Playa Blanca - the good, the bad, the ugly
After a short flight we arrived in Cartagena. However our first stop was not the city but a two night stay out on an island nearby. We picked Isla Baru over the Rosario Islands because of ease of transportation and I think we read that it was "less" touristy. The plan was to stay for two nights. We never made it to Rosario Islands so I have no idea if this is true or not but out on Playa Blanca on Baru the day was pretty much divided into two parts. During the day until about 4pm the places is swarmed over with day tripping tourists and an insane amount of vendors selling everything from beach chairs, oysters, trinkets, and everything else you could imagine.
At night all of these people are gone and you are on a fairly deserted beach with just a couple of places open for food or to grab a beer. At that point it is pretty and peaceful.
|Playa Blanca is super peaceful in the evening|
Our trip out there was not without incident. Our driver lost phone service once we were most of the way out there and got lost and we got to take the scenic route through what I believe was a nearby national park. This detour turned a one hour trip into a two hour trip and when we finally arrived to our destination we got out of the car were instantly swarmed over by a large amount of people trying to carry our bags and sell us whatever they could. It was overwhelming and I instantly regretted the decision to go out there at that point. Our hotel was about an 8 minute walk down the beach and we were hounded pretty much the entire way down there. We arrived at Hostal Ichtus worn out, hot, sweaty and ready to relax.
Hostal Ichtus is a very bare bones hostel. It is a homemade structure which is made out of wood and pretty much every wall made of bamboo including the bathroom wall you can see through. It does not have running water or continuous electricity. They do turn the generator on at night for a few hours so you can charge your phone.
|View from inside our room|
There is a "shower" which should have consisted of a spigot which would dribble some water out of a container. Each person was to have 10 liters of water a day to shower. The only problem was that it didn't work. So a shower consisted of literally a barrel of water with a cut in half 2 liter container you could use to pour water over yourself. To be honest it wasn't bad and felt pretty refreshing considering the heat index at night was over 100 degrees.
|Dan's night time view in the room while waiting for Trista to shower|
There were many positives about the hostel. It was clean. We were the only ones staying there. The people who worked there were very friendly.
|Dan with our new hostel friends, Gabriel and Jose|
The bathroom was much better than some other places we saw up and down the beach. There were a couple of hammocks that were very comfortable. The goal was to go and rough it for a couple of days on the beach and this place definitely fit the bill for that. Probably the one thing that the place could have had that it didn't was any dedicated beach in front of the hotel. You could use the beach/ocean right in front of the property but the actual chairs/beds on the beach were owned by someone else and needed to be rented for an additional charge.
So after getting there we decided we needed a few beers and some shade. We found a good spot, ate some plantains which were fantastic and had a few beers.
The hustle was continuous even there from trinket sellers, people selling massage services, etc. Where we were was pretty relaxing but it was hard to relax when every 5 minutes you had to keep saying "No, Gracias".
|Trista trying to avoid the trinket salesman|
After that we headed to the bar/restaurant next to the hostel. It was pretty nice, had some fans, some swings overlooking the ocean and what turned out to be pretty good food. There was a fantastic sunset and it was nice to relax for a bit without being hassled.
|Nena restaurant next door to our hostel|
We had a whole red snapper fried and of course some more plantains (we absolutely love plantains of all variety and this was a staple of Colombian cuisine) and of course a few more beers.
About the time we were getting ready to leave Jose, one of the guys from our hostel, showed up. And so we sat around for a couple hours and got to know each other. Jose is an immigrant from Venezuela. In other words he had escaped what is going on in Venezuela in Colombia. Without putting too much of his story out there it was very clear that what is going on in Venezuela is very bad and his story is a sad one. To me it was yet again a reminder that a lot of times these places we hear on the news as "bad" are actually just another place filled with people like you and I. Good people who are going through a bad circumstance normally due to a few bad actors.
The other interesting thing about talking with Jose was that he knew a little English and we knew a little Spanish and so for both of us it was good practice for the languages that we are working on. Trista and I are trying to get fluent in Spanish although not there yet. And trips like this one have been great for working on conversational Spanish.
After that Trista and I decided it was time for a swim under the stars. It was very peaceful and beautiful. It was a brief glimpse of what we were actually after out there. After that it was time for the previously discussed "shower" and then bed. The bed was a double bed with a mosquito net on it. There was a fan that ran for as long as the generator ran. It was extremely hot to sleep. I woke up at 4am and could not go back to sleep it was so hot. I would estimate the heat index probably never got below 95 the entire time we were there. The humidity was 90% basically the entire time.
And so I woke up and realized there was no way I wanted to spend another day of my trip dealing with the tourist crush, the non-stop sales people and the heat that was slowly draining every last bit of energy I had. So Trista and I decided to bail and start our adventure in Cartagena a day early. I think our hosts felt bad and we felt bad but we tried to explain it was due to factors out of their control. The hostel itself was not the problem. All of the things around the hostel were the problem from the weather to the people on the beach. They told us it was abnormally hot and I believe them because the place we stayed had pretty good reviews online and not really any of them mention the heat being as oppressive as it was. Trista was also not doing so well at this point and probably had mild heat stroke
So we went for a swim in the AM, relaxed in the hammocks one last time and then made the walk down the beach to get a taxi back to Cartagena.
|Trista posing like she's not dying|
|Of course Dan looking awesome like usual|
Until next time (spoiler alert: our new friend Jose makes an appearance in Cartagena).