14 March - 24 March - Carribean Coast, Colombia
Santa Marta Travel Blog› entry 12 of 33 › view all entries
14 March -24 March 2008
It has been
10 days since I last wrote and I will try to recount some of the events of
these last days. Angry departed for
Sam and I
travelled cattle class by bus for free back from the coffeelands to
cottages of the rural mountain dwelling Colombian peasants dot along the edge of the road, hanging precariously as if they might fall.
These Colombians eek out an existence by selling crappy corn snacks,
cokes, water and other assorted items to the endless stream of heavy truck
traffic that crawls itself over the mountainside, taking produce from the
coffeelands to Bogota, then on to ports at Santa Marta and Cartegena on the
Carribean coast. The numbers of huge heavy trucks on the road is
incredible. I would estimate that there
are at least 10 trucks, 8 axels per truck, for every one car. The railways here went broke a long time ago
and the Colombian peasants stole the steel from the tracks to make other
things. The trucks travel in convoys and
roar and grind their way up the steep mountain slopes. There are no passing lanes in
I recall looking out the window on one occasion and seeing three young men in plain attire, about 17 years of age, all squeezed onto a 50cc scooter. The one on the back was carrying a large machine gun.
Rafael explained the problem of FARC, the guerrillas in
The guerrillas force farmers off what would otherwise be productive land. They blow up the trucks carrying the produce. As a result there is a lot of land that is not productively farmed as no-one wishes to invest resources to develop the land or hold the stock, as soon as any sign of wealth is shown, the guerrillas seize the land. They are influenced and motivated by dear old Fidel Castro, who is in all respects, from what I can gather here, a communist dictator of the highest order.
The rural peasant in the past 10 years or so has been caught in a catch-22. You produce goods and gain economic wealth and the guerrillas attack you. You don’t produce goods and gain economic wealth, you and your family starve.
But the problem is much worse than economic troubles. In conjunction with indoctrination of Marxist ideas, the guerrillas also use intimidation tactics which go something like this: Guerilla group arrives at Colombian family´s house and tells teenage son, Jose, that if he does not join the guerrillas then the guerrillas will execute his family. Naturally enough, Jose joins the guerrillas and indoctrination begins. In response to insurgent activity, such as the above, past governments establish a form of ´community watch´. This involved arming people in the villages for protection and training them to report guerrilla activities in the local area, like a type of community police. Well that was the idea, but unfortunately the community watch groups took their jobs and new found power a bit too seriously and became a law unto themselves. They began going to Jose´s family and others like him and asking Ma and Pa Jose, whether or not Jose was a guerrilla. If the answer was yes the community watch shot Ma and Pa Jose. So again, young Jose is caught in a catch-22. If he doesn’t join the guerrillas, the guerrillas kill his family. If he does join the guerrillas, the government organised or disorganised community police kill his family. Fortunately, more recent governments have recognised this problem and have abolished the community watch groups.
spent effectively four days, 10 hours per day, travelling by car which we hired
Colombian government is making a concerted effort to stamp out the guerrillas
from import road routes and economic areas between
is a very pretty Spanish Colombian town situated at 1336m above sea level. The temperature there was about 25-28 degrees
C. The landscape surrounding this area
is very dry and a lot like how I imagine
On the 15th
of March 2008 we drove to
highlight of Taganga was the beautiful and cheap seafood, the marinated raw
fish in coconut cream and lime juice, wonderful tropical fruit juices, prawns,
and a boat trip to
beach near Taganga, an well muscled black Costenian masseuse offered massage
services, rubbing carrot oil into the skins of the men and women on the beach
who wanted it. There seemed to be many
more women. In particular there were two
very beautiful young black women from
There is a
much stronger African influence in the people on the coast that does not appear
in the complexions of the people from
From Taganga we drove to Cartegena, again at night, again 6 hours instead of 2 as we took a wrong turn and got waylaid in the depths of poverty in Barraquilla, another chaotic and enormous metropolis. Cartegena is a beautiful ´pirate´ city. Unfortunately we did not get a lot of time to explore the city as a result. Instead we travelled by boat, about 1.5 hours to Isla de Rosario, a small carribean island where we spent the day at a resort type hut setup, with a swimming pool. We did some tropical snorkelling, I saw my first monkeys and toucans, before we returned to another beach where I was instantly surrounded by 100 beach hawkers, who quickly convinced me to try the local oysters and equally quickly relieved me of twenty thousand pesos ($15 for 5).A quick lesson learned. I hope that it will help feed this guys family for a week. People never leave you alone here and are always trying to sell all manner of trinkets and junk.
Cartegena we travelled back to
On our last
night in Tyrona we walked around the camp where many Colombians were camping,
cooking dinner on open fires, and made our acquaintances, with some Colombians
in there 20s on their Easter Holidays.
We played some guitar for them and them for us. The locals are all very
interested in us and those that could speak Spanglish did so. We were offered
much whiskey and freshly brewed coffee from the fire. The night ended singing
was an uneventful day but pleasant. We
drove the long road back to Puente de Piedra.
I am now comfortably relaxing in the sun listening to Don Rafa´s
classical music. Don Rafa had a stroke a
year or so ago and, although he is fine, is enjoying a relaxed life after many
years working as a lawyer in