Making my way to the Colombian Carribean

Santa Marta Travel Blog

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I got up at 2am to pack my bags and left the hostel in a taxi at about 3:30am after the organised one didn't turn up. At Quito airport I had to wait a bit for the check-in counter to open. When I got to the counter the Copa Airlines woman told me she couldn't see my reservation. I was insistent I had one and she inexplicably told me I needed to buy one from Australia. Being in Ecuador and flying to Colombia this was a blatantly stupid idea. What was I going to say - "Oh OK, I'll just go across the world to buy a ticket for a flight in 2 hours when I already have one"? The supervisor rocked up and tried to get me to go away by citing some half-baked rule that I couldn't travel because I didn't have a physical copy of my ticket out of Colombia. Eventually after enough arguing a third person turned up and found my reservation straight away and gave me my boarding pass.

The flight to Bogota was short and uninteresting. My only point of note is that I chose the pear juice over the blackberry juice. Yeah, that's right.

I got my backpack at Bogota airport and dropped it at the connection counter for the flight to Cartagena. After a short wait I got on my flight. As we taxi'd out of the airport I could see an official United States of America airplane parked in the military area. Later interwebing tells me that Hillary Clinton was in Bogota, so it was twice in two days I had somewhat of a nearby presence to her. Based on this I will now flatly state that I am good friends with her.

The flight was even more uneventful than the last as I slept through most of it. I chose the orange juice this time.

When I got off the plane in Cartagena I had the same overwhelming hit of heat and humidity that I last experienced when I landed in Cancun last December. I got my backpack and walked out of the airport to find the Mar Sol shuttle service office. After getting mildly lost I found it. Hint: walk out of the airport to the first street, and just turn right down it for about 2-3 blocks, it is on the left. Inside they said the next shuttle was in an hour and a half time for $COP39,000 (like $25). I sat down in the tiny room that was full of Mar Sol drivers assumedly waiting around to drive places. They talked to me for a few minutes but my Spanish isn't quite conversational enough to keep their interest. I topically read some One Hundred Years of Solitude until my shuttle arrived. I got the front seat and fell asleep through a lot of it, but usually just in lots of micro-sleeps where I would dream about something for about 5 seconds before waking up again. I was very tired.

After 4 hours we got to Santa Marta. I saw on a sign along the road that it was 36 degrees Celsius. I checked in to my dorm at La Brisa Loca Hostel and after dropping off my bags I asked at reception about the nearby Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek, which is what had brought me to Santa Marta. They showed me a brochure from the company Tursol which happened to be my first choice from researching anyway. It was late in the afternoon so they said someone might be able to come talk to me about it so I went upstairs to get a free 'welcome beer' to wait. Christine was online from Quito airport so I talked to her on my laptop as I had a couple more beers. The beers plus being incredibly tired plus the Tursol person not appearing put me into a downward spiral of sleepiness, so I went back to my room to lie down before dinner. My alarm woke me up an hour later but I was too exhausted and just slept through until the morning.

Now today the weather is very humid and raining so I am happy to take a day off running around to just relax at the hostel. I asked about the Lost City trek again and a rep came over to tell me about it. He spoke about it entirely in Spanish and I was very pleased to understand nearly everything he said and be able to ask what I wanted to. If I had tried that conversation at the start of the trip I would have been totally lost.

Most people do it in 6 days but they also have a 5 day option that a couple in the hostel who just finished it said was a better pace. I have gone with the 5 day option, so we will see how hard that turns out to be. I have read that on the third day there are nine waist-deep river crossings to get through. Wish me luck!
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Santa Marta
photo by: AndySD