Our first port of call in Colombia was Santa Marta – a coastal city of nearly half a million people sitting at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas.
Amazingly it’s South America’s oldest surviving city. There’s a new and cheap marina here so fantastic to be tied up to a dock and best of all……no wet dinghy rides! There’s a great laundry and spotlessly clean shower blocks and when the mercury hit the mid 30s, which it does most days, that’s where you’ll find us….having long cold showers.
Santa Marta was an intriguing first glimpse into Colombia. We’d had this image of a Spanish country – I guess because that’s the language – but from the minute we set foot ashore it oozed South America. It was Brazil all over again – crowded, bustling and full of atmosphere!
We enjoyed wandering the streets on foot and by bike, exploring the rabbit warren of a market, visiting the gold museum, soaking up the holiday atmosphere on the waterfront and getting constantly hassled by street sellers….it never ceases to amaze us how many people there are trying to flog off stuff in these countries!
Santa Marta is shabby compared to airbrushed Cartagena but we liked it. It’s easy to get around and everything is close to the marina. There are some seedy backstreets which we found quite by accident one day on a bike ride……needless to say, a hasty exit was made.
It’s stifling hot here – up to 35degress and very humid. The afternoon breeze that gets up is warm so there are two ways to cool down – cold showers or a refreshing lime juice – freshly squeezed and mixed with ice, sugar and water – divine!
We ended up staying in Santa Marta longer than we planned waiting for weather for our three day/night sail to Providencia Island. The winds have been gusting up to 35knots….a little too much for us!
We enjoyed the luxury of being in a marina, provisioning at the fantastically cheap supermarket (ribeye steak $10 a kg) and just wandering the streets and absorbing the sights and scenes.
We felt very safe while in Santa Marta but did notice a heavy police presence on the streets – all armed with either semi automatic rifles, machine guns or pistols. This is cocaine country after all. Colombia is the world’s leading producer of cocaine and much of it comes from the area around Santa Marta. It pays not to wander off the beaten track.
One day we took a crowded local bus over the hill to Taganga, a sleepy fishing village turned backpacker and hippy hangout, where we had our best Colombian coffee yet. So good we had two!
Local boats ferry hot and bothered tourists to a nearby beach and as it was hot and we were bothered we went along and enjoyed a few hours at Playa Grande.
We reckoned it was one of the hottest days we’ve had and we were pleased to be able to cool off in the sea.
The winds are finally starting to ease so it’s looking good for us to head up to Providencia tomorrow, then onto the Bay Islands in Honduras. Colombia has been a fantastic stopover and we’re delighted we’ve been able to get out and see a little of this intriguing country.