Friday, May 24, 2013

Playa Blanca

Cartagena is on the Caribbean, so it is not surprising that it is surrounded by beautiful beaches. The ones right here in Caragena are fine, but the farther out you go, the more pristine and beautiful they become. About an hour away by speed boat is a beach called Playa Blanca: a stretch of powdery white sand along turquoise sea with palm trees and various places renting hammocks and grass huts for the night. I am not much of a beach person, but this sounded quite idyllic, so i decided to go.

There are 3 ways to get to Playa Blanca: take a tour (which involves also going to an aquaraium and has less than favorable reviews and costs about $50,000 pesos or more), take a 3 hour bus ride and then convince someone to take you to the beach the last half an hour by motorbike, or convince someone to take you in a private boat.

I was not going to spend hours on a bus and did not relish the idea of a tour, so i opted for the private boat. I went just outside of the old city to the market at about 7:30am and found where the boats were. They were smallish, fiberglass boats with wooden benches and were sort of rectangular in shape. They were docked next to where men were repairing fishing nets and gutting the freshly caught fish. I found a man with a boat and asked if he was going to Playa Blanca. He was not going there, but just past it, and would drop me off for 20,000 pesos (about $10-$12 dollars). This sounded good. I hopped on the boat and waited. The deal is, you have to wait for them to fill up their boats before they leave. i waited nearly 2 hours but i did not mind, as men came by selling coffee and bananas and i really enjoyed watching the fishermen and the activities as the boats were loaded with supplies. Our boat was filled with water jugs, flowers, crates of pinapples, bags of plantains and coconuts, and other less exciting items and about 10 other people got on board. Then we left.

Me, waiting on the boat to Playa Blanca
The boat sped along, leaping off of the waves. I have never been on a boat that fast and it was very exciting. We passed by green areas of trees, the new city of Cartagena with its modern high rises, and past tiny shacks along the water, where people were clearly living in great poverty. After about an hour we arrived in Playa Blanca.

Playa Blanca
I was the only one getting off there, so i hopped off the boat and waded to the beach (there is no dock area). The boat began to pull away and then came back with the captain yelling at me that i had not paid him. I argued with him, as best i could, that i had paid in Cartagena, but after some time, i realized that i may have paid the wrong man (ie not the captain). I saw others paying in Cartagena, but perhaps they paid the correct person, or maybe they were just ripping me off, but i finally gave in and paid 20,000 pesos, again.

Obviously, this is only about $10, so it was not the money that bothered me, but my pride was injured and i was a bit embarassed as it looked like i was trying to get away without paying, which was not the case.  Anyway, as the boat pulled away and i was left on this desolate beach, i regretted coming, did not want to be there, and was i going to get back?

my boat, leaving me on Playa Blanca
I had assumed that there would be a dock with boats and that it would be easy to arrange for return transport, but once the boats drop of their passangers, they leave. The beach did have one end which was clearly more touristy, as there were lots of people (but still only grass huts and hammocks), but the end i was at was fairly deserted. I sat down on a chair feeling kind of upset and pannicky. There is no road, no boats, no electricity, no telephones (no motor cars)...i was already planning to live there forever Gilligan's Island style, when some women wandered by and sat with me. They had been at the busy end of the baech selling massages. They tried to chat with me, but the language barrier made it mostly impossible, however they could see i was unhappy. They called over a man who operated the hammock, hut, and kitchen establishment at which i found myself. (El Paraisio de Mama Ruth - i highly recommend them for sleeping & eating.)

El Parasio de Mama Ruth, Playa Blanca

Mama Ruth's kitchen, Playa Blanca
This man did speak fairly good english and i explained my situation. He expressed regret for my being ripped off and said he would arrange for a boat to take me back at 3:00 (it was now 11:30) for 10,000 pesos. He fixed me up with a hammock, and some lunch of salad, rice, and plantains (he brought out a platter of freshly caught fish for me to select from, but i explained the vegetarian thing). I felt immediately more at ease.

typical Playa Blanca lunch
And so i hung out there for more than 3 hours. i ate lunch, smoked two cigars, layed on the beach, sat in a chair looking out at the sea. Occasionally people walked by selling jewerly, shells, or coconut drinks, but other than that, it was completely quiet. Nothing but wind and waves, and a few men who emerged from the sea holding long, bright silvery figh they had caught with their hands. I have to say that i realxed very quickly and found it quite peaceful.

Playa Blanca
At about 3:00 though i got anxious. My english speaking friend was no where to be seen and there were no boats on the horizon. I figured i was going to have to spend the night, when a boat came around the corner, loaded with people and with a man sitting on the bow, waving his arms. It was the guy! I waded out to the boat, thanked him for his help, and we sped off back to Cartagena.

leaving Playa Blanca
The day, over all, was a great experience but i must admit to being particularly happy when i set foot back on land in Cartagena, tired, sweaty, and salty.

I spent the evening walking around, grabbed a bit of dinner and found a another cigar shop where i sat with the manager and his friend and smoked and chatted for an hour of so. (This time i learned all about prostitution in Cartagena.)  I had planned to go to a salsa club, but was nodding off by 10:00, so i just went to bed.

That was my Thursday. I can't wait to see what will happen today.

1 comment:

Betty-Lou said...

Dale on a beach. Did you have your bathing suit with you? (insert smiley face).