Our next adventure from our Cartagena base would be out to the nearby hotspot of Playa Blanca - a bright white stretch of sand with crystal clear Caribbean sea an hour or so away from Cartagena.
The beach itself is on the 'island' of Baru, which is a little confusing as we took a minibus there from our hostel (100'000 peso round trip - £26) so I'm not sure exactly how its an island (we did cross a bridge, but that looked like it was over a river??) The 'island' can also be reached from Cartagena by direct boat or as part of a day trip that also takes in the nearby Rosario islands. There is no running water and no electricity so conditions are a little basic and many online reviews aren't exactly positive about the place but we were determined to see for ourselves and decided a couple of nights would be the best way to do it.
After being dropped off by the minibus in a muddy parking area we were quickly surrounded by locals. Touting anything from rooms to sunglasses this could be a bit unnerving if you were travelling alone as they'll follow you all the way down to the beach. We had read tips that the right end (left side if arriving by sea) was the place to head for fewer people so we immediately set off in that direction keeping an eye on the cabanas along the way to find somewhere to stay. After maybe 500m or so I had looked at a few on offer ranging from 50'000 (£13) a night which could be compared to your grandad's old shed (but full of mosquitos) to 90'000 (£23) (grandad's shed after your Nan had given him a score from the grocery money to do it up).
With the thin stretch of beach (about 3m in places) and the constant hassle from beach sellers we were beginning to regret our decision to stay overnight until a few metres further along on a wider stretch (a good 10m!) we found some cute pastel coloured cabins on stilts with their own balcony. Our own sun loungers and with breakfast included these were easily the nicest we'd seen (think grandad's new shed after a win on the pools). After a bit of haggling we booked in for 2 nights for 110'000 per night (£29). At first George was a bit sceptical about the price (she didn't look in any of the other options!) but when you look at it, a private cabin, on the beach, with a balcony over looking the Caribbean sea (!) £29 doesn't seem too bad.
The beach itself is a bit of a strange affair; online reviews said that between 12 noon and 3pm while the day tripper boats are there its far too busy (not down our end though!) and that before and after these times it can feel like a ghost town. With the other 7 cabins at Mama Ruths being empty and the neighbouring cabanas also seeming empty, true enough once the boat crowds have gone it does feel like you are the only people there. This can be a little spooky once the sun goes down in the pitch black.
We found the beach sellers (anything from fruit, lobsters, sunglasses and massages) weren't actually too bad and a simple 'no gracias' would suffice with the exception of the massage ladies, who were a bit more pushy!
Our little yellow cabin at 'El Paraiso de Mama Ruth' was almost perfect. Sun loving George had the choice of the bright white sand on the beach or the deck chairs and wooden palm umbrella at the bottom of our steps to top up her tan. I had the overhang of the palm leaves on the balcony to hide under (and write all these blog posts!) Despite the 'jug of water after your business' toilets and bucket showers we would both happily have stayed for longer than 2 nights and would recommend the place to anyone coming for an overnight stay on the beach ('island'). The sunset from the balcony is one of the best we've seen to date! Just make sure you bring enough to keep you entertained if the weather isn't on your side as there is literally nothing to do other than swim, eat and sunbathe (and no electricity between 6am and 6pm).
We were both very sad to leave our cabin and were also left wondering how the Mama Ruth survives as we were the only people there for both nights. Much like most of the locals we'd met in Colombia, the older guy who sold us the room and two youngish lads who were always around if you needed anything couldn't have been more pleasant. We wanted to tell them that we would have loved to stay longer if we didn't have our return minibus and hostel already booked in Cartagena but my Spanish can't stretch that far. We made the walk back down the beach and into the crowds before once again avoiding the beach sellers/taxi men on the way out before hopping on our waiting minibus to the mainland.