Saturday, December 3, 2011

Coastal detours to Riohacha

Rolling out of Cartagena on the coastal highway was smooth (they have street signs here! And cities actually number their streets sequentially!). Around 50km out of town, there were a couple of cops telling everyone to take a dirt road detour to the inland road due to contruction along the coast.  A few cars slipped past them, and neither of us were excited to get sent to some sketchy shakedown in the bushes (nor to drive inland rather than on the coast), but away from the coast we went.  About 20 minutes later, we hit the main highway and started looking for a good food option.  We ended up at a little road side stand which had bathrooms, but good thing Jill didn't have to pee - it would've been expensive.

It was another couple of hours to Santa Marta along a not-so-scenic road, but with a few small settlements to break it up.

We decided to crash in Santa Marta, the place of Simon Bolívar's death, instead of trying to get into Tayrona National Park to camp. Even though hotels were fairly expensive in Santa Marta (we found an hospedaje for around US$20), the decision to stay in town ended up saving us a lot of money over a night of camping. Who woulda figured?

Santa Marta was a fine little town, we had heard it was known for tourism, but we wouldn't be in any hurry to return. Only a few streets had anything going on, there were some reasonably priced food options, but along the water things were expensive (as expected) and in town things were mainly closed. Maybe we just hit the bottom of the offseason.

The next morning we planned to get into Tayrona National Park to at least walk around a bit, see the beach, and enjoy a break before making Riohacha.

We didn't make it past the guard house at Tayrona. It was outrageously expensive. Granted, the beaches we've seen in pictures look amazing, but we're talking DisneyWorld expensive:

  • Entry fee:  35,000 Colombian pesos per person
  • Bike entry:  7,000
  • Bike parking: 5,000 per day
  • Camping:  10,000 per person per night (hammock) to 15,000 ppn/nt (tent)
  • TOTAL for 2 people, 1 moto, 1 night camping:  117,000 Colombian pesos
  • That's US$60!  (at least it is somewhat cheaper if you are a colombian citizen)
The ride to Riohacha was especially nice along the coast, and for the beautiful stretch right around Tayrona. 

Mid afternoon we rolled into Riohacha and had some time to kill before meeting up with Carlos, our couchsurfing host, after work.  Food and internet filled the void nicely.

Spending a couple of nights with Carlos in Riohacha was a great time. The first night we were refreshed with sangria, and then went to the best arepa stand known to mankind. It was a small shop on a somewhat residential corner where they cut the arepas down the middle, similar to a pita sandwich, and fill them with whatever ingredients you wanted out of their buffet of around 10 different fillings. Pollo con hongos, chorizo, carne molido, mariscos, camerones, you name it! Mike got all of them in 1 arepa, which was an excellent choice. It still only cost 5,000 Colombian pesos (US$2.50).

(Carlos, Jill, an albino, and Carlos old VW, which apparently used to belong to a prominent member of the Medellín cartel)

The next day was super relaxing and a good chance to talk more with Carlos, watch some movies (always good to see Stop Making Sense again), and take it easy. Fried chicken for dinner at a chain restaurant showed why it's common for it to be served with one plastic eating glove. That stuff was greasy! Also, don't order spicy hot wings when the menu doesn't show it. The employess will point at the wings listed on the menu, tell you that they can be hot, and then charge you 75% more to add a sauce that wasn't even hot. Lame.

That night we had a glass of sangria as a roadie on our way to eat. Carlos was in the process of taking a sip at a stoplight when a moto cop pulled up next to him, asking him what was in the glass. Carlos explained that it was nothing more than a little sangria for refreshment. The cop smiled, had absolutely no problem with the whole situation, and took off down the road. Apparently enforcement of open containers in vehicles is starting to pick up in Colombia, but only to the level of receiving smiles as warnings.

The next morning we took off early, ready to head to Venezuela!

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