14 June 2012

Tolú tolu?

Lindley & Derval in their bicitaxi
Colombia has the most holidays anywhere; I read that someplace although I don't know if it's really true. It does make it a great place to work if there are a lot of 3-day weekends to enjoy. We have two in June and during the first, a couple of us went to Tolú, a coastal destination about 3 hours by bus south of Cartagena.

It's always quite an adventure getting information on buses, schedules & prices here. Depending on who you ask (even people representing the same company) you can get several different answers. When buying your bus tickets at the terminal, you can even try to negotiate down the cost of the ticket. It makes every trip even more of an adventure!

Tolú is known for its bicitaxis (aka rickshaw, velocab, pedicab) and sure enough, as soon as we got off the bus there were several bicitaxis with their drivers (or perhaps I should say pedalers?) waiting to take us to our hostel. The bicitaxis we were in were quiet and subdued and could only take one or two passengers, compared to the ones we saw later that evening which could hold maybe 8-10 people, had colored lights going, music blasting, and some even had videos. Each bicitaxi was trying to outdo the other!

Lindley & I in the mangroves
But before we got to Saturday night, that afternoon we took a local bus to an area known for its scenic canoe rides through the mangroves. When we got off the bus, we were immediately met by a couple of men who wanted to sell us a canoe ride. We had been told it would probably be about 15,000 pesos/person and the guy offered it to us for 30,000 each. We said no way. He then brought us over to a sign advertising their prices, which had various tours at different prices & he said he'd lower the price and give all the tours combined to us for 80,000 for the 3 of us. We said we were willing to pay 15,000 each at which point he said no way, way too low, look at these official prices which are much higher! We then said 60,000 for all 3 & he immediately grinned and said yes. That grin let us know we caved way too easily & we said so--he just laughed and took us down to where the canoes were and pointed to our guide. Later I realized we shouldn't even have been talking to that guy; we should have been dealing directly with the canoe guide & cutting out the middle man. No matter how much experience you think you have & that next time you'll negotiate better, you're never quite totally on the ball….

In the past, this mangrove had been populated by small alligators. However, according to our guide, back 40-50 years ago one could make a lot of money from catching the gators & selling them for their skins, and so they were hunted out. We didn't see much wildlife on our tour but enjoyed a little trip on the water.

Caught in the act!
The next day we booked a trip to the islands, part of the San Bernardo archipelago which in turn is part of the National Park of the Rosario Islands near Cartagena (see 27 May post!). This trip was much nicer than the Playa Blanca/Rosary Island trip in my opinion--less crowded, less touristy, more peaceful. Not exactly an abandoned beach but one could pretend.

More Tolu photos can be found here

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