A Day at the Beach : Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told

Playa Blanca, Baru, Cartagena Colombia(voyez plus bas pour la version française – vean al pie de página para la versión en español)

So we finally were in Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.  Finally by the beach and ready to take a dive into the turquoise waters.  Happy to be there in spite of the incredible heat and humidity (we’d been wanting it, now we had it!).

We had been told about the gorgeous island of Rosario, its beaches and the 7-color sea.  Enticed as we were, we booked a tour there for a whole day of snorkeling, lunch and laying down on a white sand beach.  What sounded like a perfect day at the beach actually ended up being one of the biggest scam ever…

After paying $COP 55.000 (≈ U$ 27.30)/each, we were sent to the dock in order to board a motor boat.  There, we had to pay another $COP 13.500 (≈ U$ 6.70)/each as a harbor use fee – as the numbers 3 and 13 sound very close in Spanish, I had first actually understood $COP 3.500 (≈ U$ 1.74), which sounded much more reasonable for a harbor fee; had I understood correctly, I would have dropped the whole idea when I was told about the tour…  that one was on me.  Once on the boat, we had to cope with many unexpected stops for personal delivery from the « guides » and had to drop some of the group only going to the beach on Playa Blanca, the beautiful beach of Barú island.  Oh well, at least you get to enjoy the colors of the sea in the meantime; one has to see the bright side of things in everything, right?

Then came the disillusion.  Upon arrival near Rosario island, as another small boat approached us with delicious looking plates of freshly-made ceviche, we were told that snorkeling above the colorful reef amidst plethora of out-of-this-world school of fishes … would cost us another $COP 30.000 (≈ U$ 15)/each …  Or we could go to the Aquarium on the island for another $COP 25.000 (≈ U$ 12.45)/each …  Or we could stay on the almost non-existent beach in front of the Aquarium and snorkel there for free, in the tiny hope of seeing a few inhabitants of these fabulous waters.

Oups…

We only had 45 minutes in the water and yes we saw a few fishes, but it was not the bountiful dive we were hoping for and had come for.  All right then, it’ll be better after lunch and once on the beach, we thought.

Oups again…

While the archipelago is made of 27 islands, only 4 have public access and the Rosario island’s public beach is that tiny one we were on.  So we were sent to Playa Blanca on Barú island, 30 minutes away, where the rest of the group already was.  It is indeed a sight: a long white sand beach with those turquoise warm waters.  All the tours come here though, so it was quite packed.  With less than 2 and 1/2 hours to enjoy on the beach, we still had to queue for 20 minutes before being served lunch.  That one was yummy!  Crunchy fried fish with coconut rice and salad (the main dish in Colombia when you’re in the Caribbean).  And, if you’re craving for something sweet, wait for those beautiful women with baskets full of « cocada » (coconut biscuit) on their heads!

All in all, it was not such a bad day: the weather was perfect, the ocean amazing and we had a good time together, Raul and I.

You might think I’m only complaining in this post, but I’m mostly mad at people selling you things that are not what they seem.  They have a tendency to do that a lot in Colombia, we’ve noticed.  Something I find completely silly because the country is recovering from a bad drug-related reputation and relies more and more on tourism nowadays.  Give what you promise or don’t sell at all is what I think they should do.  Or, they’ll quickly lose the interest of tourists.

What’s the biggest scam you’ve suffered from while travelling?

[Français]

On est finalement arrivés à Cartagena de Indias, sur la côte Caraïbe de la Colombie.  Enfin à la plage et prêts à se jeter dans les eaux turquoises.  Heureux d’être là malgré l’incroyable chaleur et la forte humidité (on voulait avoir chaud, et ben, nous voilà servis!).

On nous avait parlé de la belle île de Rosario, de ses plages sublimes et de la mer aux 7 couleurs.  Notre curiosité attisée, on s’est inscrits pour une sortie d’une journée comprenant plongée avec masque et tuba, déjeuner et détente sur une plage de sable blanc.  Ce qui s’annonçait comme une journée idéale à la plage s’est avéré être la plus belle entourloupe qu’on nous ait faite…

Après avoir payé $COP 55.000 (≈ €21.80)/personne, on est allés au port pour s’embarquer sur un bateau à moteur.  Là, on a dû payer $COP 13.500 (≈ €5.36)/personne en plus comme taxe portuaire – comme les nombres 3 et 13 se ressemble beaucoup à l’oral en espagnol, j’ai d’abord cru que c’était $COP 3.500 (≈ €1.39), ce qui semblait beaucoup plus raisonnable pour une taxe portuaire; si j’avais bien compris du premier coup, on annulait la sortie directement au moment où on nous la présentait…  Une fois embarqués, on a dû faire avec les nombreux arrêts inattendus des guides pour délivrer des paquets ici et là et pour déposer la moitié du groupe sur Playa Blanca, la plage de l’île Barú.  Au moins, pendant ce temps-là, on a pu admirer la couleur de l’eau et rêver d’y plonger; il faut voir le bon côté des choses, non?

Vint alors le moment de désillusion.  Au moment d’arriver sur l’île de Rosario, alors qu’un autre petit bateau nous accostait pour vendre des assiettes de ceviche très appétissant, on nous a annoncé que la plongé avec masque et tuba au-dessus du récif de corail au milieu d’une pléthore de poissons colorés … nous coûterait $COP 30.000 (≈ €11.90)/personne … Ou bien, on pouvait aller visiter l’Aquarium sur l’île pour $COP 25.000 (≈ €9.90)/personne …  Ou bien, on pouvait rester sur la minuscule plage devant l’Aquarium et plonger là gratuitement avec le faible espoir de voir 2 ou 3 poissons nageant dans ces eaux magnifiques.

Oups…

On n’a pu passer que 45 minutes dans l’eau et voir à peine quelques poissons ici et là, mais ce n’était en rien la balade en masque et tuba que nous espérions.  Bon d’accord, ce sera mieux après le déjeuner une fois qu’on sera sur la plage, a-t-on pensé.

Re-oups…

Alors que le petit archipel compte 27 îles, seules 4 ont un accès ouvert au public et la seule plage de l’île de Rosario ouverte au public était la minuscule sur laquelle nous étions.  On nous a donc envoyés à Playa Blanca sur l’île de Barú, à 30 minutes de là, où nous avions laissé l’autre partie du groupe un peu plus tôt.  C’est effectivement une superbe plage: longue, de sable blanc, au bord d’une eau turquoise et tiède.  Tous les tours s’arrêtent ici par contre, donc il y a beaucoup beaucoup de monde.  Avec moins de 2h30 à passer sur la plage, il nous a quand même fallu faire 20 minutes de queue pour obtenir notre plateau repas.  Et celui-là était délicieux!  Un bon morceau de poisson frit avec du riz à la noix de coco et une petite salade (le régime traditionnel de cette partie de la Colombie).  Et si on a une petite envie sucrée, il suffit d’attendre le passage d’une de ces femmes magnifiques avec leur paniers sur la tête remplis de « cocada, » (biscuit à la noix de coco).

En fait, ce n’était pas une si mauvaise journée: le climat était parfait, l’eau absolument délicieuse et on a passé un bon moment ensemble, Raul et moi.

Vous pensez peut-être que je ne fais que me plaindre dans cet article, mais je suis en fait assez remontée contre les gens qui vous vendent quelque chose et qui ne tiennent pas leur promesse.  On a remarqué qu’ils font beaucoup ça en Colombie.  C’est quelque chose que je trouve complètement bête venant d’un pays qui a un lourd passé autour de la drogue et qui se remet lentement en se consacrant au tourisme.  Il vaudrait mieux qu’ils offrent ce qu’ils proposent ou qu’ils arrêtent de vendre.  Ou alors, ils risquent de perdre l’intérêt naissant des touristes pour leur pays.

Quelle a été la plus grande entourloupe qu’on vous ait faite en voyage?

[Español]

Por fin llegamos a Cartagena de Indias, en la costa Caribe de Colombia.  Por fin estabamos a la orilla del mar y listos para tirarse en sus aguas turquesas.  Felices de estar ahí a pesar del fuerte calor y de la humedad (lo queríamos, pues, ¡aqui lo tuvimos!).

Nos habían comentado de la bella isla de Rosario, de sus hermosas playas y del mar de 7 colores alrededor.  Para ir a verla, compramos un tur de un día incluyendo el paseo en esnorkel, almuerzo y un momento largo en la playa de arena blanca.  Pero lo que debío de ser un día perfecto a la playa acabo siendo la peor trampa que nos podía tocar.

Luego de pagar $COP 55.000 (≈ $mxn 366)/persona, nos mandaron al puerto para subirnos a una lancha rápida.  Ahí, tuvimos que pagar unos $COP 13.500 (≈ $mxn 89.84)/persona más como tasa de puerto – en español, 3 y 13 se escuchan de manera muy parecida y pensé primero que me decían $COP 3.500 (≈ $mxn 23.30), lo que me pareció mucho más razonable para una tasa de puerto; lo hubiera entendido corectamente de inmediato, no hubieramos seguido con la transacción…  mi culpa.  Una vez en la lancha, tuvimos que esperar mientras los guías entregaban paquetes en varios lugares, dejaban la mitad del grupo en Playa Blanca, en la isla Barú.  Pues, uno puede disfrutar del color del agua mientras; uno tiene que ver el lado bonito de todas la situaciones, ¿cierto?

Luego vino la desilusión.  Al llegar cerca de la isla de Rosario, mientras otra pequeña lancha se acerquaba para vendernos unos platos de ceviche que se veían deliciosos, nos avisaron que el paseo de esnorkel por encima del arecife de colores con la gran diversidad de peces … nos costaría unos $COP 30.000 (≈ $mxn 199.66)/persona …  O podíamos visitar el Aquarium de la isla por unos $COP 25.000 (≈ $mxn 166)/persona …  O podíamos quedarnos en la playa minúscula frente al Aquarium e irnos a esnorkelear gratís, a buscar si los peces estaban en esas aguas hermosas.

Oups…

Solamente nos quedamos 45 minutos ahí y, aunque vimos unos peces, no fue el paseo fantástico que esperabamos y por lo cual vinimos.  Bueno, todo será mejor después del almuerzo, una vez acostados en la playa, pensamos.

Oups otra vez…

Aunque el pequeño archipelago tiene 27 islas, solamente 4 tienen accesso público y la playa pública de la isla de Rosario era la en cual anduvimos.  Entonces, tuvieron que llevarnos a Playa Blanca en la isla Barú, 30 minutos de barco más lejos, donde habíamos dejado la otra mitad del grupo.  Sí es una playa hermosa: una larga playa de arena blanca a la orilla del mar con aguas turquesas y tibias.  Pero, todas las agencias llevan sus turistas acá, entonces hay mucha gente al mismo lugar.  Con solamente 2 horas 1/2 para disfrutar de la playa, todavía tuvimos que esperar 20 minutos en la cola para recibir nuestro almuerzo.  Éste sí, ¡fue rico!  Un delicioso pescado frito con arroz encocado y una pequeña ensalada (la comida típica en esta parte de Colombia).  Y si se le entoja algo dulce, pidan a esas mujeres hermosas que pasan por la playa con su canasta sobre la cabeza, rellenas de « cocadas, » unas galletas de coco.

Pensandolo bien, claro que tuvimos un buen día: el clima estuvo perfecto, el agua increíble y tuvimos un momento bonito juntos, Raúl y yo.

Tal vez piensan que me estoy quejando en este artículo, pero la verdad es que me enojan mucho los que venden algo que no dan.  Nos dimos cuenta de que lo hacen mucho en Colombia, desgraciadamente.  Es algo que encuentro muy absurdo de un país que intenta cambiar sur fama de traficante de drogas y depende más del turismo hoy en día.  Mejor dar lo que prometes o no dar nada, es lo que pienso.  Si no, corren el riesgo de perder la atención del turista.

¿Cuál fue la trampa más grande que le hicieron durante un viaje?

20 commentaires sur “A Day at the Beach : Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told

  1. I always hate deception, scams obviously are worse. Luckily the scenery looks beautiful in those photos, so that wasn’t a lie! 😊 In general, though, I don’t like being treated as a walking wallet full of dollars – just because I’m whote doesn’t mean that I’m rich. I might’ve saved up and worked very hard in order to travel somewhere warm, and though I live in a wealthy country, my daily life might not be as fulfilling as that of people in poorer countries. You can’t make comparisons like that and I really get disappointed when things like that happen. Like in Thailand and China, I felt like I wasn’t human, just a sponsor… ☹️ sometimes I think it would be easier to blend into the rest of the world if I were a bit darker! Must sound silly to some people, but we all perceive the world thru our own lenses… Great post, Juls! Would you still recommend Colombia as a travel destination?

    1. I would definitely tell you to consider Colombia as a great destination! Not-to-be-missed! It is gorgeous, diverse, stunning; people are very friendly and smiling, so happy to have now a country that’s safer and opening out to the world. We made very good friends there and lived discovering the country.

      You can read more about it in:
      https://lespetitspasdejuls.wordpress.com/destinations-travelled/south-america/colombia/

      I completely relate with you on the fact that tourists are seen like walking wallets and that’s a shame. Especially in poorer countries, of course; I don’t feel that way in Europe or US and Canada. Prices are the same for everyone.
      Whereas in poorer countries, there’s always a difference between locals and foreigners.
      You out it so well: we’re not necessarily rich because we travel; we might (and did, in our case) have worked really hard and saved money for some time to leave on that trip; we might not stay in fancy places on purpose, in order to enjoy more activities…
      I obviously don’t look Mexican or from Latin America either and always get higher prices than Raúl, for ex.
      Oh well… It will never deter me from traveling! 😉

      1. Me neither, it won’t deter me! 😊 Happy to hear you still liked Colombia. I’ve known quite a few Colombians – even my Spanish teachers were Colombians (and so the accent sounds quite easy for me to understand)… Speaking of different price levels for tourists amd locals, how about Argentina’s plane ticket pricing?! Incouldn’t believe they were allowed to officiallt sell different prices according to your nationality, but so it was! 😟 As you know, I loooved Argentina. But still…! Nothing’s perfect! 😊 Ciao!

  2. I dare think that the first lad initially really told you 3 and you didn’t misunderstand him… That’s a very comon trick used for tourists. See it this way – they see you’re foreign. They see you’re white. They think you’re packed with money… They want it all!!! Yes, it is not nice what they’re doing, promising stuff and all. I’m not proud of that either 😦 At least the food is really the best over there *lol*

    1. I have to get used to it.. I live in Mexico when not in France and there too I’m white, I’m a foreigner and I might be packed with money (which I’m not!) so they try… I’ve learned to bargain there but suddenly I forgot it all in Colombia!
      Fortunately, as you say, the food is the best there! and the people are just some of the nicest anyway! 😀

      1. It’s both sides – in one way it’s the way it is and in another it miffes you because, as you say, we’re not walking ATM machines… It’s a constant struggle. I guess if you live there you’d rather get accepted, don’t you experience it like that?
        Aaah, nice to hear that from you 😀 Of course, I too think it’s a country with some of the most loving and wonderful people… but cheeky as well 😉

  3. Une eau magnifique…et c’est vrai, dommage de « se faire avoir »…une expérience de plus !! Et le plus important aussi est d’en garder les bons moments 😉

  4. The sea is certainly awesome. Regrettably the con merchants will continue to prosper while there are travellers with money in their pockets. It’s always been the way. In Orlando tourist restaurants I found they did it a different way by offering all sorts of extras to the children that you felt morally obliged to accept, so you ended up paying double the expected price.

  5. Beautiful pictures. And you know, we might do the same if we would be on the other side… Just a thought… I really get upset about stuff like this as it feels far from ok. But I do actually ask myself: If I would be in their shoes, would I do the same? And I am pretty sure, I would try to make as much money as possible… It’s only human…

    1. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your views upon this little story! 😉 So glad to count you in here!

      I live in a Beautiful World where everyone is kind to one another and don’t do unto others what they don’t want to be done unto themselves…

      In their shoes, I’d try and do my best to give the best service so that people are so happy about their time in my country that they’ll be talking about it with such joy and happiness that others will come. Only spreading good vibes.

      Robbing or lying is not a way of life anyone should rely on, in my opinion.

      1. Yep. That’s true… I guess the problem is, that it’s just too easy. In the end they have heaps of people falling for it and they make more money. I grew up in a tourist destination and let me tell you: There are a lot if things wrong! There are good people everywhere and they truly want you to feel welcome and give you the best experience ever.but there are too many of the others, who just don’t care as long as they make money.

        And unfortunately as long as you don’t have to rely on returning customers you can basically do whatever you want to do. Because tomorrow will be another day, with other customers and as long as the beautiful environment attracts those new customers, some will keep on doing stupid stuff…

        1. you are COMPLETELY right!!! and since there will always be people to take advantage of the credulous like me, well, I just have to learn and not fall into the trap next time! 😉

          Wish you good and happy times on the road!

        2. That’s unfortunately true! We just need to be aware of it. Be a bit critical and maybe stop and think. But it will still happen…

          Thank you! I will enjoy myself 🙂

  6. I think I paid way too many lire for a gelato in Firenze, and in Roma, my husband’s wallet (with our plane tickets in it!) got lifted from his front pocket. I hate feeling like I’ve been taken advantage of…it’s very disrespectful and embarrassing. It’s unkind. Traveling should build up World Kindness, I think.

    1. that is really a bummer… I remember when my passport, credit card and all cash were stolen in Ecuador 4 years ago and all the paperwork you have to go through afterwards… not only is it disrespectful from those who robbed you but it’s a pain in the a… to have everything done again.

      Traveling SHOULD be build up on World Kindness, and it IS most of the time fortunately, but those little moments have a way to sneak into those beautiful moments and ruin them for a while.

Parlons-en!

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