After New Year, there were many mishaps and adventures, including a near-death experience during a cow stampede thanks to a horny cow trying to hump another cow. We also eyeballed an unnecessary amount of perky Argentinian butts during their spring break, became friends with a stripper and breakfasted with a 70-year-old who had thrown himself out of a train to catch a thief.
Through this madness, we bussed our way from Cusco to Cartagena.
There were several moments when we definitely thought we wouldn’t make it, cue flashbacks to our mini-van driver overtaking lorries on the edge of a mountain road and accidently stumbling onto a transvestite hooker street in Medellín.
We survived in one piece, however, and made it to the hot and heavy town of Cartagena. The beautiful port town passed in a heady whirl of rooftop bars, beaches and salsa. Actually, the whole of Colombia shared this theme, a factor that secured its place as one of my favourite countries.
My travel buddy and I parted our hungover ways after Cartagena. All was fine, until I realised I had no clue where I was going. It didn’t occur to me that I should have booked a hostel or at least got directions from the Santa Marta bus station to the centre of town before I left Cartagena.
After five hours, I got off the bus in Santa Marta. It was already dark by this stage and I looked around in hope for signs saying, “Walk this way! Here’s a great hostel! It’s safe, clean and fun! We guarantee not to kidnap you and ransom off your body parts!”. Bizarrely there were no such signs. I asked around for advice, but no such luck. Everyone I spoke to either stayed in a hotel or was a local.
Shrugging it off as a “wasn’t meant to be” moment, I walked up to the nearest bus ticket booth and asked for a ticket to Palomino, the town where my friend was heading to. I figured that at least with someone I knew close by, my chances of going missing were lower than if I stayed on my own.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple as hopping onto another bus. The man in the ticket booth told me that I had to go to another bus station and wrote me directions. I gave said directions to a taxi driver who seemed friendly enough.
Ineligible note from ticket booth man
I was in the taxi for all of ten minutes when the driver stopped at a petrol station. Confused, I was about to ask what we were doing when the door next to me opened and a guy grabbed my backpack. Scrambling out after him, I see him storing my backpack into the boot of a car. He tells me to get in, that the car will take me to Palomino. With no other option making itself known to me, I get in. In the front seat is a woman who puts me at ease. That is until I’m ushered out of the car by an entire family who had high ambitions to squeeze onto the backseat. Flummoxed, I look around wildly for the lifeline that is my backpack and find it leaning against a wall. By this stage, my anxiety was clearly etched across my face and the men trying to “help” me, attempted to calm me down in broken English. Once again, with no other choice but to go along with their strange plan, I sit on the wall and wait for whatever mode of transport that would take me to Palomino. For company, I had an old local man asking me questions, until finally a mini-van turned up for me and I gratefully squeezed in the backseat between a father and son.
An hour later they dropped me off on a street that was supposedly Palomino. I looked around for Wi-Fi I could use to google hostel directions and of course there was nothing but street cafes and guys riding around on motorbikes. I head into the closest café and am thankfully confronted by a map with the local hostels marked. I memorise a hostel name and flag a motorbike taxi down with a big grin on my face. I was back on track! And smack bang in the middle of beach bum city.