Shopping in Santa Mart is kind of fun. We have found the city is divided into specialty districts. So far, we have found clusters of specialty stores for hardware, auto parts, bicycles, furniture, mattresses, fabrics and even flowers. We are not use to so many choices. It has been a while since we docked on the mainland. Islands often have what we might need but choices are usually very limited. We are now joking with other sailors we meet in the marina that might need a part. Oh, you need some rope. You need to find the rope district in Santa Marta.
There is an area in town which is sort of a wholesale zone referred to by the locals as the market. We learned there is an initiative by the city to spruce up this area to attract more tourists. They have quite a bit of work to do. We found a shop that sells nothing but eggs. We also found a store selling shoelaces. In this same area were several butcher shops side by side. Beef in Colombia is remarkably inexpensive. We have purchased rib-eye steaks for about US$2.00 per pound (3.84€/kilo). Guess what Cream Puff’s freezers will be loaded with when we leave here. The market area might be a little hard core for some as it would be considered industrial. Busy is the word to best describe the market.
There is a huge flower market conveniently located across from the big cemetery. Almost the entire block is about vendors selling flowers. I guess if you are in need of flowers for Valentine’s Day, you can kill two birds with one stone and visit a dead relative whilst there in the area.
We have found the best place to buy fresh produce is on the street. Many of the vendors are a retail outlet for local farmers. We read this tidbit in one of the Santa Marta guides and now find it to be very true. The basics are much fresher from the street vendors verses there department or grocery stores. There is a small part of me that would rather help a street vendor than shop in the store. So long as the product is fresh and the price is fair, they have our business.
Regardless of where our walkabouts take us, we see street vendors. Recently we watched an entire market be erected on the beach for the holiday shopping. Within a few days, the market was open and busy. We are thinking this might be an annual event. It struck me as interesting that the guys doing the work in the booths were wearing blue jeans. Have I mentioned how hot it is here? For the life of me, I just cannot imagine wearing blue jeans in this heat, let alone doing laborious work in them.
Santa Marta is our first exposure to South America and Colombia. I have really been impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit of the people living here. No matter where we go, someone is selling something. I know this annoys some tourists but I tend to admire anyone trying to make a little extra money. The people are so creative in their approach and are not in the least bit put off. They will try to sell a hat to a man wearing a hat. They will pitch sunglasses to a person already wearing some. Location is also very key. Rosary beads are hocked outside of the church, flowers across from the cemetery and towels at the beach. If there is an opportunity for a few pesos to be had, someone here has already thought of it. The only time it bothers me a little bit is when we are eating at a restaurant at an outside table and we are approached.
We were recently at dinner and a teenage man approached us trying to sell Venezuelan money. Venezuelan money is pretty much worthless so I have no idea what his shtick entailed. We ever so politely told him we were not interested in our very poor Spanish. Being a good salesperson he approached the next table. A conversation started with the three ladies seated there. The next thing I saw was him sitting at their table in the fourth seat. I really wish I could have heard what he was taking about as they were all very involved in the conversation. The waiter, with a big tray of plated food on his shoulder, approached the table and began the process of matching meals to the diners. He then realize there was a fourth person at the table, a peddler. Waving his arms, the waiter chased away the teenage young man and his Venezuelan money. I think he told the ladies not to encourage the vendors. For a little while, I thought the youngster might get a meal. Busted!
It hasn’t rained in Santa Marta since our arrival here a few weeks ago. This is the dry season. Ooh boy, is it dry. There is a lot of dust in the air blowing down off the mountains and Cream Puff is filthy. It would be nice to have some rain but this is one of those situations where we have to be careful about what we wish for. With rain comes humidity. If we add an additional element to the already hot temperatures, it will be sweltering. Because of the holiday season, quiet a few Colombians travel to Santa Marta. It is considered a quaint seaside town. The restaurants have become more crowded and believe it or not, we are seeing even more street merchants.
The winds here have been howling the past few days. This kicks up even more dust. We often see gusts into the 45 mph range (70 kph). The winds are especially strong at night making it fun to sleep. There is a fine line between being gently rocked to sleep and bounced out of bed. Cindy and I were counting our blessings a couple of days ago thinking we are glad we arrived here when we did. Although our passage form Aruba was a little bumpy, it would be nothing compared to the conditions over the past few weeks. Any sailor in the ABCs at this point looking to sail westward is pacing the dock wondering when the winds will die. The long range forecast shows little improvement. Although Aruba wouldn’t be a bad place to be stuck, we are glad we are here and have that passage behind us. There were a couple of good weather windows behind the one we used but nothing lately. On the bright side of things, all the mosquitoes have been blown to Panama.
Speaking of Panama, the marina has quite a few sailors looking at the weather trying to get west. I hear conversations like, “It might be gale force winds right now but it’s a little gale”. Times like this makes me really appreciate how we chose to travel. We travel slowly and wait for good weather or at least a forecast of good weather. A couple of sailors we talked to have itineraries. They expect to be making a Panama Canal transit by such-and such a day or they have guests arriving on a certain date somewhere further down the road. We expect to go through the canal someday but it’ll happen when we get there. We are in absolutely no hurry.