I am on holidays now, and it feels great even if I already miss work, La Boquilla and the La Vecina kids. Time really flies by, I have only one month left in Colombia and I intend to make the most of it. Only one month left by the Caribbean Sea also means that I just have to spend as much time as possible on the beach and in the waves. Thus, on Friday we decided with my friend K to hop on a bus and go explore a nearby town called Manzanillo del Mar, where our friend A lives. Manzanillo is a very small town and there is not much to do - other than spend time at the beach. But that worked perfectly for us. Then on Saturday I finally made the trip I had planned for a long time, I stayed one night at the beautiful beach of Playa Blanca, a 1-hour bus ride outside Cartagena. For some reason I had slept really bad the whole week and really needed to take a rest. Also, the last days at work were emotionally very hard and I really wanted to get out from Cartagena, be alone, clear my head and stop crying about having to leave La Vecina and my little loved ones. Sunbathing, sea breeze, crystal-clear water and walks along the beach did the job: I slept well and didn't think of anything. Now I have regained some energy and am ready to travel to Medellin tomorrow!
So, back to Manzanillo del Mar. My friend A who is volunteering with an organisation called Peace Corps, will live there for two years. It has only been a couple of months now and she says that she really likes the small town vibes but I'm curious to see for how long she will stay that positive. Because well, there is really not much to do in Manzanillo. The town centre looks like this: a pretty little green church, one park, a library, two or three restaurants and grocery shops. And that's it.
It is such a small countryside-like town that you can even see sheep on the street and a pig family chilling on the beach:
Luckily Cartagena is not too far so she can always escape here. The beach however, is very nice. No surprise, on a Friday there was barely no one, apparently people only go on the beach on Sundays. We had lunch at a local restaurant (the only one on the beach), and then just went swimming and jumping in the waves.
Saturday morning, direction Playa Blanca! I had been there once before on day trip and that time we took a boat, a lancha. Now I went there by bus, it was faster and more comfortable. When you want to go for a beach/island trip from Cartagena, Playa Blanca is the cheapest option. What I would really have liked to do, is to spend one night on Isla Pirata or Isla Mucura/Punta Faro for example, where it is really luxurious, it looks like this:
But since I don't have enough money to do that (one day...) Playa Blanca would have to do. However, I allowed myself a little bit of luxury and instead of sleeping in a hammock at a hostel, I booked myself a private cabaña room from an adorable hotel called Cabaña Princesa del Mar. The place looks like this:
It was an option for a smaller budget (35 euros/night) so the room was very simple and the bathroom was to share. But the place was clean, and the personnel very friendly. It was also the last hotel on the beach so it was very quiet and far away from were all the day-trip tourists stay, exactly what I wanted. My room was on the second floor and I had my own terrace with a hammock where I could just lie down and read my book. I liked the views!
As you already now if you have followed this blog from the beginning, when you travel a lot, of course everything can't always go smoothly (overbooked flights, delayed flights, wrong casa, food poisoning...). By the way, my best friend J is back in Jamaica (again) and, guess what, she missed her connection in Miami (again) and had to stay there for one night. Thanks AA! Anyway, I swear I'm a very organised person, I really am. So this is really a first one for me and I blame for what happened the fact that I had not slept well in so many nights. I was sure that I had booked my hotel for Saturday the 11th and that is what I had (luckily) told the hotel, so they were expecting me then. I arrived and got my room, all good. It was only later in the evening when the lady came to me with the confirmation from booking.com and pointed out that I had actually booked my room for Friday the 10th. Lol, I felt so stupid! I had even downloaded an application called Tripit (very practical btw) that automatically collects information from my email and gathers in one place all I need to know about my upcoming trips. Apparently I can still get confused and travel the wrong day... Luckily there was a room available for me on Saturday and according to her I have paid only once. I have to check again that booking.com has not charged me for the other night but I don't think I gave them my credit card information. So all good, I guess I just needed some sleep.
On Saturday I stayed mostly on the beach in front of my hotel. It was great to be in a kind of private and safe place where I could go swimming without being afraid that someone would steal my things. What I hate about going alone to the beach is that you can never really relax or swim far away because you always have to watch your belongings, that is why I prefer S's swimming pool. I ate some fruits and spent hours in the water. The fruit vendor lady told me she didn't have change and tried to disappear and steal my 5000COP but I chased her for two days and today finally got my money back!
There were heaps of cute little juice bars and food stands all along the beach, I had hard time choosing where to buy my lunch from.
Finally this one won because it just looked so cozy and comfortable. The weggie burger I had was a little bit expensive and not that good but whatever, I paid for the place.
When my stomach was full I decided to go for a walk along the beach and accepted when a local guy (local meaning that he actually lives at Playa Blanca!) wanted to walk with me (he also carried all my things so fine). We walked all the way to the other end of the beach and he showed me his favourite spot, a small lagoon surrounded by rocks. He was a lot more at ease walking on the rocks than me, and went to jump to the water. I took a great picture but unfortunately I could not send it to him because he does not have Whatsapp, Facebook, email or even a mobile phone! Crazy. I asked him how he communicates with people and he shrug his shoulders and said: "Well I don't really. All my family and friends live here so I just go see them and if I need to call I'll find someone who has a phone". Simple life, once again. If he ever comes across my blog, here the picture is:
I tried my best to do the same but it was very hard to jump because the rocks where so sharp that I didn't know where to put my feet and how not to fall over. So I don't look that cool (excuses...)
But I love this shot that he took without me noticing:
We stayed there for a while and then walked back. As I had hoped for, when the day-trip visitors had taken their boats and busses back to Cartagena, the beach was almost empty. So different from the hustle there was when we came with S and her dad.
Back at the hotel, I took it easy and enjoyed watching the sunset, and reading a book in the hammock on my terrace.
Adding to this view, the peaceful sound of waves: paradise.
One activity that I had heard of and wanted to do was a "Plancton-trip". I don't really know what it is but they take you on a boat to a place in the sea where there are lights and when you jump to the water the lights go on and it's supposed to be super cool to swim there. However, I can't tell because I never got there. Earlier in the afternoon a guy on the beach wanted to sell me the trip and when I came back from my walk I asked about it at my hotel. They told me to be ready at 7pm when a lancha would come pick me up. When I came down at 7, ready to go they gave me a weird look and said that I was way too early, that we wouldn't be leaving before 7. Me, confused: "But it is 7pm, right?" The receptionist guy: "No it isn't". Me, even more confused: "Well, what time is it then?" He: "6.56". Oh ok, I see. Of course my time and Colombian time is not exactly the same thing. He told me to wait a while and the lancha would come. So I sat down and one hour later, still no lancha. I then went back up to my terrace and asked him to let me know when (if) the lancha comes. 30 minutes later he came to inform me that there apparently were no lanchas that night. Oh, really? I figured that much out myself. So sadly no plancton tour for me, but at this point I was already so tired that I didn't mind, I just wanted to get a smoothie and go to sleep. As compensation, he said that there would be a short snorkeling trip the following morning if I wanted to go, I said I would think about it.
I went to bed so early that this morning I woke up at 5am when the sun started to rise. Beautiful.
A little bit later I had breakfast and then new day on the beach.
I had been up so early that I started to get a little bit bored so I decided that a boat tour and snorkeling sounded fun. The price was 35000COP (10€) but I'm becoming such a good negotiator that I only paid 20000 (6€). I have actually become such a good negotiator that I sometimes feel ashamed, like trying to steal their money. But then again, I know that they try to charge me a tourist price, especially in a place like Playa Blanca, and besides I am (was) a volunteer so I don't have too much money. Playa Blanca is touristic and thus a bit expensive, but on the other hand, when you stay on the beach and do basically nothing, you don't have to eat that much, for example. But water was ridiculously expensive everywhere, I got mad. Yesterday when I had lunch the waiter wanted me to pay 5000 (1.5€) for a small bottle of water, that is crazy. I literally had tears in my eyes I was so shocked, so he gave it to me for 3000 but still, annoying.
The boat tour was nice and snorkeling as well, although we didn't see much exotic fish. I got company of a group of young Colombians and we had a lot of fun all together. Also, I never get tired of admiring the colour of the water!
When we came back it was almost time for me to go so I packed and started slowly walking back to the other side of the beach where the bus would pick us up. I found a lovely lunch place, again, and had a salad with some coconut water.
My Playa Blanca trip was great. It was good to be alone and (almost) undisturbed, and to do nothing too energy-intensive. I totally recommend to stay there one night, but one night is enough. There are plenty of nice-looking hostels, some cabanas with private rooms and one fancier hotel, Decameron, that is a bit further away and has a private beach. You can get there by bus (I paid 40000 + 10000 to come back an other day) or by lancha (50-60000 + 15000 tax to pay at the pier), I've done both and I think the bus was faster and more agreeable. The bus left from next to the central square at Torre de Reloj, and it is good to book it one day in advance (from any hostel or there are vendors everywhere in the centre). Both options include lunch but I skipped it because didn't want to eat fish, coconut-rice and patacons again.
Now, relaxed and even more tanned, I am ready to leave the seaside and hop on a plane tomorrow, destination Medellin!
Ps. We had some delicious sushi and corozco juice for dinner tonight with my boss/friend N. For a change (cause I always go to my roommate P's place Kokoa Sushi & Wok) we went to a restaurant called Perú Fusión, in the Centro.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!