When we were researching Colombia, Tayrona National Park was unanimously top of the list of everything we heard and read. So, we dutifully set off at 8am on Sunday for the park. The hostel arranged a shuttle for a few of us, so 8 of us squished into a 6 seater van and set off for the hours drive. What happened immediately after arriving made me slightly question why everyone was sending us here – we were faced with an hour’s queue in the blistering heat to pay our entrance fee, then faced another queue to listen to park safety, then another for the shuttle bus into the park itself, then we walked, and walked, and walked. For 2 hours. However each step of the way through beautiful Colombian jungle made me realise more and more why this place is also called the heart of Colombia. Monkeys jumping from tree to tree, coconuts literally falling at your feet, some of the most stunning coast line I have ever seen. 2 hours later we arrived at the main Cabo San Juan beach where we faced another 1.5 hour wait to get somewhere to sleep, the options being a tent or a hammock. It is at this point we realised that Monday is a national holiday here in Colombia (Assumption Day) hence the insane queuing! We finally got a little tent (about 50 degrees inside it) and ate our lunch at the beach. We had heard that food inside the park was both expensive and not great so decided to bring as much as possible with us, so lunch was an avocado sandwich!
We explored a little, had a beer to congratulate ourselves for surviving the day and went for a swim in the gloriously blue water. The beach was packed, mainly Colombians enjoying the holiday, but a large number of backpackers too.
Dinner was held in the only restaurant where everyone flocked to so we sat with a lovely Slovakian girl who was finishing her travels of South America this week so got some great tips. Dinner was fish of the day with rice and chips for Katie and pasta for me (think I needed carbs!).
The next morning we awoke in our sauna/tent at the break of dawn, had our breakfast picnic of fruit and granola and went for a morning swim before grabbing one of the hammocks for our second night – success, no more sleeping in a sweltering tent.
We decided this morning would be a good one for one of Tayrona’s famous hikes, so off we set to El Pueblito – a 2,5km hike, easy we thought. HA – Stupid us wore flip flops but the hike was all up hill across rocks and boulders. I almost didn’t make it up one of the rocks and was almost ready to turn back until a man pulled me up! It was a very hard hike but the result was incredible – an ancient town up in the hills, at one point had 2000 people living in it but now we only saw around 2 or 3 families of indigenous Colombians.
For lunch we saw a man selling Hot Chocolate Bread from a little container so we went for that – we had read that this was a particular favourite. The rest of the day was spent lying horizontally in the shade before another dinner of fish where we sat with girls from Colombia and Ecuador, who kindly enough offered us somewhere to stay in Bogota – result!
The next morning was spent eating our leftovers before setting off onto our hike back, stopping of at another of Tayrona’s beaches, La Piscina, for a swim and game of bat n ball before heading back to Santa Marta. We got lunch to go at an Arepa stall, a mais based bready thing with vegetables inide which is sold very widely here.
We managed to get a shuttle cab with a few boys back from the park, which was a particular highlight – not only did the driver pull over to grab a chorizo and coke to go, he also put on his favourite Michael Jackson CD at FULL BLAST for us to sing along to. Safe to say we love Colombia!
Our final night in Santa Marta now before flying to Medellin in the morning, and we are at the amazing Mayasa hostel with a rooftop bar and pool – just what we needed! Very untraditional dinner of pizza (yes it took some convincing for Katie), a couple of games of pool, and an impromptu salsa lesson and that’s our night. Bye! X