The northern coast of Colombia - Santa Marta, Taganga, Tayrona Park and Palomino
We spent our last few weeks in Colombia beach hopping, moving east along the Caribbean Coast. From Cartagena we headed to Santa Marta, Colombia's oldest city but it's colonial heritage no longer exists due to English and Dutch pirates. It's visited mainly by middle-class Colombians as a holiday destination. The beach in Santa Marta isn't anything special but it's the gateway to Parque Nacional Tayrona, the most popular national park for beaches in Colombia. We arrived in Santa Marta on a Friday evening just in time to ride the Chiva party bus (Chiva buses are local artisan buses with a colourful and rustic decoration). The bus seats were stripped out and pimped out with a flat screen tv blaring out Latin pop music whilst we danced and drank the unlimited alcohol, as the bus drove around the city before finishing at an open air nightclub perched on a cliff. It was definitely a crazy Colombian party!
We visited 2 parts of Tayrona park. The first beach was Bahia Concha, a curving bay with blinding white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. The postcard picture of a Caribbean beach. The second time we visited Tayrona was through the main park entrance where we spent the night camping on the beach. We rode on caballos through the dense jungle that edges up to the beaches, lining the sand with swaying palm trees. Nicks horse was a bit crazy and bucked him off whilst galloping at full speed, luckily he came away with just a few scrapes and no injuries! Arrecife is the first beach we reached, a deserted stretch of sand with rip tide waves and whirlpools, definitely not safe for swimming but easy on the eye. A further 30 minute trek we arrived at La Piscina, a cove of calm deep water perfect for snorkelling. The coral was incredible and we got to see hundreds of colourful and exotic fish all varying in size. We were lucky to have the whole reef to ourselves with no other gringos in sight. Cabo San Juan was our final stop where we spent the night. A palm fringed beach with huge smooth boulders and a hammock cabana perched on the top of the rocks. The camp site was busy and full of gringos, not what we were expecting but I guess everyone has caught onto Colombia's most popular park with pristine beaches. After a sweaty nights sleep in a tiny tent we headed to Palomino, an undiscovered stretch of palm fringed white sandy beach further east along the Caribbean coast. It definitely felt more off the beaten track compared to the touristy Tayrona. A tiny village which is not much more than one road with a sparse vegetable stand, a DIY store and locals siting out on deck chairs chatting among themselves. The Colombians are some of the warmest and friendliest people I have come across. Their kindness is overwhelming and it captivates me to see how happy and content they are with their lives, living in such basic conditions. Westerners have so much choice, luxury and sometimes greed. We are usually left wanting more or being unappreciative of what we have yet these people live self sufficiently, working for peanuts with a constant smile on their face. It's definitely made me more grateful of how lucky I am to travel and experience different cultures. I strolled along the deserted beach admiring the local fisherman unravelling their tangled nets full of freshly caught fish. They heaved and pushed the battered and worn wooden fishing boats onto the sand whilst their playful toddlers splashed around the boat, full of laughter and innocence. For lunch, we decided to buy some of the fresh fish and cooked them on the BBQ. Compared to the few pricey beachfront restaurants we managed to get 6 fishes for 5000 pesos (£1.50!).
After our solitude stay in palomino with power cuts each evening we moved onto Taganga. A lively bohemian fishing village, rough around the edges with a chilled out backpacker vibe. Reggae music blares out of speakers from the bars dotted along the beach. The village is equally filled with locals and gringos and visited mostly for the cheap scuba diving opportunities. Nick went on a few dives including a night dive whilst I worked on my tan lines.
We are now heading back to Cartagena to catch our 5 day catamaran boat trip to the San Blas Islands!