This past week we extended our Colombian visas. This means we have been here for about ninety days. The itch to get moving again is starting to flare up but we’ll not scratch it just yet; soon, but not just yet. We are still really loving Colombia and the people here. Also, the longer we wait, the better the weather conditions become for our trip to Panama and exploration of the San Blas islands. The cruising guides tell us the ultimate weather to cruise the San Blas Islands begins in March. The anchorages are said to be calmer, the water clearer and this is still before the rainy season begins so we’ll have plenty of time there. We’ll wait a little longer.
I thought you might find it interesting that it hasn’t rained since we’ve been here in Santa Marta. Not one drop in 90 days. Nada! Well, that’s not quite true. When in Cartagena climbing about on the fort, it clouded over briefly. I felt exactly two drops of rain on my cheek before the clouds gave way to the brutally hot sunshine. It is the dry season. They have two seasons here on the Caribbean side of Colombia: wet and dry. The average temperatures remain hot year round so there technically isn’t any other season designation.
Our boat is filthy. Because we are on the dry side of the range, there is a lot of dust blowing off the mountains toward Santa Marta. Sometimes we can see rain on the other side of the mountains but it never reaches us. There is only so much a quick wash down with a water hose can accomplish. The dust turns to mud and it becomes that much harder to remove. We need a really good rain. The almanac says it will not rain until late March or early April. Even then, the rain will be light until the summer time, wet season. I am actively seeking a boat washer. Yes, I could do it myself but have I told you lately how hot it is here?
Being so close to the equator, seasonal temperature variances are minimal. Colombians enjoy the ability to control their seasons by changing locations. If a Colombian happens to live in Caribbean coast, the warm weather temperatures vary just a little bit during the year. In other words, it’s darn hot all the time. We recently met a cruiser who said he would love to move to Medellín. Why, I asked? He raved about what a beautiful city it is and how the weather there is perfect year round. Because of the altitude of Medellín, the residents enjoy year round temperatures 22°C / 72°F during the day and lows of 13°C / 55°F. I can certainly see the attraction of living in this climate. If they spoke English, I would also consider a locale such as this when we’re done with the sailing thing.
If a Colombian wishes to go skiing (there really isn’t any), the year round snow capped Sierra Mountains in the El Cocuy National Park offer snow. The landscape of the park is dotted with houses resembling the A-frame structures synonymous with Switzerland. Colombians can choose their weather by picking altitude. Unlike most other countries further up or down the hemispheres, the weather here has fairly consistent temperatures year-round.
Our latest walkabout involved a trip to Rodadero. This is a seaside town known for a wonderfully long sandy beach. It is a touristy town, more so for locals than international tourist as it is off the beaten path from larger cities and common tourists destinations. The colorful town of Rodadero is really a suburb of Santa Marta but lies on the other side of the coastal mountain. It requires some form of transportation to get there from main Santa Marta unless you are really athletic and have the ability and stamina to hike over a mountain in extreme temperatures. We don’t have the stamina or desire. We chose taxi. I know this sounds very opulent, but trust me, it isn’t. The fifteen minute air conditioned taxi ride is about US$5 (with a good tip) and the non air conditioned bus is US$1.50 each. No brainer! AC wins every time. As the road snakes through the mountain, we were offered fabulous view of Santa Marta and Rodadero. There is a pull-off (lay-by) on the Santa Marta side allowing for some picture taking but not on the Rodadero side. Our cab driver was nice enough to stop and joined us to take in the view and smell the roses for a few minutes.
During our walkabout, we discovered a couple of restaurants who could use some branding consultation. I’m not sure of the translation of El Vomito but Google translate says it means the vomit. I’m assuming vomit has a different meaning in Spanish than in English. At least, I hope it does. Google translate is awesome but not without some flaws. Recently, a waitress in a steakhouse in Santa Marta talked into our phone. She read what she had just said on the Spanish side of the screen and indicated the phone had correctly captured her speech. When we looked at the English translation it read, “Sorry we are out of fire extinguishers but have paprika”. We just sort of nod at this point because something has become lost. “Okay” is a universal word. We said okay and smiled. Once she left we wondered what was going to happen with our food. I also wondered if the chief was dowsing a kitchen fire with paprika.
I could write an entire blog post on Bimbo. Bimbo is a cruising sailor’s favorite bread. It lasts longer than any other bread on the shelf, usually up to about 3 weeks before going stale and moldy. We have no idea how this is done but we love that we can stock up on some bread with an extended life expectancy before making a passage. Bimbo Group was founded in Mexico in 1945 and has become the largest bakery in the world (I think). I do know for sure, it is the largest Bakery in the USA. I think it would be fun to work at Bimbo. The sales manager could legitimately say, I manage a bunch of Bimbos (something I used to mutter under my breath when in the workforce). The CEO could have Chief Bimbo on his/her office door. American readers are now scratching their heads wondering why the heck they haven’t heard of Bimbo. How come nobody has heard of a company who employs 20,000 people and does fifteen billion dollars a year in sales; that’s a lot of baking. $15B is on par with companies like The Gap, General Mills, Nordstrom and Colgate-Palmolive. Well. Perhaps you’ve heard of brands like Sara Lee, Thomas (English Muffins), Ball Park, Mrs Baird’s or Little Bites. These are all part of the Bimbo Group. I like being in Bimbo land.
Lunch in Rodadero was a bit of an adventure. We were about to go into an Italian restaurant when we were approach by a hawker for a restaurant down the street. He showed us the menu and kept talking in Spanish. I’m pretty sure it was something about how wonderful the food was and how fabulous we would feel after eating there. Who knows what he really said. The selling point for us was the Spanish menu had English in parenthesis. We followed him to the “nearby” restaurant. It turned out to be about four blocks away. We kept following the hawker wondering where the heck he was taking us. A one point Cindy said, if he turns down an ally don’t follow, run the other way. I laughed but was also thinking the same. It turned out the hawker was legit and we enjoyed a nice lunch for under US$15 total. The restaurant was small and family owned. When we got there it was reassuring to see a lot of locals eating. A very good sign.
After lunch, we continued our walkabout. We ducked into some of the flea markets as they provided shade. Once inside they become a maze of colorful booths and dropping breadcrumbs seems to be the only sure way of ever finding the exit again. With the breeze coming down off the mountains and the added shade, the temperature is tolerable even in the hottest part of the day. It wasn’t too long before our feet began to ache. Time to head back to the Puffster.
We previously noticed a taxi stand in the center of town and made our way there. Cindy, in her improved Spanish, told the driver where we would like to go: Marina Santa Marta. He held up 10 fingers indicating the price of $10,000 COP (about US$3.00). We agreed and got situated in the back seat. All of a sudden there was a commotion. A taxi driver from further back in the line was having an altercation with our driver. Our driver got out, I won’t say yelling occurred, but it was undoubtedly a loud heated conversation. From what we gathered, it appeared as though the taxi we entered was not the next in line. I’m not sure how they expected us to know this. Our driver appeared to concede to the other driver and suggested we ride in the other taxi. Hmm. I don’t think so. Should we really get into the taxi of a guy who for some reason is mad at the world and just had a heated conversation. Not a good idea! Taxis are everywhere here. Just look at the pictures we have posted in the past and your will notice just about every one of them has a taxi in the scene. We walked across the street. My thought was this will get us away from the argument and we’ll catch a cab that isn’t part of the line; the line making no sense when the taxi at the front isn’t the next to go. The taxi driver was now yelling at us from his side of the street. Within 30 seconds another taxi approached. We flagged him and got in. I happened to look over my shoulder as we pulled away and saw the irate taxi driver standing with his hands on his hips.