25/Jun/2012, Taganga - Colombia
Looking WNW into the Caribbean Sea from Taganga with one of the dug-out canoe style fishing boats in foreground. A beautiful sunset after last nights blustery and wet conditions as a Tropical Wave passed to the north. Enough rain to be inconvenient but not the dowsing we had the other day which would have let us fill the water tanks without running the water-maker.
This evening the plan is to make use of some smelly old squid from the fridge as bait to hopefully catch some juevenile Barracuda. It tastes lovely basted with a mayonnaise and lime marinade and barbecued lightly on each side....or if the plan does not come to fruition it will be a can of something from "the to be used" up locker.
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24/Jun/2012, Taganga - Colombia
One advantage of basing ourselves in Taganga is that English is hardly spoken by anybody except for some of the visitors. The Colombians here seem to be mainly Spanish speakers with an occasional offer to speak Portuguese. Our Portuguese being limited to "Good Morning, eight bread rolls please" and we'll stick with learning the Spanish. From a low baseline we are spending time on book work everyday and then throwing ourselves into the fray to practise what we learn. Pronunciation varies across the Spanish Speaking world which adds flavour to the experience...do we pronounce that "v" as a "b", or should be use a "th" or a sibilant "c". Yesterday we met a Cuban merchant marine seafarer and his accent was somewhat different to locals Victor (pron Bictor) and Vincente (pron Bin-cent-tay) who we speak with the most. Hopefully we'll get there with perseverance in what is a big focus for our time at the moment.
Here in Tanganga we are enjoying watching the rhythm of everyday life. Fishing craft off to sea early each morning, the clamour of fish selling beside the beach upon their return. The massive dependency of coastal communities on regular catches of fish to feed the population is brought sharply into focus when we visit places like these. It was the same in the Cape Verdes. The risk presented by huge factory scale fish harvesting, carried out by some nations, to these folks living at the littoral margins must be significant with the danger of world wide fish stocks collapsing.
We await a delayed visit from the customs officials who need to come aboard and verify our declarations, and our request for tax-free importation of the boat for the duration of our visit. Lots of paperwork but once done we'll be able to cruise the bays of the nearby Tayrona National Park and enjoy some of the Colombian coastline further to the West en-route to another Spanish speaking country, Panama.
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22/Jun/2012, Santa Marta - Colombia
Another bus ride over the ridge and into Santa Marta. The sultry humid heat bearing in from all sides like a hot soggy blanket. How much moisture can the atmosphere hold before it bursts? We were about to find out.
A stroll through the city streets, our eyes busily taking in the still novel sights, our ears battered by the sounds of South America. Down to the marina and a chance to catch up with Paul and Kate aboard Iolea, they arrived in Colombia a couple of days ahead of us, it seemed a long time since diving together in Bonaire. Dino, the agent acting for both boats, dropped by to say hi and advise the customs official responsible for doing our importation permits would visit both boats this afternoon. All part of the process to ensure declarations made on the forms match the vessel itself. Alberto, the man from the Aduana, was charming and incredibly informative about Colombia and particularly the Santa Marta region. As we sat aboard Iolea the skies to seaward slowly darkened to a shade of dark grey, the humidity increased. Suddenly, a strong breeze blew from seaward. A cool wind that instantly dried perspiration and changed the climate from hot and sticky to a pleasant warmth. It was getting late, rain was threatening, Alberto re-arranged our inspection visit for the morrow.
Hurriedly we made our way to catch the bus back to Taganga, the city busy with folks scurrying homeward at the end of the day. Darkness was falling, accelerated by the ominous grey heavens above. We noticed hands galore clutching folding umbrellas; a piece of equipment we omitted to pack. A brilliant flash of lightning, immediately followed by a shuddering crescendo of thunder heralded the start of the show. Torrential rain fell as if from a bucket, spouts of water ejected from guttering and drainpipes, the concrete road painted with a slick of water that failed to drain away. Two abortive attempts to gain entry to buses packed with wet steaming humanity and finally we gained the relative dry of transportation home. Sue sat at the front, the window beside her open so the driver could see traffic emerging from the right, the ingress of rain soaked her in seconds. The driver supplementing the struggling wipers with a cloth rubbing steam from the inside of his windscreen. Water levels in the roads were rising; 4-6 inches and torrents joining the main flow from side streets adding dirty volume faster than drains could cope. The detritus of city streets sweeping its way towards the coast amongst the rush hour traffic negotiating the fluvial outflow. Unhappy pedestrians struggled to keep feet out of the stream, their umbrellas inverting in the gusty squalls. Onwards to Tangaga and the rain continued. Relief on our faces that we had remembered to close the hatches aboard Spruce.
Dawn broke with a new freshness in the air. The humidity of previous days washed clean by the rain. It was pleasant to sit in the cockpit watching Taganga coming to life. Fishing boats heading to sea, some fibreglass with large outboard engines throbbing, others carved from a single log and propelled by oars, nets ready to cast. Purposeful faces, waving arms and shouts of "Buenos Dias" as they passed while we sat gazing at the beautiful hills, their reflections wobbling in glassy water as the new day emerged from the darkness.
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20/Jun/2012, Santa Marta - Colombia
An early paddle ashore for a trip to Santa Marta, the capital city of the Magdelene region. Sophie and Pedro from Moana had kindly offered to show us the market and other key locations that would speed us up the learning curve in a new place. All the simple things in this cruising lifestyle take so much time when you don't know where anywhere is, nor how to get there.
We bounced along the roads aboard the bus, a 16-seater with the side sliding door wide open, Sue no longer looking quite so smug at nabbing the leg-roomy seat by the entrance, as the world sped by. Before eight o'clock and the humid heat already quite oppressive in the bus; some luckier than others to be sat on the shady side, as the sun, still low in the sky beat in through the gaping windows.
Over the limestone crags and we speedily descended into the outskirts of the city. Initially wide streets flanked by low concrete and brick dwellings, a railway track down the middle of one. Litter and other debris from human habitation sullied the appearance. Dust coating the masonry, still air, relentless radiation from the sun commencing to bake all before it. Further in towards the centre and various stores and artisan's workshops sprang into view. Hoards of motorcycles, scooters, taxis and buses ferrying workers to their destinations for another day's toil. Advertising skillfully painted onto walls gave colour and vibrato to otherwise unremarkable architecture. A few more blocks and larger, more impressive edifices lined our route. Some undoubtably monuments to a former colonial era, others more modern and built during the last century to service a rapidly growing nation as she struggled to develop and spread her wings.
Once on foot and into the centre the host of varying street traders made the eyes boggle. Many hauling carts or carrying vessels full with refreshment, cold drinks, lime juice, coffee, watermelons. You want it somebody had it. One chap selling spectacles took on the task of re-inserting Sue's lenses into new plastic frames, the original metal ones had succumbed to the damp and salty existence on board. Then a small cantina for breakfast; a simple meal of scrambled eggs (huevos) and corn meal pancakes (arrepa) washed down with two cups of coffee all for around UK£2 per person. While enjoying our coffee a shoe polisher touting for trade didn't even bother asking when he espied our sandal clad feet beneath the table.
The market was a complete onslaught on the cultural, aural and olfactory senses. Once, no doubt, a common sight on the streets of the UK, now largely elbowed aside by the takeover of supermarkets. Narrow stalls covered by ramshackle plastic and corrugated iron awnings were bedecked with foods of all types: meat, angrily red with no refrigeration; fish of diverse species, already dressed and ready for the oven or pan; fruits, some we had never seen before; vegetables galore and the produce of the tomato tree bought to sample foods anew. Stall-holders cheerfully babbling away as if we understood their patter, always smiling and helpful as we stumbled over our new found Spanish phrases. A sheer joy to have such a wide range from which to choose and at such economical prices after the East Caribbean where produce was always an expensive extra.
Definitely a fine day out and a satisfying start on our mission to master the language spoken by over 300 million folks on planet Earth.
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17/Jun/2012, Taganga - Colombia
Not a great choice of timing to arrive on a holiday weekend. Our agent, Senor Dino Alfonso, kindly came out to the boat on Sunday to get the paperwork started on our formalities and clearance to enter Colombia, our eighth country visited on this voyage of experiences and new discoveries. A visit by a coast guard launch in the afternoon seemed to be indicating we couldn't stay where we were and must go to a marina, much radio traffic later and we were told no worries. It seems a recent change in the law (8th May) has not yet been fully communicated to all authorities. Dino has emailed through our initial clearances so we now have copies of paperwork signed by the regional Capitana de Puerto saying we can legitimately be where we are located. So hopefully no more hitches.
Pedro and Sophie, the folks from our only other yachting neighbour "Moana" came aboard for sundowners and a chat about Taganga, they have been here for a couple of months. Pedro is Brazilian, Sophie a French Breton, who bought a Dutch boat in Florida and are cruising the Caribbean. More fascinating tales of life as cruisers with insights into sailing in Colombia.
A short paddle and the first step ashore in South America. Our heightened senses were assaulted by a plethora of new stimuli. Music from stalls and shops, the babble of strange voices, delicious smells from hidden cooking, proprietors attempting to lure us into their emporiums, street vendors hauling bright displays of wares, local buses coughing along the road, dogs laying in shade. A thriving community with many holiday makers from the hinterland enjoying themselves on the beach. In all a noisy developing town with a complete mixture of buildings and styles.
We spent some time checking out local diving and making a start on planning what we want to do during our stay here. After lunch ashore and a stroll back along the street the blazing sun signaled it was time to repair aboard for a siesta to await the evening coolness.
The photo shows the main transportation options: bike, taxi and old style (natural air conditioning) South American Bus. The modern air conditioned buses require one to wear thermal undies to avoid hypothermia, we hear.
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17/Jun/2012, Bahia de Taganga - Colombia
A night spent motoring in a large swell, lumpy remnants of the windier day before. Lightening flashing to seaward and more over the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, thankfully not on top of us. Quite a spectacular scene as the forces of nature play out a power struggle in the skies. From 30 miles distant the high terrain of the coastal side of the Sierra Nevada was visible, dark bulk with a harder edge in the murk. As darkness fell lights appeared in villages and on radio masts. A long slow motor into the darkness, our smooth passage impeded by a counter current of up to two-and-a-half knots at times. First traces of dawn came at 04:30 local time, initially an imperceptible lighting of the skies astern, followed by a hardening of the mountainous relief ashore. With the light came squadrons of pelicans, seaward bound for an early day feeding session, following them were pirogues, powered by outboards, racing along inshore of our track, possibly hoping to catch the same fish.
The most remarkable thing was the scent of wet tropical foliage and earth, smelt during the night and as we closed the shore and amazingly pungent within a couple of miles of land. As we rounded the last headland Bahia de Taganga and the village at its head opened out before us, quite a mixture of architecture and, loud music booming out at 06:30 on a Sunday morning. As we anchored a head popped out from the fore hatch of the single other yacht, within 30 minutes Pedro had rowed across to say hi and to tell us the noise was celebrating Father's Day. Pedro was the chap who posted the recent article on Noonsite about this being a great place to visit and his wife taking dancing lessons in the town square. Many local boats buzzing around, cheerful faces, waving folks. Our first impressions are very positive and maybe this will be a an excellent place to spend quality time learning some Spanish.
Photo shows Pedro and Sophie's yacht, the only other visitor here.
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