm the senses, it destroyed them. Brittany told me to breathe through my mouth. It didn't help.

When we finally got our critical cash infusion we high-tailed it to the nearest super market for water, picking up some lemonade on the way. The vendors sell it by the glass here, and it's basically just water, a ridiculous amount of sugar and some freshly squeezed limes. No lemons involved, but it hits the spot when the sun's burning holes through the back of your head. At the supermarket we loaded up on waters and chugged them the moment we walked out of the store. I even finally got to try a meat skewer. These things have been calling my name since we got here. The street vendors put potatoes and meat on a skewer and cook it over hot coals. It was an amazing snack for a whopping dollar, but I have to admit it looked pretty risky. I might be paying much more very, very soon...

Back at Aluna, finally rehydrated, we scrubbed the stink off (again) and then grabbed a taxi for the nearby cineplex. After spending so much time in rural, middle-of-nowhere towns it was a strange experience to see the urban and well-to-do side of town, complete with massive shopping mall and attached movie theater. We saw the new Tom Cruise movie Oblivion for the über-satisfying price of $5 each. It was in English with Spanish subtitles, and for some reason I had a really hard time not reading them, as if I had any idea how. I'm glad we saw it, but I'm still not sure I've got the story all figured out. It's one of those movies that you watch and, at the very end, say to yourself "huh?"

We had time to kill after the movie so we walked the mall a couple of times and eventually came upon that bane of travelers and nurturer of budgets: McDonald's. Yes, we ate there, but don't tell any of our die-hard backpacker friends. It was either that or one of several chains you've never heard of, all claiming to be America's favorite pizza maker. Usually the menu is pretty different from back home, but this one was right out of the states. We split some chicken nuggets and hailed a taxi outside the mall (we're getting good at this now, unfortunately a little late in the trip). It's the very first car we've been in that actually had seatbelts, and we were a bit rusty with the procedure. We'll have to get back into that groove real quick come Monday :)

Our shuttle to Cartagena is booked and we're out the door at 10am tomorrow. It's the last leg of the trip before flying home. I've really enjoyed our time here, but Brittany is still feeling sick and I know she's ready for a hot shower and her own bed. If all goes according to plan we'll have one last night in Cartagena and probably spend it in the Old Town. Maybe we'll splurge a little and get a good meal; they're supposed to have some of the best restaurants in the country.
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