Hackerbeach Day 0

The view from my hostel

It’s been hell, doing a 4 flight stint for the better part of a day with no off-plane sleep. I read recently that airplane humidity is typically around 20%, which is drier than the Sahara desert. Lesson learned: always bring and fill your water bottle. When you’re dehydrated, the mucus membranes have trouble keeping a layer of mucus, and can let more dangerous external matter through. That results in a sensation, that, when you swallow, can be unpleasant.

But though the trial, I’m finally here on the Caribbean coast to kick off the Nth annual Hackerbeach in beautiful Santa Marta, Colombia.

The weather is a muggy 31C, not a fluffy cloud in the firmament, and high season is in full swing. I’m the first to arrive, and spending the 29th through the new year in the city before settling down in (hopefully) more peaceful Palomino, further east on the coast.

The Centro Historico where I’m staying is rife with touts. Taxi drivers trying to drum up business, pre-packaged adventure outfits promising the very best ziplines, and plenty of folks standing around with convincing smiles holding a restaurant menu.

Vague electronica fills the muggy air with super hip beats. It would be inappropriate to dance, but we do feel a bit more in tune with the forced vibe.

The night continued on. I took my stroll of the malecon and beach, found a handicraft market, and my guilty pleasure: street meats. Sausage fresh off a charcoal grill, covered in just-squeezed lime and roughly chopped chilis on a bed of yuca in a small styrofoam container for $1. There were a few touts there, but nobody bothered me. It must either be the default expression of a determined scowl, or having low value as a single young foreign male walking by.

While waiting for a hyped up blues-and-rock dive bar to open, I took another stroll through the neighborhood. I changed upon a shrill noise from the super(sub?)sonics of some music hurting my ears while walking through an alleyway. Investigating the source yielded a cultural celebration. It was a delightful cultural dance competition. That occupied a very pleasant half hour of my time until the acts petered out.

Onto my quarry! It’s a small dive bar in the Centro Historico called Crab’s Bar, proudly slinging blues and rock since 1999. The owner is a foreigner and doing an excellent job not paying top 80s rock, which is often the trap of places like this. When I arrive it is empty. I must have come too soon. An hour later and most of the tables are full and the atmosphere of the place is much more convivial. The cocktails are pricey, but all are double-sided, so I give it a pass.

Besides the boilerplate 60s Rock kitsch, the place is run by some excellent bar staff, who are sporting faded tattoos of the place’s logo. It’s always a good sign when folks are (hopefully not coerced into being) that invested and passionate. As the night progresses I am increasingly comfortable. Eventually I head back to my hostel and try to acclimate to the EST timezone.

That’s about it. A simple night as others have yet to arrive. I’ll be on my own for a few more nights wandering and enjoying the city.

Bonus: The exchange rate here is 3,000ish Colombian Pesos (COP) per USD, which is hard to keep in my head. Using the ATM does make me feel like a millionaire though.