A landscape that inspired Gabriel García Marquez in Riohacha, La Guajira


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South America » Colombia » La Guajira
November 14th 2013
Published: November 18th 2013
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Riohacha, The Pearl, the Phoenix, the not-so cosmopolitan city…oops



According to Wikipedia, Riohacha is one of the oldest cities in South America with a long history of building, destruction and reconstruction, due to different reasons, natural disasters, war, whatever those reasons were, the truth is that the city is considered to be a phoenix.



Well, phoenix or not, I read that this land of fishermen was the inspiration to our best writer, Gabriel García Marquez and that, by itself, is a must to find an excuse to go and visit. And now when you think about it, reread his most famous books and little by little, its landscapes and magic descriptions will start making sense, One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Love in Times of Cholera. In fact, he mentions the city in his latest book Live to Tell the Tale.



But coming back to what they say about its history, I suppose you sort of expect to find lots of ancient sites within the city itself, you want to find out why this coastal city attracted so many Europeans who saw it as the Pearls Dorado Venue, unfortunately this is not
This is my idea of a paradiseThis is my idea of a paradiseThis is my idea of a paradise

I don´t want to leave
what I found. Actually, apart from one or two buildings, it was clear for me that the main attraction of the place was the coastal beaches, where you can have lovely promenades and as in every coastal city, it is the happiness of the people the number one reason to turn your journey into a most pleasant experience.



Although it was never in my list of cities chosen to do sightseeing, Riohacha, in the desertic Guajira, is a Colombian capital that will serve me fine as a gateway to reach my final destination. The bus ride from Bucaramanga was 9 hours which I wisely used to sleep and do some thinking, and if you want statistics in the prices field, that Copetran ride from Bucaramanga cost me 80,000 pesos.



As soon as I got there, I said to myself, well, this metropolis would offer so much diversity as a city but, let me tell you, I was a bit surprised… first shock, the local bus station as I thought being in a capital, I would find more developed venues but I was most wrong.



Not the Capital I expected



From the very first breakfast I had, I realised the city wouldn't be that developed. Here you have it so that you can judge: Have you ever eaten an arepa with lots of oil on top and on the sides, and an almost cold coffee and no, I didn't ask for a cold one, particularly? The bus station looks like a bird cage where a fan becomes an oasis. The toilets are also something filthy and yet, they charge you at the entrance like 1,500 pesos but who knows what they do with that money, it is not for embellishment, I guess, given the amount of travellers, let´s suppose they get money enough for more than toilet paper, thus, they should make it look at least clean.



Reading your thoughts, you are telling me, I should stop moaning, so, let´s put on some suntan and we are ready to enjoy the beach and the lovely views...



The Caribbean Sea bathing the land of Fishermen



Although the beaches are not as good as in other coastal cities, it is always a great pastime to see people walking leisurely around the beach
A Wayúu at the seafrontA Wayúu at the seafrontA Wayúu at the seafront

The stuff they sell is quite colourful
or on the seafront wearing big robes and large sports clothes. I understand now why people there are so relaxed, the weather dictates the rules on how to behave and what to wear. No complaints there as I was quite prepared to dress down.



So, from there I understood that as a seaside town, I just had to act very informally and enjoy what I had at my disposal. A walk around the beach was kind of relaxing, in fact, the tranquility of the villagers is a sort of a trademark; when I went to the pier, I felt as if I were in my own town given the friendliness of the people; you could find scattered groups admiring the fishermen, some tourists taking pictures of themselves and the sea, or a group of youngsters having fun while surprising the pedestrians with their bike skills. Walking later a bit further away, I was able to do some bird watching as I managed to have a pleasant view depicting our feathered friends dancing the waltz, that, I must say, was marvellous, you could see it on the last photos, Nice!



There were some gathering as some fishermen caught a crab and they were doing funny things with it, I guess it is the way they catch them that makes it particularly interesting for people to see. I did as in Rome and stayed put there waiting for people´s reactions in the aftermath of the fishing experience; I thought I should study journalism as I am quite curious about these things, or should I say gossip. It´s up to you to judge me.



The Seafront



What also caught my attention, while walking on the seafront, was the colourful designs of the Wayúu's mochilas, which are informal flashy bags to carry; you can also buy some good souvenirs like hammocks, hats, blankets, which are known to be of high quality. The sight of the Wayúus also added some exotism to my trip, tempted I was to take pictures of them but I had been told not to do so for they get angry and might be aggressive. And as much as I love you all, I didn´t want to spoil my trip by having them feel angry or anything. Well, as you can see, I actually got some pictures from some children, with their permission, of course, so relax.



For sleeping, I was lucky to find the Panorama hotel whose owner happened to have a brother in Santamarta who also run a hotel of the same chain there; so it was kind of practical to use the same chain in the two different cities, which saved me time and worries about finding accommodation. Hooray, I stayed at his hotel, a sort of cheap but a comfortable abode. I must say that in Santamarta, it was kind of funny as the address that they print out on their hotel card is not the same that taxi drivers know.



Let me explain, if you follow the address they give you on the card, you will never find the hotel as it is actually the wrong address. But on a hindsight, I'll give it to the taxi drivers, they are the ones who might be right; I reckon the hotel cards are old and it gave me the impression that not wanting to make new ones, the owner insisted that he had printed the right address on the cards, but I guess he does it out of stubbornness. Funny and interesting, when you think about it, or should I say odd? Anyway, I was lucky for I don't like walking to find hotels when you have the beach for you, I mean, in Santamarta, and let´s thank the skilful drivers who insisted it was the wrong address.



Anyway, here´s a hint for you, if you happen to stay there, do not contradict anybody about the address and do not intend to have a go at anybody, take it easy, you are there to enjoy and not to correct the owner about his wrong address, let him be happy and you too.



I am afraid I would´t be able to advise you about the places to visit as I only had a glimpse of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios and that´s it. That´s why, maybe this time I didn´t learn anything about the history of the venue. Sorry, folks, oopss





Another oops…



Wow, by a stroke of luck, I found a video of Los Hermanos Zuleta who have actually written a song describing the city and stating that Riohacha is quite beautiful and that it is the media's fault giving the city a bad reputation, you see, and I am not doing anything for changing it. Where shall I hide? what I liked about the video they show on youtube is some nice pictures of the beach and the Wayúus that you can admire.



The song goes like this:



Yo fui a Riohacha el dos de febrero

esta ciudad me pareció bonita

porque hay muchos edificios modernos

se ve que allá hay gente progresista

que saben bien invertir el dinero

haciendo lo que ella necesita



Yo me di cuenta que el Riohachero

si se interesa es por su pueblo (Bis)

And here it goes (oops):



Riohacha no es como muchos comentan

que esa es una ciudad desordenada

ahora que estuve alla yo me di cuenta

que no es cierto lo que la gente habla



lo que pasa es que hay muchos sinvergüenzas

que se ponen a darle mala fama

principalmente los de la prensa

que se dedican a difamarla



you see, you see, I´d better leave it here as I ride this canoe 😊


Additional photos below
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18th November 2013
I want to retire in a place like this

Retirement
Looks like a great place not to work.
18th November 2013
I want to retire in a place like this

Yes, indeed
Yeah, Dave and Merry, I sort of wished life would stop at that very minute, so peaceful it was. I love the quotes you have about travelling, they make you think. Nice trips, excelent.

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