Hiding from Hurricane Matthew
So we wait until Matthew and the heavy swell that it brings us have passed and have a look at Santa Marta in the meantime.
We are happy for our good shelter in the marina where behind a number of large motor vessels our She San is safely attached on her 10 cleats, just like in a spider net.
Well, not all the lines are robust, we find out and have to exchange some of them. During the 2 days of maximum 40 knots and heavy showers we make ourselves comfortable in the saloon.
Then Matthew turns north and heads up to Haiti, which gets hit worst and further on to the U.S. We hear that also in Columbia in the region of Cabo de la Vela many indigenous people have lost their huts and we see the results of the heavy rain in the province of Magdalena in Cienaga when we pass by with the bus.
Santa Marta is one of the oldest still existing cities founded in Latin America and therefore has some colonial architecture to visit. We have a look at some sites, but more we enjoy the ambience of a latin american city that seems quite normal and is not too touristic.
One of our favorite places is the restaurant Bahia close to the waterfront which is always full with locals and an excellent place to watch what is going on on the street.
Also the prices are really ok, for a beer we pay 80 cents, for a meal which normally is enough for us two between 5 and 8 dollars. Of course there is also a lot of other places, especially for having lunch: we find a place where we get a meal with soup, main plate and drink for 3 dollars, enough for the two of us and very tasty.
Also the center of Santa Marta is very lively, with many shops and street vendors, latin music everywhere and in addition a huge number of busses, taxis and motorbikes who all make noise to not be overseen by their often risky maneuvers.
After a big shower some of the streets are completely flooded, it seems that the sewage discharge is not yet fully solved. Unfortunately that can also be noticed by the typical smell wandering through some of the streets…
During one of our tours through the city we see many people standing at the side of the street and think it could be a demonstration that is about to take place. We try to get away but get stuck in the middle of the people again. I decide to ask a police officer for the reason when just in that moment we see the first group of a bicycle race racing down the street… We have to laugh at ourselves and join the columbians taking pictures.
By bus to Cartagena de Indios
When the swell from Matthew slowly gets less we hop on the 5.5 hours bus to Cartagena de Indios and join the crowds of tourists in enjoying the meanwhile well restored city. I had been there more than 20 years ago with only very few other tourists around but also only few restored buildings and not so many places recommended to be visited.
Today Cartagena is really worth exploring and we enjoy ourselves wandering day and night through the city, eating mainly street food which we didn’t see in Santa Marta that much yet.
We especially love the “Arepita con Queso” – delicious corn flour patties with cheese, hmmmm!!
Very interesting we find the visit of the Castle San Felipe de Barajas which is perfectly restored. We immerse in the history of defense of Cartagena and hear the story of the attack in the year 1720 by 18000 Englishmen who had to give up after 3 months. We learn about the improvements of the last architect of the construction of todays castle, for example there are hundreds of meters of tunnels which should be used to fire explosives underneath the feet of the attackers, but ever since the castle has not been attacked again.
While we did enjoy the air condition in our hotel room during the first night, on the second day there is a power failure in the area of the hotel and no more electricity from afternoon until the next day when we left. So no air con, no wifi, no light…As a compensation at least we get a free breakfast 😉 and get the feeling that this happens more often that what they admit.
Then it is time to catch the bus back to Santa Marta. On the way in Cienaga we see that 5 days after Matthew still everything is heavily flooded, the garbage is everywhere, the kids play bare feet in the mud.
By mountainbike to Minca
After two days back on She San we start off again, this time with the mountain bikes. The target is to go up to the village of Minca, at 660 m in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and to see what we can do from there with the bikes. There are plenty of hotels who rent out mountain bikes, so we assume there must be some nice paths worth to be explored.
We get up early but due to a little party with our neighbor Carlos we have not yet packed anything, so we only start at 8 am. Well, early enough one should think…
During the first hour we cross through the city and get to know what riding a bike in columbian city traffic means – busses, moto taxis and taxis, street vendor trolleys, donkeys,everybody needs to be considered, that means constantly stopping, speeding up, overtaking…
On the last but biggest roundabout I see that the taxi and the large truck stop at their entrance to the roundabout, so I decide to speed up and move on in front of them. It went out alright, but Reto told me later, that the truck did not intend to stop but probably put a higher gear in and that it did look quite dangerous from behind…
Then the traffic becomes less, the road starts to mount up into the mountains and it starts to be really hot!! Now we wish to have started earlier…
Well, we some how make it up to Minca, find our Hotel a bit far off but pleasant and friendly and wait for the heavy showers to pour down…
Also the whirlpool is a bit different than what we have expected, the cold and rather dirty water only invites for a short dip of the feet…
But we enjoy our hot shower and the room with the big balcony, good to watch the rain. We are surprised that it is cold enough to even need a blanket during the night, something that we have stopped using somewhere after the Canary Islands.
Minca “round tour”
The following day we go on the round tour recommended by the guy in the hotel, but we do find out that he never had done that one by himself, and for sure not with a bike…
The first hour to the Marinka waterfalls the dirt road is in a comparably good condition.
On the way we meet a few indigenous people. Since we are just about to cross a few mud puddles, we only become aware of their long black hair and their long white capes.
Just before the waterfall the road becomes really steep and later on it goes over into a hiking trail. We are aware that this can be rough with the bikes, but still we try our luck. Well, the result was carrying the bikes up the hill for the next two hours…
When we finally reach the viewpoint “Los Pinos” the clouds are already covering all the mountains around us and it slowly starts to rain. So we pour down some water and see that we get back down again. The ride down on the other side is mainly fun, the challenge is not to fall over in the sometimes knee deep mud and our mud riding skills really develop…
Once back into Minca I finally realize that what we just came done was the main road going up further in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We both agree that we have seen enough of this road, so the plan for the next day changes from going up there again to having a good nights rest.
At the dentist in Santa Marta
During the next days back in Santa Marta we profit from the infrastructure of the city counting almost 500’000 inhabitants and visit some doctors.
Especially we enjoy the visit of the dentist Dr. Eduardo Fuentes who has decorated his one room office/practice with halloween decoration so that the patients have something nice to look at.
Then it is weekend again and we enjoy the night live and finally go out to dance Merengue, Cumbia, Vallenato and Salsa. Unfortunately we always get tired when it just begins… (Comment Captain: in fact the Capitana)
On Monday we plan to go to Taganga, the next beach to the north by bike or walking, but Katherine form the marina office recommends us to rather take the bus as the area in between as well as the road are not counting among the safest. Once there, we cannot believe our eyes, there are so many people! Only after a while we understand that it is a public holiday and therefore everybody is on the beach on that day…
Museo del Oro, Santa Marta
We pay a last visit to the Museo del Oro where we get a lot of information not only on the metal working techniques of the pre hispanic period but also on Simon Bolivar and Santa Marta’s history and population.
Then the wind starts to blow in the right direction, so we get ready to leave to Panama.