Life Without Land in Sight
Imagine a world where you can be born, reach adulthood, live in community, get married by a priest in a church, have children, grandchildren, then die without ever having touched dry land. Imagine it.
As crazy as this may sound this world exists, and only could it exist in the Macondian world of Gabriel García Marquez: Colombia.
There is a village out in the middle of the swamps, in the middle of nowhere, miles from land, barricaded from land by huge expanses of mazy mangroves, where generations of families of fishermen have lived and thrived since memory has it. Just to get there it takes one hour in fast boat, navigating through the beautiful mangrove forests full of countless species of birds (a birdwatchers dream) to get there.
The village is called Nueva Venecia, New Venice. To reach Nueva Venecia you have to drive 3.5 hours north from Cartagena or 30 minutes south from Santa Marta on the north eastern coast of Colombia to a town called Ciénaga, then hop on a fast boat and ride one hour into the inland waters of the huge Ciénaga de Santa Marta marshes. The bird watching alone during this ride is mind blowing.
Legend has it that the first people to come out and settle in the swamps on houses built on stilts were local aborigines seeking to be free from Spanish colonisers that would enslave their people. Just travelling out to these villages will make you realise they knew what they were doing.
There are over five hundred homes and two hundred families live in this village and life here -despite the fact that they live over water and have no streets- goes on normally like any other small village community.
There is a school that goes from primary to high school, which all children attend and are given an education plus their daily lunch.
There is a church built on a bed of sediment dug out from the shallow waters and where weddings, baptisms, first communions and confirmations are held, but only once a year and all in the same day, July 16 day of La Virgen del Carmen, the only day a priest visits the town of Nueva Venecia.
When someone dies they are taken to the mainland with most village members participating in a funeral procession of canoes and drums. An interesting note is the people of Nueva Venecia are known for their longevity, living well into their eighties is the norm.
To get to the magical town of Nueva Venecia you have to first reach the mainland town of Ciénaga to catch a speed boat. From Cartagena Guanabana Tours will pick you up in a modern air conditioned SUV for a scenic 3.5 hour coastline drive passing the city of Barranquilla on the road to Santa Marta and Tayrona Park. After reaching Ciénaga a fast boat is boarded for the one hour ride to the village of Nueva Venecia. From Santa Marta same deal with a thirty minute drive south.
Cost per person is 650,000 COP min 3 persons. Private tour or very small groups.
Doorstep transportation from Cartagena or Santa Marta is included in private vehicle with English speaking guide that will accompany you throughout the entire tour, boat is private boat ride, only participants of Guanabana Tours, you can return to your pick-up city or be dropped off at the other. Typical Colombian lunch is included.