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Once were Gondwanan

More about Santa Marta, and the fishing village of Taganga

COLOMBIA | Sunday, 5 February 2012 | Views [8263]

I had been travelling for almost two months, nearly my halfway mark, and I was starting to get a bit tired of packing up my stuff and moving on. I think that’s part of why people travel light; it is the mental image of moving your things that can be as inhibitive as the physical reality. All of my things do fit into one suitcase, although it is large and heavy. This is usually only a problem for taxi drivers or hotel staff, lugging me from bus station to hotel or vice versa, with varying degrees of demonstrated strain, possibly in the hope of getting a tip. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel like another bus trip just yet.

After the Ciudad Perdido trip I stayed in Santa Marta for a few days, going to the Ethnological Museum, the esplanade and plaza, reading and generally relaxing. Some of our Ciudad Perdido group members also were still in Santa Marta, so I spent some time with them. With Madeleine I visited the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandro, the place where Simón Bolívar died, a 17th century villa with beautiful gardens. We saw plenty of iguanas, which I was excited about. I felt like I had recently visited a lot of places that said “you may see this animal or this one” yet had not. So far squirrels were my most exciting view. So when we saw iguanas it was a bonus, although we didn’t spot any of the monkeys or snakes that are also reportedly there. Some of the trees, which I think are laurels, are so old and big that they are quite stunning. This place is an oasis in a city that can be dirty and noisy in places.

I went out to dinner with Maud and Louique (sorry, how do you spell your name?) from the Ciudad Perdido trip, and it was so nice to have a meal with other people, and one that was not based around rice and a bit of meat. It was more expensive than the cheap local restaurants, but certainly worth a splurge.

Santa Marta, like many other cities in South America, is an interesting place to people watch. One of the great things for lazy people in South America is that you seldom have to seek out food, drinks or other things to buy, you can sit and often they will come to you. Sitting in the main plaza in Santa Marta, I didn’t have to wait long before I was offered ice-creams, empanadas, sun-glasses and tinto. I said yes to the tinto, which is sweetened coffee in a small cup.

I suppose in any city there are always the haves and the have-nots, and you don’t even have to drive through the suburbs to see that Santa Marta is no different. In the city one day, I found it upsetting to see a boy perhaps 11 years old, who looked like he lived in the streets, having an argument with an old man who seemed to be demented. I didn’t see exactly what the argument was about but the old man seemed to think the boy had done him some wrong. I had seen the boy the day before, collecting scrap wood, I assume to sell on, and had sympathised with him. Someone so young shouldn’t have to be trying take care of himself like that. The scene with the old man drew many observers, some stepping in and trying to calm the situation, and in the end, a policeman sent the boy on his way while placating the man. Of course it’s a scene that plays out regularly all over the world, displaced people feeling disgruntled, but I was struck by how many people stopped, seemingly out of concern, not just curiosity. People actually acted and helped. But that has been my experience of Colombian people, the examples just keep coming. When Madeleine and I were going to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandro, a guy who happened to be sitting near us, who Madeleine asked about buses, didn’t just give us directions, he walked the six blocks with us to show us exactly where to get the bus.

I started to feel like I was just filling in time in Santa Marta, but still not ready to make a big move, I left my suitcase in storage at my hotel, and got my backpack out of its three day retirement to set off to Taganga.

Taganga is a lovely little fishing village, about 20 minutes east of Santa Marta. I arrived on the bus (approximately 80 cents) and wasn’t sure where to get off, but it is such a small village that it didn’t matter. I found a hostel (three times the price of my hotel in Santa Marta but probably that much nicer, too). Taganga abounds with hostels, restaurants, bars and diving and tour agencies. It is touristy but also so small that it has a charm.  I especially like the outlines of different fish drawn into some of the concrete paving the main streets. The centre of the town faces the bay, with grass huts, shaded tents and tourist shops. Some of the side streets aren’t sealed but it is generally clean. I had the most expensive meal of my time yet in Colombia at a restaurant on the beach, $12 for a seafood soup! Shocking – but it was nice.

Taganga has an excellent book exchange, where you can not only change or buy but also rent books in many languages. It was a minor mission to find it (maybe that’s just me) but it is an amazing store for such a small village. If you are in Santa Marta and want a good book, it is worth the trip to Taganga just for that.

So I spent my first afternoon looking around and visiting the bookshop. Day two required a sleep-in until 10.00 am and then a trip to the beach. That turned out to be an error in judgement, as I stayed too long. I returned to the hostel to take advantage of the shady patio and the Wi-Fi and soothe my very red legs.

Tags: beachcolombia, santa marta, south america, south america, taganga, trekking

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