Friday, December 16, 2011

Tayrona National Park

During our week in Santa Marta Marina, it was easy to just spend the days wandering about town, meeting up with friends, soaking up the air conditioning and displays of products and foods in the big Exito supermarkets and mall and catch up on internet stuff. We could do this all day and all week, but, since we were in Colombia after all, I really wanted to see and do something else in the area. Axel, Liz and Mark were game to break their daily routines and we opted to visit Parque Nacional de Tayrona.

The correct bus stop, on the opposite end of town, was reached by cab ($2) and once the bus driver was ready to leave, his dilapidated vehicle ($2.50 pp.) dropped us off at the park entrance a little over an hour away. The drive revealed some of the country side and a lot of typical towns, where little stores and carts selling wares line the main road and smaller dirt roads lead to local houses. The entrance fee to Tayrona National Park is quite steep ($17), all Colombian things considered, but it is well maintained and enormously popular with tourists, backpackers and Colombians alike. To save our energy, we took a shuttle bus ($1) to the trailheads. Now, two hours after departure, our expedition could begin!

Many visitors to the park stay multiple days and campgrounds are located in different sections. You can bring your own gear or rent a tent, hammock or cabin. We decided to cover the “eastern grounds” in a day and that involved a lot of hiking. It is possible to rent horses to do this job. First, we followed a trail to Arrecifes Beach which led us through jungle and forest for about one hour. We managed to dodge most of the mud puddles, keeping our shoes relatively clean. The beach consisted of a massive expanse of grey sand, backed by the jungle and green shrubbery. A rainstorm had us hide for shelter before continuing on to La Piscina.

Back on the trail, we were soon “blocked” by a brown river. Where is the bridge? The shoes came off and from that point on, stayed off. We managed to explore the rest of the park barefoot without any problems. The trail became hard to decipher, so we followed the river to the ocean and continued along the beach to La Piscina, considered a great place to swim. The darkish water and grey sky weren’t all that inviting for a dip and I kept wondering whether we would ever see the sun in this country. We sure were spoiled in the Eastern Caribbean with the blue water and white beaches! After an enjoyable and tasty lunch (with red wine!), Axel and Liz (and our less heavy backpack) decided to stay on the yellow beach and relax, while Mark and I walked the last stretch through forest and coconut groves to Cabo San Juan.

Cabo San Juan is an attractive point with beaches on both sides and a few picturesque rocks dotting the water and shore. It amazed Mark that so many people would do this great effort to come all this way to sit on a beach; but these were notoriously the nicest beaches of Colombia! After a quick break, we headed back to our friends and started the return journey. About halfway from Arrecifes to the shuttle bus, a massive rainstorm paid us a visit. The sky opened up and a torrential downpour had us soaking wet in minutes. Good I tried to keep my new shoes dry before… The trails turned into rivers and it actually became quite fun to complete our hike, once we realized we were wet and couldn’t do anything about it. The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful with a nice hot shower to top the day off.


Map of Tayrona National Park.


Orange juice stand along the hike. Everything is brought in by horse.


Tourists can rent horses to get to the several beaches.


Stuck! Time to take the shoes off!


Leaf cutter ants are present everywhere and cut whole trails through grass and earth.


Muddy trails...


Hiking through Tayrona NP.


One of the better views along the trail.


La Piscina Beach.


Big iguana on the way to another beach.


Palm grove towards Cabo San Juan.


Cabo San Juan.


 Crossing the river on the way back.


Wringing out towels and clothes before riding back to Santa Marta.

(Thank you Axel Busch for contributing some - the better - of the pictures!)

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