Beach to Bog

Botero sculptureWe arrived in Santa Marta looking for more sun and sand, and less insects. It was certainly hot but the beach was a little lacking as most of it looked across to a fairly large port. After a bit of a stroll to get to know the place, we stayed a night and headed on to a tiny town called Taganga the following morning.

Things got a little more rustic there, with dirt roads and many buildings in need of work although there was a solitary ATM, ominously located right next to the tiny police station. We managed to find a room at a reasonably nice place in the higher part of town. No AC but there was a small pool which was refreshing, and became even more essential once we realised that the beach front wasn’t really all that great for swimming.

We found a tiny coffee shop which claimed to be ‘the best little coffee shop in the southern hemisphere’. We couldn’t resist such a claim and had to try it. It certainly wasn’t the best in the southern hemisphere (we’ve had better coffee in Australia) but it was definitely the best we’ve had outside Australia on our trip so far. Despite coffee being Colombia’s biggest (legal) export there’s a saddeningly huge amount of Nescafé around – and having ‘made in Colombia’ on the label didn’t make it any less disappointing each time we were given some with our breakfast.

Taganga had a very relaxed atmosphere and a nice little beach called Playa Grande in a bay just a 20 minute walk around the cliffside to the north. We also found some great seafood in one of the restaurants on the water front. It was a nice place to hang out for a couple of days before we returned to Santa Marta to stay for a while, sometimes catching the local bus south to El Rodadero for its better beach (although always returning for dinner at a restaurant which served steak that was almost as good as the steak we’d had in BA).

Rain, rain, go away...After a couple more days, it was time to leave the coast and travel to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. We spent 3 days exploring the city – hampered by almost continuous rain – but managed to get quite a few touristy things ticked off the list. The changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace – including a marching band that for some reason played Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones – was an odd little experience to remember. Sadly the rain meant that we had to spend a lot of our time indoors having to sample the many great cake shops and cafés around La Candelaria, including one that served a very popular snack in Bogotá, cheese and bread with hot chocolate – the cheese was there to dip into the hot chocolate before you eat it (pretty awful). Bogotá was a damp but interesting city – certainly not the most beautiful we’ve been to, but has plenty of character if you’re prepared to look for it. We managed to find quite a few great little bars, restaurants and cafés, and the place certainly grew on us over the time we spent there, although it did have to try hard to stand out amidst our growing excitement for our next stop… Rio.

To get to Rio we had to fly through Buenos Aires for an overnight stay. We were lucky enough to have exit row seats and the flight was going perfectly. Then it took a turn for the worse when the head steward managed to drop a full pot of boiling hot coffee on the floor in front of me, scalding my ankles, soaking my shoes, socks and jeans and spraying Alexandra’s coat and the whole emergency exit area with some of Colombia’s finest instant.

After having to call them back with the call button 10 minutes later – because they immediately went to sit down as the seatbelt sign was on, and didn’t come back once it switched off – they apologised (somewhat sarcastically) and offered nothing to help the situation. I was offered another seat in economy once I pointed out that the floor beneath my feet was soaked, but I declined and requested a better, and not a worse seat than my current exit row one. There were none on the plane apparently – a claim which I found to be untrue when I took the short walk over to business class to find it half empty. Despite our suggestions that they should do something – anything in fact – to make our flight a little more comfortable, they responded by saying that it might happen on Qantas or BA, but on their airline it wasn’t their policy. My point that if the pot had fell to the left rather than the right, then there was the potential for a baby or young child to be burnt by the coffee fell on deaf ears. They did provide a little entertainment a short while after the incident though when they wheeled their trolley past us again and politely asked the question I knew they would… ‘Coffee sir?!’

‘No thanks, I’ve already had some’ I replied with a laugh.

Aerolineas Argentinas, the worst airline ever.

Looking at the positives though, at least there was enough time for my socks to completely dry and my shoes now had a lovely, truly Colombian aroma, which would serve to remind me of our trip for years to come (or until I throw them away, which will probably be very soon).

After a short overnight stop in BA where we took the chance to catch up with Hayley, the next morning we flew (unfortunately with Aerolineas Argentinas) to Rio de Janeiro!

Anthony Written by: