On our last full day in Santa Marta we decided to check out Taganga, a once sleepy fishing village about 15 minutes away. We had not heard very good things about Taganga from other travellers and locals. In the last few years it has apparently turned into “gringo town” and been overrun by backpackers, which brought with it an escalated crime rate. Bret was a little hesitant but I had to see what all the fuss was about. If all these travellers were flocking there, it had to be for a reason.
We set off on our adventure of riding the local bus and made it to Taganga (in 45 minutes, not the 15 we were told) without any drama (always a relief). As we made our way around the final bend and descended into the small fishing town, I was blown away. I could instantly see the attraction of this town and why it is now overflowing with foreign tourists. The bay was lined with colorful fishing boats leaving a small section of the beach free to lay out in the sun and swim in the crisp waters.
Off the beach is roughly a ten block radius of hostels, small stores and cute cafes serving everything from fish to Italian to the popular fixed Colombian meals consisting of your choice of chicken or beef with rice, fries and salad. Being the budget conscious travellers we are trying to be, we ate before we left our hostel and chose to find a chill looking bar on the beach and enjoy a few ice-cold Club Colombia’s.
Once we had our fill on beers, we made our way to the beach to lay out, enjoy the sun and go for a swim. It was a very relaxing afternoon, escaping the hustle of Santa Marta and a nice way to wrap up our time in that area. Unfortunately, because of the stories we had heard of muggings in broad daylight, we decided not to take our camera with us and sadly don’t have any pictures of Taganga.
The next day it was time to move on again. We had an overnight bus booked from Santa Marta to Medellin at 6:30pm. This allowed us time to enjoy one last day in the sunshine, chilling poolside at the lovely Dreamer hostel.
We arrived at the bus station with double the recommended time before the bus left and handed over the vouchers we had purchased from the hostel. The guy behind the counter asked for our passports and being the cautious travellers we are, handed over our US drivers licenses instead. That’s when the confusion began. He looked at my license, brought something up on the screen in front of him and had a perplexed look on his face. He then called over what we assumed was his supervisor. The supervisor grabbed both licenses and immediately got on the phone. Afer about ten minutes waiting at the counter with a short explanation in Spanish we were asked to go around to the back and wait in their private seating area. All we picked up on from the Spanish was “no problema”.
No problem? Why were we being sent to the private area with no tickets and no ID while other people were checking in, getting their tickets and getting on the bus? I was not happy. I tried to tell myself everything was fine. But of course I would start to analyze the situation again. Why do they still have our IDs? Why don’t we have our tickets? Why is the guy still on the phone? What the f&%$ is going on!? Ten minutes passed, no tickets, no explanation. Twenty minutes passed, still nothing. Thirty, forty minutes passed, and we were now about ten minutes from when the bus was supposed to leave. Of course with our non-existent Spanish, we couldn’t simply ask what the problem was or if there even was a problem?
Thankfully, a girl from Belgium came into the room to charge her phone and she spoke Spanish. She helped us out by asking one of the staff members about our tickets and then explained that everything was fine and they were printing our tickets now. At the same time another couple from the hostel we were staying at arrived at the counter and seemed to be having problems as well. After a little more waiting, we finally got the okay to leave the waiting area and were handed our tickets and IDs and were off on the bus!
We’re still not sure why it took almost an hour to get our tickets but put it down to the fact that we purchased the voucher from the hostel and not directly from the bus company. We also decided then and there that we need to learn more Spanish and quickly!
The 16 hour bus ride was surprisingly uneventful and not as rough as I had been expecting (it is probably because I chose where we sat). We watched a cheesy movie in Spanish about some guy who goes on vacation with his wife and spends the entire time trying to cheat on her. The bus was pretty comfy with seats about twice as wide as those on airplanes and that reclined almost all the way back. The bathroom on the bus was respectable but trying to use it while the bus was in motion, in the dark, using my iPod for light was rather challenging. Turns out there was a light in there, you just needed to lock the door for it to come on.
We both managed to get some sleep and before we knew it the sun was up and we were only five hours from Medellin.