Friday, September 4, 2009

Sevilla in Santa Marta

Yes, I lie. And just like when with a group of 20-something backpackers I am 28 years old (end of story), my name when receiving unwanted attention from locals (mostly men) is now "Sevilla". It's a good one, don't you think? First of all, it's more easily pronounced around here than my real name; second, it offers a degree of anonimity; and mostly, I just love the way it sounds. So exotic.

So La Blancita Sevilla now finds herself in Santa Marta, staring at the biggest bowl of fruit salad I have ever seen in my life. Papaya, pineapple, banana and watermelon drenched in fresh yogurt and granola: Colombians certainly know what to do with fruit. Last night for dinner I had sliced mango from a street vendor and an ice cold beer at La Puerta bar. See how much fun it is to be a non meat-eater?

It feels great to have finally reached the coast, and the very long bus journey to get here was well worth it. Here in Santa Marta I am seeing some major contrasts to the pretty, organized city life in the interior. This is Caribbean territory: dusty, hot, chaotic streets packed with people and kids and dogs and construction projects, this town moves fast and slow at the same time. Although the city is apparently building up quite quickly, with big plans in the works to attract more visitors, there remains that chilled-out vibe typical to any beach town. I have noticed here some obvious disparities in income and maybe a lower standard of living than I have so far seen around Colombia. But again, it's nothing like the desperate, painful poverty I have witnessed elsewhere in the world. It's more like living contentedly within one's means - along a very long stretch of beautiful sandy shore. Not exactly awful.

This morning I took myself for a jog and swim along this beautiful sandy shore, introducing myself as Sevilla to the few folks who wanted to chat and cheer me on as I ran. I thought I might get this kind of attention as the only gringa jogging, but within minutes it was happily stolen from me: this kid, no more than 17 years old and clad only in tight little swim trunks and his MP3 player, took to the middle of the beach as though it were a stage, and started to dance. And I mean, DANCE! He was outrageous. Thrusting and grinding and shimmying and shaking - he looked like a backup dancer in a Janet Jackson video. Or Shakira's number 1 fan (she is Colombian, by the way). Literally everyone on the beach just stopped and stared - we really couldn't help it - and a group of giggly teenage girls nearby did their best to copy his every move. He either didn't notice or didn't care: he just kept on shaking it. It was quite a show, and I was glad someone took away all the attention!

I have been here for less than 2 days, but feel I have done and seen enough in this town. There are some Must See places close to Santa Marta, like stunning national parks and rewarding cultural hikes, but I am just not in the mood to see them. I am quite tired of being on the Gringo Trail and going where all the other travelers go. And anyway, I am itching to get to Cartagena (remember Romancing the Stone?), a city I expect to be beautiful and fun and full of things to do.

In addition to doing my laundry, feeding me this gorgeous fruit salad, and generally looking out for me, the wonderfully helpful owners here at Casa Familiar in Santa Marta have arranged a shared vehicle of sorts that will take me door-to-door (a four hour journey) to my next stop right in the center of Cartagena. As much as I don't mind the buses (see previous post) this will be a welcome and convenient way to travel.

And so, Sevilla goes to Cartagena... until then!

Inside Casa Familiar

Fabio and granddaughter Melanie, the management team at Casa Familiar

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