‘Dios es mi guia’ read one of the twenty stickers paying allegiance to the supposed creator of our planet which were slapped onto the windscreen. As the bus bounced over pot holes sending numerous stuffed angry birds hanging from the dashboard into a frenzy, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was more than the driver’s faith that was blind.
One hour later and with a total flight time of about seven minutes, the bus, which to the customer’s joy had transformed into a bakery, bar and souvenir shop during the course of the journey as entrepreneurial locals hopped on and off, arrived at Taganga – One of the Northern most settlements on Columbia’s Caribbean coast.
A humble fishing village with dusty, loose stoned roads and shacked one story houses. The focal point being the small beach from which local fishing boats are launched every morning and the world’s cheapest PADI dive courses are fully submerged for the day.
It has become a popular spot for travellers over the past few years due to the relaxed pace of life and it [once] being ‘off the beaten track’. You are very much living with the locals – a nice, authentic experience. Hostels neighbour their homes on the uneven streets, there are no super markets; only small family owned shops with cheap raw ingredients. Bars and restaurants have crept onto the beach front over the past few years to cater to the influx of tourism. I was thoroughly enjoying my time there. Morning swims, relaxed days on the beach with a book, good company and cooking freshly caught fish in the evenings.
During my third day in Taganga however I was watching the sun set over the small beach which was full of tourists from all over the world and one policeman, gallantly patrolling upon his noble Segway. The local lads were cutting about making sure everybody had enough cocaine and marijuana for the evening, which is their sole activity throughout the day. To the right of the beach some locals were gathered waiting for their fathers and husbands to come back in with the days catch. Tourists to the left, locals to the right.
There I was, stuck in the middle with a guilty conscience. No more than six years ago this would have been the quietest little fishing town, a safe haven for locals to raise their children and teach them the rules of the ocean. Saved from a life of petty drug dealing. A private beach reserved for a poor community which as the lonely planet rightly says ‘doesn’t know what’s hit it’.
Obviously tourism benefits some of the locals, the restaurant and bar owners, the shop keepers. Though these people would only amount to about 10% of Taganga’s population. As far as I can see the majority are giving money to the hotels, hostels and dive schools who I doubt very much care about the litter on the beach as much as the sixty year old locals who cast their anchors down on that very beach every evening.
There is a great party scene in Taganga but again this is a scene which was never asked for by the residents. A recently introduced 1am curfew to the bars and clubs of Taganga supports the theory that perhaps we are not welcome. Wild after parties are all over the place which is perfect for the hedonist. Leaving the party however, highlighted by a rising sun, you pass by a young girl and grandmother walking hand in hand. One of them, at least, oblivious to the injustice of the situation.
Remorsefully you stumble back to your hostel and search for a Dio to guide you out of the place.