We were determined to get a bus out to Cartagena bus terminal even if it was a mission because taking a cab was way too expensive. As it turns out it was pretty easy, we got up really early to get as much of the travelling done as we could before it got too hot, walked to where we were told buses go past, asked a man on a street stall there and he flagged us one (which because it was early on a Sunday morning was pretty dead).
It was a proper local bus with Caribbean music blaring full blast and people getting on with all manner of things, like a basket of fish and boxes of avocados. It was way more fun than a proper terminal bus. As a local bus it went by not into the terminal but as we got off a tout for a Santa Marta bus was right there so we were sorted. It seems some longer distance local buses depart from somewhere near the proper terminals when full. Luckily ours was nearly full so we were soon on our way.
Halfway there we got to Barranquilla and the 4 of us going to Santa Marta waited on the bus while our ‘bus boy’ found and got us tickets for a bus the rest of the way. There was much confusion, but as always it was soon all sorted. When we arrived in Santa Marta the bus dropped us off outside the bus terminal. Our Lonely mis-guidebook said that we had to get a collectivo from there into Santa Marta centre and then get another collectivo out to Taganga (our destination) a beach/fishing village a few kms north. But, just as we were pondering how the hell to cross the road and live to tell the tale, a collectivo for Taganga came crawling towards us.
We flagged it, he was empty so no bag problems but he wanted a passenger fare for our rucksacks (first time we’ve encountered this) – no problem we didn’t care, if we’d gone into Santa Marta on one and changed we would have had to have paid 2 fares anyway and this way we went straight there and we didn’t have to risk death crossing the road.
We crawled to Taganga at about 10kph, judging by the noises the van made something would have fallen off it if we went any faster. Emma then did the circuit of places to stay while Marie stayed on bag duty and we found somewhere cheap opposite the beach (it’s not a love hotel or brothel either!). Then we got on with enjoying Marie’s birthday – had a nice late lunch from one of the thatched roof restaurants on the beach and then rented a sea kayak, and had a paddle round the coastline before finding a deserted beach for a swim. Definitely the warmest sea we have ever been in. We spent the evening soaking up the (rather loud) Caribbean vibe.
Taganga was very different the next day (Monday) without the weekend hussle and bussle, kinda nicer. We decided first to go into Santa Marta to get some more cash ready for Venezuela as using an ATM there we believe is often problematic and you can get an exchange rate twice as good as the official rate on the black market. We spent a good half an hour visiting cambios trying to find someone with Venezuela Bolivars and couldn’t find anyone (luckily we got a few in Cartagena) failing that had a quick hunt for US dollars – also a bit rare, but after asking around got directed to some finance office and settled for US dollars as they’re more useful than Colombian pesos.
We got back, hired a snorkel and then walked to another beach (Playa Grande), had beautiful fresh fish for lunch, before hiking further to a beach with no one on it other than an old man in a hammock who has apparently lived in the mish mash of tin roofed structures on the beach for 26 years.
We spent hours in the sea before retreating under one of the old man’s huts when a tropical storm started to blow in, only to have our peace interrupted by a boat dropping a load of people of who invaded our shelter. We responded by going back into the sea, it was great fun as it was pouring down and the sea was certainly warmer than standing on the beach. We stayed a while longer after the invaders had been picked up again and as we packing up to leave the old man asked if we wanted to go back to Taganga on his boat (he was going anyway to sell fish and obviously saw a chance to make a little extra money). We agreed. His boat – which was like a dug out canoe, but in 3 pieces held together by crude braces – was the most unstable sea vessel we’ve ever been on. Emma had everything we had with us tied onto her in case we tipped and Marie helped to speed the journey up by taking the spare paddle. It was fun!
Next we’re heading east into Tayrona National Park which we’re only on the edge of here, for a few days of proper beach living. All being well it should be our last stop in Colombia.
- Colombians are definitely the friendliest and most helpful people that we have met