Humility in Santa Marta


I woke up on Monday morning feeling pretty darn excited. The cold/sinusitis/allergies I’d acquired on Wednesday was easing up. This was the day I was going to take the door-to-door service to my beachside condo rental in Santa Marta, Colombia. Originally, I wanted to leave at 8am, but I was told around 7:45 that it would be a 9am departure instead. No matter. I was going to go with the flow. Around 9am I was patiently waiting for my shuttle to arrive. When I felt antsy, I reminded myself that: 1) this is Colombia and nothing ever works as smoothly or as punctually as I would like, and 2) this was a vacation so there was no need to rush anywhere.


I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was feeling pretty blessed to enjoy the life of luxury for a few days. I boarded the bus, paid for my ticket, and sort of blended in with rest of the Colombians – save for the fact that, as usual, I was the only morena there. After picking up passengers throughout Cartagena we were off around 9:40am. We passed through Baranquilla and made 2 timely stops for snacks and the bathroom.

I knew I was likely the first stop because I was staying a little outside of the city of Santa Marta. The lady whose condo I was renting, Lore, told me to tell the driver to drop me off at Playa Dormida. It’s no problem, she said. Everyone knows where it is – it’s easy to find, she said. Once we arrived, the driver started asking me for directions. Ummm… Sir? I have absolutely no idea. And you’re talking too damn fast.

The driver pulled over and asked some garbage men who seemed to tell him directions that sounded like, “Keep going that way.” Translation, they had no idea where it was either. Again, the driver asks me where I’m going. Now, even if I were fluent in Spanish, I still wouldn’t have a clue. I showed him the address and directions on AirBnB and that didn’t seem to help. Eventually he let me out with my backpack and suitcase on the side of the highway. So much for door-to-DOOR service.

I called Lore and asked her for directions again. I was certain I could see the building, but was uncertain how to get there. Cross the highway, she said. Ok. I got over half the road and made it to a little embankment to get to the other side. Once the traffic cleared, I began to cross.

And that’s when I busted my ass. I twisted both ankles as I tumbled onto the road. All I could do was sit there by the guard rails and breathe the pain away as cars, busses, and horse-drawn carts zipped past me. I recovered and limped my way down to what I prayed was the condo entrance. An armed security guard approached me as I passed to warn me – keep an eye on your cellphone. I briefly wondered if he had seen the whole Morena Takes a Tumble moment and then decided I didn’t care. I needed to get into the condo and off my feet quickly. He asked me which apartment I was going to and said someone would accompany me once I made it down the road and to the right.

I limped a bit more down what felt like a never-ending unpaved road as an empty taxi and little children with water toys went past me. I reached a security hut, gave the guard my name, and prayed that the guy on the mototaxi was the one who would give me a lift. Nope. He was there to give some lady with no bags and flats on a lift to the entrance. 0_O

I watched in disbelief as they sped away through the last security checkpoint. Bags in shaky hands, I gimped past the final guard and made it to the entrance. I’ve never been so happy to sit still in my life. Both of my ankles are swollen as I write this -the left one being the biggest and throbbing. I need some ice and ace bandages but that requires standing long enough to get back down to reception to ask in broken Spanish and several gestures for a taxi to the market.

This is the point in my trip where I’m completely humbled. The reality that I’m alone and vulnerable has finally hit me. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be a better day because I can see the pool and the beach from my balcony and it would be a shame to waste this beautiful experience by gimping and moping around any further.