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Santa Marta

After my post the other day, I got talking to two German guys in my room.  (Germans being, along with Australians, a constant feature of hostels).  Somehow it ended up in a really intense discussion about parenting techniques, which was a little random!  One of them, Sebastian, who I was originally confused by as he has a strong Australian accent, left the room, and Marco asked me what I was doing the next day.  I said that I didn’t really know, but that I was thinking of going to Tayrona National Park.  He said that was what his compatriot was doing, and why didn’t I join him?  I was initially hesitant (and even more so when S later said that he and his friend, Frank, were leaving at 7am), but figured at least it would motivate me to do something with my day!

6am rolled round, and I’d had not a lot of sleep.  The hostel I was in, La Brisa Loca, was cranking music from the bar til around 4am, and I’d stupidly chosen to stay in a room with a fan but no A/C.  Putting wet clothes on myself helped, but it was still steamy!  Nevertheless, I managed to hoist myself out of bed and made it to the supermarket before awaiting the guys at the bus stop.  While waiting, a Colombian man came up to  me and surprise-hand-shaked me.  You know when someone walks up to you with supreme confidence and their hand out, and you automatically grab it because you think you’re supposed to know them?  Well, that happened.  He then wouldn’t let go of it, and proceeded to hit on me in Spanish.  Needless to say, other than his tone and his bearing (and the fact that the men all around me in the marketplace were giggling), I had no idea what was going on.  At one point the guy pointed to my eyes, then mimed cutting his throat, then grabbed his heart.  Either my eyes were figuratively killing him, or he wanted to kill me, take them with him and create some kind of necklace out of them.  I was still trying to recover my hand and insisting that no, I didn’t want to go and drink the Colombian poison he had with him.  Luckily, at this point, the shop-keeper behind me, who’d previously helped me to open a drink, intervened and smuggled me into his store.

Shortly afterward, the bus driver said that my ‘dos amigos’ had arrived, and sure enough, they had.  It was pretty easy to tell who was with me: they were the only other Westerners in the market.  So we piled into the van (which was freaking amazing, btw: the door was barely hanging on, the walls were incredibly rusty, and it apparently had a maximum of three gears) and off we went.

We arrived at the second entrance to Tayrona and got going.  Someone had suggested it to Sebastian because we could walk in there, and it would be a longish way but almost entirely downhill to the main entrance, from where we could bus home.  Mannn am I glad that was the way we went: after an initial bit of uphill, where I just about died and started to match my red t-shirt, it was downhill the rest of the way.  As was the conversation haha.

It was a freaking great day actually, I had so much fun (I’ll have to post photos later though, I seem to have left my camera back in the hostel—where neither the internet nor the water is working).  The first couple of hours, which Frank attempted in jeans, were through gorgeous jungle.  We saw a snake (it was a snake!!  it was!!), beautifully coloured lizards, amazing butterflies (including one huge, electric blue one), and so so many ants.   They’d created roads which would go for tens if not hundreds of metres at a time, with one chain going to a food source or some such, and the chain in the other direction carrying things back to the nest.  We may have played with them for quite a long time.

Eventually, after a short stop in the old settlement of Pueblito, we reached a beach, and I was destroyed.  Definitely a big part of it is my incredibly low level of fitness (though happily the guys gave me rest breaks when I needed them).  However in addition to that, I haven’t really been able to eat in Colombia.  I don’t know whether it’s the heat (though Bogota would argue against that), the altitude (though Santa Marta would argue against that) or the malaria tablets I’ve been taking, but I just can’t manage it.  One medium-sized meal a day is about all I can cope with—yesterday, all I managed was a bag of crisps and half a biscuit.  So my energy levels are a little low, as you can imagine!

We stopped briefly at the beach for a well-deserved swim.  By this point we’d been hiking for hours in the tropical heat, and all looked as though we were showering-in-clothes enthusiasts.  However we couldn’t stop long, as we still had a couple more hours to the main entrance, and didn’t want to miss the last bus back to Santa Marta.  Soon enough, it was on the road again (‘road’, in this case, being a very loose term: horses had destroyed the ground so much that it was barely a path).  I honestly don’t know how I did it.  Stubbornness, perhaps?  With only around half an hour left, we saw some tiny monkeys, and then all of a sudden it was dark.  Next thing you know, the rains had started.  It was so much fun!  S had an umbrella and took my non-water-happy items, while Frank went and got changed into his full German Border Control waterproofs.  I, meanwhile, was at least as happy as a super-happy duck, and had a great time being rained on, jumping in puddles and getting stuck in mud.  It may have been my favourite part of the day.  I haven’t been tropical-rained-on since living on Hayman Island in the Whitsundays (Aus), and it makes me so happy.  I remember once on Hayman, a colleague and I had to do some boat-work and it started to rain so much that we couldn’t see.  I held my hands above my face so that I could breathe: though it was still hard to breathe when I was laughing so much at my colleague throwing a tanty about the rain.  Best!

We made it to the car-park; but, no bus.  So we continued walking toward the main road.  I was sufficiently hyper about the rain to magically have energy again, and was having a lovely time.  This energy pretty much ran out when we reached the road however, and it was only through the urgings of our fearless leader Sebastian that exhausted-me and non-assertive-Frank made it onto a bus.

Once back at the hostel, it was time for a shower (meaning that during the day, I had been sweat-wet, ocean-wet, shower-wet, sweat-wet, rain-wet, then shower-wet once more: lucky my tattoo’s healed!), then I went to the supermarket with Marco for alcomahols and shared a pizza with S.  Frank had disappeared, and I can’t blame him.  At one point I scuttled off to my bed for a lie-down.  I didn’t want to go to sleep, as my plan was drinking with the guys that night, but my body couldn’t stand being non-horizontal any more!  Then it was to the roof for some drinks.  We tried to venture for a night out to Taganga at around midnight, but it was all closed, so returned to the hostel bar before the roof once more.  I was sitting with S, an English guy (Alexis), and two Swiss guys whose names I completely didn’t get at any point (traditional good form).  Marco also reappeared at some point.  Next thing you know, it’s 4am.  Everything was starting to die down, so it was pretty much off to bed.

Yet again I got very little sleep (yayyyyy two hours), but a shower was enough of a motivation to get me up.  I debated staying in Santa Marta for another day, but felt there wasn’t that much else to see, and how could I top the previous 24 hours?  So I decided to head to the aquarium, then catch the 15:30 to Cartagena.

Frank reappeared again, and we kind of bullied him into coming to the aquarium with me.  He and I piled into a taxi to the dock, grabbed a boat, and it occurred to me that I completely didn’t have enough time for these sorts of shenanigans.  We reached the aquarium, and I told the boat driver that I didn’t have time so would go back.  Frank said “oh, I’ll come with you.”  To which I said no, and ordered him out of the boat.  On one side he had the boat driver trying to help him out of the boat, and on the other side me saying ‘Get out of the boat, Frank!  Go to the aquarium!!’, and he couldn’t really help complying.  Peer pressure, much?

It was then a further couple of boats to get me back to where I could get to Santa Marta, and in the end I somehow didn’t pay for any of them.  So I got a lovely water tour for free—win!  Then it was finding a taxi and just getting back to the hostel in time.  Haha nearly 24 hours later, i’ve done little but sleep, though I’m thinking of going to a volcano this afternoon where I can play in the mud.  As if that won’t be unreal.

It’s weird in a way—yesterday reminded me of everything I love about travelling, and how going on adventures with people you’ve just met can be the best thing ever.  Today on the other hand I feel like I want to know awesome people for doses of more than 24 hours!  I love meeting other proper, long-term travellers (as per Marco and Sebastian), because you can skip the Four Questions which everyone in hostels gets (where are you from?  where are you going?  how long are you travelling for?  where have you been?) and just get straight amongst it.  I love travellers because I suppose there’s no fear: the 24-thing is simultaneously awful and amazing.  On the one hand, you’ll never see them again, but on the other, there’s no point in inhibitions.  For that reason, habitual travellers are open, and fun, and not hateful.  Haha toward other travellers, anyway.  Living the lifestyle I have for the last almost-ten years, I’ve met so many extreme people.  We all live across the world, rather than in one place, and we’re all addicted to change.  We make terrible employees, terrible girl/boyfriends, and sometimes really shit friends, because we get bored easily and we will always leave.  I feel like we’re a good time (not a long time!).  Sometimes I think we’re frivolous, ridiculous: but there’s nothing like the feeling of waking up in the morning and not knowing what’s going to happen, of what you’re going to see, of who you’re going to meet.  There’s the constant possibility that helps balance against the loneliness and shallowness of our lives.  Not shallow in terms of materialism or of experience, of course, but shallow in that we’re rootless.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Waffle over: I’m going to go and find some air con!

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Sebastian’s post here.

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Santa Marta

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