The Colombian Diaries (4/5): Santa Marta
Day 1, Friday: We arrived at the bus station of Cartagena at around 4:00 pm, went to the “official” bus operator Expreso Brasilia, whose attendant told us that this was the only company which would go to Santa Marta and that the next bus would depart only at 6:15 pm, costing around 50,000 pesos (about 17€).
But since life has taught me not to rely just on a single comment from one person, especially if that person is Latin, I searched further for other tour operators. And guess what? The company Berlinas had a bus which would depart at 4:45 pm and had a cost of 25,000 pesos!
After a very nice trip – the bus was small but comfortable, offering power sockets and a very fast wi-fi – we arrived in Santa Marta almost at 10:00 pm, to go directly to the hostel La Brisa Loca, supposedly famous for its lively atmosphere and crazy parties. We had just time to take a quick shower and to go eat something in these trailers, in quite a suspicious street under a fully windy, unpleasant night.
We got back to the hostel at around 11:30 pm and the party was already totally on, a scenario which would give a heart attack to any careless being who would have booked this place to get some rest. The city and type of crowd had changed – mostly young tourists who were here to have fun – but not really the outcome of the night.
To my side, the highlights were talking to a very hot Chilean girl – whom my friend Lewis and almost all the guys also talked to, since she was one of these “social ones” who have boyfriend but like to have their attention sought on a top-level – and to a cute one from Medellin, who reacted to me so effusively as a cat react to a bone.
Regarding Lewis, aside from the Chilean already referred, he interacted with a thin but attractive Argentinean girl who was giving him all the possible IOIs back. But as many times seen during this trip, everything was all show off, as he could not even get a kiss from her. In our last Friday together, Lois and I went back to our dorm as a nice couple, as the night gave us no other choice.
Day 2, Saturday: I woke up wondering whether we would stay one day more in Santa Marta or we would already go to Taganga, a famous backpacking destination just some miles away, but Lewis was quick in taking the decision “let us go to Taganga, as there you have more interesting girls and better party for sure”.
To avoid any more tantrum from his side, I agreed and at around 1:00 pm we were arriving in a place which had only dirt roads, whose state looked like as if a war had just been waged some time before (walking around with my 26 kg suitcase was, as you can imagine, a moment of pure fun for Lewis).
We left our things in the hostel Divanga (quite recommendable due to its both nice pool and amazing food but terrible because of its location) and then we went to the local beach which, far from being amazing, was still ok, except from the water which was quite cold. Concerning the ladies around, there were just a couple of cute Argentinean girls (you can perceive them by the way both they talk and they show some attitude, a common trait which totally resembles people coming from any other western country), but whose interest on us was close to zero.
Afterwards, we went to have some healthy lunch – grilled fish and natural juice – which price was around 10€, a reminder of why is still worthwhile to travel to Colombia. For the evening, we saw that there was an electronic party in a place called Playaca Beach Club, which in theory had everything to be great.
When the time to go the party came, Lewis started doing this “sad cat face” saying that he was tired and had no will to go out but, as I insisted so much with him (I rarely do this but since it was our last Saturday together, I really wanted to do it so), he eventually gave in and joined me.
Arriving at this beach club, there was the longest queue I had seen ever seen in Colombia, plus a strong wind, which made the dust fly in such an unpleasant way that all of our groomed appearance was thrown into the garbage can!
Then, almost one hour after we had arrived, we finally were able to get in, but first there was a(nother) dirt road of about 1 km going down, which emphasized the greatness of the whole experience.
Lastly, we arrived at the party itself which was simply a dark place with no beach club atmosphere at all (instead of sand, there was again…dirt). I still ignored all the previously referred “external factors” and tried to have fun as much as I could, as if the world would end on the next day and there were nothing else I could grab myself to.
But after some failed approaches, and because Lewis was also already too tired and always talking about leaving, I took the decision of going home, with that stupid feeling of “what the hell I am doing in an isolated, shitty place, somewhere in the north of Colombia?”
Day 3, Sunday: Fortunately the world did not end and, as usual, it was time to hold our head high and to move forward. We went to the beach and, because we did not want to stay in any nearby beach, we were able to negotiate with one of these boatmen to take us to Granate – the first beach in Tayrona Park – for 40,000 pesos (around 13€) return ticket.
We went together with a group of five Argentinians, three girls and two guys, and when we arrived at the small beach, there were only us and the couple who owned and was working in this very modest wooden hut, offering no more than grilled fish.
He approached me and offered me a selection of fresh fish for about 40,000 pesos, but I could eventually bargain it for 30,000. And when I got the dish on my fragile wooden table and tried the first bit, my senses suddenly rose and told me that towards this delicacy of god I would even have paid three times more. It was really delicious and it was another indisputable proof that you can still find real stuff for a low price in such countries as Colombia.
The day was being perfect until some music started sounding in the surroundings, becoming stronger and stronger until a boat with some “gay party people” docked exactly in front of us, turning a quiet, pleasant afternoon into pure disturbance (they even tied the rope onto a rock next to us, which then was swinging around and touching us once in a while, so there was a moment in which I lost my composure and had to scream to the one of the boatmen to come and tie the rope elsewhere).
Things got back to “normal” a couple of hours later and in the end we were able to watch to a wonderful sunset, a very romantic scenario, especially if we take into consideration that I was with Lewis.
Back in our hostel, we took again a very tasty meal and after I saw this Uruguayan girl alone, whom Lewis had already talked to on the previous night but towards whom had not tried anything with (what a surprise!) and, since he was playing with his iPad on the hammock, I made my move and initiated a conversation with her.
Very surprisingly, especially because we were talking about a Sunday night, I was able to convince her to come dancing somewhere with me and, around 11:00 pm, we entered Hotel El Mirador, a place with an amazing view which is usually full but had, at that moment, only the strong wind as a guest.
Still, I was able to escalate on her and, after some dancing, we were making out. The hour after was about her kissing me passionately and becoming horny, so I remember thinking that I would eventually get lucky in such an unexpected night.
But then, when we were walking back to our hostel, and because she would need to wake up at 5:30 am to go to Tayrona Park, I understood that I would not seal the deal, so I did not insist in taking her onto my bed (the logistics were not great either, as we were in dorms, not private rooms, and I reached the conclusion that it would not be worthwhile to pay for a room).
Basically, another night in Colombia in which my friend down there probably wondered why the hell I kept playing so much with his “hard” feelings.
Day 4, Monday: Because not only I was tired of being in a hostel sharing a room but also I had some hope to get laid either with the Uruguayan or with whomever would eventually (better to use the adverb miraculously) show up in my bed, I decided to book a hotel for that night and at around noon there I was entering Casa D’mer, where I could again enjoy some privacy.
I met with Lewis one hour later and, after a quick lunch, we took a cheap boat to Playa Grande, the neighboring beach of Taganga which had in theory much more comfort and quality than the latter. But well, in the end it was just one of these beaches packed with noisy families, where the vendors just try to foist you every five minutes, turning the whole experience into a very painful one.
Around 5:30 pm, it was time to get back to the lovely Taganga, where I went home and agreed to meet Lewis at around 8:30 pm. A couple of hours later, he wrote me that the “clever” Laura had arrived in the fishing village and wanted to have dinner with us. When we met, it was like a reencounter of old friends due to the natural way we greeted and spoke to one another, but deep down we all knew that there was this sexual tension in the air and that both Lewis and I would like to bang her.
Back to the superficial life circumstances, we decided to go to the Casita del Mar, to sit directly on the beach, listening to pure Caribbean music and enjoying the nice sea breeze which was coming right towards us. Meanwhile, I had sent a message to the Uruguayan from the previous night – as I needed to consider every option – but had not had any answer so far.
It was a mild evening, in terms of both drinking and atmosphere, and in the end two sets of normal events happened: first, we escorted Laura to her hostel, as she was tired, and then I went with Lewis to Divanga, since I was in all-in mode to get lucky (the Uruguayan had meanwhile given me some – very uninterested, but still – answers back, so I thought I had nothing to lose).
When I was sitting around the pool, she eventually came out of her room but her level of energy and thrill to see me was so low that I did not want to push things further, otherwise that would just look like a desperate, needy move. So I went again down the dark, even scary streets of Taganga, with this sensation that something could suddenly happen, a feeling that I had before only in Brazil, the country which is currently perhaps the most dangerous one in South America.
Day 5, Tuesday: It was time to wake up at 6:00 am, as I would take the coach at Lewis’s hostel to finally go to Tayrona park, a supposed paradise on earth. But as the tradition says, things never go according to the plan and half an hour after the planned leaving time, there we were like stupid waiting for the bus (that eventually never came).
Already quite upset, we talked to the receptionist to contact the travel agency whose one of the operators confirmed that the coach had not been scheduled to pass by Divanga and was already far away. Sheer incompetence, the good, old Colombian way.
We immediately asked for the money back and realized that the only option would be to take a cab to Santa Marta and from there to take the public bus to the park. In between, we passed by the tour operator to ask for some explanations but it was as vain as asking a German girl to move her hips in a sexy way.
An hour and a half later, we finally arrived in Tayrona where we first needed to register ourselves and then to take another coach ride of 15 minutes, which would take us to the park’s entrance. And between there and Cabo San Juan, our final destination, it was finally time to experience a delightful moment for the fortunate ones who are able to see the world around them: wild beaches inserted in a splendorous nature, distributed among powerful mountains and an abundant vegetation, a breathtaking landscape which recalled me what I was doing on the northeast of Colombia.
It was a very complete day, in which we walked the endless serpentine paths, getting a tan which turned my skin into a color which I had not seen for a long time. In the meantime, we had met a group of three Argentinean girls whose, by pure coincidence, one of them was the blond girl Lewis had been hitting so hard on the Friday night in Santa Marta. Since they could not “hide” themselves – as girls usually do in a club environment, constantly cock blocking one another and saying that “they need to get back to their friends” – this time they were indeed nice (and all bangable, by the way) and we spent a nice day all together.
Even so, that would lead nowhere, as they would be camping at Cabo San Juan, and we would need to go back at around 4:00 pm – because not only there were no available tents anymore but also we had not come prepared with clothes to spend a night there – to take the last bus towards Santa Marta, which would depart at 6:00 pm.
We then arrived in Taganga at around 8:00 pm, took a shower and then met in Divanga for our last dinner together. Coincidentally, it was also my last night together with Lewis, which turned the occasion into the perfect one for drinking some cocktails and celebrating as much as we could.
Afterwards, we met with Laura for a couple of drinks but, because Taganga had such a vibrant nightlife and everything was dead, the spirit for partying became null and, as seen many times during this trip, Lewis was the first in saying that he would go home.
I still insisted with him, naturally in a covertly way, encouraging him to stay and to make a move on Laura, but he simply did not have the warrior mode inside him. And according to the law of energy, what some have in fault, others have in excess, so I felt almost the obligation to try my luck with the young French girl.
Since there were no options out there, I took her to Divanga’s bar, where we ordered two cocktails and were able to get to know each other a little better. And in this case Lewis was totally right: Laura was a very clever person, one of these who has character, intelligence and, perhaps most important than all, does not let herself being fooled by easy tricks and stealthy bullshit.
In many occasions she sent me (real) shit tests towards which I could, in any case, overcome but which in end neither impressed nor convinced her. And when we were already downstairs, side-to-side and with our feet inside the pool, she simply said: “hey, if you think you are going to sleep with me, you are totally wrong. I know your style and what you want is not going to happen”.
Of course I played aloof, smirked and tried not to give so much importance to her words, but the reality is that she had already “caught” me. I took her then back to her hostel, not without first grabbing her, looking into her eyes and throwing an honest “hey, let’s cut the bullshit, come here”, which resulted in a nice make out between us. I still believed for a second that I would eventually take her home, but her rational side spoke louder and so I had no other option than going down those dusty streets of Taganga for a last time, with the certainty that, at least, I would never to return to that creepy, useless place. again.
Day 6, Wednesday: Totally fed up of being in the Taganga’s Matrix, I simply needed to get the hell out of there and El Rodadero, due to some curiosity and reviews I had read about, seemed like the perfect place to fill my unscheduled Wednesday (who would say beforehand that I would be in such a stupid situation of being in Colombia, bored and looking for alternatives and “Planes C”). Just for information, this beach used to be a gem among the Colombian some years ago, a kind of national holidays destinations which everyone used to choose.
But when I arrived at my hotel, the Medellín Rodadero – by the way, great choice and value for money, one of the best hotels I have stayed during my trip – and then went to beach, I immediately realized that this place had surely had better days (or maybe it never had, it was simply an overrated beach).
Ugly, high buildings built right on the beach, crowded by the typical middle or low-class income family, who see in this place the opportunity to get some fresh air in the middle of their, most likely, miserable lives.
Since that scenario of families everywhere and not a single attractive girl on sight was starting to drive me crazy, I decided to take a boat to the nearby Playa Blanca, which in theory was a much more relaxed, wider place.
But again, the cure was worse than the disease, as the beach was packed to the last millimeter and, on the top of that, its public was basically…families with children! I am usually a person who does not get so affected by these external factors but having children screaming and running around, throwing sand on me every two minutes, made me completely lose my patience, so one hour and a half later I just stood up and took a boat back to Rodadero.
I went to the supermarket and I remember that I needed to rest – meaning lying down, reading a good book and listening to some relaxing music – at least for a couple of hours otherwise my head would blow up.
In the evening, it was time to face the reality again, so I left both to check whether something had gotten better since the afternoon and to find a place to eat. Regarding the former, no, the people and shitty place were exactly the same; concerning the latter, I found interesting how difficult it was to find an affordable restaurant, with a young crowd and a nice atmosphere.
Eventually I seated down in El punto múltiple del sabor, a franchising which, even being not so cheap, served indeed very tasty food. Unfortunately that was the only good thing I experienced there, as both the personnel treatment and the reactions of the people (ok, I am talking about the few girls who were there) around me were just neutral.
Then, I left the restaurant and wandered around for a couple of hours, trying to look for something which deep down I knew that I would not find. Large families with children, more families with children, lousy places and almost no single or attractive girls was the menu of the day. And like a solitary geek, it was time to go back to my hotel, to watch some porn and to jerk off, an activity I really despise nowadays but which I could not avoid on that sad moment.
+ Food: If we take into consideration the fish, this is perhaps the best place I have been in Colombia. Fresh, tasty and natural, around here you will find it everywhere. In addition, the other types of food I tried – such as meat – were also very good.
o Logistics/Atmosphere/Attitude of people: I can not say that the logistics are bad…if we look at Santa Marta, the city is not that big and you can walk around easily; regarding Taganga, if it wasn’t for the fact that all its roads are dirt and the place is indeed a shit hole with few options, the place would be great as everything is nearby; concerning El Rodadero, you can reach all the spots which matter within an area of maximum 2 km2. The problem here is the atmosphere which is, if we exclude the Tayrona camping and the hostel La Brisa Loca, nonexistent. Last, I met some nice people but I really can not say that this is the general trend;
o Points of interests: This point only gets an average score due to the paradise on earth called Tayrona, which is in fact amazing and deserves all the buzz it has around it. With regard to the rest, this is perhaps the shittiest “holiday destination” I have ever been in, so if you still want to visit the area of Santa Marta after reading my comments, do it at your own risk;
o Prices: The price of things was in general ok and no one can say the area of Santa Marta is expensive. But, on the other hand, for the terrible offer it has, it should indeed be cheaper;
o Music: Another point is difficult to assess as Santa Marta does not have an exact musical identity. Even so, the (few) salsa, reggaeton, reggae and even electronic music I listened were either good or acceptable.
– Quality of women: Which women? If I exclude the few foreign Latin girls I saw and interacted with, the talent of the local women is close to zero. A total waste of time for a single guy looking to score some quality in the country of Escobar;
– Accessibility of women: If there were no attractive women, I can not say either whether they were nice and easy-going. Nevertheless, by the totally noticeable lack of flirting culture which exists around here, I suspect that girls are far from being accessible;
– Security: After leaving Cali, the first stop in my trip, I thought also that I had left behind the most dangerous place I would be in Colombia. But then, after spending too much time in the area of Santa Marta – you sense instability everywhere, it is difficult to explain unless you go there – I realized that it will take the award of the most insecure place in the country. Taganga at night, with its dirt, raccoon dogs and suspicious housing, takes the honorary award;
– Nightlife: Described as a perfect, cheap destination for young people, Santa Marta disappoints every minute in terms of its nightlife offer, which is at best just average. Go wherever you want around here that I promise you that you will ask yourself who the hell wrote such silly things and, worse, posted them on internet.
The verdict: I honestly do not know where to start from so it is better to talk about the positive first: pick the food and the Tayrona park (including all its amazing beaches) and you have the only two good things this area can offer. There are some other which are still ok, such as the prices, the music and the logistics of the three places but the rest is so bad that I can guarantee you that, if you come here, you will have one of the worst experiences of your life. Unless, of course, you are one of these people who love shitty places, which in addition are unsafe and filled with ugly women.