Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Santa Marta, Taganga and Minca

The first thing Jolanda and I did when we arrived at the bus station in Cartagena was go to the bathroom and wash all the parts we could access without removing our clothes with fresh water, after two days of the salty grossness of Playa Blanca. Not as good as having a shower and washing my hair, but it still felt AMAZING to have some clean skin and got us through the next four hours on the bus to Santa Marta. 

After a surprisingly good veggie meal at the bus station we boarded the bus. However, this was not before police searched everyone's hand luggage. Apparently Cartagena to Santa Marta is a popular drug route. Since they only search your hand luggage, any mule with half a brain would lock their stash in their bag that goes under the bus. Anyway this search added half an hour to our already late departure time.

We arrived in Santa Marta at about midnight and had made a reservation at the Drop Bear Hostel since it was the only one we had a card for back in Cartagena. It was so nice having a shower finally and sleeping in a comfy bed in a breezy room with no mosquitoes. I loved this hostel (it's an ex cartel house from the 60s and has a cool history) but it was at the upper end of my willingness to pay and way above Jolanda's. The next day we moved to la Brisa Loca in the city centre. It had an awesome pool. It's safe to say that a pool is all I'm really looking for in a hostel in these parts since it's so hot.

It also had lots of signs around telling people to shut up after midnight or get kicked out. However, this did not happen and the noise (including the music from the bar) did not stop til he wee hours of the morning. We were in the room next to the bar, so this combined with super hot, crammed rooms did not make for a pleasant sleep.

However, we took advantage of being in the city centre and explored the streets a bit. Some were quite nice. 

Other streets, not so much. For some reason, they don't like to use street signs here so getting back to the hostel turned out to be problematic, especially when everyone you ask just lies to you and they don't seem to know which street is which. Anyway, we went two streets too far after one walk, straight into a potentially dodgy part where a gang of teenagers suddenly came up to us asking for money. We ignored them and kept walking (pretending we knew exactly where we were obviously) and came out on a busy square so it was fine.

The beach is shit here.

For two days, I had lunch at Santa Marta's one and only vegetarian restaurant, which was conveniently around the corner from la Brisa Loca. It was really good if you're into fake meat. They had quite a lot of it. Actually, the menu del dia was fine and the juices were really good.

After one night at the hot and noisy hostel we decided to go to Taganga, which is 5km up the road. Again, there are no street signs and everyone just lied to us about where we were. Seriously, why can't Colombian's just admit when they don't know something? It would be so much easier and would have saved us time walking up the wrong streets which we thought were the right ones. Urgh, so annoying! We spend ages walking around looking for our hostel. And Taganga is poor and there's rubbish everywhere so it felt dodgy walking these 'streets' not knowing where you're going. 

You can see why we had trouble.

Although after a day, this perceived dodginess was less of an issue since you just walk past the same people all the time. Some of them even say hello to you. I think walking around at night can be a bit dangerous though. Eventually we found the hostel and we were reunited with our friend Jeremy who arrived today from Cartagena. Yay!

Apparently you either love or hate Taganga. I thought it was a shithole and I didn't like its beach much, so I'm leaning towards hating it. This town is a total Monet. Nice from a distance. A mess up close.


Also, dogs totally run this town!

On the plus side, I did some yoga on the roof patio and this is what I got to look at!

And I got to talk to this random hot guy on the street.

So despite being a hole Taganga wasn't all bad. Plus, this was also the one place I've seen cops actually arrest someone. While walking to the beach we saw some local guy who was either high or drunk resisting arrest. This attracted more cops, who then restrained him and all six of them carried him off. I'm guessing there's no such thing as excessive police force here. Do the crime, do the time!

So the reason we moved from Santa Marta to Taganga was to be a bit closer to Parque Tayrona. However, after researching it on Tripadvisor I was not overly keen on going since there is a stupid entry fee for tourists that does not go to park but into some fat cat's pocket. As well, I did not like the idea of walking for 4-5 hours to get to a beach, which you probably can't swim in anyway because of rips. Furthermore, it has been established previously that I hate sleeping in hammocks and/ or tents. So the next day Jolanda and Jeremy left without me and I went to Minca up the mountains instead. 

Minca is about 45 minutes from Santa Marta and a lot cooler in temperature than the coast. It was really nice until a massive storm came in. I got stuck the restaurant I was having lunch in for about 1.5 hours, the rain was so heavy. 

After I walked to Pozo Azul, one of the two waterfalls here. It was a major letdown. I got here and  saw this and thought "is that it?"

And of course people had left all their rubbish there.

The guy at the lunch place told me you can sometimes see toucans on the way (which would have made the walk more worthwhile), but I didn't see any. 

I then walked back to the hostel, which was also a farm and picked ripe mangoes and guavas. Free food! Given it's eco village status, getting good veggie food in Minca is not really a problem. 

The sunset over Santa Marta is really nice and are worth staying overnight in Minca for. The sky was gorgeous.

Minca is really good if you're into eco walks, solitude and accommodation without WiFi. I liked it for one night but then was bored of being the only person in the hostel by the next morning. I really wanted to go back to the pool at Drop Bear. On the way to the jeep back to Santa Marta, I rolled my ankle on a rock on the road (I use the term road loosely). By the time I got to Santa Marta it was fucked. Upside, I was stuck in the hostel I wanted to be in.

I was supposed to meet Jolanda and Jeremy the next day at the bus station to go to Cabo de la Vela, but walking was turning out to be major a problem. Instead I spent the next week at Drop Bear hobbling down to the pool and sleeping with my foot on some pillows. 

An Aussie guy staying here gave a me a bandage to strap it so that helped. I was able to walk to the supermarket up the road to buy food with the bandage on.

However, this is such a lazy hostel with an awesome pool, I did not feel bad about doing absolutely nothing for five days. There were other people there not doing anything as well (and their ankles were fine). It's like the heat and laziness encouraged more laziness. It was good. 

I was also having a bit of a travel crisis at this point. After my volunteering fell through I didn't really have a plan and was mostly following other backpackers that I liked around. I think I needed that downtime in Santa Marta to get my travel mojo back. 

Then Jolanda messaged me saying "do you want to meet up and go to Venezuela in two days time?". I think we all know the answer to that question.

Next stop: the black sheep of South America - Venezuela!