• Dan Hilden

Aimless in Colombia Part III: The Northern Coast

Lyndsey and I went to Colombia’s Caribbean coast because neither of us had sat on a beach doing nothing in a very long time. We rented a rustic palm-frond roofed cabana in a beachside fishing community. Next door was a little restaurant and bar that served fresh-caught fish, shrimp, and lobster, and in front of that sat an ancient man with a cart of coconuts, who, when handed four pesos would pull out his machete and nimbly hack a coconut into a shape suitable for use as a drinking container, poke a straw through the thin membrane that he avoided cutting through on the top of the nut, and hand it over. Once drank, he would split it in half so that you could eat the flesh. He hardly ever said a word and seemed perfectly content staring off into the crashing waved from dawn until dusk every day. The weekend brought picnicking families from the nearby city of Santa Marta, and fishermen who would fish using just spools of fishing string, hooks, and bait, sometimes wading so far out that they were neck-deep before swinging the tackle overhead and then tossing it as far as they could.

The place was idyllic, but honestly, beach sitting isn’t really our thing. We were restless for activity beyond walking up and down the beach and were absolutely tortured by sandflies. Still, the people were nice, the seafood was good, and we got to see a kind of place and a way of life that we rarely had before.

We headed back to Santa Marta, the big, gritty city that, for outsiders, is just a junction along the road from Cartagena to the Tayrona National Park or other beaches to the east, or south to the jungle ecotourism town of Minca. We spent a night in Rodadero, a suburb of Santa Marta, since we would be flying from there to Medellin. Rodadero, while theoretically safer than Santa Marta, was loaded with aggressive hawkers trying to get gringos to go into their restaurants or sign up for tours. Around sunset, we happened upon the wildly crowded beach and ended up having a pretty good time people watching, listening to live music, and eating street food. If you happen to be stuck in Santa Marta on a weekend, this is worth checking out.

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