Saturday lunchtime, a group of us met to head out of Barranquilla
for the night to Santa Marta on the North Caribbean Coast for the
Fiestas Del Mar - the festival of the Sea.
poster in the taxi...
of the local AIESECers joined us but decided to drive so the group
of eight of us split and three went in the car. Heading for the
bus depot, five of us squashed in a taxi. The heat was unbearable.
Surprisingly, compared to the Philippines where I was last summer,
the taxis here do not have air conditioning. Due to the horrendous
road conditions, it is always a very satisfied feeling getting out
of a taxi having not had an accident...
juices in beach buckets!
Coach journey cost just less than £2 and took around two hours
on a main coastal road.
& Dan get a cab
arriving in Santa Marta, we got a pick-up-truck taxi to a beachfront
hostel found in our trusted guidebook.
were a bit worried as the first place we tried was full due to the
festival this weekend and we were warned it might be difficult to
at a loss, we were outside a juice bar when the owner saw we were
looking for somewhere and directed us few doors down - we got in
we checked in we went straight back to the fresh juice bar where
they served the juices in beach buckets! (See photo at the top of
the page.) Such amazing exotic fruits - they were so good over the
next 24 hours we went back twice more trying different combinations
each more delicious than the last.
spent the rest of the day walking along the coast and walking around
the local town. Because it was the Fiestas Del Mar, everywhere was
buzzing. After a few drinks at the hotel, we headed out to the party
on the streets. There were massive screens everywhere and a competition
to decide The Colombian Woman Of The Sea.
when we entered the main coastal street it was quite overwhelming.
We must have stood out being obviously foreign.
minutes what seemed like a group of people tried to pickpocket us
with one Colombian spraying us with water while I felt a hand go
for my pockets.
all quickly realised what was going on. Dan Evans found one person
standing on his foot, face-to-face not letting him move as he found
himself surrounded... All staying close together, we moved swiftly
onwards gripping on to our pockets.
we were all fine and sat down for a bit to get our bearings again
slightly away from the commotion where the crowd had cleared temporarily.
we walked you could buy something: drinks, food, as well as chicks
(which had been dyed pink and blue!?!) and rabbits.
on the beach
evening was spent on the beach enjoying the atmosphere and towards
the end of the evening, salsa dancing. On the beach!
on the beach
was an amazing atmosphere just a shame as we felt like we wanted
to stay away from the tightly-packed crowds due to what happened
earlier in the evening.
guessed that there must have been at least 10,000 people if not
more in the area, packed on the streets that were still very full
at 4am when the formalities of the Colombian Woman Of The Sea competition
out on rocks that extended out into the sea, even here we were being
offered drinks and food, like our own personal shop. It was like
a time when you say you really fancy a drink and someone magically
appears there to sell you one.
witnessed the tourist police asking some people to move on because
they had erected a toilet cubicle on the beach out of scrap wood
with a curtain and was charging 500 pesos for its use.
was a stagnant smell of urine that greeted us every so often as
we walked down the street. Amazingly, there is limited rubbish on
the streets as it is collected by people, often children, who either
recycle it themselves or sell it. Sometimes people even wait near
you until you finish your bottle or can.
& The Playa Blanca
Sunday morning, we headed over to Rodadero, a nearby town on the
coast generally considered an area more well off than Santa Marta
- you could see a difference with a number of modern tower blocks.
were met by the local tourist service representative who directed
us to the boat shack where we were to buy tickets for the boat to
Playa Blanca, a 10 minute ride away; supposedly a slightly quieter
and more beautiful beach.
the hard sell
beach was more beautiful, but as soon as we arrived, the afternoon
felt like we were being given the constant hard sell, from jetski
rides to local crafts, jewellery to fresh fish for lunch which if
we wanted it, they insisted we had to by immediately.
from the constant pressure to buy something, the day was really
great. It's funny - some of the things they were selling we were
interested in, but as soon as you showed any interest at all, you
end up being swarmed by the others. Being offered a drink every
few minutes was fine when you wanted a drink... it just got a little
tiring by the end of the afternoon.
girls out in force
headed back to Santa Marta, after being directed up and down the
beachfront from boat to boat. As we had pre-purchased our return
ticket, no one seemed to want to take us.
to leave at 4.30pm, it was now 4.50pm - we were a bit worried, although
by now we should have expected that 'Colombian time' would have
we got back to Santa Marta, the festivities seemed to be continuing
with Aguila pumping out music and parading their girls. The whole
place seemed so alive. We stopped off for one more juice and headed
to the bus depot.
was already 7.45pm. On leaving the hostel, we were told the last
bus on Sundays was at 8pm! It felt like a race to get to the depot,
with a number of minutes passing with little talk in the cab as
we all thought we might miss our last ride home. Lucky we got there
just in time and it was all fine.
close shave with the police
on the coach after a great two days, we settled in to watch the
film 'What Women Want' to try to pick up some more Spanish. The
bus suddenly came to a halt.
next thing I know is the police are standing in front of us, demanding
a local Colombian, a German exchange student called Bernt who we
were travelling with and my IDs.
over my driving licence and waited just wishing that that would
be that and they'd just get back on the bus, give us them back and
we'd be on our way.
they came back onto the bus, they demanded the German and I get
off the bus. I gave Dan Tatnall-Murray who was sitting next to me
a worried looked and asked almost pleadingly for him to come with
as he speaks the best Spanish out of all of us.
didn't want to get off the bus at this stage either with the worst
thoughts running through my head. In the guidebooks, it suggests
you shouldn't speak to the police even if you really have to.
off the bus, Bernt was interrogated first, although it was in Spanish
I got the gist: Why was he here? Where was he living? etc. I was
then questioned about why I didn't have my passport. Locals had
told me that my driver licence would be ok. Luckily, Dan had a copy
of his passport that he showed them and explained that we were living
with locals back in Barranquilla and we had just gone to Santa Marta
for the night.
apologising in my best-attempted Spanish accent, they let us back
on the bus with a strong word saying I must have my passport if
I am stopped again. Once back on the bus, I spent the remainder
of the journey contemplating every other possible eventuality of
the situation - not generally pleasant thoughts. This was especially
after I discovered that if you don't provide the documents the police
want to see they will put you in prison until they receive them.
in Santa Marta
police, although more than a bit overwhelming at the beginning,
were nice enough.
local Colombians told me that it was a good thing that they stopped
as it showed the police were concerned about safety. My main concern
however was that maybe they weren't actually police. Everything
worked out just fine, so nothing to worry about. I just need to
be more careful and take my passport everywhere.
Struggling to communicate
it was a great weekend. We never met up with the other AIESECers
that we originally planed to go with due to difficulties in communication.
They ended up staying in Rodadero, staying at a local's house. It
was a shame but could not be helped.
a number of missed calls and lack of signal on my phone we all guessed
it was not meant to be and left it at that. It is strange adjusting
to the lack of communication and lack of mobile phones, although
people have them they are used less with many people constantly
out of credit.
to work but off to Medellin
to Santa Marta on a boat
returned to Barranquilla for a three day shortened week as we are
off to Medellin for Colombia's most spectacular flower festival.
be there from Wednesday night until Sunday attending with other
international AIESEC trainees from all over the local committees
around the country.
part of the AIESEC programme is to provide experience in the local
culture and communities for graduates and students who are participating
in the exchange programme. Trips and activities are organised to
maximise experiences and integration. With a manic four-day agenda,
it promises to be another highlight of my Colombian experience.
by James Eder
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