Day 187: Santa Marta, Colombia
Taganga was hot, humid and full of people that wanted to rob me so I had to get out. I hadn’t heard many good things about Santa Marta.
It was only 15 minutes away but everyone said it was basically a dump and the only reason to visit was as a jumping off point elsewhere. After a quick Wikitravel search I found out seafood was plentiful and that was reason enough to stay.
I headed to a corner that is so well known for its fish soup it sells out by noon daily. After I took a photo of the soup, Marta the cook, asked if I wanted photos of her and then she wanted a photo with me and I had a lovely conversation with her and we exchanged emails.
I then walked around the city looking at the vendors and taking photos and no one bothered me. I asked some school girls for their photo and they were happy to oblige.
People apologized if they needed to walk in front of me while taking a photo. Lots of people said hi but no one was out to sell me some tourist package and I realized it reminded me of other cities I enjoyed.
They all had one thing in common, they’re ugly.
Ugly cities are the ones that have no particular tourist attractions, maybe a church or a couple of parks but tourists don’t flock for photo opportunities and there no day trips from other cities.
When you visit an ugly city you see how people live when they don’t rely on the tourist dollar. They often don’t speak English and they see no reason to pester you.
There is often no McDonalds, no sandwich or pizza shops, no restaurants dedicated to taking your tourism dollars.
But I thrive on these cities because I seem to find people that are the most genuine and friendly. I’ve had opportunities for a real connection and to understand how other people live when they don’t support themselves with tourism.
I should say Santa Marta is not a completely ugly city and did not deserve to be called a dump by a fellow traveler. The waterfront is quite lovely, not in a postcard perfect kind of way, but in a locals love it kind of way.
It’s certainly nicer than Toronto’s waterfront and many other cities could learn from it.
I may just stay here a few more days.