August 09 – August 21, 2022; 8901 nm and 1249 days after departure from La Rochelle.
Yeah, finally we were in the relaxed mood to start exploring the -for us new- country and continent. Colombia is such a divers country. According to Wikipedia, Colombia is one of the world’s seventeen megadiverse countries and has the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world. Its territory encompasses Amazon rainforest, highlands, grasslands and deserts. It is the only country in South America with coastlines and islands along both Atlantic and Pacific oceans. I wasn’t aware of all of that. I could go on as there are so much more interesting information about this country just reading through the wikipedia encyclopedia, but that you can find and read yourself.
After coming back from Europe we leveraged our jet-lag and got some more projects done which we had kept procrastinating. A great side effect while recovering from the time difference and adopting back to the enormous humidity( 87%) and heat. Once we were back to normal, it was time for a trip to the Tayrona National park which is located 34 km east of Santa Marta. After some back and forth discussions wether to stay a night or not at the National park we decided against a sleepover. The reason was, we were also thinking about visiting the “Ciudad Perdida”, the lost city. That would have been a 4 to 5 day hike deep into the rainforest of the Sierra Nevada. Sleeping in hammocks or simple camp beds surrounded by millions of mosquitos and probably soaking wet all the time because of the rainy season. Still it did sound like a great experience but again we couldn’t make our mind up if we wanted to take the challenge or not. So we decided to hike a whole day through the Tayrona park to get a feeling of what we could expect and wether we really would like it.
Instead of taking the “normal’ route starting at the main entrance “El Zaino”, we took an early bus from Santa Marta market to the small entrance “Calabazo” of the National park. Our goal was to walk up the hill to Pueblito, then down to the beaches and along the coastline back to the main entrance. As it was kind of difficult to get exact information about distances or hours we would need for the hike we made sure to start early. Proudly we reached the entrance at 7:45 am (it took us about 1,5 hours to get there) and started our long way through Tayrona park. The park is btw described as one of the most beautiful destinations in Colombia. With dream like white beaches and outstanding landscapes. Well, let’s say we were not thaaaat impressed. All we’ve seen were trees in green. Sure that is what one would expect, but maybe with a little view in between or some variety from the green? I feel a bit ashamed to write that, but the forest was a bit underwhelming. We had seen much nicer forests. Or maybe our expectations were just oversized due to the highly advertised park. Anyhow the hike started with a very intense walk up some steep dirt roads through a kind of “dry” rainforest. I know it’s a weird expression, but somehow the forest looked dry even though it was very green and the floor muddy. I swear, we didn’t consume anything naughty before we started.
Maybe we should have listened to the locals that it would get steep. They offered motorbike rides up the hill to get easier and faster to the top. Of course we thankfully denied because we wanted to challenge ourselves, didn’t we? Though it surly would have been fun to sit at the back of one of these small motorbikes and trying not to slip off while going up the steep and bumpy dirt roads. Imagine El Capitano on such a bike way taller and bigger than the driver…🤣. That surly would have looked great. Yes, we have to catch up on that one day soon! My guess, with a bike it would have taken 10 min and maybe some bruises. For us it was an one hour sweating-like-hell intense walk with already getting tired legs. I was just so close from starting to complaining when we reached the top. The good thing was, up there we could support some locals and had a coffee at a kind of look out. A welcoming short break from our hard start. 15 min sitting and watching a little boy feeding his chicks while enjoying the coffee helped a lot to get started again. Then, a little less sweaty but still very strenuous we marched downhill for about two hours until we reached the beaches. The beaches were indeed beautiful but packed with tourists. Understandable, ’cause the beaches seemed to be the main reason for (mostly young) tourists to come. We felt a bit different in our boots and clothes walking along the beaches passing all these skin showing and sunbathing kids. We also had the impression we pushed up the average age quite a lot 🙈.
Now some small history about the park. Tairona was the name of the people living in Colombia hundreds of years before the colonisation by the Spaniards. Some escaped the genocide by going deeper into the Sierra Nevada. The Tayrona park, which is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada forms part of the ancestral territories of the Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa and Arhuaco indigenous communities who inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
I guess, because we took the more uncommon small entrance we actually had a few encounter with some of the indigenous people. A mum with her kids was most impressive to me. While walking up the trail, carrying her baby on her back she was crocheting a typical mochila bag. And on top of that she was also watching her two other kids. That is what I call multitasking! We had as well seen a few more people, carrying woods or bananas using donkeys. They were all dressed in the same white clothing and somehow I thought that could be very practical. No need to think about what to wear anymore!! Could be kind of cool… or boring? When we passed the indigenous they were always friendly but we had the impression also distant. That was of course ok, they were probably fed up with all those tourists walking through their territory. Out of respect I didn’t take any pics.
As we knew we still had a long way to manage we kept on walking for about another 45 minutes before we had a desperately needed break. At a trunk at a beach somewhere close to Arrecife we found a place next to a small kiosk.What a well deserved break! We were so focused on sitting and relaxing our legs that we completely lost focus on our lunch. There, where we were seated just on a log we could only get a kind of wrap from a small booth and some beverages. We didn’t care! We were hungry and tired! So funny, if we would have walked maybe 50 m more just around the small building, we would have found a proper beach restaurant with different dishes and proper chairs. Yeah, sometimes you loose and sometimes you win. Either way we had to get going again as it was meanwhile past midday. Strengthened thanks to our break we were confident to finish our last leg in reasonable good shape. At the beginning with many people sharing the same path, but after a while there were less and less people. I do not know how we managed to get there but somehow we found ourselves walking on a horse trail.
That was not completely unusual as we got passed before by horses, only now we were the only hikers. It was for sure a beautiful horse ride trail but walking through those muddy slippery paths was a nightmare. I was officially fed up and exhausted! We both were so much looking forward to reaching the end of the park but it didn’t seem to come. Another hill, another canyon like trail shaped like a “v”, where we had to walk one foot on the right hill and the left foot at the left hill because the path was so muddy, another flooded trail, where we had to find our way through, another horse passing us easily… Boy, was I jealous of those privileged riders… But then suddenly we did it! We made it to the end, jumped in a bus who took us to the main road to finally get the bus back to Santa Marta. Now guess how our decision was regarding the lost city? Correct! We both agreed that we are happy with a long one day hike, but we do NOT need that for several days in a row. What a relief having made another decision 😁! Within seconds we knew what we would do instead. Flying to Medellín, exploring the city and its surroundings, and knowing that in the evening we will stay in a nice accommodation with a huge bed and a nice shower. We are sailors! Once in a while we can spoil ourselves with a better housing than ours.
On our way back to Santa Marta I was sitting next to a very interesting Colombian man. He spoke fairly good english and used to live 7 years with the Kogui people at the Tayrona park. The one hour bus drive was very entertaining. Jorge was trying to explain the lifestyle and beliefs of the Kogui’s and that was very interesting. With a little bit of research and getting my brain steaming I recall that he said, the Kogui believe in ‘Aluna’ or ‘The Great Mother’, who they believe is the force behind nature. The Kogui only wear traditional white clothing, as they believe that white represents the Great Mother and nature’s purity. They base their lifestyles on the understanding that the Earth is a living being, and see humanity as its “children.” The Kogui believe that they must help prolong and protect life on earth. They say that our actions of devastation, exploitation, and misappropriation of resources is weakening ‘Aluna’ and leading to our destruction. The Kogui community say they are keeping the world in balance by living in harmony with the environment, and understandably fear interference from the outside world. Jorge himself is working together with the Kogui to help them to keep the world in balance by explaining the world their beliefs. At the moment he is working at a cartoon movie to explain their beliefs, which will be released end of the year. All that was very fascinating and I hope I understood it right. What a day!
That was a definite booster of our eagerness to see more of Colombia.