Friday, January 29, 2010

The beach life and the rich planet




Heading the call of the Caribbean, we took a nauseatingly slow boat to nearby Playa Blanca. Knowing it is the end of the Colombian holiday season, we knew we would be there for only a few days - just long enough for our skin to turn brown. We walked a half mile down the long white beach to the quiet end where the day trippers did not go. (Strangely, the Colombian tourists that flocked to the beach on day tours would not venture far. Disembarking the boat, they would sit and eat and drink frantically, talking joyfully with wide gestures of the arms. Wading into the water in large groups, they would snap pictures and drink aguardiente - an anise-flavored liquor that seems to be the national past time and is quite tasty - from plastic shot glasses. They stayed packed together tightly, even strangers, out of what? - an evolutionary sense of survival like a school of fish?)

We set up our tent about 20 feet from the tide at a sweet little place run by a sweet round woman known as Mama. It was perfect - rolling out of bed with the sun rising over the hills, swimming in the morning’s calm sea, taking long walks on the beach, and escaping the scorching sun for most of the day under our palm-thatched roof, swinging in the hammock and just slowing down… We brought fruits and veggies and ate giant plates of fish with fried plaintains and coconut rice. Mmmmm, pez sierra… But after a few days we were ready to take a shower and head to cooler climes.

The bus ride from Cartagena to Medellin is 13 hours. Agreeing for Tamara’s sake to forgo overnight buses, we weren’t sure where to break up the trip. There are no tourist destinations on the way. (Internet research turned up an alligator farm 30 minutes from the highway, but not much else.) And so it was with an only somewhat pleasing uncertainty that we woke up one morning and decided to head to the bus station not knowing exactly where we were going. As the clock ticked to the next bus departure towards Medellin, we decided to stop in a town called Planeta Rica. The most likely reason - it’s name: rich planet.

And it was a nice place to spend the night. On Playa Blanca, the surge of tourism seemed to sour the attitude of all but the most patient and open-hearted locals. But here in this small town that surely saw tourists only rarely, the famous friendliness of Colombians was clear. Que amable! We spent the evening in the town park, snacking on street food while Paul drank a cold beer (aaah the glory of a cold beer in the warm evening!), Tamara slurped passion fruit and getting chatted up by everyone from the baker (pushing warm, doughy buñuelos into our palms) to the jolly chubby guy manning the fried food cart ’El Colesterol’.

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