Birthdays and Every Other Thing I Asked For in Taganga – Part 1

After Cartagena, it was time to explore other parts of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.  My next options were Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Taganga.  I was told by my Rick, the truck driver from Texas that Barranquilla was forgettable so that was nixed off my list and after discovering that Taganga was a fishing village, I decided that would be my next destination for a few days.  It was around this same time that I noticed a weird phenomenon going on around me.  It seemed that different areas of my life were fitting together rather seamlessly and everytime I had a particular thought, it came to life.  Well almost every thought, I still haven’t experienced my fantasy of Jon Hamm serving me bacon flavored ice cream in a jacuzzi yet.  But I digress, the universe has been treating me well over the past few days, leading me into a very favorable mental zone when I arrived to Taganga, a town in which I ultimately decided to extend my stay to two weeks.

Getting There is Half the Battle

I had two options for traveling from Cartagena to Taganga.  First there was the hostel bus, a shuttle that picks you up from your current hostel and brings you directly to the next in Taganga.  This was the easiest but as you can imagine, also the most expensive.  The second was traveling back to the bus station by mini-bus, a 70 minute investment of time, and from there finding a bus to Santa Marta and then taking another mini-bus to Taganga.  I chose option two because I needed to conserve some budget and as I was already dripping in sweat as I walked to my first bus stop of the day, I thought this option would yield more opportunities for things to go wrong.

Nothing went terribly wrong on my 7 hour door-to-door trip to Taganga, one that is meant to take 3 hours normally, but it did require me to be on my toes at all times.  After I got off the mini-bus to the bus station I was accosted by a number of salesman for buses to Santa Marta.  They always charge inflated prices for the conspicuous looking backpacker such as myself, but I succeeded in getting the fair market price using my “Bitch, please” facial expression.  Normally I’m unsure and give in to the first price drop, but I’ve learned and stood my ground today.  Profuse sweating does that to me for some reason.

Two hours into my bus ride to Santa Marta is when things started getting shady and I later read about this scam happening elsewhere on bus routes throughout Colombia.  The bus driver made an executive decision that he wasn’t going to go any further than Barranquilla with this bus and dumped the rest of the passengers out on the side of a busy highway to continue on to Santa Marta.  I hovered uncomfortably around one of the bus drivers or conductors until he helped me out and soon enough I was in a cab with some other random man to the bus station and had 10,000 pesos to pay for my next bus to Santa Marta.  I was sure I was going to somehow get screwed by either the taxi driver or get to the station and realize that 10,000 wasn’t enough for the next leg of my trip but lo and behold all went smoothly.  I didn’t have to pay a cent more for this transfer and was off again to Santa Marta.

Arriving in Santa Marta, my next task was to find the mini-bus going to Taganga.  At this point I could have also taken a cab which would have been more efficient, but I was set on doing this the cheapest way possible now.  The first mini-bus passed by me at the stop and basically told me to fuck off and get a cab because of my large backpack.  This was the final straw for me today and for the first time in South America, I started screaming obnoxiously and cursing the driver and his family to a lifetime of gonorrhea and other unfortunate diseases.  Now I was definitely getting my ass to Taganga by way of the mini-bus so I sat for 10 minutes and waited for another one to pass by.  I approached very cautiously this time and the driver didn’t think twice letting me come aboard.  Another 40 minutes and I was dropped off on a dirt road in Taganga in search of my hostel.

When I arrived at the hostel I booked in advance, I was not entirely surprised that no one was answering the door and it seemed pretty much vacant.  This happened before in Otavalowhen I also had to seriously use the bathroom, but I remained calm, was patient and someone finally arrived.  Today, I wasn’t in danger of defecating everywhere but I severely lacked any semblance of patience and I walked off in search of greener pastures.  My internal navigation system naturally took me to the furthest point out of town but I ended up finding a comfortable hostel to call my home for the next few days and laid me down to rest.  As soon as I did lay down on my bunk bed, my first thought was, “You said you wanted an adventure this morning.”  This was to be the first of my granted wishes here in Taganga.

Why take a cab when you can get lost on dirt roads on foot?

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