From Cartagena I took a van transfer to Santa Marta, during which they showed The Revenant. You know, a super chill, easy-to-watch flick for a casual drive…Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I eventually had an awesome time in Santa Marta (I was forced to return, but more on that later). But all in all, Santa Marta leaves something to be desired. It’s dirty, busy, barren, crime-ridden and, like the rest of the coast, hot.
Me and a few others from the sailboat stayed at a hostel we had heard was a lot of fun due to its atmosphere and some wheel-spinning game in the bar. When you get advice from people about where to go and stay or what to do, remember this: consider the source. Apparently the source that had recommended this hostel was a early-20 frat boy whose hobbies include regular bouts with alcohol poisoning, sexual exploitation and feeling culturally enlightened by raging to reggaeton music. Or at least that’s what I’m picturing after one night in this hostel. While attempting to play a game of pool with my friends, thus avoiding the mayhem in the main bar, I was tapped on the shoulder and told it was my turn to spin the wheel. Among other things, spinning the wheel will earn you the opportunity to do one of the following:
- Flash your tits/junk
- Make out with a stranger
- Take a shot out of someone’s crotch (and you have to pay for that shot)
- Etc. etc.
When I politely declined DIS BITCH went and told on me… to the bartender. As if we were children and I said “I don’t wanna play on your dummy dummy dodgeball team.”
“Come on girl. Play by the rules,” urged the bartender. “Either you spin the wheel or you take the penalty shot.” (The penalty shot involves you snorting a line of salt, squirting lime in your eye and slamming tequila). “You HAVE to.”
“Actually, I don’t HAVE to do anything, so you can just piss off.”
And that’s what’s awesome about traveling. If you want to get a little crazy, you absolutely can and no one will fault you for it. Ooooorrrr if you’d like to just drink a beer and play pool with your friends you can do that as well. So let’s just agree to both reserve judgment, shall we bartender? Because thanks to your little game I’ve seen your junk and it’s nothing to brag about.
The next morning, after a fairly sleepless night (it’s difficult to drift off when you’re laying in a pool of your own sweat), I scavenged around the town looking for a cafe or restaurant with AC, looking very much like a woman lost in the desert, frantically searching for water. But there was none to be found. The whole town is just hot. You have to succumb to it. And this is coming from someone who likes, even LOVES, to be hot. But I WANTED to like Santa Marta. I WANTED to make the best of it and have fun. And saying “this sucks” out loud isn’t going to help a thing, but it was like trying to force a smile on the surface of the sun.
“This is…. niiiiiice…. Oh, I’m sweating blood? I’ll just dab that up a bit. Nothing like some vitamin D, eh?“
Ok, enough of the negativity. Here are the redeeming qualities of Santa Marta: the people I was with (all legends), the new friends I made thanks to a friend back home who put us in touch (shout out to Mateo, Henry Ford and Ry-Guy), and the arepas at Lulo.
Apparently Lulo is famous for their ceviche, but I have zero regrets about the CHEESE-FILLED arepas I had there. Arepas are sort of like really thick, chewy corn tortillas. You usually find them in the form of street food in Colombia, but they’re on menus at restaurants as well (typically served as a side). They’re usually pretty basic and can be a bit of a gut bomb, but the churched-up arepas at Lulo were practically unrecognizable from those that are usually grilling on the streets. First off they were filled with cheese. Did I mention this before? It deserves at least two mentions. Then they were topped with heaping piles of your choice of seafood, grilled steak, veggies – you name it. I went there twice in the 2.5 days I was in Santa Marta.
Eventually Julie and the Swiss boys headed off in other directions, but I was luckily able to meet back up with the three Aussies: Allissa, Ned and Zane. We were all gritting our teeth and barring it for the sake of having a good attitude, but I think we were pretty much on the same page when it came to Santa Marta. We opted to grab a taxi (two to be exact since Ned was toting around his surfboard) and headed up and over the hill to Taganga and greener pastures. But we hadn’t gone quite far enough… not yet, anyway.