Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Going Off Grid in Santa Marta, Colombia

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The midmorning heat at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Santa Marta was almost unbearable. Pico, the guy who was supposed to pick us up from the airport, arrived in his beat up Toyota an hour late. With a big, lazy grin on his face, he was holding up a crumpled paper with my name on it. That set the tone for our entire trip to South America: Being late is the norm and being laid-back is the way of life.

We then drove an hour and a half to our ecolodge along Colombia’s Caribbean coast.  Upon arrival we were told by the manager that there won’t be any electricity from 5 am to 5 pm for the length of our stay due to some “technical issues” in the solar panels they’re using. I knew that the lodge doesn’t have wifi, but the lack of electricity is something I did not expect.  


At first we balked at the idea of spending several days in a Thoreauvian fashion, but we got used to it and later on even embraced it. In Santa Marta, we were stripped to the bare essentials: no phones, no television, no hot showers, no Internet connection, no air conditioning, and no room service. All we had—and all we needed—was the placidity and stillness of that palm tree covered beach away from the ceaseless tumult of city life and each other. Except for that day hike to the marvelous Tayrona National Park, our days were wrapped in uneventful simplicity. Lying on those plastic lounge chairs facing the shore, we slept the afternoons away. We talked, read books, played cards, and walked along the beach. 

Divested of modern luxuries, we saw beauty in the mundane. The things that we usually take for granted beckoned our prolonged attention:  The smell of fresh coffee wafting through the window screen early in the morning; the sight of damp swimsuits left to dry over the back of a chair looking as if they haven’t recovered from the fun they had the past day; the sound of conversations in Spanish, half of which I did not understand; the taste of freshly cooked patacones (twice fried plantain slices) served with ever meal; the texture of sand and crushed shells under my feet and the coolness of the waves washing over my legs.  We were content simply to be in that place at that time.

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