After weeks of hard trekking and a few late nights in the old colonial city of Cartagena, I was looking to put my tired body in the sand and gaze off into the blue horizon. With the mid-day sun still stinging our eyes, a couple of traveling companions and I arranged transport to Playa Blanca, which lies on the edge of a jungle, an hourâ€™s boat ride from Cartagena. Making our way in a lancha, which was a small, questionably seaworthy, minimally appointed boat, we passed the time in the company of our driversâ€”a motley crew of local CosteÃ±os whose boating skills were as undeveloped as the paradise we were approaching.
As the boat crested in on a slow rolling wave, we took in the Spartan amenitiesâ€”a gentle blue tide and a narrow, long strip of white sand backed by thatched roof huts and lazy, bowing palm trees. Locals offering fresh shrimp, necklaces and massages meandered up and down the beach, while distorted funky salsa music flowed from the huts. We made our way to the Wittenberg cabaÃ±as just up the beach, a popular haunt with the gringos and where accommodations were no more than a hammock swinging from a large front porch. I strung up my hammock, grabbed my book and sarong, put my feet in the sand, and drifted into the first of what would be many tranquil days. Playa Blanca was the cool-breeze therapy I needed to recharge my traveling spirit, and somewhere between dips in the Caribbean and napping in my hammock I began to wonder if Iâ€™d ever leave this little strip of paradise.
I started my days at dawn, rolling out of my hammock to swim in the water and watch the sunrise. Then I strolled into one of the huts for scrambled eggs and Caribbean corn fritters, washed down with mango juice and strong coffee. The most taxing decision of the day was whether to lie down by the shore or higher up on the beach under the shade of a coconut palm.
By early afternoon I wandered into another hut for a plate of fresh grilled snapper and tomatoes and onions with plantains, then off for more strolling, swaying, and napping. Sunsets were spent with my companions at yet another hut with bottles of local beer and more grilled fish. The evenings ended by playing a few hands of cards and strumming guitars to the light of low burning gas lanterns until sleep crept in, preparing us for the next day of bliss.