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  • Writer's pictureSanni & Gerri@

We need vacation. Which way to the beach, please?

05. - 12. December


Since we have travelled relatively quickly in recent weeks and one event chased the next, we decide to go on vacation. Vacationing during vacation sounds strange, but is necessary. Since Bogotá, we have been looking forward to the beach on our route. It should be Caribbean beach vacation. A whole week in one place. Without excursions or planning. Just enjoying the white sand and the blue sea. That shouldn't be so difficult here. The next touted Dream Beach is in Palomino, a small village on the eastern Caribbean coast in the La Guajira Department, which borders Venezuela to the east. Only one hour by bus from Tayrona National Park and two hours from Santa Marta. According to the World Wide Web, one thing in particular can be done there: lying on the beach in seclusion in a hammock under palm trees and forgetting about the time.

That's exactly what we are looking for.

We have another criteria to meet on our list: good Internet connection. Because we want to move forward with our blog and the further journey should also be researched. Intensive and lengthy research reveals a hostel directly at the beach. This is even one of the upper category. The Selina chain is one of the noble hostels in the backpacker scene and prides itself on always having the best place in town. Looks posh and above versteine else, the internet description provides proof in writing: DIRECTLY AT THE BEACH! The photos confirm. Click! 7 days, booked. You don't treat yourself to anything else.


 

Off to Palomino

Full of joy we go to the destination by local bus. At first glance, the place itself does not make much of a difference to any other place around. A gas station, small food stalls, the typical small houses, many motor taxi drivers and not to forget dust. However, our goal is the sea and not the main road. This area is supposed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. So we jump out of the bus at the next corner and shoulder our backpacks. A quick look at the mobile phone reveals 2.2 km to the hostel. We decide to walk. 2 kilometres is nothing for us now. That we have approx. 30° C and midday sun is not quite so cosy, but we arrive relatively quickly and surprisingly in a good mood (especially Sanni). So, that's the famous Selina. Everything looks quite nice, not as big and luxurious as in the (wide-angle) pictures, but ok. First to the check-in. Since we are an hour early, this is not yet possible, but we can store our luggage. Full of excitement we go to the edge of the hostel grounds where we can already hear the sea rustle and see the waves. Many waves. A lot of waves. And no beach! Probably, the beach access is somewhere hidden on one of the sides of the property. So back to the bored receptionist. Sorry, where can find access to the beach? She points to the path leading to town we came from and says: On foot. Takes approx. 20 minutes.

Upffff? Hmmm, We mean… PLEASE?

But where is the "directly on the beach" beach? Oh, that's this one right here! - You mean this one with the waves? Where the concrete wall got erected so that the hostel is not flooded? Where there is no beach left anymore? Where you can't even lie on the beach? - Yes, that one! You can certainly imagine our faces vividly.

Completely depressed, we first order something to eat and a „calm-us down-beer“ to discuss what to do now. We google directly for alternative accommodations in the area, but soon we realise that it probably looks similar on this entire coastline. Later we learn that the sea has actually been getting closer and closer for almost 2 years now and the current is becoming significantly stronger. And so „directly at the beach“ has now turned into "directly by the sea“. Of course, it is also beautiful, but not what we are looking for. This means for us „directamente Bye Bye Palomino“. But where to go now? Further east to Riohacha or back to the west. We choose the latter, because there are supposed to be fantastically beautiful islands near Cartagena de Indias (according to the Internet). This gives us hope to lie under palm trees soon with a coconut in hand. Fortunately, despite the lack of cancellation option, we can cancel the room free of charge. The lady at the reception apparently already knows that. Her comment: Yes, yes. I know.


 

Go back to Start Since it is already afternoon, we can't make the whole way to Cartagena during daylight and so we end up for the third time at Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta. Almost a week ago we set off here for our Tayrona and Palomino adventure. Looking backwards, we could have saved ourselves the detour. But that doesn’t matter now. To save time, we will take a shared shuttle to Cartagena the next day where we arrive on time for the Sun Downer. Right the next morning we continue by boat. We choose the island of Isla Grande. It is the largest, but at the same time the most untouristic of the Islas del Rosario archipelago. About 750 people live on the island; most of them in the only village on the island, Pueblo. In addition, there are only about 15 hotel facilities throughout the island. That sounds great. To get a room is a bit tricky at the last minute. A lot is already sold out or are just super expensive. Nevertheless, after a lot of research and ambition we found a place at the Secret Barefoot Luxury Hostel. Sounds like chicimicki again. And yes, the pictures look amazing, the reviews sound positive and the most important thing: The beach is right outside the door! At a price of 65 € for a hostel without breakfast, it is more than we should spend, but hey - it is vacation.

Small clarification: This does not sound so expensive for European standards, but for Colombia it is a very high price. On average, we paid for our previous, very nice, accommodations about 19 € incl. breakfast. Together, not per person :-)


 

The „paradise“

At jetty in the port of Cartagena, we are waiting for our taxi boat with thousands of other people. We are afraid that they all want to go to "our" island, but we also know that many day trips to the other islands also depart from here. With more than an hour delay, our boat finally leaves the harbour of Cartagena. The trip is very nice and the arrival in the island paradise gives chills of joy. Gradually we drop all fellow travellers off at the jetties of your respective accommodations until in the end only we and 4 other people remain. But when it‘s our turn to off-board to our Barefoot Luxury Hostel is not visible anywhere. An islander points towards the forest and tells us in “Spenglish“ that we just have to go continue walking. It does make sense to us since the hotel is called Secreto and not downtown Pueblo. It can't be that far here, so let‘s go. But it can far. And on top of that, there are no signposting anywhere. Together with 3 other guys, who also have a booking there, we make our way through the forest. Gerriet navigates us unerringly through the bushes with the help of Maps.me until we arrive at some point at the back entrance of a building. That must be the way. Well, looks awkward and there is again no sign, but we go through the backdoor entrance. We cross a kind of mini village consisting of slightly dilapidated colourful buildings in the middle there is a sad-looking and deserted pool. We assume that we have landed in the neighbouring hostel and continue the broken road towards our hostel on maps.me. At the end of the site we see a sign with the inscription reception. Ah great, let's ask. Sorry, we are looking for the Secreto Barefoot Luxury Hostel, can you tell us how to get there. The attentive reader already senses it... Yes, that's here!

We are shocked and you can see it in our faces.

We ask again if there is perhaps another hostel with a similar name and show the nice lady at the reception the pictures of Booking.com. She confirms once again that we are at the right place, although the photos obviously date from the time of the reopening. Anyhow. The pool we saw is quite disgusting, but we are here because of the beach and not the pool. So where can we find it, please? Well, says the lady at the reception. The actual beach is 40 minutes by foot but we do have a small beach right down there. 40 minutes? Let’s take a look at the small beach here. We walk over a small wooden walkway through the mangroves and tatdaaah: beach directly at the hostel. Oh, you can't lie here. There was once a beach bar, but it is broken. And well, around it is still waters with mangroves. That smells a little and of course there are also „a few“ mosquitoes. The view of the bay alone is quite nice. Where was the other beach again? 40 minutes by foot? Now even Gerriet, who is always the soothing part, has pure despair written all over his face. How can we be so incredible wrong in our booking twice in a row...?

It's no use, we have to get out of here.

We have already rattled everything through the common booking portals, so we are using GPS maps now, trying to find out if there are other accommodations on the island. And indeed. We find a private villa to rent for just 300 € a night and then there is a Luxury Beach Club, which according to Google map is actually located on a really beautiful sandy beach. The secreto hostel staff is super nice and helpful. Again, we can cancel free of charge and she even calls the Beach Club to ask if a room is available for us. We are lucky and decide to invest the 70 € without breakfast and book 4 nights. Although the fact that another "luxury" occurs in the name now worries us a little.


 

Vacation trial the third

The way to the new domicile is specified by the lady with a 15-minute walk. So, we go through the backdoor of the hotel back to the forest and off we go, the dream beach always firmly in front of our eyes. We cross the "cute" village of Pueblo, which is basically nothing more than a collection of a few houses, a village square and a whole lot of garbage. The sun is on fire and it takes us 40 minutes to get to the beach. But then the time has come. We are really right on the beach, and a very beautiful one. The outdoor facilities of the club look very appealing, there are even real sunbeds and parasols, and the beach is almost deserted.

We are happy and make our way to the reception. Some employees are chilling there. Nobody takes notice of us and nobody responds to our friendly Spanish greetings. However, a young man then puts his cell phone down, rises and asks what we want. Well, so equipped with two huge backpacks each, one might think we want to check in. Especially since we booked it only an hour ago and the nice receptionist from the horrible Secreto also called. „Ah oh, so you want a room?“ - „Yes, exactly.“ A kind of irritation can be seen in the man‘s face And he signals us with gesture to a young woman at the reception, who also does not talk to us. We explain in our best Spanish that we made a reservation for a double room under the name of Sandra an hour ago. She doesn't seem to be willing to understand us and rather looks at us with big eyes, then disappears and reappears with a colleague. Both browse through a cell phone and some papers for about 10 minutes. We wait, the luggage still shouldered on our backs, not quite as patient anymore. Suddenly, the duo set themselves in motion and waves at us wordlessly. Sanni can no longer hold on to her and asks in Spanish if they can't speak. Of course, this does not improve the already supercooled atmosphere at all. With an evil look on their face, we are brought to our room. The room: how can we best describe that. Four walls, a bed, a small plastic drawers and an air conditioner. Size: 4 square metres. The highlight: The air condition is right on the headboard of the bed and blows the icy wind directly into the face when lying down. You can neither regulate the device nor change its position because the hose is firmly attached to the wall. We have a window, but it's just too hot to open it. In addition, it immediately starts to smell extremely like mould as soon as the device is off. And then there are the Mosquitos. So we only have one option left. We rearrange the room, the bed comes to the other side. At this point, we would rather go without a description of the shared bathroom of this luxury hostel. Well, we are not here because of the room but because of the beach. And that's really a dream. Finally, we take our first bath in the turquoise sea. Wonderful, now the holiday can begin. Right next to the club is a super nice little restaurant, which offers delicious food as well as nice places to relax. This will become our regular restaurant from now on. Not that there is a large selection of restaurants here but the food in the club itself is really inedible.

 

Falling asleep in paradise, waking up in party hell

The next morning we enjoy the great atmosphere. The palm trees blow in the wind, the sea rustles and slowly the sun appears. Our typical Colombian egg breakfast with toast tastes surprisingly good and the burnt coffee is no problem for us. Gerriet simply creates delicious coffee specialties for us with our travel-espresso-maker. At half past nine, an oversized music box is suddenly set up directly behind us. Ear-anesthetic basses sound and are the prelude to what follows daily. Sharp at ten o‘clock, the first boat lands from the mainland. Numerous people, mainly Colombians, flock to the beach club and they love exaggerated loud music. They get even more excited when different music evaporates from different sources at the same time. Immediately after their arrival, the bar is stormed and they stock up with cocktails and beer. Afterwards, various poses on the beach are captured photographically with the mobile phone and they share their experience with others over the phone - also via loudspeaker. After their collective lunch at 1 p.m., people dance a little before at 3 p.m. the haunting is over. Everyone back to the boat and the beach belongs to us and the other 4 hotel guests again.

By the way, we cannot choose loungers in the first two rows of the beach. They are reserved for the "real guests". Our row is at the back next to the chairs of the beach vendors and speakers. And so it remains the case that the friendliest individuals in the loud and very special Luxury Beach Club are the two cheerfully chattering and laughing parrots. We gradually accustom to the situation and continue to try to be a role model in friendliness. We have nice evenings with our hotelmates and enjoy our dream beach away from the hustle and bustle.

We are definitely too spoiled by the extreme friendliness that has been shown to us so far in Colombia. We also realise that we are here on an absolutely remote island whose inhabitants have no access to education. Tourism here is still young and has developed extremely quickly. And so in the end our understanding of people's behaviour prevails. The extremely stressful tourism with ever-changing, often drunken people, does not really motivate them to work on the concept of "friendliness and great service". And so the plan of a simple beach holiday has in the end become an educational adventure trip for us. And we are even a little sad that our time ends at the Unluxury Beach Club when it is time for us to go to Cartagena.

 

*The English version of this blog is supported by automated translation*

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