White sand, palm trees, turquoise waters and a Coco Loco in hand

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South America » Colombia » Cartagena
March 19th 2016
Published: March 20th 2016
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After 4 and a bit weeks of Spanish lessons, dance lessons and believe it or not some relaxation time we were finally back on the road again. Our destination - the beach. Not just any beach however, we were going to Playa Blanca.

From when we arrived in Cartagena all we heard about was this beautiful beach just over an hour away from Cartagena. Most people only really visited on day trips and returned with a playa blanca tattoo - sun burn. People spoke very highly of Playa Blanca with its white sand and clear blue waters. Obviously with it being so popular (especially on the weekends) people visit it by the van load and the price of things on the sand bar-like beach strip tend to be higher than normal.

We chose the cheapest route on getting there, taking the Pasacaballos bus to the town of the same name from near the castle in Cartagena. It felt good (and a bit weird) to be back on the road and travelling by bus again. 4 weeks in one place is a lifetime to us.
As we left the city centre and into the smaller neighbourhoods, we passed many poorer areas that were not as developed as the city. Being in and around the old city, you almost forget there's so much more to Colombia. We also found an uncanny resemblance to parts of the Philippines on our journey with the people, the buses, the homes etc. If we were shown a picture of sone of the neighbourhoods of both countries we may not be able to tell the difference.

One interesting thing that happens on buses here is that during the bus ride, a vendor will get on the bus to sell whatever they have on offer to passengers. Be it fruit, biscuits, water etc. This guy that got on was no ordinary vendor however. We were slightly confused at first as he spoke to the passengers at a pace too fast for our ears. We picked up on the odd random word like "stomach" and "pain".

He then started to produce highly graphic images of all types of infections of the human body including the genitals. His claim was that his product was an all healing medicine to cure all ailments. As much as we are open to alternative medicines we were not sold by these bold claims. We politely declined his product as handed it out to passengers as he walked up the aisle.

Thats another thing we didn't fully understand. If a vendor gets on the bus they'll do their sales pitch and then hand the product out to everybody on the bus. If you want it you pay the seller,if not you then hand it them back after they've walked the length of the bus. We noted it was common practice for everyone to take the product of the vendor whether they intended to buy it or not.

Before we had even registered we'd arrived at Pasacaballo an hour after getting on, motorbike taxi drivers already had their heads through the door shouting "Playa Blanca, Playa Blanca". Riding on the back of a motorbike with our backpacks was a pretty uncomfortable journey to say the least as we held on to our seats tightly during the varied up and down 30 minute ride.

Finally arriving at the much talked about beach we could see what all the talk was about. The white soft sand beach although narrow, stretched on for a mile or so and the sea a postcard turquoise colour. The sun beamed relentlessly down on us as we traipsed the beach with a Dutch girl we'd travelled from our hostel with, in search of cheap accommodation.

As it was around 11.30am some areas of the beach were already packed with tourists (mainly domestic), splashing in the sea, drinking alcohol or taking selfies. Tarp huts lined the beach providing shade for anyone wanting to escape the sun for a price and behind them many restaurants, bars & cocktail stalls selling overpriced goods. Fruit sellers, masseuses and men with buckets of oysters walk up and down the beach offering their services "A la orden".

Looking into the sea; there were banana boats and jet-skis zipping in between swimmers and snorkellers. We couldn't believe how popular and touristic this place was, and it was only a Tuesday.

Luckily, the further you walk down the beach the crowds immediately begin to cease and it becomes a lot more relaxed and laid back. After asking a few hostels along the way we settled on one roughly in the middle of the long beach right on the sea. We had a basic double room overlooking the sea and away from the crowds, we couldn't ask for more. As with most hostels on Playa Blanca, especially during dry season, there are no showers. Just a cubicle with a bucket of sea water, we only really realised the following day. We think this is what puts off most people from staying over night here, but what's a couple nights roughing it in paradise with only the ocean to bathe in.

Sitting on the sole chair on our shared balcony (only 2 rooms here) we watched the sun set over the now quiet beach. After around 4pm when the day trippers leave, the volume of the beach drops to nothing but the sound of waves lapping against the beach. This lasts up until 10am when the tour boats return. As this area around Colombia is close to the equator it gets dark very quickly making it a bit risky to walk to further areas along the beach. At around 6pm the generator comes on at our place giving us electricity for the evening.

We were unsure what to expect during the evening here as it seems very quiet. Luckily our hostel has a restaurant selling a wide selection of food to choose from so we decided to eat there, joined by Marijke (our Dutch friend).

As expected the food cost more than some places back in Cartagena but it wasn't break the bank expensive. We attempted to do some food shopping before coming here but only managed to pick up fruit, crisp and water - no way near enough for 2 nights! Precious ordered the vegetable burger and fries whilst Chris got the grilled chicken with rice, fries and salad costing us COP25000 for both. Portions are decent sized too so we couldn't complain.

Chatting away over dinner we noticed the bar/reataurant/hostel next door was playing music and had pulled in a few diners. After dinner we headed over for a drink and to enjoy the music. Out of the 3 neighbouring hostel/restaurants including ours, everyone (around a dozen tourists) all ended up at this one restaurant. A few people even got up to salsa including a slightly drunk british guy with 2 left feet. We decided to pass on this opportunity and continued our evening chatting away. P tried a popular drink called coco loco; its a jelly coconut with the top chopped off and rum poured inside using the natural coconut milk as a mixer. They can sometimes make them quite strong but this one was just right.

We found the locals who live and work on the beach to be very friendly, always greeting you with a smile, a thumbs up or just a simple "dias".

Saying that, the men are seemingly always trying chat up the girls with lines like "your beautiful" and "let me take you home". All harmless flirtatious stuff but probably annoying after the first few dozen attempts.

During one of our evening meals, one of the locals gave P and Marijke a rose made from palm leaf and invited us all the following night to come watch turtles laying their eggs on the other side of the beach. Unfortunately we were leaving the following day so had to decline his offer. He said no problem and offered us coffee 'on the house' if we stopped by in the morning before leaving.

A charming island with very charming locals to say the least.

Travel: to playa blanca - bus to pasacaballo COP1800. Moto from pasacaballo to playa blanca COP10000.

Accommodation: Chaka Zulu - double bed in cabin overlooking the sea COP40000

Date: 02/12/2015

Additional photos below
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20th March 2016
Watching the sun set perfectly each night

Incredible and Stunning
20th March 2016
Yellow skies

Just what the doctor ordered
4pm sounds heavenly. What a marvelous trip.

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