Published: September 1st 2010August 29th 2010
A proud conquistador surveys the coastline he came to conquer.
The Caribbean coast dances to a different rhythm. And dance it does. From the moment we arrived in Riohacha we heard salsa music everywhere. At the end of our street was a general store-cum-bar, with loud music blasting out of it all day and much of the night. On the beach icecream vendors set up a couple of small ice chests with a couple of extra-large speakers. Music moved around us as cars drove by. And it was hot.
Riohacha is an untouristed town, a relaxed tropical spot where the locals move slowly and take their relaxation seriously. Everyone moves towards the beach in the evening for the music, the sea breezes, a swim, icecream and a beer. Craftworkers set up their wares on the pavement, hoping to attract customers in this onrush. It would be a place to linger to soak up the local ambiance. But we didn´t.
Between Riohacha and Santa Marta (the midpoint of the coast) lies a beautiful coast line. I rested after our desert trip at the Santuraria de Flora y Fauna los Flamencos, a little way along the coast from Riohacha. It is a coastal lagoon with a few villages around it and
Santuario de los Flamencos
The perfect spot to relax.
overpriced dingy national park accommodation on an island. Bichi runs a fish restaurant-cum-bar on the beach a short walk along the sand from the park entrance. The accommodation is a cheap add-on, totally tranquil, with Bichi the friendliest of hostesses. I only spotted three flamingos, which was a disappointment after our first experience. But the ride in the dug-out under punt and sail was something I wouldn´t have missed.
Close to Santa Marta, is Taganga: once a sleepy fishing village and now a major destination on the backpacker map. It comes alive in the evening with streets stalls from around the world, bars and parties. It was very quiet the morning I visited, apart from some fisticuffs in the main street.
Santa Marta, the holiday destination of choice of many Colombians, in the centre of La Costa
. They flock there to swim, drink and dance. It´s a grubby town where sections are often underwater. It is trying to tart itself up. I think it will suceed.
Cartagena, at the west end of the coast was once the crown of the Spanish Carribean. The Old Town is a beautfully preserved colonial precint with buildings and fortifications dating back
to the 1500s. The town walls and forts were started as a response to visits from Sir Frances Drake in 1586 and ironically finished only twenty-five years before their tenure was opset from inside at the beginning of the 1800s. Toynbee, the British historian, said when he saw the fortifications in 1957, “So this is why South America doesn't speak Engish.” Cartagena is a major tourist destination, rich in culture and entertainment, and there is no shortage of activities and tours available.
In Riohacha we stayed at the casellated El Castillo del Mar
, the only place in town with traveller-friendly prices.
Bichi's place at the Santuaria is el restaurante el Remanso
. Her number is 3013730572. Or she could be contract through the good services of Kaí Ecotravel
In Santa Marta I went to the Casa Familiar
, a slightly down-market hostel run by an absolutely delightful family, with three generations living in the property.
In Cartagena I stayed inside the old city at Hotel el Viajero
, although better value hostel accommodation is available in nearby Getsamani. El Centro Historico is safer after dark. I recommend the half-day city tours as good value if
Cartagena is a modern city combined with an old one.
you are new to the town, but avoid at all costs the day trips to Las Islas del Rosario!
How I´ve Been
Riohacha was where I split from Ali and Steve, me to find a rest after our trip, and them to find more exercise! They have been proceeding at a slower pace and included the Tayrona National Park
national park and spent lots of time at Taganga, where Ali collided with a motorcyle and had to nurse a sore knee. Their plan is to proceed to Panama on the yacht, The Sailing Koala
, and when they reach Panama City to purchase bicycles. If all goes well they will hope to sell the bikes in Huston, Texas.
I enjoyed being a solo traveller again, even tho I missed them heaps, and was excited about flying back to Quito Ecuador, direct from Cartagena.
There are more photos below