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Finding tranquility

October 22, 2010

Taganga: After three solid days of rain – we are in the wet season – the skies clear long enough for us to head to the beach. The village suffers the usual symptoms of a popular weekend destination in the developing world: namely, trash. And lots of it. Taganga’s unpaved roads are an obstacle course of green septic-tank overflow streams, plastic cartons, skanky dogs and general filth.

Taganga is lovely under the sun

The village is friendly, though. Kids play on the street – like many poor countries, school is only half-day because with few teachers, space and books, the juniors get taught in the mornings and the seniors in the afternoons.

The people here are a mix of the original inhabitants and migrants from the rest of South America and the world, who threaten to overwhelm them. An Argentinian guy sells woven bracelets on the beach, a Brazilian sells bags, a Frenchman cooks the best filet mignon since Argentina…

The street where we live (yellow house)

There are few non-Colombian tourists, though. Partly, it’s because we’re out of season. Buying fruit juice today, I was told: “Thank you for believing in Colombia”, a reference to the years of violence that meant the country was a no-go for tourists. The violence is resurging here, actually. In the past 2 weeks alone, there have been 3 armed muggings, one with a gun, all in broad daylight, and a rape that led to a revenge shootout.

Air-con bus

The police are nobody’s friends. ‘Searches’ in which officers ‘find’ nicely wrapped packets of marijuana or cocaine are so common that we are told to insist on seeing the open palms of a policeman before any searches. The military, on the other hand, are under orders to not harass tourists, which makes a nice change. Nevertheless, tedious bus stop-and-searches are the norm.

Santa Marta, the nearest town, is where Simon Bolivar met his maker

NGO and government schemes are now helping bin-divers earn from their recycling efforts

An installation in Santa Marta aimed at reducing the rubbish

We take a boat to the neighbouring beach to see if it’s any cleaner. It isn’t, but we pass a pleasant couple of hours there.

We take a boat around the bay

A little girl and her grandpa share a joke

Ice-cream seller wades out to potential customers

Then we decide to travel to the national park for some unspoilt playa. It’s 2 buses and 1.5 hours each way, but worth it – we find paradise. An empty beach (we are the only ones on it), fringed by mangrove and palms, where the water sparkles with flecks of gold from the minerals. And the sun shines. Nick cracks open a coconut for our lunch and we read our books and snooze to the sound of the gentle warm waves.

A properly deserted beach

Nick rests in the shade

It’s so lovely, we return the next day.

Paradise found

Returning each night, I’m glad for the frequent power cuts here that stem the tirade of earsplitting music. We cook for ourselves and eat by candle light. If only the loud firecracker bangs were electrically powered.

Having fun

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