Tayrona National Park

We were back in Santa Marta and ready to tick off another one of Colombia’s must-do things. The Tayrona National Park was about a two hour bus ride from Santa Marta and super cheap, thanks to the local buses. Tayrona National Park not only has an immense natural importance on the region, but also it is a cultural treasure as it was once inhabited but the famous Tayrona tribe. Their culture is still present today with their direct descendants, the Koguis tribe still living and maintaining many of the original traditions.

We reached the park entrance and paid our entry fee (note – bring a student card if you have one, chops off 45% of the price!) and took a colectivo to the start of the hiking trail. We planned to stay in Arrecifes for the first night, mainly because it was the first stop on the trail! We hiked for about an hour through the Tayrona jungle, dodging long hanging branches and spotting monkeys. After being in busy Santa Marta it was nice to be back to nature, with hardly anyone in sight. Reaching the campsite dripping in sweat, we paid for our hammocks and dropped our bags off before heading to find some water to cool off in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However the beach at Arrecifes isn’t suitable for swimming due to its dangerous currents. Judging the currents and our swimming abilities, we decided to ignore the sign and paddle in the huge swell. This didn’t last long though as a security guard swiftly came over to tell us off. At least we got to cool down a little!

Food was next on the agenda so we headed off down the trail in search of comida. There were a couple more campsites and small restaurants as we walked along the trail. The park had a very ‘Lost’ feel about it, I was expecting to see a crashed plane and a tribe of people to come running out at any second! We gushed over the beautiful scenery and the amazing light of the setting sun before stumbling across a life-saver of a lady who sold the most delicious bread in the world! Freshly baked, still warm pan was just what we needed for an entree for dinner. We sampled the ham and cheese, the guava jam and cheese and the chocolate bread before telling the lady we would be back first thing in the morning to have it again for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After views in Tayrona National Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Beautiful sunsets

We found some dinner at a small restaurant at the next camp to ours. Full from the bread, we just had a small dinner before attempting to brave the walk home in the jungle alone. We were all set to go until some fellow travellers told us how they had just seen the alligators by the beach. Slightly freaking out, we ruled out walking back by the beach and decided to go via the way we came. However the topic of snakes popped up and suddenly we were too scared and stranded to walk back alone! Luckily a couple of locals were heading the same way we were so they guided us back through the jungle and we made it back to our hammocks snake-free. Sleep came easy that night, which was surprising because it was the first time I’d slept overnight in a hammock. But the clean hammock and solid mosquito net made for the perfect slumber, especially with the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our ‘hostel’ for the first night

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The following day we packed our bags up and hiked towards El Cabo San Juan. Despite it still being early, the sun was beating down on us hard. We dodged some monkeys and made a pit stop at La Piscina (‘the pool’ for those non-Spanish speakers) for a quick dip and to admire the amazing view. Finally the white sand, turquoise blue water dream I had been envisioning was starting to come to life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Horses for when you couldn’t hike anymore
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
La Piscina – the ‘swimming pool’

DCIM102GOPRO

We walked onto El Cabo San Juan, which took about half an hour and jumped straight into the blue water. This place was way busier than where we had been previously, mainly because it was the most advertised area. We spent our day sun baking, swimming and generally enjoying life. L and I braved swimming out to a huge rock with some boys we met and managed to scar ourselves climbing up the rocks to jump into the ocean. Luckily there were no sharks nearby to smell the blood!

DCIM102GOPRO
GoPro Fail #10230949
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cabo San Juan

DCIM102GOPRO

We dined on garlic prawns and rice for dinner and played cards until it was an acceptable time for bed. This sun-baking business was tiring! Unfortunately I didn’t sleep so well in the hammocks here, they just weren’t as comfy as the night before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fresh garlic prawns! Muy bueno!

After a fitful night of tossing and turning I was happy to get up and start the day. We had freshly cooked ‘caprese pan‘, which was warm bread filled with cheese, tomato and pesto sauce, washed down with a fresh maracuya juice. It wasn’t quite as sunny as yesterday but we still managed to get in some solid sun baking time. We considered staying another night but the thought of sleeping in those hammocks again put us off and we decided to head back to civilisation that day.

In the late afternoon we had a final meal at the only restaurant on Cabo San Juan and caught the boat back to Taganga and returned to our hostel in Santa Marta for a proper shower and a bed! Tomorrow we planned to go to Minca, the tiny village in the mountains about 40 minutes away from Santa Marta. I couldn’t wait!

J. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in Tagana

To be honest, I hadn’t really considered scuba diving in South America. But then again, I hadn’t really planned much past Cusco and here I was in Colombia by the Caribbean coast so I guess anything could happen. Like the majority of the things that I’d done so far, I’d heard from other travellers that scuba diving was cheap and beautiful in Colombia so I dug out my old PADI license from the depths of my bag and signed up for refresher course.

My pal L and I booked our dives with Tayrona Dive Centre in the small town of Taganga. This little town was known for diving and crazy parties but it was so dirty and unfinished I was much happier staying 15 minutes away in Santa Marta. Our dive instructor Juan made us watch a video on the basics of scuba diving and then suited us up and ushered us out to the boat. L hadn’t dived before so I was expecting the first dive to be all about learning techniques and skills but once we were in the water, Juan made sure L was calm and confident and we set off to discover the world below the water. It sure was a big change from when I got my PADI license a few years ago, where it was all about safety techniques and practising skills. It was nice that they were so relaxed about it all because we got to spend more time under the water!

The first dive I was still a bit nervous because it had been four years since my last dive but once I got my ears to equalise I was on fire.We swam amongst schools of fish and past healthy looking coral life. Massive puffer fish floated past us and we found lion fish hidden away in in the hard coral. We took a break on a lone beach, where small geckos flitted around our feet before diving into the clear waters once more. I’d forgotten how amazing diving was and was so glad I decided to do it again.

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1892

IMG_1909

 

IMG_1910

IMG_1916

IMG_1919

IMG_1921

IMG_1956

IMG_1925

DCIM102GOPRO
Cheese!

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1930

DCIM102GOPRO
All the gear … No idea

The following day we woke up early again and headed back out to Tanganga for our second day of diving. I was feeling a lot more confident today and loved every single under the water. Completing my Advanced Dive certification was now much higher on my bucket list!

IMG_1939

IMG_1942

IMG_1943

IMG_1960

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1994

IMG_2004

After our dives we said goodbye to Juan and headed back to Santa Marta. The following day we spent at Playa Bahia Concha, a local beach on the outskirts of Tayrona National Park. It was the perfect way to decompress after our two days diving.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hanging out at Playa Bahia Concha

DCIM102GOPRO

Tomorrow we head out Tayrona National Park to discover one Colombia’s must-see attractions. And to get in some more tan time!

J. x