Sunday, June 01, 2008

Playa Blanca: El Paraiso

The most beautiful (and most challenging) part of our trip to Colombia was our time on Playa Blanca. We caught a mid-sized motor boat (below, left) at a market near Cartagena for our trip to Playa Blanca on Isla Baru. It took FOREVER for the boat to load and leave the dock. They didn't take off until the boat was full of people and goods for the island. The baby (below, right), sucking purified water out of a plastic bag, was one of our fellow passengers.

To say that Playa Blanca is primitive is an understatement. There is no running water for showers or toilets, no fresh water for drinking, and no electricity. Ok, to set the record straight, I'm not an overly prissy person. (That person would not have gotten on the boat at the market!) I have been wilderness camping in many remote parts of the US. I guess the differences between those experiences and my time on Playa Blanca were that: I was prepared for the wilderness camping (ie, plenty of water and food, the right clothes, bug repellant, my blankets, a tent with a floor, etc.) and I had a vehicle and could leave at any time. Once you're on Playa Blanca, you're there until the boat comes back.

Playa Blanca was remote and absolutely gorgeous. We spent our time there playing in the Cariabean, drinking ice cold cerveza, walking on the beach, and chatting. Our host was Mama Ruth and her husband. They own one of the many clusters of thatched roof buildings along the beach. She cooked all of our meals. The best fish I had in Colombia was Mama Ruth's. The beach at Playa Blanca was serene compared to Boca Grande (in Cartagena). Boca Grande was FULL of tourists and vendors working the tourists. There were a few bead, water, and beer vendors on Playa Blanca and some small groups of tourists. Unlike us, most of the tourists didn't spend the night there.

Our accommodations were rustic (above). The four of us stayed in one "room" in a thatched roof hut that had a sand floor and blankets and quilts for interior walls. The beds were minimalist, but after plenty of cerveza, I can sleep anywhere. Since there were no showers to wash off the sunscreen, salt water, and sand on my skin, the beds were a little sandy. At left is a picture of Alex with Mama Ruth; at right is picture of me, Jorge, and his mom Elsa.

Also here and far below are pictures of some of the signage. Apparently, a tagger spent some time at Mama Ruth's and dressed the place up with funky signage.

The best part of Playa Blanca was the absolutely devine starry night. The sky was deep midnight blue with thousands of stars, including shooting stars. I saw constellations that I have not seen in years. As we stood in awe on the beach at about 3 a.m., one of my companions remarked, "Es el trabajo del gran artista." (It is the work of the great artist.)

Playa Blanca is truly paradise. Unfortunately, there are corporate giants who are fighting to make Playa Blanca into another Boca Grande, with skyscraper hotels and condos on the beach. Mama Ruth and the others who offer hospitality on Playa Blanca are being threatened. For more on the politics of Playa Blanca, check out this link to the Save Playa Blanca blog. Above the sun is setting on Mama Ruth's kitchen.


PuebloFuerte said...

Hi I'm going to Playa Blanca with about five friends and want to stay at mama Ruth's, because I would prefer to give local people my business. Can you let me know how much it cost per person to rent a hammok for the night and how much the food was?

Pamela Jai Powers said...

Sorry, I don't remember how much it cost. Mama Ruth's was much cheaper than our funky hotel in Cartagena or the other places on Playa Blanca. Her cooking was fabulous-- and included in the price. All of Playa Blanca is very rustic. Take fresh drinking water with you.

PuebloFuerte said...

Hi Pamela...I forgot to thank you for your reply Sorry! The trip got postponed but its nearing only two months to go! I'm very excited! Thank you again for replying to my question. Jonathan.