After our adventure to Colombia's most northern point we needed some time to relax, a spot of wifi to check the world was still ticking along okay and a pizza. We jumped out of the back of the truck we had been traveling by in the beach town of Palamino and grabbed a beer and and some wifi in a little bar near the beach. Me and H went for a walk on the sand then headed back to meet the guys for a Pizza in a place they recommended. As we walked through town we were spotted by Camillia who we had now seen a few times on this trip once in Patagonia and again in the Peruvian Jungle. She joined us for a slice and said she would try and join us in a few days further along the coast.
El Rio Hostel
El Rio is a lovely place about half an hour along the highway from the beach town of Palomino up a jungly path next to Rio Buritaca. It only opened recently and is the vision of two Brits Ben and Guy who traveled Colombia a few years back and fell in love with the area. It is a tropical tranquil paradise when there isn't a crowd at the bar and the sound system is on. Luckily we were the crowd, as we turned up with our ensemble from Cabo De La Vela late one evening.
We had a swish little cabana to ourselves looking out on to a colourful garden in the front and the jungle out the back. On my first and last mornings I could hear the distant whale of howler monkeys, it was a nice reminder of our time in the Amazon.
We spent most of our time here just relaxing and swimming in the river. It was bliss. Ben and Guy have a deal with a few local guides who walk you up a overgrown path along the river to a spot where you can float back down in a rubber tyre tube. This sounded like a good way to kill a few hours so we met a local fellow called Davies and followed him up stream. Luckily the group consisted of just of me and Will so we took the opportunity to practice our Spanish and learn a thing or two about what grows around here. We also took a cool box of beers with us which made the slow float back even more tranquil.
Our second evening there was quite a big one. Beer became gin, gin became tequila and tequila became what ever was going. The next day was a write off and the sound of howlers in the morning was not welcome.
On our last night still feeling a tad hungover one of the bar girls at El Rio persuaded us to head over to Costeño beach for La Brisa Tranquila hostels Sunday evening beach parties. We rode in convoy on the back of motorbikes for the 20 minute ride down the rough track from El Rio then blasted along the coastal highway.
The sun was just setting when we arrived, a lad was playing acoustic covers on his guitar in English and Spanish and everyone was relaxing under a string of fairy-lights on the sand. it was like walking into a Corona advert.
Tayrona National Park
We finally managed to leave El Rio Hostel, 2 days late. We took the local bus to the main park entrance where we were able to leave our big bags for the night for a small charge. Then we hopped onto another bus to a lesser used entrance in the tiny roadside village of Calabazo. Here the trail was much quieter than the main track as it's a harder and less trodden route. We paid our park entrance fee and started hiking.
It was a really pleasant walk through the tropical forests, or rather it would have been if it wasn't so damned hot. Sweat was dripping from everywhere within minutes and we ended up stripping and walking in our swimming clothes. Our path wound through all kinds of rich jungle vegetation as massive butterflies flew by, colourful birds sqwarked, many lizards darted past and at one point a black and yellow frog hoped across our path. We wandered if this meant good luck. Looking at his colours we decided not to get too close as we though touching him may very quickly bring on some bad luck.
A middle aged lady with jet black hair, a dark lined face and dark eyes rounded a leafy corner in front of us. She wore a long white robe that was quite muddy at the bottom with a naturally dyed red strip of fabric round the sleeves and hem. The taut straps of a handmade white bag in the same material pulled tightly across her forehead. As she past we noticed a small beautiful child peering out from behind her. We had read their was an indigenous community in this jungle and were wandering if we were close by.
The walk climbed up and up for quite a while before reaching an the indigenous village called Pueblito. Here were round houses with tall thatched roofs like Vietnamese hats, perched on walls made of upright planks of wood. The local dress was long floaty white robes as we had seen earlier, with brightly coloured necklaces for the women. Most indigenous villages tourists can visit have been changed a lot by the new world, often choosing to make and sell artisanal crafts and cold drinks to tourists rather than continuing with their traditional way of life. This place was refreshingly different, they didn't care at all that we were there and paid us zero attention, which we liked. They just went about their day and we went about ours. Every now and then we would catch glimpses of their white robes through the thick jungle as they gathered food, or the kids played in the streams.
It was here that the walk changed and we started hopping and jumping over huge boulders, edging through rock caves and carefully stepping over rock bridges. At one point we went under the roots of a tree, following a huge blue butterfly who wouldn't keep still enough to have his photo taken.
Four hours later, we arrived at Cabo San Juan a small collection of palm roofed amenities and a large hammock hut by the beach. We'd been told the walk would take two hours, no idea where we went wrong. Our sleeping options were hammocks, tents or very expensive cabanas, luckily we took two of the last few hammocks. Somewhere in the walk we found a 50 mil peso note on the floor, which we used to pay for our hammocks!
With the chores done, we settled onto one of the beautiful tropical beaches that the park is known for. It really was stunning, as the palm trees and jungle met the roaring ocean. Many people have been swept away to their deaths on these beaches because the rip is so strong, so we stuck to paddling.
Bedtime was exceptionally early that night, but of course sleeping in hammocks meant the next morning we felt like we'd hardly slept a wink.
The walk out the park followed an easier more accessible path and we were really pleased we'd done the other walk the previous day as it was much more quiet adventurous. Still, it was nice enough as this route took you past many other pristine beaches. We stopped at two of them for a dip and a sunbathe, before carrying on the hike. On our feet we noticed tiny flecks of gold and when we went into the sea, the gold pieces were floating around close to shore. No idea where they came from but Will imagined they'd had a party recently and let off tonnes of glitter. This walk too took longer than expected, maybe we are just super slow. If we ever get out our plan is to escape the heat of the coast and hide in the hillside retreat of Minca.