A small colonial city looking out to the modern rises of the New City, the Old City of Cartagena is one of Colombia’s major draws. Most tourists come to Cartagena to see the fortress walls, which were originally built to keep out intruders, as well as visit its beaches.
I arrived in Cartagena after spending two additional days in Medellin. The Old City was beautiful and reminded me a lot of Sucre. Because it was oppressively hot, I didn’t do much. Every day I walked around and watched the street performances that were sometimes on.
After three days, I moved onto Santa Marta. Santa Marta itself is a pretty average city but it is popular as a base for the nearby beaches and national park. I visited a lot of different beaches while I was there but they were all pretty ugly. I was a little disappointed as I had imagined that all Caribbean beaches as beautiful with crystal blue water and white sand.
When I first arrived in Santa Marta, I found out about a Full Moon Party that the owner of my hostel was organising. I decided to go as it seemed that a lot of people were going and I hadn’t really had a proper night out in nearly two months.
There was a bit of uncertainty about where we were going to sleep. The party was being held on a remote beach and everyone was told to bring hammocks. But according to the staff, there was a hostel on the beach and a few beds and hammocks would be available. The guys I was hanging out with were confident that we would get beds as two guys from Perth were getting to the beach early to surf so there was a good chance they could get us a room.
I decided to bring a hammock anyway as I already had a heavy duty one. Two weeks ago, I met a guy who caught an Amazon boat from Brazil to Colombia, the reverse trip to the one I am planning on doing. He no longer needed his hammock and offered it to me. As soon as I reached the beach, I was glad that I had brought it as all the beds were booked out and the hammocks the hostel had strung up looked pretty flimsy.
I hung my hammock between two palm trees. It seemed fine but when I later went to sit in it, the rope snapped and I fell backwards. One of the Perth guys offered to fix it and we stood there in the pitch dark for about twenty minutes; I held up a torch while he worked on untying my bad knots. Examining the rope, he told me it was in poor condition and would most likely break again and that I should sleep in his hammock as he wasn’t planning on sleeping.
I didn’t come with high expectations but the party was pretty unspectacular and did not seem particularly well organised. There were lots of people from different hostels but we were spread out over a large area and the music was crap. I sat by the bonfire and talked to people until it was about 4.
I didn’t feel right about taking Zac’s hammock and lay in mine. As soon as I got into it, the rope snapped and I ended back on the ground.
Looking around, I couldn’t see Zac so I took his hammock. At most I got about ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I was pretty comfortable but I think the coke I had done was keeping me up.
After a while, I heard voices and realised Zac’s friend was in the next hammock with an Irish girl. I saw Zac standing nearby talking to two girls and asked him if he wanted his hammock back but he told me to stay. When I looked up again, Zac’s friend and the Irish girl were having sex. They were positioned in such a way that the hammock closed up at the top and it sort of looked like they were in a convulsing cocoon.
At 7, I got up and sat by the bonfire again. The sun had come up, confirming what I had suspected the night before; that this beach was ugly, much like its brother and sister beaches. Most people were also up and there were quite a lot of people still dancing. I’m not sure if anyone was genuinely having fun; earlier in the night, a lot of people had complained that the party was crap and I suspect that most of them were just really fucked up on drugs and alcohol.
Some of the more memorable sights I witnessed that morning: A guy pouring a bottle of rum on a girl’s head; a guy falling to his knees and falling asleep in that position; a guy who persisted on hitting on two girls even though they made it clear that they were not interested. At one point, he actually started kissing one girl’s neck from behind while she was dancing with another guy. If I was her, I would have punched him in the face.
Shortly afterwards, I left with two Swedish girls from my hostel. A pick up service was coming at ten but I really wanted to get off that beach. We walked along a dirt road for half an hour to get to the bus stop. On the way, we passed a lot of little shacks. Some looked very makeshift and basic while others looked more permanent.
One of the girls was walking very fast and it wasn’t long before we lost sight of her. Earlier that morning, I had seen her with Zac’s friend – this was after he had slept with the Irish girl but it seemed like something had happened between them as well so I figured this probably had something to do with her bad mood.
But as soon as we reached the main road, we found that she had passed out. She was lying by the side of the road where a car could have easily hit her. We had to shake her for a minute before she woke up.
When I got back to the hostel, I decided to get a bus south to San Gil that night. My original plan had been to move to Taganga, a nearby fishing village, and spend a couple of nights there. But I realised that I had been moving too slowly in Colombia and would have to speed up if I wanted to have five weeks in Brazil. Checking out of my hostel, I was pretty glad to leave.