Taganga : A Bit of a Dive – Taganga, Colombia

TRIP INFO BOX

Route Barranquilla, Colombia – Taganga, Colombia (90)
Distance 123Km
Travel Time 3 hours
Road Conditions Mainly good tarmac, heavy traffic
Weather Hot, windy, overcast
Terrain Hilly, dry coastline
Food and Petrol Frequent
Accommodation Maria Hostel

As we head out of Barranquilla I start to ride the engine harder. I followed Honda’s conservative recommendations conservatively for the first 1000Km but it’s time to put more pressure on.

I’ve read that on modern engines you want to burn in with bursts of heavy combustion pressure to get the piston rings and cylinder ideally honed. I did give this a try during the fist 100Km after the re-bore, by hard acceleration and engine braking but I didn’t exceed the 5000RPM line just to be sure not to invalidate Honda’s guarantee on the work.

barranquilla-to-taganga-traffic-queue.JPG

The engine feels powerful. It pushes hard through all the gears except 5th, where it is weak, though as I hit 5000RPM even 5th seems to be coming right. Hope this will be the case when I can open up fully. There’s a high pitched ‘crrrr’-ing noise in time with the valve clicks but I think it may be something else. Something more akin to clapping the hollows of two nut shells together. In my head I try to analyse: head gasket leak; detonation; perhaps incorrect valve setting… but from all I have visually verified til now I cannot see anything wrong except the minor head gasket leak, so I try to eliminate my paranoid thoughts and enjoy the ride. It really is time to move on!

The road out of Barranquilla takes us over a long bridge crossing the Rio Madeira (our second crossing). From where we see several large ships moored at what looks like petrochemical factories. Then we revisit that notorious stretch of road which belts us with terrible gusts of wind from the open sea. Scary shit! I have to lean the bike sideways into the wind to keep it going straight, while my body’s upright, counterbalancing. I try to keep the bike going at about 60Km/h max. – as slow as possible to allow some reaction time when those walls of air hit, but not slow enough to destabilize balance on this heavy machine.

barranquilla-to-taganga-seaside-slum.JPG

About 50Km out we hit the back end of a long queue of trucks and cars. Of course we overtake, thinking they’re all in line for a toll gate, which doesn’t apply to motorbikes anyway. However when after a few kilometres we reach the toll gate and pass through, we see that the queue continues on the other side.

barranquilla-to-taganga-road-block.JPG

It must be about 10Km ahead that we meet the cause of the problem. We don’t understand it but it looks like some sort of a road block in protest of something. The first two trucks in either direction have a couple of truck tyres laid in front of them as a sort of barricade. A crowd of people is gathered there, some of them being quite argumentative. It’s in a slummy looking area near the coast line – not good. We see some scooters pass through and we make a break for it. We get though carefully and unharmed. Two cops on a motorbike pass in our direction on the “wrong” side of the road – probably to go and get the traffic situation cleared up but then who knows. I don’t want to be in their shoes.

barranquilla-to-taganga-fish-seller.JPG

We reach Santa Marta by dark. We ask a moto taxi which just happens to be picking up a young lady and child on their way there and they offer us to follow. Taganga! Finally we have our chance to do some diving, but at least enjoy some long awaited beach time.

As we get there it starts to rain. For five weeks we’re been baking in dry Barranquilla, waiting for the motorcycle to get fixed, and now as we’re free to go and head for the beach, we get pissed on. Great, I say to Ebru, this is so clearly a set-up. What the heck, I’m happy. We park the bike under a shelter and enter a little bodega (corner store) for a rest break and a cold beer before the dreaded hostel search. Then there’s a power failure, and the whole town goes dark. – Wonderful!

taganga-bay.JPG

The light does eventually come back on, and eventually goes back out and comes back on again. We check out nearly every accommodation in town. Taganga isn’t very cheap. The minimum they’re charging is about 10USD per person, which means 20USD (40000COP) the double. Tough shit. At Maria hostel right near Don Felipe (which is full) we negotiate 35000COP per night based on a 3 night stay. The hostel is alright, with wifi, roof terrace, clean room, but the kitchen is disgusting - this especially owing to one couple staying there at the moment – but the staff don’t see it as their responsibility to clean it up any more.

The little pizza/burger stand two steps down the road serves us up a surprisingly good burger and fries for 5000COP each. Along with the cold Aguila we bought from the corner shop next door it’s just about managed to get us in a good mood again. That night we sleep like corpses.

taganga-beach.JPG

We spend 5 days here. Unfortunately Taganga is not the tranquil paradise we were hoping for. The beach is a bit dirty (too many visitors), the water is a bit murky and there are beer bottles and cups to be found resting on the sea floor among the sea-plants – however, fortunately, also a few bank notes.

The centre (main street on the beach front) is full of touts trying to sell tourists drugs and hand-craft. Here I seriously find myself wondering whether the street-side hand-craft stall is just a front for drug dealing. Anyway, it’s super touristy.

taganga-other-bay.JPG

We walk over the arid hill to the neighbouring beach. It all looks beautiful from above. Down in the bay we’re offered a beach with clearer water, but again it’s fairly crowded.

We are actually ready to leave after three days but we were looking forward to dive for so long, and we decide to do it.

taganga-other-bay-chalets.JPG

Tripadvisor shows up Poseidon and Octopus as the best reputed (by user review) diving organizations here, so we go and check them out. Poseidon is definitely the better choice!

Our personal visits conclude that Octopus’ equipment is damaged (BDCs with broken deflater cords etc.) and not well maintained (air tanks with sandy valves and worn O-rings). So we go with more costly, but much better organized, Poseidon, run by a German guy. Two dives cost 150000COP, both done in one set including small lunch.

As for the diving environment, visibility was terrible (no more than 10m), the scenery a bit disappointing (lots of dead coral.) On our second dive there was a strong current, which made matters worse. What really blew our minds is that while we were down there, two charges of DYNAMITE were set off by some nearby fishing boats! This is in what’s meant to be a national reserve!

taganga-going-diving.JPG

The dive leader sent Ebru up with one of the other guys who was also low on air. It was very choppy on top so getting back on the boat was straining and Ebru felt sick. All in all we weren’t impressed. – But we have to keep in mind that we have seen some pretty fine dive sites (see Fiji and Philippines), which we always compare to.