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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Into the wild... (Tayrona National Park)

COLOMBIA | Monday, 7 November 2011 | Views [1928]

Santa Marta left a lot to be desired. The beaches waters were murky and the sand was covered in rubbish…. It certainly didn’t look like a Caribbean Beach yet it is. The streets were covered in rubbish, mud and large puddles, I couldn’t go anywhere without my legs getting covered, yet the locals somehow managed to stay clean. There wasn’t anything worth seeing at all yet we stayed two nights just to relax in their hammock area and to plan our adventure into the wild.

We left our large backpacks locked up in the hostels storage room and took our small school bag sized bags with us. Our directions were to go to a certain street corner and find a local bus that took an hour to get to Tayrona National Park. We managed to find the bus ok and luckily the driver told us when we were supposed to get off as we would have had no idea. It cost 35,000 pesos ($19 US) each to get into the park, which is more than double what Colombians have to pay. Here we saw a large spider crawl up a man’s sleeve and that instantly had me paranoid and feeling creepy crawlies all over me! From the gate we got a small van further into the jungle and got deposited in the middle of nowhere.

We walked an hour through the jungle on a small path that due to recent rain and horses trotting through; resembled a mud pit. Very quickly, spiders became the least of my worries…. Our main focus was on surviving the track and avoiding the masses of large red ants that seemed to dominate every surface. Jandels were not sufficient foot wear,  especially once our feet were covered in mud we kept slipping out of them as we climbed up hill and jumped from rock to rock to get around especially bad patches. It was extremely humid so it didn’t take long for us to be dripping with sweat.


Finally we arrived in a clearing where some tents were erected and a few thatched roofs covered a hammock area and a ‘restaurant’ (planks of wood for tables and chairs and the kitchen is only open a few hours a day). As the hammocks didn’t have mosquito nets we opted for a tent which cost 24,000 pesos per night. The place was like a funny farm with a horse, a donkey (which made the most hilarious honking noise), a turkey, a quail, many ducks, a parrot (which of course I loved), 2 puppies and 3 dogs all wondering around free. They all interacted with each other and it was quite entertaining. Occasionally a wild horse would come into the clearing and the dogs would chase it off.


It was a 10 minute walk through more jungle to the beach. Just as we arrived, unfortunately it started to rain. We still went for a walk in the rain along the beach and were starting to wonder if we had wasted our time and money in going there… Once it was dark (around 5.30pm) we played cards and read in the hut until we became bored so we just went to bed. (Well, we just used our jackets as a pillow, and they provided a thin mattress with bottom sheet, we had no covers.) All night we felt sticky, sweaty and itchy and in the morning we both had a few mosquito bites (although others seemed to have so many it looked like they had chicken pox!). The night there was a lot quieter compared to the jungle in Palenque!


We were very fortunate with the weather that day – bright blue skies and the suns glorious heat. Walking through the jungle to the first beach (Arrefices) we encountered a yellow and black snake all coiled up in attack mode! Thankfully we got around it with no hassles but it definitely had me thinking about how many dangerous creatures were surrounding us. The beach was surrounded by mountains covered in tropical jungle but unfortunately swimming is forbidden as it is too dangerous so we walked the length of the beach onto another jungle path. On our way we encountered an alligator sunning itself! It bared its teeth at us as we walked by. It was such an incredible experience seeing these creatures up close and personal in their natural habitat as opposed to a zoo.


As we continued past a village of large crabs and many startled lizards we came across a beautiful cove and another beach further along. We kept walking around rocks and through a forest of palm trees (all the while being wary of just how often coconut’s fall, you can hear them crashing all over the place!) until after an hour we came across the most stunning beach in the park. Cabo San Juan – now THAT was a Caribbean Beach. Glistening gold sand, clear sparkling aqua waters, clusters of palm trees and rounded rock formations, all surrounded by lush tropical jungle. And the best thing was that it was so unspoilt by tourism. The people that were there had put the effort into getting there and they were appreciating the beauty as we were. There were no hawkers trying to sell things, no buildings other than a few thatched huts, no shops – nothing commercial in any way.


We spent the day lazing about and swimming and then got stuck into the walk back to base. The showers here were a pipe sticking out of the wall pouring cold water with a flimsy wood wall covering you up to your shoulders. We were covered in sweat, salt, sand, bug spray and sun tan lotion so despite it being so basic, it was divine!  (Of course it didn’t take long until we felt unclean again but I managed to cope fine and didn’t complain!)


That night we were sitting in the restaurant and the sky began lighting up from bolts of lightning so often it was like someone turned a strobe light on. Slowly, the storm came closer and closer. The wind picked up and then the torrential rain fell from the sky. It was so heavy it was like a curtain of water had formed around the hut. The thunder claps were the loudest I had ever heard and it was directly above us. The clearing around us kept lighting up an electrifying bright blue and white, it was absolutely surreal! A lot of the animals took refuge with us; even a large toad joined the party! After an hour the storm had moved on and we tiptoed through the extreme puddles to get to our tent – thankfully it hadn’t flooded!


There were some other couples staying at the same camp, most of which were Germans. Some of them were doing a trip around the world for a whole year!


The next morning we tackled the jungle path back to civilisation. I was expecting it to be flooded from the storm but surprisingly the track seemed easier in the opposite direction. There were fewer ants which was nice and we saw a tiny psychedelic colored frog along the track, and some flies that were the size of bumble bees. I managed to stay a lot cleaner this time except for my jandels flicking mud up the backs of my legs. Andrew however had an incident where the mud tried to claim his jandels. He ended up both feet ankle deep in mud and had to dig his jandels out! I’m sure if I was in front, I would’ve experienced the same fate as the ground looked more stable than it turned out to be in that spot. Thankfully we passed through a stream where he could clean up.


Once again, sweating and exhausted from our adventure, we climbed aboard another local bus and headed back to Santa Marta to retrieve our bags. We paid a small fee to use their shower (another pipe sticking out of the wall with cold water in a tiny tile bathroom stall where nothing remained dry - and we had to use our smelly dirty wet towels again) and then headed off on an overnight bus to Medellin. 17.5 hours later and very tired and grumpy we discovered our chosen hostel was fully booked….

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