As we were still getting back into the swing of things we decided we'd do ourselves a favor and take the door to door shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta instead of the public bus. It was only an extra 15,000 pesos or so, and we figured it'd be well worth that just for the A/C...as I've mentioned Cartagena is hellishly hot and Santa Marta isn't supposed to be much better.
The ride out was uneventful and relatively prompt (as prompt as 4 hours can be, anyway); all you can really hope for in these instances, and we were dropped in front of La Brisa Loca hostel in SM where we were told there was a room for 1 night only. No worries; it was hot and we could figure out tomorrow, tomorrow.
Bags dropped in Suite #3 we headed for the bar to collect our free 'welcome beers' and to scope the scene. La Brisa Loca is owned by a pair of brothers from Nor Cal and it has a reputation as the party hostel, and we quickly could tell why. There were all types lingering in the bar that afternoon; a few looking like they hadn't left the bar except maybe to pee in days. Others looked to be fighting the world´s most severe hangover. A couple more came strolling in while we were there fresh outta bed... at 3pm. We finished our beers and wandered out for a stroll.
Santa Marta is a nice enough town. It sits on a little bay which is a major port for shipping into and out of Colombia. Locals were swimming at the beach, but the cargo ships were parked only a few hundred meters away and the water looked a little scuzzy so we opted against it. Plus the hostel had a small pool, so after an hour or so of walking we headed back to the sanctity of our A/C room and to scope the pool. It was scuzzy too...so we settled for a shower, some A/C time and then rolled for another frosty one in the bar.
For dinner we tried for the Mexican restaurant next door to the hostel (also owned by the Nor Cal brothers) but it is closed on Sunday and Monday...we were disappointed as we'd heard from friends who'd been here that it was legit. We committed to hanging around Santa Marta 'til Tuesday when it opened and went wandering to find an alternative. It was a struggle as nothing looked good; once you have a good Mexican feed on the brain it seems everything else looks and sounds terrible. Finally we found a decent looking cafe and settled in for a sandwich and pasta. It was pretty good; very good I'd say for Colombian standards, but we were still bitter about Agave Azul being closed. I'll tell ya, it's strange the things you take hard and what you become numb too when traveling as long as we have. Overnight bus ride?Ehhh... We don't bat an eyelash. Close our Mexican restaurant? We'll be pissed off for days.
The next day we packed and moved across town to Cafe/Hostel Aluna. The book (Lonely Planet) says its a slightly more chill, quiet crowd then La Brisa, which was fine with us. It hadn't been too bad the night before at La Brisa Loca, but we definitely heard evidence of the bar raging on late into the night...
That afternoon we went on a hunt for the dive shop that is allegedly in town, but after walking for an hour, we found ourselves at a house in a residential neighborhood; hardly where you'd expect to find a dive shop. We triple checked the address before shrugging and trudging back. We then tried to call them, but couldn't get a good Skype connection. Next we sent an email and then followed it up with a text message giving him the number at the hostel to call us. Surely, any astute business man would recognize us as tourists eager to shell out a few hundred thousand pesos for his services and would promptly be in touch to seal the deal. NOPE! Nothing from him!
We went 'sightseeing' that afternoon and within 30 minutes we'd seen everything and we found ourselves walking along the water. We did a few laps of the waterfront pathway and then watched the sunset before gabbing sandwiches at LuLo for dinner and heading back to the comfort of our Air-Conditioned room.
Day 3 and true to form, by the time I woke up Gina had sniffed out a gym in town and we had dawned our work out gear and were headed out towards the gym before I even knew what hit me. We got our sweat on for a while at the decent gym which is in the decent mall about 30 minutes walk from the hostel and then cruised back and showered, ate breakfast and got into a whole lot more of not a lot. I wrote a blog and Gina put the finishing touches on her updated resume...I guess the sad day when we say good bye to the Pro Leisure Tour and associated lifestyle and slide back into the realites and dulldroms of life with a job is coming up in the reasonably distant future and well, best to be prepared and proactive about these things. To couteract that depressing thought, we headed out for a little happy hour session of our own...cuz well, we´re not off the PLT yet and so we can still have beers at 2pm on a Tuesday, and so we did.
Dinner at Agave Azul was all it was cracked up to be...definitely the best Mexican food we´ve encountered since, well, Mexico. G got down with their fish tacos and I got involved with the carnitas burrito. For good measure, we sampled one each of both their Mojito and Margherita. Both passable...although the Mojito certainly the better executed. A last evening stroll along the water with a quick stop at the frozen yogurt spot and we were ready to call it, on our last night in Santa Marta before we headed out to Taganga to get that diving in.
Santa Marta: for some reason I dont think this is goodbye for good...