Cartagena plays host to its own beaches, but if you take a trip out of the city you can reach islands where teal water grazes its lips on light beige sand.
The Rosario Islands and The San Bernardo Islands are located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. The Rosario Islands are more popular with tourists, however the beaches are still holding on to their pristine beauty for now. Before getting to one of the beaches called “Playa Blanca”, I got the pleasure of experiencing the culture of spearfishing. I don’t support it, but I swam “around” one of the divers as he calmly dove down 20 feet without a tank to follow the stream of a fish with his spear gun. He was able to stay down there with that added water pressure for over a minute without any equipment. Unbelievable. He caught 4 fish, and I was a little sad, but I felt like I could still respect this culture. After all, I’d rather hunt this way than by using a big fish net that would destroy ecosystems and catch unneeded fish. Furthermore, I know this culture hasn’t had as many options or choices when it comes to food.
In any case, my mixed emotions were soon rounded into awe as we reached Playa Blanca. The water here is literally the clearest water I have seen. I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t been to many places in the world, but I was so surprised to turn and see dark teal, meet light teal, meet sand that looked like it contained golden bright yellow paint. Seriously, these pictures I’ve put up have no filter. When we docked, my friend from Cartagena showed me his family restaurant where his uncle had some beer for sale and his aunt made me the go-to vegetarian dish of tostada, rice, eggs, and salad. Naturally, later on my friend’s other “uncle” showed up with bracelets and necklaces, one of which was made out of seeds from a plant that grows on a tree. I thought it was pretty unique and resourceful. On the island, there are hostels shaded by the various trees if you want to take a rest or stay on the island for a night. Other than that though this island just spoke for itself. There were a lot of tourists, yet it was also high season so I don’t know what it would be like otherwise. In general, Cartagena and the surrounding area has much more tourism as opposed to Cali. This is except for Cali’s “Feria”.
The Bernardo Islands trip was also full of surprises. First, in order to get to these islands, it’s best to bus to another coastal town called “Tolú” and then take a boat from there. It’s cheaper than Rosario, but even if it wasn’t, Tolú has a really good charm. It’s really loud at night, as though there is a sort of competition going on, but this town is happy. It’s mostly characterized by it’s bicycle transports and when I got off the bus, a guy was waiting to bring me to the cheapest hostel with his “bicycle carriage”. Honestly, I felt a bit like an asshole sitting on the back of this thing, but I gave a good tip at the end. The driver had legs of steel, along with the other “conductors” in town. Before the sun went down, I got to see the sunset walking down the boardwalk. This was beautiful. Some of the trees here just looked like big bonzai trees with their level of detail and wide branch structure. I don’t know, I’m not a tree expert. Nonetheless, together with the sun, beaches, and little restaurants on the rock platforms stretching out from the shore, the landscape was serene.
After getting sorted out in a hostel and booking my boat trip ticket for the next day, I went out and realized how much this town comes alive at night. The boardwalk and streets were lit up with vendors selling trinkets and clothes. Furthermore, more “bicycle carriages” came around to give tours around the town. These “bicycle carriages” were of a different variety though. Some had three rows of seats, as big as cars, and there was one where 12 people could get on to cycle and help move the carriage through a pulley system. All of these also came with sophisticated sound systems with bangin’ Salsa music too and as they rode through the central square it created a really amicable vibe. There was even an area where kids could drive a mini bike carriage around a basketball court. Moreover, if they got tired of that the kids could hop on a trampoline or ride a mini ferris wheel in a the center of town. Beers were less than $1 CAD, so I sat down to play a board game with a group of Colombian friends and took in the atmosphere for the rest of the night.
What started the next day off well was the arepa sold in Tolú. I’m starting to understand that each part of Colombia has it’s own stlye of arepa. The one in Tolú was deep fried with an egg inside and this was glorious. When that bad boy was done, I went to look for the boat. The San Bernardo Islands are another hour boat ride south of The Rosario Islands. Each island is set up with a big tiki hut where people can eat for a decent price. I didn’t really ask if I could pick which island to go to, but the island I went to was called “Múcura”. It was a smaller island with not much to do other than swimming and relaxing, but for a day trip, that’s all you really need sometimes. Again, I could see the bottom of the sea and I played a bit with the white clay under my feet. I also bumped into a Colombian family to talk to, downed 2 more arepas, and then headed back to Cartagena 5 hours later. For this Caribbean area, boats have to head back around 2:30pm or the water gets really choppy. All in all, when I got back to Cartagena the whole Tolú/San Bernardo trip cost $83 US, which is about $121 CAD apparently because our dollar is going through a bad break up right now with oil or something. This was my most expensive trip so far, but well worth it in my opinion. Can’t wait to dive in San Andres! 🙂
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