Weeks 14/15: To Santa Marta & beyond...June 16, 2017 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C
Within an hour of arriving in Colombia, me and Maycon were sat in a bar in Cucuta watching the epic champions league final. We drank colombian beer and ate home cooked food, but paid in pesos at over 5 times Venezuelan price, something I would have to get used to. I also used an ATM for the first time in months and we went to the bus terminal to by tickets for the night-bus to Santa Marta (North Colombia). I was suprised to find out that the journey cost so much; 80,000 pesos (around $30), when in Venezuela the same journey would cost over 10 times less (around $2). However, I was further suprised to find out the bus had reclining sears, air conditioning, wifi, and a toilet, which was lucky for me as I spent the next 16 hours on and off the bumpy toilet with diarrhoea.
After an unpleasant ride and not much sleep, we arrived in Santa Marta on Sunday morning. Maycon headed to nearby Minca, a town up in the mountains, and I stayed in a hostel in the city to explore and organise Spanish lessons. The sunset over the carribean viewed from Santa Marta is incredible, and it's also great to see so many people out after dark; another thing I'm not used to from Venezuela. However, this place is also PACKED with tourists and backpackers, which is different, but not necessarily a bad thing. The central squares and the seaside liven up at night, there are many restaurants, bars, even casinos, and plenty of tourists to go around...
On Tuesday I had my first Spanish Lesson with Elsa, a lovely woman and qualified spanish teacher. We had an intensive 3-hour private lesson with all the conversation in Spanish, but it went really well and we organised to do one every morning for a week. At the same time, I'd found a great workaway in a fancy hostel in Rodadero (the touristic beach town south of Santa Marta), where I would volunteer for a week and stay for free. My daily routine would be to leave the hostel at 8am to catch the 'around the hills' bus to Santa Marta, for my 3 hour spanish class at 9. Then I would return to the hostel by 1 to 'volunteer' working as handyman, painter and repairs. After around 5 hours work I would go to the beach for the incredible sunset and steet-food, before returning to the hostel to study spanish 'homework' for the next days class. This would usually take 3 hours, before falling asleep and waking up early to do it all again.
I make it sound like hard work but really I had a great time and met so many different people around the hostel, and I was learning and speaking spanish FAST. The work in the hostel was easy, and the location ideal for everything I needed. On a day off I climbed up to the top of the hills separating Rodadero and Santa Marta, and I arrived at the peak just after sunrise at 5.30. The views were incredible; The sky was perfectly clear and colourful. I could see out over the two coastal cities, with the beaches all around the bright blue carribean sea, and the tallest coastal mountains in the world as the backdrop. It was one of the best sunrises I've ever seen.
I stayed in Rodadero a little longer than planned; I took a few extra spanish lessons, worked in the hostel a couple extra days, and then stayed at the managers house while I figured out my next workaway. I also took a trip to Taganga (a fishing village) and playa grande for walking and sea-kayaking, before I finally headed to Santa Marta to meet Hanna, and toik a bus to the incredible place I would live and volunteer for the next 2 weeks. My welcome was to walk shoeless through a river before an uphill walk in the pouring rain in dense humid jungle, and I loved it...Read more