Leaving Santa Marta
I’ve officially (barely) survived over 5 weeks in the Santa Marta vicinity–it was a relentlessly hot, beach and sun filled, rum soaked, late nights & early mornings… exhausting, mind numbing, ridiculously fun 5 weeks.
I had a sort of love hate relationship with Santa Marta–on one hand she was hot, noisy, persistent, covered in a gritty coat of dust or grime. She exhausted and de-motivated me. I couldn’t walk 12 ft without someone hustling me, trying to sell me something–fruit, sun glasses, souvenirs–without hearing catcalls, or without sweat dripping into my eyes.
On the other hand she was wild–filled with fun treats to try, characters to encounter, new streets to wander, always something to entertain or amuse me. I found my favorite smoothie venders, coffee shops, beaches. When the sun goes down, Santa Marta turns into a new city–a breeze from the sea cools the city to a comfortable temperature. Previously unnoticed cafes, bars and restaurants emerge.
As the night progresses, so does a slight sense of danger, bringing with it an invigorating little shot of adrenaline. This is not a city you want to wander the streets alone at night with your iPhone and thousands of pesos in your pocket. I heard many stories from backpackers who got hustled, threatened or robbed in the night. There are some shady characters wandering the dark alleys of Santa Marta.
I spent my evenings behind the bar serving strong drinks to chain-smoking Europeans, wild Aussies, vacationing Colombians, a surprising number of Americans, and travelers from all corners of the globe looking to let loose after a Lost City trek, before a trip to Tayrona…
My friday nights were almost exclusively spent enjoying the local night life with my coworkers and new friends–heading to Pachamama in Taganga for Maracuya Mojitos (something so good they shouldn’t exist), dancing the night away on a breezy rooftop overlooking the sea, ending the night chatting with new acquaintances on the hostel rooftop shortly before sunrise.
Come Saturday morning, I’d find it necessary to get away from the craziness for a few nights and head to quieter places. It was the only way I could stay peppy and excited for my job in the service industry–a job in which I did not get paid (in money). The tranquil mountain village of Minca, or the chill surfer camp of Costeno Beach became my relaxing places of refuge.
Looking back, my 5 weeks in Santa Marta were a happy blur–of beaches, cervezas, dancing, nights in the La Brisa bar, afternoons reading on the rooftop, visits to the street juice venders, and time spent with some wonderful people–an actual chance to begin to form friendships and relationships with my fellow bar staff, local volunteers, or other travelers stuck at “Hotel California.” Our conversations ring through my head; our late night roof top heart to hearts, our trips to the beach, our hungover afternoons in the movie room, our nights working the bar together.
For someone wandering alone through the transient traveller world, moments like that are invaluable … And for that reason especially, my memories of Santa Marta have become extra special souvenirs.
After all, once again it has become clear to me–it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.
Sent from my iPod