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            <<  Santa Marta & around, 27-Jul-2015  >>

Stepping into Sid Meier's Pirates!

Santa Marta, oldest still existing Spanish colony in South America, and Tayrona National Park. Yes, I'm in the Caribbean!

I spent significant amount of my childhood and early teenage years by playing Sid Meierís Pirates! PC game. Due to that I knew cities Santa Marta and Cartagena - and I regularly plundered them :-) - long before I found out that they were real cities somewhere in Colombia, because the map in the game was actually the real map of the Caribbean. And now Iím here, in Santa Marta and Cartagena is my next destination! It felt like stepping into a PC Game.

Santa Marta is smallish but good. Bunch of massive colonial mansions (one of them converted to a hostel where Iím staying, and itís probably the most impressive hostel Iíve ever been to), blue Caribbean Sea, acceptable (but not spectacular) beach, great relaxed atmosphere, hills rising in the background, hacienda where the greatest hero of the South America Simon Bolivar died, mighty monsoon thunderstorm which sounded like a cannonade, good cheap rum and that good Caribbean vibe. Plus, one more great Museum of Gold showing the mastery of local Tayrona civilization.

And not too far from Santa Marta lies intensively beautiful and paradisiac Tayrona National Park, where there are no roads and so you have to walk for some 1,5 hour to reach the best beaches where you can camp. That sounds like short hike, but hey, try that in 36íC, 100% humidity and with a backpack on your back, while walking in sand and you will see that itís pretty heart attack inducing achievement. The most famous beach is really beautiful, with all the signs of the tropical paradise Ė white sands, blue ocean, green palms and sublime cliffs Ė but it is really busy with tourists, even though it was still low season (as LP said ďin high season the local campground challenges the busiest European summer festivalsĒ), so itís a well-shared paradise. Instead of a tent I slept in a hammock in a massive open-air hammock room. Given the density of hammocks and number of people sleeping there I think it was the closest thing to sleeping on a pirate ship you can get to on land :-)
From Tayrona NP I visited one more village, which seemed like Colombian version of Goa in its quitter years. Ocean too rough for swimming, but great, relaxed atmosphere, nice beach-bars-hotels, some yoga people and simply that slow-it-down tropical feeling. I think I do like Colombia!

By the way, Colombians are incredibly friendly people. The bad press cover they get is totally misleading when it gets to normal folks. In Bogota someone gave us his public transport card to that we didnít have to buy it, in bus from Santa Martaís airport I didnít have small change for the fare so a guy sitting next to me paid it for me, and just outside of Tayrona Nationa Park, where I had a lunch and a small talk with a Colombian family that was sitting next to me, when I went to pay the lunch I discovered that it had been already paid by that Colombian family that left already without telling me that they had invited me. They are really lovely people who try to help me all the time these Colombians.


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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak