Reflections on Santa Marta

Published on 22 January 2024 at 22:45

We’ve had a few days in Santa Marta, an amazingly vibrant fun city. Very Spanish feel, really lively and noisy, with music everywhere – from every shop and bus and street vendor. Lots of smily people around, and cheap to eat or drink out (unlike St.Lucia!), the streets are lined with bars and restaurants or markets, and lots of street vendors selling everything you can think of (including cocaine!), and lots of traffic –with overloaded motorbikes everywhere. And the electricity supply is something to behold – wires dangling everywhere, I though Mombasa was bad, this is worse!


We’ve also gone a bit out of town into the surrounding rainforest (you can see from the coast up to mountains that are permanently snow capped - but are several days travel away). We had a pleasant day floating down a river in a tube, being served beer from a floating cool box, watching parrots and howler monkeys in the trees overhead. And we had a spiritual cleansing from an indigenous chief – although it seemed to take him a lot longer to cleanse my spirit than everyone else’s!


We’ve done a bit of history too – apart from Santa Marta claiming to be the oldest city in South Amercia (I don’t know what the Aztecs would make of that claim!) I now know all about Simon Bolivar, the liberator of greater Columbia from the Spanish. Quite a cult hero around here, although I have to confess I’d never heard of him before. Nor did I know that the original greater Colombia also incorporated Venezuela, much of the Guyanas, Ecuador, Panama, and much of Peru – quite a big country!


So it’s all been great, but we do have to remember we’re in Latin America – there is a lot of poverty, especially as you get further from the city centre, and care is needed to stay safe. Two of the crew of another boat were mugged at knifepoint. They were unhurt but obviously shaken, having been attacked by 6 men who rode up on motorbikes. Worse, it was right in front of two policemen who just looked the other way – and when the crew approached them afterwards they said they’d go and have a look, and just cycled off on their pushbikes. One of the crew could track his stolen phone so could see exactly where it was so he went back to the police, who just said it was out of their jurisdiction. Instead of helping they offered to put him in touch with another organisation who may be able to negotiate the return of his phone for a fee, so he could pay to get his own phone back!


We also went to a charity school that helps educate underprivileged children, which was very moving – and a bit shocking that many of the children in their care were rape victims (often having been raped by soldiers from the army) or were orphans whose parents had been killed in fighting. They said the situation is much better than it was 20 years ago, but clearly problems remain, including with the authorities.  


Getting ready to get back to sea now. We’ve been busy with jobs on the boat, and with provisioning up for the next stage of our trip. We have a great system for provisioning with supplies stored in every nook and cranny, and a little black book to record exactly where everything is, updated as we use things, so we always know exactly what we have left and exactly where to find it. Brilliant! Except that we’ve lost the little black book so now have no idea what we have or where to find anything – a rather predictable flaw!


We’re heading to the San Blas Islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast next. We would have been ready to leave tomorrow but have postponed 24 hours because of more gales coming through - it's really windy in the marina right now. And we have a relatively narrow window of departure each day – we will be sailing down the Colombia coast and relatively soon after leaving will pass the outlet of an extremely large river (described to us as "Colombia's Missisippi") which we have been strictly warned not to pass at night – not only will it’s flow affect our course, but after storms such as we’ve just had, it is known for discharging a lot of detritus into the Caribbean, everything from tree trunks to washing machines, which we need to be able to see to avoid!


Off to a leaving dinner now – we’re getting to know most of the other crews really well, there’s a great camaraderie developing, and everyone is incredibly supportive of each other. And a few real characters starting to stand out from the crowd!!

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5 months ago

Brilliant blog Bill - sounds like you’re having a fabulous time. Having the opportunity to experience life off the boat and outside the marina is great - although the mugging sounds horrific! Did they ever manage to retrieve their phone? Scary experience for them. Good luck with your next leg of the journey, and hope you find the little black book!! Sending lots of love Sue xx

5 months ago

Thanks for keeping us updated. My earlier comment about the pace of updates is looking a bit misguided so far. Looks like you’re clocking up plenty of new experiences. Enjoy your next sail.

5 months ago

I’ve just been catching up on all your blogs! It sounds absolutely amazing! Great that you get to see some of the country too. Love the photos and hope you find the little black book. Maybe you could re-inventory (re-inventorise? No sounds too American) all your items when you’re twiddling your thumbs? We’re back from France; miserable weather here. Happily only 6 weeks til we go out again. Good luck on the next leg of the trip. Lots of love xxx

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