The Real Colombia

Day Five

Today is the day we are free. No longer held back by work and conferences, our vacation truly begins. Bright and early this Sunday morning (I’m talking 7:00 am), we ventured out into the real Colombia. We rented a car from the airport and made our way towards sunny Santa Marta. The drive was long, four hours total. The journey was stressful, to say the least. Many Colombians throughout have given us pointers about driving to Santa Marta:

  1. Drive during the day, be sure not to be out during the night
  2. Don’t drive down any unpaved roads
  3. The trip to Santa Marta is one straight highway

Since we left incredibly early in the morning (I’m talking 8:00 am), the first pointer was followed to a tee. With the car, we rented a GPS, since our phones don’t work (data usage would have been expensive). On our way to Santa Marta, there is a beautiful tourist attraction, an active volcano on the coast of Santa Catalina. They call it El Volcan de Lodo el Totumo. Since it was en route, we decided to head towards it on our journey to Santa Marta (mistake number one). For some reason, the designated route to the volcano was not exactly a paved highway. By the first 20 minutes of being on the road, my mother and I found ourselves on a very flooded, pot-hole ridden, dirt road that was located on the outskirts of town. In all honesty, it was quite nerve-wracking. Although we’ve been told by every person we’ve met that the people of Colombia are incredibly nice and humble people, you can’t help but feel a little cautious considering their history (also consider living your entire life in too-nice-to-handle Canada). We seemed a little out of place and quickly turned the car around, made it back on the paved highway and completely disregarded the volcano.

The rest of the trip towards Santa Marta went straight and smoothly. No really, they weren’t kidding about the trip being one straight highway adjacent to the coast. The landscape was incredible. Even once passed the beautiful sight of the ocean shoreline, we were graced with the view of the neighborhoods. Most of these neighborhoods reminded me of back home (and by back home I mean Argentina, not Canada). The houses were small, attached to one another, gated by small fences, and were only just a few steps from the sidewalk. At every intersection, there a vendor selling fruits from their carts. It was a beautiful sight, different from your typical resort-stay lifestyle.

We arrived at the beautiful city of Santa Marta after four long and stressful hours of driving the streets of Colombia. After checking into the hotel, leaving our luggage behind, and cleaning ourselves up, we went out for lunch. Just around the corner of the hotel, we found a small little patio restaurant to enjoy a delicious meal. My mother chose a shrimp platter (as per usual) and I chose a chicken rice dish. Both platters came with a salad and fries. As we sat there devouring our meals, a little boy, not older than 7 years of age, approached our table. What I witnessed at this very moment, will live with me for the rest of my life.

This little boy was a child of the streets. Although standing right beside me, so close we were in contact, I did not exist to the little boy. The only thing that mattered in that moment, to that little boy, was the plate of food in front of us. The large plate of golden, crunchy, salty-smelling fries. The rest of the world was at a standstill while this little boy looked at this plate of fries. I had finished with my portion of the meal and decided to give the boy what his heart so longed for: food. With desperation motivating every inch of his body, he reached without hesitation and grabbed as many fries as his tiny hands could carry. He looked up at me, for the first time in this entire encounter, with a look of relief and hope. Perhaps, with my help, this young boy can sleep with food in his belly.

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