La Costa

We got to the Coast, Santa Marta Colombia to be exact. It was hot and muggy. The city is extremely poor. There are literally thousands of street vendors, drug dealers, homeless people, crackheads, families, stray dogs, potholes, shady cops, trash piles etc everywhere you look. Walking out of the hostel you immediately get bombarded by everyone, especially if you are 6’5, very white, and have a long red beard. . . easy target. Therefore our hostel was our safe haven. It’s called Masaya, and has a rooftop pool and a slight resort feeling to it. There are also giant hammocks laid out on the rooftop which are great to lay in after a long night. While Medellin is the city of Eternal Spring, always landing somewhere around 71 degrees Fahrenheit, night or day, summer or winter, Santa Marta feels like the city of eternal swamp. It’s 89 every single day, with extreme humidity, and occasional rain. about 2 hours east of Cartagena the only reason one really goes to Santa Marta is to launch off to the little places around it such as Minca, a town high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Parque Tayrona which is a beautiful national park, and palomino, a place for a lazy river beach day.

After wandering the streets and conducting our self made street meat tour, we grabbed a beer at a bar and then walked back to our hostel. I wanted to stop by a park so I asked one of the cops where “Parque de los Novios” was. He looked at me and said, It’s over there, however you can’t be drinking in public, we are going to have to take you to jail. . . are you kidding me? Santa Marta last time I was here was a town where drinking in the streets was the norm, apparently that changed, and these cops were ready to take advantage of the change and my wallet. I already knew how to play their game. I told him sorry about that, I was just trying to find the park where we could drink, and that’s why I had to ask him, we were hardly 100 meters away from the restaurant we just walked out of. So four other cops walk up to us and tell us that we are about to be put into a jail cell unless we each fork over 800,000 pesos. The equivalent of about $500 between the two of us, and more than most of their monthly salaries. Gringo payday!!! I smiled, put my hands up, and said sorry pal, we don’t have that kind of money. He said, ok, give me your passports, we are going to take you to the cell. I quickly jumped into negotiation mode, knowing all these guys want is a quick easy come up. First off, we don’t have our passports, my friend doesn’t speak any Spanish, so you’re not going to be able to bargain with him, and last time I was in Colombia, the standard protocol was always to drink where ever it is that your heart desired. After all, Colombia always only represented freedom and kindness for me, not taking advantage of tourists. Nevertheless, if we can negotiate a reasonable fair, something I might actually have on me, maybe we can all walk away scathe free, a little happier, and with our pockets a little fuller. The big dog, loud mouth, puffy chested one smiled and obliged. He said fine, 200,000 pesos each. Nope. 100,000. We can give you 100,000 for both. That’s it. And to seal the deal, as I know technically what they are doing is very illegal, I quickly took out my wallet and started flashing my cash. They quickly all got spooked and screamed for me to put it away. Go with him in the alley, 50,000 each will do. I give him his $16.50  worth of Colombian Pesos for each of us and go back to the hostel. The hostel owner tells us that we actually got off pretty well, that’s usually the base minimum they’ll accept, and in actuality they just passed the new law of no drinking in public about a year ago. Last time I’m talking to the cops. . . I must have been a little too relaxed due to the ones in Medellin.

We dance all night on a rooftop party at La Brisa Loca hostel after watching a live band on the rooftop of ours. We meet a rad ass Aussie named Carina who parties with us. I offer her some of my whiskey and she says, “man that’s wretched!” I respond with a typical Aussie response, “I thought you were a sick cunt.” (meaning a good friend) she snaps back with quick whit “Doesn’t mean I’m a hard cunt.” We chat with a guy who goes after people in UK after they get drug charges, he works for the government trying to find all of their assets to try to seize. I ask him if he’d be able to get their bitcoin. He confirms that he can’t.

We take a cab to Costeno Beach in rain so hard that it seems like the mountain is about to flood over. Drive through some really shanty ghettos at first. Hop on the back of a motorbike and ride it  out to the beach through the jungle. We get to a beach hostel oasis that feels like a set from the movie “The Beach” with straw huts and hammocks everywhere. Lots of people from all of the world sitting and eating together, laughing, and drinking lots of beer. We take a quick group salsa lesson, then end up partying on the beach when the rain hits.

We go a few sites down along the beach and find a giant building that is a bar made of straw with only candles lighting up the whole place. Seems rather flammable, but absolutely gorgeous. As one candle nears the bottom, they just walk over and place another one directly on top of it letting it all melt together.  I ask the bartender for three shots and he looks at me and with a French accent goes, “I fuckin know you!!! I realize I met him 2 years before in Medellin, and told him a bunch of places to go to on the coast, one of them being Costeno Beach. I then followed him on Facebook and watched him build a hostel and bar made of straw, and this was it. I was standing in it. “You man! You fuckin told me to come here, and look what I have build! Your shots on me man!” Mind blown.

The next day I woke up to my left ankle completely swollen from mosquito and sandfly bites. Eventually it turned purple and looked like a great fruit from hell. It’s all good though, while I was getting bit, NXT one of the cryptos I put most of my new travel portfolio in quadrupled in value. Things suck a lot less when you’re making money . . . especially if it’s while you sleep.

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