After a late start in Santa Marta, we ate some breakfast and packed it up. We would be embarking on the easiest travel day we could possibly encounter, Santa Marta to Taganga, 10 minutes down the road.
We made our way out to the main road to flag down a van heading east. Van after van flew by without so much as a glance in our direction. The temperature read 40 degrees Celcius and the humidity had to be hovering in the 95-96% region. That coupled with the blazing sun and heavy packs made the wait pretty awful. But sooner or later an available van rolled up and we heaved our bags up and in our laps for the sticky, but thankfully short ride to Taganga.
We were dumped in Taganga on the desert-like, hot, dusty, main dirt-road in town without a clue of the direction to our hostel for the night, as the address system is better than Costa Rica, but not by much. Lucky for us after three unsuccessful strolls down the same street a kind local woman with two adorable children took pity on us and began helping us. She asked around to see if anyone knew where Ocean Reef guesthouse was... No one knew. And why would they? The town has all of about 600 people occupying it.
Eventually a random stumble along a dried up creek and up a dirt path led us to Calle 17 where we found the Ocean Reef. Now, she ain't much to look at, this is true. White painted metal bars, a dried barren back garden, barking dogs roaming around comprised the finer points of the outside. While our room was made up of concrete white walls, a plywood bed, no windows, and one harsh florescent light with no cover. That being said, the A/C cranked and the cable TV had two english speaking channels: Fox Life= s***ty reality programing like "Million Dollar Listing" and Discovery Investigation = reality murder mystery reenactment programs... sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. So I was stoked.
We ventured out into the heat despite our better judgement in search of a quality dive shop, as we had decided this would be our last opportunity to dive until next year, most likely. Targanga is a bit of a scuba hotspot as it is the cheapest place to get certified in the world.
Our first stop was Calipso Diveshop. We walked up and were instantly greeted by an overly excited, but very friendly Aussie kid named Fish. He told us all about the virtues of diving in Taganga and with this particular dive shop, and even tried to sell us into getting advanced training. The diving was to take place in Tayrona National Park, which we wanted to check out anyway, plus he was a nice guy and I appreciated their conservation work, so we signed up for a 2 tank fun dive.
After wrapping up our conversation with Fish, we fled to the nearest tienda for two ice cold Aguilas each and then slowly slogged our way back to our prison cell and fell into a sweaty heap as the blessed a/c blasted us.
We spent the hottest hours of the afternoon happily drinking our Aguilas and watching the crackpot forensic teams miss TOTALLY obvious murder clues on the Discovery Investigation channel.
It wasn't until we were 100% sure the sun had gone down that we dared to venture out into the world. We dined on some local comidas rapido and had a couple more Aguilas, not too many as we were diving in the morning, and by 9:30pm we were back in our cell, lights out.
In the morning, we were up at 7:00am, Little exercise, quick breakfast, and at the dive shop by 8:00am. We got all our gear together and sat around for a while, but soon had gear in hand, wetsuit on and were heading for the boat.
The boat was a 20 person capacity and we had exactly 20 people, plus scuba and snorkel gear for all. It goes without saying we were low in the water. When we finally got to the boat, it was another inexplicable wait of about 20 minutes, which wasn't bad as we got talking to some Aussie guys to pass the time. The boat had two 75 horsepower engines, so when we finally started to move, we really started moving. Adrian and I were packed in the back right next to the captain of the boat. All was fine until we turned out of the first cove and into the open water. The waves were IMMENSE and ferociously crashing into our little boat and tossing it every which way. And every time the wave crashed a deluge of seawater drenched us. Needless to say it was a looooong 45 minutes out to the dive site.
We first landed at this beach shack that had been converted to a bit of a hostel for the divers wanting to do multiple days. It was located right on the beach the third or fourth bay from Taganga. It was comprised of an outhouse, a small dark wooden structure for cooking, and another open-plan structure with about a dozen hammocks strung up as the sleeping quarters. Looking around me all I see is sand, water, and a whole lot of wooded area, which to me screams sand flies, mosquitos, and lots and lots of unpleasant critters creeping and flying around these hammocks at night. I am happy with my jail cell, Thank you very much!
We could tell from the start this was going to be a chiiiiill day, with absolutely no schedule to keep, so we relaxed and kicked it on the beach for about 45 minutes before we were called to the boat. We went across the bay toward the rocks on the other side, and put on the rest of our gear.
The water was colder than I expected for it being so ridiculously hot outside, and the clarity was certainly no Cozumel, but the dive was fun. We saw some HUGE moray eels that sort of, kind of scared the crap out of me. We also saw several huge and overfed Lionfish, which are both dangerous and invasive. They were some how introduced from Indonesian waters and are wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem. Beyond that it was very healthy looking coral and your run-of-the-mill fish.
After the first 45 minutes down there, I was ready to warm up. We pulled a plot of sand and were quickly warm, dry, and in a heavenly state of relaxation.
After about 30 minutes in this zen-like state, we were summoned for lunch: Freshly grilled tuna steaks, white rice, and salad... Not half bad. I tried to finish quickly, however, because I was quickly cooling down again in the shade.
Another hour or so passed in a warm sandy bliss. Like I said, chill. No schedule to keep. But by 2:30pm or so we rallied ourselves out of lethargy, put our wetsuits on again and took another plunge into the deep blue. This dive was sort of more of the same, but better clarity and warmer water.
After another 60 minutes or so we were back on dry land, waiting for instruction on when we would be heading back. Of course, no rush. It was close to 5pm before we were all on board for the wet and wild ride back.
After we arrived back in Taganga, we thanked Fish and our Divermaster Omar, and headed back to our spot for much needed showers.
After our showers and post dive cerveza, the day really started taking it's toll on me. Although, I was famished, for the life of me I couldn't muster the energy to walk into town, however, after another 30 minute pep talk I was able to pry myself up and head into town.
We decided on BBQ that evening, beef skewers and beer for Adrian and grilled white fish and vodka cranberry for me. They both came with delicious salads, and it felt like healthy eating for a change.
The problem was I could barely keep my eyes open through dinner. So though it was a Friday night and 'Sensations' dance club was going off, I just didn't have the energy and so for the final evening we retired once again to our cell.
In the morning, it was another hostel room workout for us followed by coffee and breakfast.
At 12pm, we checked out of our great $26/night room and made our way to the side of the dirt road, where we stood, once again hot and sweaty with our backpacks, waiting for the next van to take us to the next town.
One more night in Santa Marta and we would be escaping the heat to the mountains of San Gil. Cannot wait!