After a breezy 4-6 days sailing from the Caribbean isles towards the vast South American continent, most of the fleet has now arrived into Santa Marta Marina, Colombia. Docking the boats has been a lively experience for all with some brilliant parking manoeuvres from the skippers, as the wind paid a consistently breezy welcome across the marina.
The cultural excursion in the Colombian stopover is a half day tour to include the Quarto de San Pedro Alexandrino and the historical centre of Santa Marta. Our first arrivals went today and enjoyed an introduction to all that the city has to offer.
Gathering outside the marina office, participants from Amazing Grace, Ariel, Celtic Star, Cuvee, Heartbeat, Libeccio, Marja II, Maximilian, Next Step, Ngahue IV, Sana, Saorsa, Skyelark of London and Zarya jumped on the buses and were introduced to our lovely local Santa Martan tour guides who took us first to the famous Simon Bolivar resting place and park.
Walking around the Quinta de Simon Bolivar park is a beautiful, sunny floral experience. Simon Bolivar, also know as “El Libertador” (the Liberator), was a Venezuelan leader who led numerous South American countries to independence from the Spanish Empire, including Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. We see the room and house he died in on a visit to Santa Marta in 1830 which are still intact, with some original pieces of wooden furniture and adornments to the rooms still there. Outside the house is a spacious walk way and statue of Bolivar, with a number of national South American country flags decorating the sides in commemoration.
Around the park Jose tells us about the bird life in Colombia, barn owls and blue birds being very frequent, as well as pointing out the sequoia tree indigenous to Colombia, in-season mango trees and even an Indian banyan fig tree (introduced to the fauna at the time of colonial slavery).
You cannot help but notice the multiple iguanas which live in the park too – they are everywhere you look – red ones being male and green ones being female. So camouflaged, you can barely see them on the grass or in the trees! They love to climb, and interestingly can even grow up to 3 metres long. Colombia is home to 400 different species of iguana.
Afterwards the Quinta participants explore the main city centre and learn more about Santa Marta. Founded in 1525, it is the oldest city in Colombia now with a population of 700,000 – the smaller of the cities in the region. We visit the old cathedral constructed in 1760, which is still used for worshipping to this day.
Walking down the colourful typically Colombian street back towards the marina, we learn about a current university building which used to be a busy newspaper factory, find both colonial and republican architecture, see the main Bolivar city centre park and set against a beautiful sundown, the statue of Santa Marta’s founder, Rodrigo de Bastidas. The guide brings us back to the marina, just in time for a sunset happy hour.
During the week stopover in Santa Marta, participants will experience a full programme of social events, beginning with the Welcome Function on Saturday evening in the Marina Square which will be attended by Port Authorities, Dignitaries along with the Marina staff. This is followed by a local school visit on Sunday, popular every year, where participants can support the Fundemac “Step by Step” program.
The week will continue with paellas, sundowners and the all-important Prize Giving. There will be an opportunity for the boats’ more musical members to entertain the crews, and a World ARC beach yoga class, to stretch out their salty tired muscles, ahead of a midday departure for leg 2 on Wednesday 22nd January.