Buenos dias from the Caribbean coast of Columbia and the city of Santa Marta. We arrived yesterday morning after a rather terrifying (I thought) overnight bus ride through the mountains. Randy seemed calm through it all, but… he did not have the window seat! Though it was dark, the pinpoints of light on the canyon floor often served to remind me how high, and how close to the edge, we actually were. I believe these bus drivers are more skilled than any airline pilot… ever. It was truly amazing to watch our bus go backwards, uphill, around a hairpin turn, IN THE DARK, WITH US IN IT ! to give a semi-trailer coming from the opposite direction, the needed road. I was glad my affairs were in order.

By daylight we had reached the sugar cane, tobacco, and corn plantations and with little notice the driver hollered “Santa Marta!!” to wake us completely and, along with our bags and three Polish girls tossed us off the bus. There we were blinking in the early morning sun, but moments later we were escorted to another much smaller rusty bus on onward to Santa Marta. This city is in the northern province of Magdalena. A lovely name for a gritty city. ‘Rough around the edges’ but the people are great and we feel safe. A mixture of peoples call Santa Marta home. They are of Afro-caribbean, Indian, and Spanish decent, so skin is in every shade of brown to black and since the temperature is over 30 degrees, a lot of that skin is bare. Santa Marta has its own beach, where the common people hang out, and all of Sunday hordes of kids, none unattended, cavorted in the waves and rolled in the sand till they all looked like deep-fried zucchini. We’re told that the more affluent people go to the beach west of town…we didn’t feel the need to bother with that one. Such fun going on here.

Today a rusty bus took us on an hour long ride out of town to the Tayrona National Park (of beautiful beaches). Getting to these beaches meant a hike through a forest within which grew a towering version every house plant I have ever owned. Sadly no snakes, but the 12 foot senna pods resembled them! We reached the beaches of white sand at noon, and the sand so hot we couldn’t go barefoot except at the edge of the cool blue Caribbean but with an undertow too fierce for swimming. Huge white-crested turquoise waves crashing in. We might have gone much further along to a cove, but we hadn’t planned well. We all know where babies come from but this is where the storks come from! A flock of them stepping lightly in a shallow lagoon surrounded by shade palms and a place for a much needed rest. We found a well-used donkey trail to get back to the road and then a bumpy ride back to Santa Marta and it’s evening wind that cools everything down.

We are back in our hostel room, with our fan at the speed of a turbo jet and have had our supper of street food. This time it was fried plantains stuffed with something delicious. Randy’s preference is always to “eat with the people” and they are eating on the street. Our stomachs are doing well and despite being told by travel guide books that Colombian food is not interesting, we have found fabulous things. Spaghetti-like strands of green mango sprinkled with lime and salt and pepper are perfect on a hot afternoon. A baseball-size cornmeal /masa ball with shredded meat and a hardboiled egg surprise in the middle will take you through an entire day, and chocolate santafereno which is hot chocolate with cheese melted in it is absolutely delicious! Who Knew !!

Loving it all, we are so fortunate. Hoping everything is fine with you. Buenos noches once again.

Love Monika and Randy.