Once you’ve got the basic steps and a good partner to lead you around the dance floor you could pretty much get away with looking like you knew what you were doing (well I hope so anyway). It was great fun to be twirled around but there was nothing better than watching the locals in action. Their sense of rhythm and love of dancing spills over from the dance floor to their everyday life and no matter where you explore in Colombia this love for life is contagious.
Cartagena, situated on the northern coast of Colombia, is nicknamed the ‘walled city’. It is a beautiful colonial city where the warmth of the people is mirrored by the earthy tones of terracotta and mustard painted buildings. You could certainly get caught up for days wondering the streets, exploring the colourful local markets and indulging in numerous cups of coffee in the scattered plazas, but trip to Cartagena is not complete without a visit to Playa Blanca.
Playa Blanca, translated as ‘white beach’, is a typical Caribbean paradise and can be reached by boat or overland from Cartagena. A few people I was travelling with took a tour from Cartagena but on review of the costs to get there, four of us decided to find an alternative route to this part of paradise. Looking in the travel guide for directions it simply stated that we could catch a bus from the local market to Playa Blanca! As the only Spanish speaking person in the group, I got the task of checking out the details with the hotel desk. I could see from the look on the manager’s face that he thought we were totally mad… and this is where the adventure began.
Our 90 minute journey involved getting a taxi to an unmarked bus stop and hopping on a bus that we were assured would take us to Playa Blanca. The bus was unique – painted inside and decorated obviously to the bus driver’s taste with a whole lot of tassels. We had just settled in for our journey when the bus driver shouted Playa Blanca. Off we got in the middle of nowhere and followed the tiny hand-written sign, only to land up at a muddy brown river and a whole lot of people standing around waiting. We really hoped that we were going in the right direction, but considering everyone looked like they were dressed for the beach we decided to follow, across the river on the ferry and then along an uneven road.
We were not to be disappointed at the end of this dusty journey as we were greeted by an exquisitely beautiful white, sandy beach and a calm turquoise blue sea. The thought of lying on this gorgeous beach for the rest of the day was my idea of perfect. The beach has been left as natural as possible with no permanent structures, so if you want something to eat, bring your own or just indulge in the local produce of seasonal fruit or freshly caught fish.
Being a small percentage of ‘gringos’ at Playa Blanca we did spark a fair bit of interest and had a constant stream of people coming to say hi, inviting us to join them on water rides and of course the hagglers trying to make a living selling their jewellery and massage services. It turned out to be easier to just accept the massage so we could enjoy the rest of our day in peace.
At the end of this gorgeous day, we were relaxed and sun kissed and ready to tackle our long trip back to Cartagena, which in true South American style took far longer as our bus broke down. However, we got to spend more time with the Colombian people while they entertained us with good music, singing and dancing for the next two hours.
The party mood continued as we ventured outside the walls of the city that evening for dinner. We explored some of the bars with our new friends and had a lesson or two in some new salsa moves…’Un, dos, tres…quatro, cinco, seis…’ continued with the Latin beats into the early hours of the morning.
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South African born Nicole Boys is an avid traveller and marketer who has lived in London for the past 10 years. Nicole’s love of travelling and desire to speak Spanish fluently sent her on an eight month adventure around South America – the above voyage is just one of the many stories she has chosen to share with us.