Santa Marta, Colombia, claims to be the oldest surviving city in South America. I’m not sure what I expected to see, perhaps European-style buildings, but it wasn’t the combination of modern buildings, crumbling concrete buildings, and gorgeous churches that make up Santa Marta. Here is our first impression upon arrival to Marina Santa Marta.
We sailed all day and night from Cabo de Vela and arrived at the Five Bays the precede Santa Marta right at sunrise. Dave was on watch and woke me up to see the dramatic landscape as it revealed itself in the first morning light.
It didn’t look mostly flat like Cabo de Vela. The mountains came right down to the sea.
Milly swung in close to land to look into the bays.
We heard that this is the one place you can see snow from the Caribbean. We looked, but I’m not sure if that was snow or just clouds.
The sunrise over the mountains was worth waking up for.
And look how green it was! Again, totally unlike Cabo de Vela which was parched desert sand with a little scrub.
Following the shoreline, we watched for Isla El Morro. The guide told us to go between the mainland and El Morro to avoid the shipping channel. Santa Marta is a very busy shipping port.
Coming around the corner we could see where the ships had to go. We had to pass the loading docks to get to the marina.
Then we saw what looked like a very modern city front, which I was not expecting at all. The marina is right in the middle.
Slow Flight was right behind us and we were following Milly. We had to call port control and request permission to enter. Then they assigned us slips to pull into the marina. We settled in the boats and started the check in process into the marina and country. The country check in is complex, takes a long time, and requires using an agent. But as soon as we got our passports back, we were free to go ashore.
The modern buildings were only along the waterfront. As soon as we walked past them, everything changed. Most of the buildings were old, grungy, and crumbling. They looked like they were made of concrete maybe? Whatever they were, they were not well kept. Sewage drained down the street and into the marina and beach. The smell was not pleasant and trash was everywhere. Not a pleasant first impression. This church looked nice but it was in-between not so nice buildings.
The inside of the church was simple, but clean and elegant.
I especially liked the gorgeous stained glass windows.
We stopped into a little hole in the wall café for some breakfast and coffee. They led us through the building into a cute courtyard. We felt totally removed from the bustling city outside.
This was the city outside. Street vendors lined the streets and filled the squares and some walked around selling their wares. Cuban cigars, jewelry, candies, pastries, cigarettes, souvenirs, and all kinds of goods could be purchased on the streets. Road work had streets torn up and maybe some are perpetually broken pavement and dirt. Power lines seemed haphazardly strung. Feral dogs wandered half starved. I guess what I’m describing is a typical third world country.
But Santa Marta had some nice refuges as well. There were several squares, some covered in paver bricks, some with grassy areas. There was not much wildlife in the city: a few pigeons and other birds and skinny little red squirrels.
As we kept walking, we reached another square where everything changed again. The cathedral was beautiful and so were the buildings all around it. This was more like what I was expecting.
I don’t know what the buildings were. I would guess them to be government buildings.
They were lovely, but definitely confined to just this small area.
We stopped into Ouzo, a Mediterranean style restaurant, for some lunch. This family came and sat down and the guy signaled someone to come over, who promptly sat at the man’s feet.
I didn’t know shoe shiners still existed. Besides shiners, there are also shoe repairmen and shoe salesmen on the streets.
People selling their wares spread out a towel or blanket and placed their items on it, lining this street. They sat in front of a wall with a mural that someone was painting on every day.
Different artists painted different parts and signed it.
This guy was painting on this day. Since I took a picture, I tossed some coins in his tip bucket. I loved watching them paint. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, so I am awed by those that do.
This square was pretty colorful at night. How fun. Night life started late with dinner around 8:00 or 9:00 and then partying afterwards. Not us, being dark, it was time to go back to the boat.
This was looking towards the city from our boat. The brightly lit area is a strip mall with a night club with loud music on the weekends. The sound wasn’t too bad inside the boat, especially with air conditioning going. The temperature has been 80-90 something degrees with high humidity, so it was nice to have the a/c. Especially to cool down the boat before going to bed (around 8:30-9:00). Ha! Nothing exciting happened this blog, but next up Dave goes for a four day hike with Milly, Slow Flight, and Blue Moon to Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City!