Posted by: Sarah | December 19, 2006

Santa Marta y mucho mas….

A few days ago, as we were all hanging out at Melissa’s making pancakes for Saturday brunch, Elena (trainee from Italy) and I realized that we were amongst the few who were left in Barranquila before most of the crew started to disperse that day to Chile, Germany, Costa Rica, Peru and other destinations for break. What to do, what to do….go out of town, of course! My tan is starting to fade – a trip to the beach was in order.

An hour later, two phone calls had been made – one to a trainee in Santa Marta and another to the MarSol transportation company on the coast, we had thrown a couple swimsuits in our bags and were on our way. The usual one and a half hour ride to Santa Marta took about double that amount of time, for who knows what reason, but we finally made it to the smallest of the three main cities along the Caribbean coast. The city of Santa Marta is bordered by the pueblos of El Rodedero and Taganga, a resort town and a fishing village respectively, all three of which have the awesome beaches that are lacking from the port city of Barranquilla.

Elena and I met up with Julie, a trainee from Belgium, and a few of her Colombian friends for the last few hours of sunlight and swimming in Taganga. We devoured delicious homemade pizzas on the beach and laughed at the Christmas lights that were strung up everywhere. I am often frustrated to find that regardless of the mix of extranjeros and Colombians, the limited knowledge of many foreigner’s Spanish makes English the common language even though we are in South America. For once we spent two days speaking almost entirely in Spanish. sweet. I badly need the practice. While geographically close, everything about Santa Marta is a world of difference and it’s nice to shake things up a bit.
Just beyond Santa Marta, there are countless beaches along the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains that eventually blend into Tayrona National Park. We woke up early the next day, determined to find the infamous Playa Cristal, whose claim to fame was sand as white and smooth and water as clear as the San Andres and Provedencia islands. Getting there was an adventure since everyone that we talked to had a different idea about where exactly it was or how to get there. In the end we had taken no less than 5 means of transportation …. city bus, on foot, hitchhiked on the back of a truck filled with bricks into the entrance of the park, walked some more, negotiated a cab ride through the winding bluffs that reminded me of Wisconsin Dells (duck ride, anyone?), and once we had gotten to the sea, hopped into a motor boat in order to reach our destination.
I love the beaches of Arecife, la Piscina, y el Cabo at Tayrona. They are natural and preserved, unspoiled by tourists, vendors, or cruises docking along the shore. While many Colombians know Tayrona, each time that I am there, I feel as if I have discovered something beautiful and exotic that very few people even know exist.
After this weekend, these beaches could not even compare to Playa Cristal. The mountains had hidden away a beach that we found almost impossible to reach. The last leg of the journey is impossible to reach on foot. There are no maps or road signs to these kinds of destinations, only a whisper from those who have seen them and pass the secret on to a few other lucky people. The tropical fish circling around us gave the sense of being in an aquarium and even without goggles, it was possible to see straight down to the floor of the sea, some 10, 15 m. below us.

sigh. relaxed. content. sunkissed. I may not have snow for Christmas, but this is a perfectly acceptable substitute 🙂



  1. oh wow, how wonderful you seem to be enjoying life. Live it up girl. This is your time. Hopefully our paths will cross again one day and we’ll remember these good times.

    Happy New Year and Merry Christmas to you too!

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