If you didn’t know that Colombia has the reputation it has, you wouldn’t even be able to imagine it here, on the breezy Caribbean coast. And if you don’t know what reputation I’m talking about, disregard and carry on!
In these tropical and balmy days it is easy to forget that anyhow.
It is also easy to forget – among these tanned, creased faces – that it’s January, and a harsh winter, elsewhere.
What can I say, some like it hot..
The charm of un(der)developed countries is that the rules can be bent easily, and in your favour. I put those speculations (which I speculate myself) to test. This time, with inter-urban transit.
It’s easy to flag a ride anywhere along their general route as they all run frequently and collect passengers on the way. They only cost 1200-1500 COP (= 0.60-0.85 USD). Correct change is appreciated, although no one will tap their foot agitatedly while you scrap for monedas. No one appears to be in a hurry here.
On these rides you will encounter the allure of laidback coastal life: exchange of greetings when someone new hops on board, daily gossip, snacks being passed around, and best of all: singing out loud, in unison, buoyant, and uninhibited.
I do it even without knowing the words (but there’s usually ‘mi amor’ or ‘mi corazon’ somewhere in there – listen for it).
Walking along the beach promenade I promptly get bombarded with offers of natural coconut juice, dripping watermelon, juicy sliced mangoes, pineapples or papaya – all costing in the range of 1 USD. Like moths to a flame!
Just as I settle in the hammock, the beach vendors starting buzzing around like mosquitos. I realize I didn’t bring protection..
They are as irritating as they are endearing. Hey, making a living is not easy, here, or anywhere else. I actually admire their creativity regarding what they expect to sell here throughout the day.
Pareos, coconut oil, sombreros, sunglasses, and volleyballs aplenty. Ice cream (“naranja, crema, coco, melona – heladooooo”) and other refreshments, with beer leading the pack, are profitable. Purposely aromatic home-cooked meals, burritos, pancakes, sweets and snacks are not unheard of.
But every now-and-then, you will be asked if you are interested in an elaborate painting, or a canary in a beautifully crafted wooden cage.
For one wild second I imagined it dangling on the side of my backpack and pecking me awake in the mornings, until I set it free in the Amazon (I know a thing or two about a bird, a cage, and wanting to fly free)..
The sequence of small sandy beaches and coves off coast of Taganga, carved into the western cliff of Sierra Nevada, won me over. I easily negotiated a transfer with the fishermen from Taganga. A 10 min smooth glide across the shimmering bay, and I already felt a world away from hasslers and screaming children.
Ahh, 7 hours of solitude.
It’s easy to arrange a return with the same fisherman in the afternoon. Promised him a tip so he wouldn’t leave me there. Then again, sleeping under the stars is usually nothing short of memorable.
Another surefire escape is to Tyrona National Park in the Sierra Nevada. I went on a weekend and still it was quiet and uncivilized.
In Cañaveral – a long, wild sandy beach with tempestuous waves and rock formations that resemble Senegalese or Seychelles shores, I only saw a handful of people pass in the span of 4 hours. Refreshing.. although, there are other parts of the park which get sufficient visitors – and groups camping for weeks.
One evening I met Guillermo who owns a non-profit agency for indigenous kids living in the villages in the Sierra Nevada. I invited myself to come along with him on his next trek up there, but he was strongly opposed to my bringing a camera.
He said it scares the children as it reminds them of hunters, aiming at their prey through the viewfinder.
Interesting concept.. never thought of it that way, but it oddly makes sense.
We grabbed a drink in one of the local dives near the beachfront, a hole in the wall with no gringo presence.
At some point los músicos waltzed in and everyone instantly started singing along passionately.
For 3000 COP I tipped the playfield in my direction by asking for ‘Un Historia de un Amor‘, one of my mother’s favourites, and a song I always request for her on my distant journeys in the Spanish-speaking pockets of the world.
as I keep on walking