Given our unexpected short stay in Medellin, we were faced with a 7 hour waiting period at the bus terminal to catch our second consecutive night bus to our next destination, Cartagena. Being the hardened travelers that we are, we actually saw this as a positive since it usually means we could catch up on some sleep; particularly needed ahead of another sleepless night.
Unfortunately as with most things in Medellin, the bus terminal was obviously trying too hard to be something it’s not. In an attempt to give the impression of a sophisticated metropolitan transport hub, the station security insisted that we were not allowed to lay on the sofas, benches…or even the floor!
After ignoring them a couple of times (which resulted in being rudely awakened with a sharp poke) we had really began to annoy them which lead to one particular knob developing a personal mission to watch our every move for the next 6 hours! After feeling like Tom Hanks in “Terminal” we were glad to reach Cartagena and the prospect of a decent night sleep in a proper bed!
We had planed to stay for only one night given that we would be returning to embark on a sailing adventure to Panama. We were lucky enough to find a boat that was leaving within a week , however this didn’t leave too much time to explore the northern Caribbean coast to get the beach fix we have been desperately longing for since Brazil (over 5 months ago!).
Despite the need to sleep, we moved on after just a couple of hours to make our way to a beach town called Taganga, which lies on the border of the National Park Tayrona; the most northerly point of our trip.
Given the journey we just made, we decided to take the bus which I was told would collect us directly from our hostel for a little extra. Since I had found out about it from the receptionist (NB non English speaking), it clearly became my fault that this was to be one of the biggest mistakes made thus far. What I had translated as being a bus was in fact a ‘transfer’ organised by a private firm with small mini buses. Not only are they nearly double the price, they go around the entire city picking up and dropping off just about every OAP American from the swanky hotels that seem to dominate the city skyline. What was supposed to only be a 4 hour drive, turned into 8 long, hungry hours which as you can imagine didn’t do much for relations with the big one!
Thankfully we managed to finally get lucky since we stumbled across a precarnival practice run where the entire village (in normal circumstances a tourist trap geared to the partying gringo) fill the streets dancing to music, spraying flour and foam at just about everyone.
The fortune of good luck seemed to last to the following morning; after arriving to one of the most stunning national parks. Tayrona grips the Caribbean coast like a jungly bear hung at the foot of the Sierras Navada de Santa Marta. With beaches that feel like something straight out of Gulliver’s island, the next couple of days were total bliss.
Days were spent trekking through lush jungle that you only seemed to share with howler monkeys and some of the largest most colorful butterflies. The treks lead you to a variety of beaches that are all as equally stunning as the next, whether they are small intimate bays to the large endless stretches of pure golden sand, all complimented with the most luscious green back drop.
Although most of the larger beaches where unsafe to actually swim in, playing in the huge waves that literally break on the beach front was sufficient to cool off from the blazing sunshine.
Nights were spent camping or simply sleeping in hammocks (which I can tell you is not as comfortable as one would think!) in one of the handful of sites that sit just behind the beaches.
Given that it’s me writing this account you shouldn’t be surprised to read that the good luck didn’t last too long. Apart from realising that in the rush we didn’t take out enough cash (usually my department) to last us 4 whole days, I had made what has to be a most serious mistakes possible; allowing a splash of sea water touch (ever so slightly) Andres most beloved possession; the one that doesn’t need a wash 🙂
Considering that the camera hasn’t been working quite right ever since, the frustrated creative dealt with it all surprisingly well. After feeling completely awful and way too remorseful, I had remembered that he himself had an error in judgement the day before. A carnival goer had completely covered him (and his camera) in flour! this I believe is the real reason for his dysfunctional camera….although deep down I am sure it’s indiscretion with the sea hasn’t helped.
Although innocent, I still unfortunately got my punishment; a sliced foot from the tree house we were staying at.Thankfully there was a nurse on hand to painfully clean me up.
If being so poor that we had to survive on eating coconuts for the best part of two days wasn’t enough to deal with, my dysfunction began souring this otherwise sweet excursion; forcing us to abandon any attempts at seeing the ruins deeper in the jungle.
The region was once territory of the Tayrona people, famously known as the lost civilisation of Columbia. Although it’s no Machu Picchu, the Ciudad Perdida ( lost city) is a mysterious city deep in the jungle that requires over 6 days of hiking. Thankfully we had decided even before my injury that we had both had enough of hiking; in any case I have pulled the pic below off from the net.
Tayrona was the first advanced indigenous culture encountered by the Spaniards in 1499. Although they defended themselves fiercely for over 75 years in uninterrupted war, they like most eventually fell, giving the Spaniards their first real taste for gold and so creating the myth of El Dorado.
Since we have over 300 pics of this place I thought I would add a few others that I think capture the moment.