Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Road trip to Santa Marta

We hired a car for a week to get about the area a bit more and one of the first spots we made for was Santa Marta. We could have sailed straight there from Aruba but elected to sail past and stop at Puerto Velero instead so a road trip there to see what we missed was in order. It's not the easiest of journeys as you have to find the ring road around Barranquilla which is very busy and driving in Colombia is interesting to say the least! The road to Santa Marta is littered with speed traps so we figured if we tucked ourself in behind one of the many mini buses going there, who obviously know the road and the cameras then we would be ok. This plan worked well. The road trip enabled us to experience the poverty in Colombia which is not evident when you come in by sea.

The road on the way was littered with large bins for the delivery of water and we saw many people transporting water from this in any receptacle they could find to move it to their homes which were often no more than very small wooden sheds. The overwhelming memory for me though was rubbish ...many of the homes were in what can only be described as a sea of plastic litter and assorted rubbish. We are very fortunate and the sight of how these people live and still smile was a very strong reminder for me.

Santa Marta on the other hand is a city that has developed around the port but also the mineral resources in the outlying area. It is an attractive city with quite a history. We visited the gold museum, a fascinating place setting out the history of the area very well and with an English translation.....and it was free. Some of the decorative gold pieces , earrings, nose rings, necklaces and breast plates were beautiful. Not unsurprisingly there were quite a lot of guards in the museum!

We decided to leave early enough so that we would not have to go around the dreaded Barranquilla ring road in the dark. The road for quite a long way is one lane and the large trucks that ply up and down the road along with the speed cameras can slow you down. We found ourselves dawdling behind one of the trucks unable to get around him for a good few miles....until John saw his chance and took it....ignoring the two unbroken yellow lines in the centre of the road. The joy of a clear road in front of us soon disappeared when two traffic policemen waved us down and asked John to get out of the car....! I stayed in the car scrambling around for our documents to show them. The two policemen started rattling off John's offence in Spanish to which John replied ' no hablo  Espanol' I'm not sure they actually believed him until we showed them his passport. John stuck with his favourite phrase all through the conversation and it clear that the policemen were getting a little frustrated as most of their conversation now was ' no hablo Ingles!' They kept smiling though as they indicated to John that he had committed a moving traffic offence by overtaking on an unbroken yellow line and one of them gestured that perhaps this could be solved by crossing their palms with a little denario.....but at times John can play dumb with the rest of them as he just kept repeating his favourite one liner ....' No hablo Espanol! ' after five minutes or so the traffic policemen smiled, laughed and left empty handed and we were on our way...Phew!!

We got to Barranquilla as the sun was setting and eased our way around the ring road....if it wasn't for the fact that I was navigating I would have had my eyes closed for most of that trip but just when I was relaxing a little more on the two lane highway to Puerto Velero I noticed in the darkness a shape up ahead .....we were sharing the road with a skateboarder! No lights but skating down the hill taking his life in his hands! The end to quite a journey home!

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