Thursday, February 14, 2019

Santa Marta to Barranquilla

Garmin data and maps

Santa Marta beach
Very friendly hotel kitten

Santa Marta at sunset
Santa Marta is a lovely town. It is big enough to offer plenty of things to see and do and still small enough to be easy to walk around in. I stayed for 9 days at the very affordable and charming Hotel Nueva Granada ($24). This hotel has 20 rooms that aren't big enough to include children. This was a welcome change. Like many hotels, there is a pool and, usually, it would be crowded with kids splashing and howling with laughter all day long. I like children but sometimes it is nice to have a quieter stay.  

Santa Marta marina
I had a few things to take care of while in a bigger city. One thing I've been anxious to do is have a full blood work panel done as well as to check my thyroid hormone levels. This is so much easier and cheaper outside the US. I make sure to do it as often I think I need while traveling. Since I started following the Ketogenic diet 2 months ago I was especially interested to see if there were any changes. I found a very professional lab within walking distance of my hotel. They charged $27, drew the blood right away and I was told to expect results by email the next afternoon. The results arrived as promised and all levels were perfect. This is always a big relief. 

Santa Marta city and marina

Funny hotel kitten

Hotel pool

Another thing I wanted to do was get my laundry done. I have so few clothes that I typically hand wash whatever I wore for the day in the shower using shampoo for detergent. It had been a month since my clothes last saw a machine. The hotel had laundry service and I paid $2.50 for a kilo which was much cheaper than anywhere else I had my laundry done. Until this experience, laundry had been one of the most expensive services in Colombia. The last time I had it done I was charged $15 - huge difference.

Having a chat

Recycling truck

Making friends flying the drone

Santa Marta is the 1st real touristic city I have been to since leaving Bogotá. Even Bucaramanga and Valledupar, which are both bigger cities, really only offered tourism for Colombians. Everywhere else, except tiny Palomino which was really only a backpacker's pueblo, there has been no English spoken. The hotel Nueva Granada had people staying from many countries. I met another women who was also traveling solo. Annamarie is German and had taken a freighter ship to Colombia. She is traveling for 10 months without taking an airplane. Santa Marta was her 1st port. We visited many places together. It was a welcome change to have company especially with someone who speaks English. 

Street art

Hojuelas vendor
Minca church

Annamarie and I took a bus to the mountain pueblo of Minca. This town is known for hiking as well as being in a coffee growing region. To get the most out of the area it is best to stay for a few days but we only went for the day. It is an easy $2.50 van ride from the mercado publico in el centro Santa Marta and takes less than an hour. On the way up we had wonderful views of Santa Marta and the ocean. We took a hike higher up to visit 2 waterfalls. This was on a road rather than a path and some of it was paved. The road mostly went next to a babbling creek. We were passed by lots of motorbikes taking tourists to see the waterfalls and other attractions higher up into the mountains.  The waterfalls were beautiful and both also had swimming holes. If I had known I would have brought a bathing suit. I love these natural swimming places and the water was very clear with lots of blooming flowers growing all around.  Walking back down the hill, a truck passed and offered us a ride. That was very thoughtful and sure saved us some time getting back to town. 

View from above the falls in Minca

Coffee flowers

Simon Bolivar, liberator of Colombia, in repose

We also went to a big historic complex in Santa Marta called La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. The bus ride there was highly amusing. I was sitting in the last row behind the rear exit. A guy standing in the stairway kept shooting snot rockets out the open door. An older woman sitting across from him was cleaning papers out of her purse throwing each unwanted piece out the bus door as if it was the most natural thing. Clearly this was not something unusual as no one else paid her any mind. My eyes got very big watching this pair in front of me. Every time we stopped to pick up passengers, or at a light, vendors would board the bus to sell water, trinkets or food. These guys would yell whatever they were selling very loudly over and over until the bus took off again. 

At La Quinta, there is a museum, monument, hacienda and botanical garden on an estate where Simon Bolivar lived and died. Simon Bolivar is considered the liberator of Colombia. In fact, he was a revolutionary who brought independence to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru from the Spanish around 1830. The 5 countries were called Gran Colombia. The entrance fee for the complex was quite high at 22,000 cop ($7 for foreigners). Considering the history of the place, it was also very run down. Many of the paths were not being maintained and the botanical gardens were in desperate need of attention. We did see quite a few birds which was nice. The paths also had a lot of pictures of possible bird sightings stapled to the trees. It probably took an hour to walk through the whole complex and then we hopped on another, less eventful, bus back to the hotel.

Hacienda of Simon Bolivar
Iguana posing

Updating Youtube at a 5-star hotel restaurant

Wifi has been a huge problem for me all through Colombia but it's has been especially poor since reaching the coast. Often upload speeds are impossibly slow, like dial-up modems used to be. Colombia really needs to invest in their internet. My little 5-7 minute Youtube videos can take 24 hours to upload. It's possible that Colombia has the worst internet of any country I have visited especially for uploading. I had really expected that being in a larger city meant the speed would improve but, no, my hotel wifi was just as slow as the wifi in very small pueblos. Someone told me about a phone app, Speedtest, where, once connected to a wifi network, the app tests the download and upload speeds. This saves a lot of time and wasted meals only ordered because I want to use their wifi. I used the app at many cafes and restaurants. Consistently, the download speeds were acceptable but the upload speeds were next to nothing. Finally, I went to a 5-star hotel restaurant, Don Pepe. I figured there is no way anyone will pay the higher room prices and not be able to get work done. I brought my laptop and my videos uploaded very fast, like normal. This is a technique I'll remember in the future. Of course, not all towns have 5-star hotels with restaurants. 

Video about the people who makes things from the money of Venezuela

Worthless Venezuela bolivars made into handbags and wallets

While I was in Santa Marta I also visited the beach communities of Taganga and El Rodedero. Luckily, when I visited Taganga the winds were calm enough that I could fly my drone but the day I went to El Rodedero the winds were so strong walking along the beach was hard. I was completely coated in sand and needed a shower to clean up when I returned to the hotel. Even still, it was very beautiful.

Taganga bay and mountains

Taganga fishing boats

Fishermen ready to go out and work

The other thing that happened while I was in Santa Marta was that I made a very important health discovery. I've written before about how I started intermittent fasting and the Ketogenic diet while on this tour. Kind of a strange thing to do while on tour but that's what happened. People lose lots of weight quickly on Keto, and I do have weight to lose, but my real motivation was to eliminate chronic inflammation. For years and years I have tried to figure out why my feet and ankles so often swell up after eating. I have tried eating vegan, low fat and gluten-free which all offered benefits but the inflammation has continued to be a problem. For the 1st few weeks of doing Keto I had no inflammation and was thrilled. But when I arrived at the coast, the inflammation returned. I was really bummed. Because the inflammation always happens after I eat, I have always assumed it is caused by an allergic reaction to something I'm eating. I couldn't imagine what had changed now that I was at the coast but the inflammation was actually worse than I ever remembered it being. Usually the swelling goes down after a few hours and now it was taking all day and sometimes my ankles were still swollen the next morning. I went to the kitchen staff at the hotel to ask if there was some new ingredient they were cooking with that perhaps is special to the region. They showed me everything they had cooked breakfast with and there was nothing unusual. I was stumped.

El Rodedero beach
Very old pedal boats - pedals are made of wood.

El Rodedero swimming area

But then, I remember that a few days earlier I had arrived at the hotel in Albania completely exhausted after a very difficult day riding in a strong headwind. At the end of the ride I was so nauseous that I thought I was going to throw-up. I spent 3 nights at this very expensive hotel to recover. The last day, it occurred to me that I was low in electrolytes and that was what made me feel so sick. I added more salt and, sure enough, I quickly felt better. With that realization, I added salt to all my meals to make sure I had adequate electrolytes. Remembering back on this, it started to dawn on me that, perhaps, the problem I was having with inflammation was actually edema. I now had too much salt in my system causing water retention. It made sense that the inflammation was happening after every meal because there is always salt in the food which meant I was adding salt to my body which already had too much salt. 

Video about my health discovery 
and thoughts about Keto with intermittent fasting

Coffee man, Santa Marta

Street orange juicer

At the hotel in Santa Marta, I asked the cooks to make me soft boiled eggs for breakfast and I had salads for my second meal. Sure enough, the inflammation started coming down. I was feeling sheepish and embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out this issue. Edema and water retention is such a common problem. I have always thought of myself as a very healthy eater and couldn't imagine that I would suffer from edema. But, it also occurred to me that even at home, my go-to meal is stir-fry where my favorite seasoning is tamari -which is a gluten-free soy sauce alternative and full of sodium. Apparently, my system is more sensitive to salt than I realized. The good news is I now know the symptoms of too little salt and too much salt. Hopefully, I'll be able to regulate this better going forward. And in the last 10 days since making this discovery, my feet and ankles have been skinny again - woohoo!!

Looking back at Santa Marta from the climb

Finally, I pulled myself away from sweet little Santa Marta making my way to Cienaga. Aside from one good size climb out of Santa Marta into El Rodedero it was a very easy ride along the ocean. I had a strong tailwind too. Everyone I had asked about Cienaga said it was a nothing town but, as so often happens, I discovered it was another sweet town. There were lots of trici pedal-powered taxis which gave it additional charm. I found a fabulous historic boutique hotel for $50. Ciénaga was close enough to Santa Marta and even bigger Baranquilla that there really wasn't much reason for people to stop here. I was surprised to find such a nice hotel. There were a few other guests that were on organized tours who were equally surprised to find this small town as part of their itinerary. For someone like me who has to take whatever the road offers, finding such a quaint and comfortable hotel in a small town is a welcome surprise.

Very nice walkway up the climb out of Santa Marta

On the way down into El Rodedero

I was also very excited when I was invited to go on a bird watching boat tour. This is something I've been wanting to do since arriving in Colombia. Supposedly, Colombia has more birds than any other country in the world. A tour guide came to the hotel and he explained that a van would pick me up with a couple of other hotel guests the following morning and we would spend 4 hours bird-watching by boat and then visit a pueblo where the houses are all on stilts above the water. This sounded fantastic.

Hotel El Ciénaga

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. The hotel guests got sick and had to cancel. The guide tried to get me on 2 more tours but those fell through as well. Maybe there would be something similar I could find in Barranquilla.

Church and plaza, Ciénaga

Hotel cook with her sweet puppy taking me on a tour of Ciénaga

Beach soccer matches at sunset

Trici taxis of Ciénaga

Again, the next morning another tour guide tried to get something organized but that didn't happen either. Since the tours fell through, there wasn't a reason to stay any longer and I got packed up. It was around 10:30 by the time I left which is quite late for me. I had another surprise when I opened Googlemaps to discover the distance to Barranquilla was 71 kms instead of the 35 I was expecting. The route appeared to be very flat and, so far, going down the coast I've had a good tailwind so I figured I would arrive later than usual but not too late.

Crocodiles feature prominently in Ciénaga

Beautiful views riding out of Ciénaga

The ride was gorgeous. The road was on a thin spit of land between the ocean and a giant lagoon. In between the trucks passing I could hear the waves crashing on the beach. At first there were lots of small, very poor towns that were in the middle of a salt mine. But then I was on a toll road and the land was completely uninhabited. Occasionally, I would see a few people fishing but there was very little going on. Interestingly, I had 4 people stop to ask if needed anything. The 1st man I couldn't understand. The next car was a couple who offered me a to-go container of soup. I was flying my drone at the time and I really need to concentrate when I'm flying. Of course, they couldn't tell what I was doing but I had to stop my video to talk to them. After that a van full of ladies who I met at the hotel recognized me and stopped. I was actually running low on water but all they had was Pedialyte. I took it. And then a group of road workers offered me water from a garrafon. The timing was perfect as I was just about to run out. I continued on in confidence.

Road workers who offered me water

Beautiful bird

Fisherman on a very breezy afternoon

Drone shot of the fabulous scenery

Crossing the bridge into Barranquilla

This spit of land I was riding on was probably 35 miles long and ends at a bridge crossing the Rio Magdalena into Barranquilla. I took the old bridge and watched as a new bridge is being constructed high above. Once I entered Barranquilla I pulled over to find a route to a recommended hotel. While I was looking at the map 2 motorcycle policemen stopped to find out where I was going. I showed them the route and they both said going that way was a bad idea. They said the route goes through an area of Barranquilla so dangerous they won't even go there. Oh, wow! They offered to escort me along a safer route. I explained that I am a very slow cyclist but that didn't worry them. 

      Police escort helping me fix a flat

I was very happy to have these guys show me the way especially when shortly after we started out I got a rear flat tire. This would not only be the 1st flat of the trip but also the 1st flat on the rear wheel since I had the Rohloff installed about 2 years ago. I think this was my 1st flat in over 2 years. Oh boy! I watched many videos how to change a rear flat with the Rohloff and Jonathan at Rose City Recumbents had showed me how to removed the wheel when it was installed. But this was all a long time ago and now I would have to remember what I had learned. I did remember to put the Rohloff in the 1st gear. Getting the wheel off wasn't too bad especially since I had a policeman helping to lift the rear of the trike. I also quickly found the piece of glass causing the flat. Getting the piece of glass out of the tire was extremely difficult. I tried digging it out with a pair of tweezers I have in my repair kit but I could get to it. Then the policemen used a pair of pliers to fold the tire tightly making the hole with the piece of glass bigger. I still couldn't get to it. Finally, he used a pocket knife and managed to dig it out. Wow did that take a long time. It was as if we were doing a complicated surgery. I patched the puncture and then came time to put the wheel back on. I couldn't figure it out. I hardly ever get flats and it is even rarer that I have a rear flat. I've been touring for 12 years and probably haven't changed more than a 6 rear flats in all these years. I simply couldn't remember how to put the chain back on the cassette. Then 2 more policemen arrived and one of them figured it out. They got an emergency call and took off with sirens blaring before the job was done but I was able to complete the reinstall from where they left it. I was so relieved when I got the Rohloff side piece to snap back on and then was able to click through the gears like normal. The real question was whether the flat tire repair would hold.

Police blocking traffic so I can make a left turn safely

We continue on with another 5 miles to go and the sun was setting. Occasionally, one or 2 more policemen would join us. They all turned on the flashing lights and sometimes their sirens when we went through intersections. At one point there were lots of policemen in the middle of an intersection. I couldn't tell or understand what was happening. As I got closer, I realized they had all been called ahead and were blocking traffic so I could safely make a left turn. This was all for me - oh my, was this incredible. Everyone was getting a huge kick out of the trike and I was crying with laughter. Barranquilla sure knew I had arrived. Eventually, my police escort got me safely to my recommended hotel. The poor guys really had to use the bathroom and so our goodbyes were cut short. This was an amazing experience and one I would never forget.

Hotel El Prado, Barranquilla

A classic old 5-star hotel 

The hotel that was recommended turned out to be the most famous in Barranquilla. Hotel El Prado is a grand old historic 5-star. Who recommends a 5-star without a warning? This really is a beautiful place and, since I'm turning 60 in a few days, it felt like the perfect hotel to celebrate and I got myself checked in for 4 nights. 

Welcome to Barranquilla!

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Monday, February 04, 2019

Palomino to Santa Marta

Garmin Info and Maps

Sweet bohemian Palomino

Palomino was another different experience. This is a town that caters to backpackers and is the first international tourist town I've been to since leaving Bogotá. Everywhere I've been, so far, has only been Spanish speaking. From the moment I turned down the main road I heard many different languages. It seems that every town I stay in is very different from the others. This has been a delightful part of traveling in Colombia. Some towns are more beautiful or poorer or more dusty and busy or more touristic but every town has it's charm and there is always something that the town's people are very proud of. This is especially true of the music and food. Colombians are incredibly proud of their country, everywhere, and it is fun to ask people about the different regions.  In this region, the indigenous peoples have played a big role in the history. There is lots of natural beauty being on the coast as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Colombia has more birds than any other country in the world and I saw many with lots of bright colors. Of course, there is incredible natural beauty in all areas of Colombia. I think this country offers more diverse natural beauty than any other country I have visited including New Zealand. Today I would be riding to stay in a hostel close to Tayrona Natural Park. This park is huge and a very popular place to visit. Everyone says it is a not-to-be-missed park. 

I left little bohemian Palomino after a 3 night stay at the comfortable and affordable
Bakery owner where I had breakfast
Villa Delia on the beach. I was lucky when a big group of cyclists had a room cancelation allowing me to staying another night. This was perfect. I was really enjoying the relaxed ambiance and wasn't quite ready to leave. Staying one more day was just what I needed. Palomino caters to international tourists but mostly backpackers. Many of the hostels offer camping and even glamping with thatch covered huts for rent. This was the 1st time on my trip that I saw people staying in tents. There were some nice cafe's offering organic foods with wonderful coffee. One thing I've been amazed by is how often I'm offered Nescafe in a country that is so famous for coffee. I really like coffee and appreciate a good strong cup. I think it's an American thing to drink a few cups and I often order 3 cups with breakfast. I found a lovely bakery that had good coffee and good wifi. They also prepared my usual scrambled eggs with onions, cheese and avocado. Fueled up, I was ready to push on down the road.

The roads in Palomino are a potholed mess. There are no paved roads. I can't imagine what it would be like here in the rainy season. Even without rain many of the potholes are full of water. As cars and trucks drive through town they are splashing water on everyone walking.  The motorcycles drive all over the road to avoid the rough spots. I did too. Where ever I go, Myrtle is the star. As I navigated my way around the potholes cameras came out of everyone's pocket. I bet Myrtle is in over 10,000 pictures since leaving Bogotá. If there was a way, it would be fun to ask people to post their photos from all over Colombia.

I love all the animal signs

Today, people clapped with enjoyment seeing the trike as I left town. Soon I was on the main road and back on asphalt. I really like asphalt. I also had a tailwind with incredible views of the Caribbean coast to my right. I took out my Mavic Air to do some active track where the drone will follow me as I ride. This feature is fun but also quite frustrating. It only follows me from behind and likes to be at quite a distance. Sometimes I wish I could do more intimate shots. The feature also only works for a short time and then loses me. I don't need much footage for my videos which is fine but sometimes I'm riding for a while before I realize the drone has stopped following me and is quite a ways back. I had to stop and fast forward the drone a couple of times and try again. This drone also uses wifi to connect the remote control with the drone. There is always interference where the image can't be transmitted to the screen or the controller actually loses connection. The return to home feature, where you press a button and the drone returns to the starting point or where the remote is located, is very important in these cases. I hope these features will be improved in the next models DJI releases.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria in the distance

Families enjoying a river
Youtube video of my ride from Palomino to Tayrona

Drone view of the coastal road
The views were spectacular today and I got some wonderful pictures. The riding was delightful with gentle rollers where I would ride over a hill with a fabulous view and then down into a small town. I didn't have far to go today and I arrived at my destination quicker than expected. In fact, I had picked out a hostel and arrived so early I almost passed it. This area has lots of hostels and hotels for people visiting Tayrona Natural Park. This park is very popular. It is the most visited park and one of the biggest in Colombia. I picked out a hostel that looked very interesting and had great reviews on Google. The rooms were separate tree houses built into a hillside and sitting high on stilts. They are open air with only a mosquito net around the bed for protection from the elements. My room had a fabulous view of the Piedras River out to the ocean as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. These mountains rise to 18,000 ft and may be the tallest mountains on any coast. The hostel included breakfast in the $40/night rate.  It is owned by a brother and sister who are Colombian but grew up in Toronto. I suspect their family fled to Canada during the wars with the FARC. Their hostel has only been open a year and it is doing very well. They are both very sweet people and I wish them all the best. Unfortunately, they only had a vacancy for one night but, very generously, made many calls on my behalf to other hotels to help me get booked in some where that I would be comfortable. 

River and beach from a bridge

Banana plantation

Hostel Journey
My treehouse room was comfortable with a full bathroom, big sitting chair, hammock and plush queen size bed. Sleeping in an open air tree house sounds quite romantic but, in fact, I didn't really sleep very well. The wind was strong in the night and kept me awake. It was free from city noise but the natural noises were surprisingly loud. I could hear insects, monkeys and tons of birds in the morning. I loved hearing all the different sounds but it also made sleeping in the morning impossible. Sleepy eyed, I walked down the precarious and very steep path to the main room for breakfast. Today, I would go to Tayrona Natural park for a visit. Colombians rave about the beauty of this park. The park is closing for a month, as it does every year, for maintenance, cleaning and to let the local Arhuaco tribes people do important ceremonies in peace without the crowds. The park closes tomorrow so I was cutting my visit very close. A collectivo picked me up outside the hostel and drove the 1.5 kms to the park entrance. The line to get a ticket was very long and I had to wait quite awhile. Apparently, I wasn't the only person wanting to visit before the park closure.

My room high above

Open air room

Looking out at the ocean from my room

The entrance fee is hefty at 66,000 pesos for foreigners, ($22), but 20,000 ($7) for Colombians which I still think is a lot. This park is mostly known for hiking. There are hiking paths of various difficulty to a few secluded beaches. There are also places for people to camp.  I've heard you can reserve small cabins and hammocks. A few hearty backpackers at the hostel returned from a night sleeping in a hammock and said it was very uncomfortable but seemed happy to have had the experience. 

Tayrona park

Once I had my entrance ticket I had to pay more to take a collectivo into the park to the official entrance. I hadn't been anywhere or seen anything but had already spent $23 to go on a day hike. Hhhhmmm.... I was beginning to think this was going to be one of those experiences everyone does simply because it's something everyone does. We had to wait until the collectivo was full and then drove for 10 minutes. At the entrance there is a short hike to a mirador above a beach. There was an large egg-shaped marker with 9 holes that I didn't understand the significance of but think it is something from a long ago tribal ceremony. The view from the mirador de las estrellas was lovely and the lighting was fantastic. The water looked extra blue today.

Below the mirador of the stars.

A lot of nature

hotel bird
The park doesn't do a good job explaining what there is to see. In fact, there was only one sign for a path. It said the hike to a beach would be 50 minutes and was a low level of difficulty. That sounded good to me. I still have an injury in my left thigh that makes my leg tire out quicker when I hike. Luckily, it doesn't affect me when I'm riding.  The path was sometimes dirt and sometimes had wood planks to walk on. Occasionally, there were bigger rocks to scramble around.  The path was crowded with people, mostly families. Many were carrying coolers with food, cases of beer and playing music very loudly as they walked. I was getting the feeling that the beach I was headed to was probably a party place. I was hoping to see animals and birds but everyone was so noisy any animals, for sure, were scared away. The walk was completely in a jungle. After about a hour, I asked someone who was returning how much farther and they said I was about halfway to the beach. I asked if there were a lot of people - oh yes! Was there music? Oh, yes! She showed me photos. The beach is beautiful but there was a lot of people with a lot of children. Hhhhmmmm.... Did I really want to walk for 2 hours to go to a party beach? And then, of course, I would have to walk back. My idea for coming to this park was to hike along a nice quiet trail and enjoy nature's beauty. It seemed a lot of other people had other ideas. I was also worried that hiking for 4 hours would be too much for my thigh injury. I decided not to continue and turned around.  I love Colombian music but sometimes you want peace and quiet. On my trike ride, I am seeing amazing beaches so it's not like I'm missing out on seeing the undisturbed coast.  So I walked back and found a collectivo to take me to the entrance where I took another collectivo back to the funky cool Journey Hostel.  I really found this experience to be a bit of a bust and an expensive one at that.

Myrtle was waiting for me and I got loaded up to ride 4 kms farther down the road to the
Juan Valdez is a famous image in Colombia
beautiful Hostal Monte Verde. The rooms were lovely cabanas around a pool. I booked in for 2 nights. This hostel was very relaxed. They had a wonderful restaurant where I could order custom delicious meals of large salads with lots of fresh veggies, avocado and fish or meat. I loved it. The next day I was running low on cash and took a bus 40 minutes into Santa Marta. I stopped at the big shopping mall, Buenavista, to get some things at an Exitó market and have a cup of coffee at Juan Valdez. Juan Valdez is like the Starbucks of Colombia except the coffee is better. I remember Juan Valdez was a spokes person for, I think, Maxwell House or maybe Folgers commercials when I was a kid. The image was exactly the same with the mastachioed man wearing a sombrero, a sarape with his burro loaded with coffee beans freshly picked from the fields. Seeing this image made me smile thinking back to a simpler time when coffee came in cans that had plastic lids.  The actual actor who played Juan Valdez died recently and this was big news in Colombia. 

Another hotel bird


Santa Marta life

Riding on a pedestrian street into Santa Marta

The next day I got Myrtle loaded up for the short trip to Santa Marta. Santa Marta would be the biggest city I've been in since leaving Bogotá. There are many places and beaches to visit in and around the city. I also wanted to take care of some things that require a bigger city like having some routine blood work done to check my thyroid levels.  It has been awhile since I've had decent wifi and I was quite behind uploading photos for online backup. I also needed to get this journal updated as well as put together a few videos for my Youtube channel. Santa Marta is supposed to be a lovely town and really the one end of the gringo trail in Colombia. I expect to meet a lot of travelers which will be a nice change.

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