My French friends know that I love them dearly, and know that I only knock their race tongue-in-cheek. They are quite rude sometimes, and arrogant (the French, that is...not my French friends). But the Galls possess that chic which allows them carte blanche at times. Not so the Israelis; this lot are something else. I've seen them blank solo travellers attempting to infiltrate their tight-knit groups, aggressively block any non-Israeli from speaking to any girls in their groups, and one bunch in Saigon loudly berate and abuse an old lady for daring to get one of their meals wrong in her cafe. I ruined any notions of sex with one that Jocky entertained whilst we were in Hoi An, Vietnam. He was quite happy to sleep with a Bulldozer Driver, but my slight digs about the Gaza Strip and flattened Palestinian homes escalated into a full-blown row with her, and the flames of passion were extinguished there and then. He still claims I owe him for that: I told him he owes me for not letting him shag the arrogant bitch. Run her over in her own bulldozer, yes. But sex? No.
The Israelis you meet alone or in pairs are a different matter altogether. I encountered a decent chap named Or when in Thailand who was quite embarrassed about his country and its foreign policy. Of course, I told him not to worry...it was my country and America who gave them the land in the first place, starting the current mess. Another couple of musicians I met in Ha Long bay were pretty cool, too. A mate of mine knew an Israeli travelling with a Canadian flag on his rucksack, as he was embarrassed by the way his people conduct themselves while travelling.
Now I'm no anti-Semite. I just don't like people who have a massive chip on their shoulder, and hang around with like-minded people from their own part of the world: it doesn't create a healthy, friendly atmosphere.
We arrived in Taganga, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, looking to dive and relax on the beach awhile. Following the road down from the hills, it didn't look promising: the beach is grey dust full of stones, and the front is crammed full of crusties. Israeli crusties. This was going to be painful. Dreadlocked, wearing the same clothes every day, and trying to sell all manner of beads and crappy woven bracelets, this group make up the greater part of travellers in Taganga. They don't mix (good) and hang out in front of the biggest shop on the beach, a place we nicknamed Crusty Corner. They'd eye the non-kosher travellers as they walked by...and it was't just us who noticed it.
Apparently they come here after their National Service (they do 2-3 years) as it's miles from anyone who'd want to throw stones at them, or blow them up. Seems fair enough, just leave the military attitude at home, please...you're not in the Golan Heights now. A trio of girls we spoke to told us they'd been officers, and had just finished. Judging by the physical condition of them, they can't work them very hard...they wouldn't have even fit into British Army uniforms, never mind passed the physical. They bragged about their ranks, and I bit my lip so that I wouldn't be tempted to ask them "So...how many unarmed Palestinians did you kill?"
At least the locals are great in Taganga...the Casa Blanca cafe on the beach was a favourite hangout of ours; the smoothies were unreal. We'd sit outside on the beach and drink them, fending off the vendors. An attractive American girl tried selling us her bracelets, and was quite chatty. Jocky's eyes lit up while mine scanned her hairy legs. He'd not noticed a thing, and was getting along quite nicely with her...until she ran her fingers through her hair, revealing an armpit that looked like she had Angela Davis in a headlock. Nasty. A shocked Jocky was relieved when she wandered off. No Sale.
Nearby Santa Marta isn't a bad night out but, on a Wednesday, El Garaje (The Garage) in taganga is where you have to be. The music is a bit hit-and-miss (and more miss, at that) but the view is amazing. The club is open air, and several trees dot the courtyard. It's very cosy and intimate. Being raised 2 feet above floor level, the dancefloor is a perfect height for watching the girls dance: their bums being at eye-level when you're sat down drinking a cold beer. Garfield, Jocky and I just grinned at each other as the local girls shook their shapely rears to the music, which ranged from the awful Reggae-ton to classics like the Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams. Some of these girls were seriously hot. A jolly pleasant evening all round, if you ask me. Our mate Mike, who works for Lonely Planet, has assured us that the sexiest girls are in Medellin and Cali. If that's the case, and they out-shine this little lot, I think I may burst into tears when I get off the bus...