Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | October 14, 2012

Gaining Perspective in Santa Marta

N 11° 14.56′   W 74° 13.08′

Santa Marta, Colombia.

A new slip assignment, tied far from the finger piers to prevent another dog escape.

Our third week in Santa Marta has passed and it feels comfortable here. We are easily finding our way around the city on foot and via taxis. The communication challenges seem less intimidating. We are having a wonderful time learning more about the diverse ways of life here. I am beginning to sense that Santa Marta will be another one of those places that I will be very sad to leave.

We continue to absorb, compare and contrast our observations with home and other places we have visited, and add to the growing list of new perspectives gained.

While storms often threaten, they tend to stay in the mountains and there is little rainfall along the coastline. The winds can come from all different directions in a single day and vary from a strong breeze to no wind at all. We are definitely out of the trade wind patterns.

Fútbol (soccer) is a huge national pastime. The Colombian team’s win over Paraguay on Friday night led to enthusiastic fiestas in the streets. That explains all the yellow jerseys for sale on the streets and worn by so many Colombians!

Like most of the Caribbean islands, holidays appear to be celebrated with much more gusto than at home. Even in September the stores were overflowing with Christmas related items. Halloween is also celebrated here and costumes and decorations have been on display in all the major shops.  We are seriously considering extending our stay in Colombia to be able to experience Christmas in Cartegena.

Our eyes got wide one night when a neighboring boat passed by, filled with Colombians singing “Happy Birthday” in English at the top of their lungs. We learned that singing the traditional English birthday song is not unusual here.

The food is better than we expected, and dining options include a variety of international cuisine. Arepa, a traditional cornbread, is delicious. A slice of one of the plentiful avocados makes an easy and elegant side dish. There are other choices if you don’t want greasy traditional foods like fried empañadas and we have enjoyed more healthful and gourmet preparations of lamb, chicken, pasta and seafood in a couple of sidewalk cafes and mall food courts.

The historical violence in Colombia has greatly impacted the lives of so many people. We heard personal stories of families giving up land and business opportunities and relocating to other areas of the country for personal safety reasons.  And not so many years ago.  We did not see signs of the protests that were held in most departments across the country on Friday by social groups demanding a presence in the peace talks between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).  The protest in the capital city of Bogata became violent.  All we noticed in Santa Marta were the spirited celebrations following the soccer victory.

Our foreign friends follow US politics and our upcoming elections with great interest, much more so than we at home care about the political issues and elections in their countries.

The Spanish is getting better with practice.  People here are generally patient and helpful.  The marina employees are taking English classes to better serve their clientele. I had fun practicing marine terminology with Obier, a friendly and outgoing member of the dock staff who has progressed further with his English studies than I have with Spanish.  Still, English is not widely spoken. Bob has been searching for an English-speaking taxi driver with no success. We want to hire a driver to take us for more distant sightseeing one day. I’m happy to give it a go in Spanish, but Bob thinks there must be at least one driver among all the little yellow taxis who knows some English. We’ll see! I bet him he could go to a busy intersection and flag 100 taxis and not find one “yes” to a “habla inglés?” inquiry.  The local cultural center promotes English study with a poster stating that Colombians are 83% more likely to be employed if they learn English.

We took the boat on a sea trial and could not replicate the stabilizer problem.  So we will continue to investigate and see how the boat fares on our upcoming passage to Cartegena.

We moved to F-dock (or eh-fay, as they say here!) and are tied in the center of a large slip far from the finger piers in a manner that minimizes the risk of a dog escape. We are more isolated from our neighbors, but feel this location is preferable to annoying everyone with the dogs barking at the roaming boat cats and passing dock golf carts. The privacy is nice and we still have the beautiful sunset view over the jetty.  We just have to make a little more effort to socialize.  Last week we had several fun evenings getting to know Reta and Gerd, a very pleasant sailing couple from Germany, and Ana, our Colombian shipping agent and her husband Eduardo.

One morning this week Lady was reluctant to get up. She was lethargic and less mobile.  I was thinking we were going to need a vet, but the next day she was back to her usual self as CEO – our “Chief Enthusiasm Officer”. It was a reminder, though, of the passing of time and precious moments. Our gals are aging faster than we are and slowing down some.  It made us think about how much we depend on these critters for companionship and for security.  We are hoping the four-legged crew – like us –  will stay healthy and mobile and make it safely through our upcoming destinations and several long passages as we make our way back to Florida.

A great sunset viewed from Barakuku, a restaurant high on the hill overlooking Rodadero, and a nice evening learning with Ana and Eduardo learning about life in Colombia.

Rodadero, just over the hill from the center of Santa Marta, has a nicer beach. This week it was packed with tourists due to a school semester break.

The beach in downtown Santa Marta lies between the marina and the shipping port and also seems popular. Drainage from the city pours onto the beach and we cringe as we watch children play there and street dogs drink the foul-looking water.

An informal weekend beach soccer game. Santa Marta port in the distance.

One of the pretty pedestrian malls and a working donkey

Yet another fantastic sunset view from the Mar Azul sundeck



  1. Hope Bob finds his English speaking cab driver so we can see the pictures. Enjoyed the posting. Mo

    • Thanks, Mo! We’re going one way or another. Will just have to do more advance study on our destinations if we have a Spanish-speaking tour guide.

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