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Colombia - Cartagena, Taganga and Tayrona

Beaches, Sun and Fish on the Caribbean Coast

sunny 35 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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God, we were so excited when we booked our flights to Colombia in Peru as it was finally time to say good bye to cold weather in particular cold nights. Really got feed up with it at the end and i think Simon had enough playing the human hot water bottle, but also didn´t approve of my leg warmers, gloves and alpacha hut in bed. Not really any kind of win win situation for me, other than to pay many $$$ to get to Colombia as we are starting to run out of time. I know this sounds pathetic, but it is true. We have less than a month left in SA and started to have the MUST do´s of Colombia (min 2 weeks), Galapagos, Quito and BA for a lot of shopping and steaks on our last 4 days.
Anyway, got to Cartagena and what a feeling to leave the airport. Humid and hot though not sunny on the first day. Cartagena is a colonial gem, absolutely beautiful with one of the best and most stunning old towns i have seen in my short life. That´s one side of it. Then you have the Miami like beach strip with its highrises where plenty of Americans have a nice or not so nice condo and you have the cheap area, fairly poor, packed with backpackers and cheap hostels. This is where we ended up, why not ! We stayed a couple of days here, in the need to climatize, get used to Colombia, have some nice food and meet some backpackers who could give us tips on where to go and what to do next.
First trip was to Playa Blanca, apparently one of the best beaches in the region. An early start for us to get going and catch one of the first boats to get there, we realised that it was a bank holiday meaning no boats other than tourist ships would go on the day. What started like a half an hour trip ended in a 5 hour boring trip where everybody just got burned on deck, babies were pucking downstairs and a complete waste of a time, but the boat was packed. I wonder what kind of people book these trips where you just spend a day on the boat, doing nothing. Anyway, we arrived at Playa Blanca and the beach was stunning and the water was just too good. A personal bubble bath. Unfortunately, the minute you arrive you get hassled and pestered by the locals, trying to trick you into buying and trying oysters, which spoils the experience. Obviously, they are just trying to make a living, but they are so desperate that they seem very aggressive to us lot. Anyway, once we got to the other site of the beach, life changed completely to a "Hola amigo, todo bien, si tranquillo" lifestyle. For the next 2 days we just spent our time at Hugo´s Bar. Made friends with the owner and his mate from Medellin and just got spoiled with superb drinks and food. Other backpackers we met hated Playa Blanca and couldn´t leave as soon as possible. I was also a little bit surprised that these was called the best beach in that part of the caribbean coast, but once you turned away from the beach, there was so much rubbish and so many concrete piles which were probably houses. Our Medellin guys told us the fully story. Basically, there is a big fight between the locals and the government ongoing, where the government says that most of the huts and shacks which have been build are illegal, hence bulldozed all of them, with military and security guys with weapons patrolling the site, making sure no rebuilds are happening. The governement seems to be so keen to ensure that Bill Gates (apparently) is going to build a huge hotel complex on Playa Blanca in the coming years. Well, we heard those kind of stories before, haven´t we. All the places you revisit, be it SE Asia and other parts of the world, just change drastically these days ie. Koh Samui. Anyway, we somehow love the place, stayed for 2 nights before heading to the next place.
Taganga, Santa Marta was our next stop. Approximately, 4 ours east of Cartagena. This should have been the next beach highlight. After traveling SA for the last 5 months, we weren´t really interested into going all cultural. The whole purpose of the Colombia trip was to warm up. Hence, there was a built up to come to this place and the expectations high. I nearly got depressed arriving at Taganga. I imagined this beautiful, peacefull fishervillage and all i could see was a nothing place with nobody around, other than a lot and i mean a lot of rubbish. It rained massively that day and hence the rain just created this chaos. Even the trip to an american style mall couldn´t cheer me up, but meeting old faces, the sun coming out, the rubbish slowly disappearing, another rave beach party and a homely hostal with table tennis competitions (and me beating Simon 2 in row) changed in particular my mood.
Tayrona National Park was the last place for beaches on our to do list and again another bank holiday fiasco, no boat on the day we wanted to go, hence we delayed the trip by one day to make sure we catch a boat instead of the bus. At 10am the next morning we set off with 2 boats each with a double engine and 14 passangers (well us and the rest israelis). The trip started ok, but got pretty scared once we left our bay and it felt like we were sitting in a little walnut shell on the open sea. We were kind of close´ish to the short, but the waves hitting our little boat were just too scary. I didn´t mind it too much at that stage, feeling safe with my little life jacket on and Simon smiling next to me when one of the 2 engines collapsed and the boat starting to move more due to the strong waves. This is when the nightmare trip of my life time started. It felt like torture and i will save you from to many details. This is probably how a slow death starts, i call i severe sea sickness as the guys couldn´t fix the boat and didn´t want to go on with one engine as the colombian maritime police were starting the checks and this whole thing the locals organised was just so illegal (too many people on the boat, one engine). To cut the story short, i pucked for about 3 hrs. A trip which should have taken 1 hrs 15 min, took all in all out 5 hours with more stops on another beach, waiting for the police to disappear and too many lies and me pucking after one of the biggest breakfast ever, as the food was supposed to be limited and expensive in the national park. Let´s put it this way, there was additional breakfast for the fish population. Back on mainland i recovered in no time, the national park was absolutely stunning, i loved it despite having to stay in a too small tent (i love camping though) as we were concerned that sleeping in the hammock would result in too many bites as we only had one (never used) moscito net which we then decided to put over our tent, just to be able to say we used in once in 5 month.

Posted by Lejla 09:33 Archived in Colombia Tagged backpacking

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