13th April to 14th April 2014
13.04.2014 - 14.04.2014
After our day in San Gil, we headed to the bus station to take our first overnight Colombian bus to the North. We were slightly concerned, but booked with a company that had good reviews. Although the bus arrived late, it was in a great condition and lo and behold it had two drivers to take it in turns through the night. There were also nice, comfy seats that reclined and lots of leg room, so we actually had quite a comfortable journey up to the coast. We first arrived in a large coastal town called Santa Marta, but got a taxi straight away from the station to Taganga which is a smaller town on the Caribbean coast and our jumping off point for the lost city jungle trek in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. We were quite excited by the prospect of spending a couple of days on the beach, and when you think of the Caribbean coast you think swaying palm trees, white sands, turquoise water and so on – how far from the truth could that have been! When we arrived we thought we had entered Armageddon – the town was a dump with rubbish everywhere, crumbling buildings, dirt track roads and rather bad (and expensive) hostels. We managed to find an alright place which luckily had a nice swimming pool, so that slightly cheered us up. Unfortunately the beach didn’t save the day either – it wasn’t sand but fine grey stones, no swaying palms, rubbish and hoards of people made even worse because of the influx of Colombians coming for Easter week holidays (Semana Santa). Because the region hasn’t had rain in five months, it was also really dry and quite unlike the lush pictures we had seen of the place. We cursed the name of Lonely Planet as the town had received a really good write up in our guidebook. However, after cheering ourselves up in the pool we went around the town in the late afternoon and once we scratched below the surface, we found that the place was actually quite cool. It had a good vibe, with loads of locals chilling out and drinking beers, loud music coming out of shops, so it wasn’t all bad and the water was beautiful to swim in.
The next day we decided to escape the mass of people on Taganga’s main beach and headed over the coastal hills to some of the quieter bays. As we left slightly later than intended, the heat was overbearing and by the time we reached playa grande we were dripping with sweat. This beach was also packed with loads of people and there were hawkers trying to get you to take sun beds or buy juices and cerviches, so we decided to head a little further to find some other bays over the hills that were quieter. The views were quite beautiful with the lovely clear water below and the hills and mountains in the background. Eventually we found a small little bay that wasn’t much to look at and wasn’t particularly clean, but it had beautifully clear, turquoise water that was freezing cold and wonderful to swim in with the incredible heat – so generally things were looking up! We chilled out there for most of the day, before heading back to playa grande where we went on a round, blow up banana boat type thing attached to a speed boat which flung us around the bay and flipped us off on a couple of occasions. It was only about 5 minutes long, but was great fun and Matt nearly lost his shorts again! In the evening we chilled out on the waterfront in Taganga and ate what was basically the Colombian equivalent of cheesy chips (called Salchipapas) but with some weird plastic cheese, strange sauces and salad – it wasn’t the greatest thing in the world but certainly filled us up. After a chilled out beer on the beach, it was early to bed so we were refreshed and ready to take on la ciudad perdida (lost city) trek. You’ll have to wait until the next blog to see if we survived the jungle!!