Midnight Swims in Playa Blanca
Cartagena is a mecca for tourists visiting Colombia and as a result there are millions of touts hard selling day trips to Playa Blanca, a beautiful beach on the Isla de Rosario. Everything we’d heard about these tours sounded like an overpriced, padded out waste of time. Still wanting to see what sounded like a lovely beach, we decided to stay the night instead and get out there the way the locals did it; via a small boat at the market outside the city centre. Misled by Lonely Planet’s assertion that there were several boats a day, with the last leaving at 9am, we got up at the crack of dawn to ensure an early departure. We found a boat, confirmed our destination and boarded, assuming an imminent departure.
With such stunning views, who WOULDN’T want to spend several hours in an uncomfortable boat looking at this?
The scenic sight of rubbish strewn everywhere, the smell of dead fish and having to say ‘No gracias’ to the constant stream of vendors every two seconds or so very quickly loses its novelty factor. The crucial detail that Lonely Planet had so helpfully gotten wrong was that there was ONE boat which left at 9am, which meant we sat there in an agonisingly slow time warp, waiting for the boat to fill up, our legs and bums already cramping many minutes before the 1.5 hour journey begun. If I learnt nothing else from three months in South America, NEVER sit on the aisle of the boat. You won’t have proper leg room and the weird positions you are forced into cause staggering amounts of pain. For the rest of my time on boats in South America, I had no hesitation in racing to ensure I got a seat in the middle of the boat instead.
But it was all worth it
After the longest time – like I’ve said before, travelling in South America requires a large dose of patience – we FINALLY pulled out…only to come back to the harbour within 2 minutes for another indeterminate amount of time’s wait. Once we had actually got on our way, we were absolutely delighted to see storm clouds in the distance. The beginnings of the afternoon were overcast but it luckily cleared up after not too long, and with the journey appearing to finally be on its way to completion, our moods were all restored.
It’s a tough life
We found hammocks, directly on the beach, for 7000 pesos (NZD$4) and set about reading, swimming and enjoying beach life. We ate at a restaurant along the beach and grouped up with 2 Canadians who Bea recognised as her cocaine-addled roomates from her La Paz, Bolivia hostel. We sat chatting on the sand, drinking rum and all aware when we headed back to the real world, we would think happily back to nights like this. The night finished with a midnight swim in the ocean, which was still warm and clear. We fell asleep in our swinging hammocks, slightly giggly with fear about the sounds of an animal trampling around in the bush.
If we’re drinking pina coladas out of coconuts on a Colombian beach, it must be Tuesday
We had the morning to carry on with our sun, swim and book program and had a delicious hamburger after tramping up and down the beach trying to find some decently priced food. Both Team Beatrice and the Canadians were running low on cash and concerned about running out (Playa Blanca, being nothing but an island beach, has no ATMs) although at least we weren’t as bad off as the Canadians, who only at the last minute realised that paying for a beer to accompany their lunch would mean they wouldn’t be able to pay for lunch.
Hammocking it all over Colombia
Commandeering a boat back, which thankfully left straight away, we waved goodbye to idyllic Playa Blanca and had one last night in Cartagena, set and ready for our next big adventure early the next morning: the road to Turbo.
Hasta luego Playa Blanca!