Palomino Beckons

28th July 2015

Munching on my huevos rancheros (fried eggs with tomato and chilli on corn tortillas) at the Aluna cafe, I was cranking up my courage to get the local bus to the town of Palomino, further east up the coast from Santa Marta.

This was going to be my beach holiday and I’d booked myself into the Dreamer Hostel on the Beach.

I love that name, Palomino.  It reminds me of the pony I used to ride when I was a child, which was the sweetest, prettiest thing. Already the Dreamer Hostel was casting its magic spell as I was playing make believe and dreaming of riding bareback in a pack of horses galloping along the coastal shores, our golden manes flaying wildly in the wind.  And back to reality ….

Getting a taxi to the bus stop (weird to do this I know but I didn’t know where I was going) I was delighted to see a clapped out bus, with torn leatherette seats, front and back doors that wouldn’t close and had to stay wide open, luggage on the roof, shopping shoved into every possible crevice and people trying to get on with huge bags of rice, fans, babies and backpacks. Disappointedly there were no chickens or goats on the bus!

What a wicked ride!

Cramped in, sweating, the wind from the open doors cooled everyone down as we zoomed along the really well tarmacked road (as a car driver in the UK I’m in awe of the roads. England versus Colombia on road maintenance.  No contest, Colombia wins!).

The waves crashed against the coastline, ramshackle small-holdings dotted the clifftops, villages flew by, banana plantations went on for miles and miles and miles, and the forested foothills of the Sierra Nevada were ever watchful.

(As an side for those of you who don’t know like I didn’t, the banana bunches are covered in polyethylene bags to protect them from the elements, birds and insects and help with growth for export to the UK and beyond. It’s strange seeing these plantations with, in effect, carrier bags hanging from them :-))

Local people filled the bus and the odd backpacking tourist. Stopping wherever the locals needed to debark, the bus conductor helped everyone get on and off the bus, grabbing their stuff for them and depositing it on the pavement.

I got off in what looked like a one road sprawled village with petrol stations, bus and truck depots, cafes, shops and bars and got a mototaxi, driven by 14 year old boy with my bag perched on his handlebars, to the Dreamer Hostel down a sandy, bumpy track. You can walk down it which’ll save you a couple of thousand pesos but for 50p in the humid heat, I didn’t worry.

Surrounded by beautiful purple and pink flowers and set in lush gardens with coconut palms and parrots flying around, the Dreamer is a proper resort. The reception backs on to the bar (with pool table) and restaurant area and there’s a swimming pool surrounded by dorms and private rooms.

My room was as big as a small London flat.  It was L shaped with an incredibly high ceiling supported by wooden beams. There was a huge double bed big enough for a four person family, wardrobe, ensuite bathroom, safe and a double sofa bed in the ‘L’. And my veranda had a hammock as well as table and chairs.  It was lovely – could I move it all back to London?!!

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I set off to explore and found the pathway to the beach.  There was a cafe to one side where you could buy sundowners and a concrete hostelry on stilts, to the right.  Straight in front was the volleyball net where people were playing, sunbathing or chilling out.

Walking further up the beach, past several more resorts of varying styles, people ebb away and it becomes you and nature.

Wild (Palomino) horses crash against the milky tea coloured sand, the waves wash away footprints like an etch-a-sketch, palm trees make their way to edge of the beach and the roar of the sea soothes the soul.

This part of the Caribbean Sea is pretty dangerous and its not safe to swim although its ok to surf in.

I took a dip, and when the Sea was getting ready to plunge a large wave, the water milled below my knees but as soon as it decided to splurge the wave, the water grew right up to my shoulders and the pull of the current was so strong, it pulled my feet out from under me.  Little scaredy cat here got out as soon as possible!

As seems to be usual for the few beaches I’d been to in Colombia, hawkers patrolled. However, these weren’t the same as those at Bocagrande. These people had quit their jobs or completed their studies, were from all over Colombia and South America, and had decided to chill out in Palomino for a short while and went on to stay, such is the pull of the place.

They were a new hippy generation. Making jewellery from shells and beach debris, living from the sea and forests, living amongst the locals and developing their own versions of the indigenous Wayuu way of life.

Lying on the sand at a slight loss as to what to do with my time next, I was annoyed with myself to have picked a resort hostel that didn’t depict the image I had in my head of wild Colombia and annoyed I picked a place where I couldn’t go swimming.  But hey, when you’re sitting at a desk in an office in the City and you have a choice of the turquoise still mill pond waters of the Isla de Providencia or the rough, primitive Caribbean coast, which one d’you go for?

After chilling in my hammock, soaking up the hostel atmosphere, watching all the 18 year olds frolic in the pool, I ventured to the restaurant area which sits under a canopy of flowers with bees and beetles buzzing around.

I hoped against hope that it wasn’t going to be an 18 to 30’s resort but thankfully, as is the way with hostels, single girls gravitate towards single girls and I had dinner with an American and Dutch girl who were in their 30s and really cool.

The menu at the hostel is not that great – I expected local fare or South American cuisine – it was full of different types of burgers, pizza, pasta, etc. I opted for the burger with everything on it.  Oh my god, who cared about the menu choice, it was amazing!!

After a pleasant evening, it was time to retire and flick the gecko poo off my pillow.

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