29 October 2012

Escape to Barranquilla!

Puerto Limbo: A nice place to visit, but we had to live there.
Sure, we could have made a beeline from Santa Marta (read: escape Santa Marta with what was left of our sanity and our diminished lives) to Cartagena. But doing so would undoubtedly have meant procrastinating on those nagging offline projects. Given even the most pathetic facsimile of an Internet signal, we have this tendency to ignore our actual, corporeal necessities in favor of a world for whose infrastructural shortcomings we take no responsibility.  It is a world in which we get to play and, when they arise, the solutions to our undire problems are easily workaroundable.

But, we opted for a rare stab at adulthood. We stopped off in a bay halfway between Santa Marta and Cartagena so utterly out of touch with the virtual world that the only way to stave off boredom was by doing responsible sorts of things like taping up our sail and remantling the wiring of our starboard head. And so it came to pass that we anchored, and thanks to a low pressure system which caused an "unusual weather pattern" (i.e., southwest winds), were unintentionally sequestered in what has come to be known (by us) as "Puerto Limbo".

But it wasn't all bad. Puerto Velero (as its owners prefer to call it), the brand new, only-been-open-for-two-months marina we anchored near has a restaurant headed by an executive chef. (Why don't more tiki bars serve amuse bouches? ). Plus, I got to engage in my new hobby: fly swatting. No, "swatting" doesn't really do it justice: fly killing, fly massacring, a full-out fly pogrom. However, despite my prowess at decimating their numbers, I am fairly sure I have been scarred for life. Drawn to our cats' food like heroin, there were no less than...oh, never mind, suffice it to say it was disgustifying.

Eventually, the combination of lack of web access and plague of fly drove us off JOY. We went into the marina, docked the boat, hired a driver, and hightailed it to Barranquilla. Talk about making lemonade from lemons...

In Barranquilla, even the pigeons live in high rises
Barranquilla, Colombia, birthplace of the pop singer Shakira, and home to what is reputed to be one of the two best Carnavals on the planet (the other being Rio de Janeiro) is everything Santa Marta is not: clean, modern, booming. There are road work and building construction projects everywhere. It is telling that I have more to say about Barranquilla after spending not quite two days there, than I have to say about Santa Marta after more than two months. To be fair, Santa Marta is hugely popular with Colombianos who come to play on its beaches; beaches, sad to say that suffer greatly in comparison with places famed for their beaches such as Chicago and Sheboygan.

It is said that there is nothing like traveling to make one miss one's home. If that is true, then for us there's no place like upmarket malls, there's no place like upmarket malls. We sniff 'em out like pigs do truffles. It's the sense of the known, the familiar in a land so far from either. For one thing, our lack of Spanish is not a hindrance there. Owing to Colombianos' adoration of all things (North) American, half of the shop names and nearly all of the signs are in English. We've no idea how the people who live here manage it, but for us it's like being wormholed back to the States. I mean there are two--count 'em TWO--"Mac Center" stores in Barranquilla (one per mall) where everyone speaks better English than we do. Truly, the clearest  indication that one is not Stateside is that they are still on iPad 2. Is it any wonder that Colombia is the third happiest nation in the world?

Rest assured, there is still much that is Colombian if one dares to leave the safety of the shopping mall. Street vendors peddle all manner of foods, donkey carts share space with cars even during rush hour even on the busiest streets, individuals subletting their cell phone minutes constitute a microbusiness replacement for phone booths, public markets are blocks and block long where people sell merchandise identical to that sold in the stores directly behind them, stop signs are utterly ignored by everyone and the use of turn signals has been supplanted by horns which communicate everything from "hola" to "watch out, you're about to bang into the corner of my car!"Oh, and people are ridiculously friendly and helpful which may go back to that whole being almost the most happy people in the world thing.

Not all of our time in Barranquilla was spent in slavish pursuit of things to conspicuously consume. We did spent an hour or so making a thorough inspection of the current exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. (So, it's a very small museum.) When we arrived, the only other art admirers were a couple of teenage girls, one of whom took pictures of her friend coyly poised next to each work of art. "Well, when in Colombia...", we decided. Following the girls' "school" of art appreciation, Jane and I took pictures of one another with works we liked.

Paisaje by Hernando del Villar
Cartagena by Hernando del Villar

We could easily have whiled away more therapeutic hours in Barranquilla, but the weather was finally becoming amenable to sailing. Moreover, unabated, the flies posed a serious threat to the life of our cats, if for no other reason than the direct competition for our pets' food they posed.

Once an homage to Greek architecture; now a shrine to discount housewares

Nothing hits the spot like a gourmet pizza and a can of wine after a hard day of sightseeing

Our time at Puerto Velero was not without its benefits, however, and I refer not only to the six bags of garbage we were able to offload. Construction on the marina will not be completed until 2014. When it is fully operational, it will offer the widest array of amenities of any marina on the Caribbean coast. To celebrate its grand opening, the Antigua Sailing Week Regatta will, for the first time, be stopping there. On hand to greet the racers will be Juan Carlos I, King of Spain. We are invited.

No comments:

Post a Comment