Now not any old place would have us packing up and departing the wonderful city of Cartagena, but our next stop was well worth it. We booked a bus from our hostel directly to Taganga a small seaside village from where we hoped to enter Tayrona National Park. Many tourists choose to catch the boat from Taganga directly into the park because it means avoiding the long, hot walk into the campsites, however there is also the option of the bus. The bus takes you to the park gate on the eastern edge of the park from where you walk for around 45 minutes to arrive at the first campground.
We had decided to do the walk because:
a) I had read that it's quite beautiful and you can see wildlife along the way
b) it seemed like the more adventurous and natural route into the park and
c) it was cheaper and we're now tightarse backpackers!
The thing we hadn't counted on was a 30 degree day with 90% humidity - the walk was strenuous to say the least! Most people leave the majority of their luggage in a bigger town and just take the necessities into the park. Not Wade and I! Due to the spontaneous nature of our travel, we took everything with us because we had no idea where we would be going next. This certainly didn't help our cause as we walked up and down rock staircases, across soft sand and hopped over tree roots crossing our path!
After 45 minutes and almost 5 litres of water, we finally arrived at Arricifes Beach and campground. We were hoping our 5L water bottle would last us at least 2 days due to the price of water in the park but had clearly underestimated the walk in!
Our friend Hanna had told us were she would be staying and without wifi or phones our only choice was to stay at the same place and hope to see her. Within half an hour of settling into our tent and showering a familiar face strolled by. In a 150sq km park we had managed to find our one friend!
That night we had a few beers and watched the sunset from the beach before deciding to spend the following day exploring the park by doing the 4-5hour trek to the historic remains of the indigenous village of Pueblito.
The walk from Arricifes on the east of the park to Cabo San Juan (the furthest west campground) was 8km of stunning beaches, natural pools and groves of palm trees that looked like they had been plucked straight from a coffee table book!
By the time we arrived at Cabo we were already hot and sweaty but that didn't deter us from our goal to climb up to Pueblito. The trek was only 3 km according to the sign but what it lacked to inform the naive traveller is that it is almost directly up the side of a mountain. We spent the next 2 hours puffing and sweating our way up steep tracks, crawling over huge boulders and spotting a variety of wildlife.
Photo: The trek to Pueblito took us over, under and in between huge boulders to reach the remains of the city at the top
Eventually we reached Pueblito near the top of the mountain and could immediately vouch for its nickname as the "Little Lost City". The remains of Pueblito are scattered between what is still today a small indigenous village. Moss covered steps and smooth rocks used for grinding foods are scattered around the remains of ancient buildings. It's a beautiful site, almost as beautiful as the man selling ice-cold water under a shady tree!
The water man mentioned to us that there was an alternate route back down the hill which was welcome news after we had literally hauled each other over some 1m high boulders and weren't so sure about a downhill strategy!
The track was much easier as it avoided the rocky valley we had climbed up but it was also much steeper and covered in loose rocks. We tip toed our way down the track and finally sighed relief as we heard the ocean crashing in the distance.
Now we knew that this track met the ocean on a secluded beach west of the other more touristy campgrounds. We also knew there was a nudist beach on our walk back to Cabo but what we didn't know was there was a second nudist beach just for really close male friends to "hang out" on. While Wade quickened his pace and almost ran to the next beach Hanna and I tried to have a normal conversation while walking past some sunbathing men but all I could think about were the logistics of these naked men laying around without so much as a towel between the sand and their.... Yep, try not to think about it for too long!
Hanna left Tayrona a day before us so Wade and I spent our last day lounging around on the beaches while trying to avoid a group of French tourists who didn’t understand the meaning of personal space. It was such a peaceful and romantic day - Wade and I lying together on the beach while two elderly French women had a conversation over the top of us and their male companion decided to drape his sweaty t-shirt over my belongings. Such tranquility and bliss!
We left Tayrona the same way we entered, with the dreaded walk to the park gate, only this time it seemed much quicker and was made all the more special by some monkeys jumping over head and a capybara scuttling across the track in front of us.
Our next destination was Taganga and upon learning that it is the cheapest place in the world to undertake PADI Scuba Training, Wade jumped at the opportunity. I was unable to do it due to issues with my ears, but who am I kidding, the thought also terrifies me! So while Wade spent his days breathing underwater, chasing huge fish and learning all about the rules and regs for scuba diving, I chilled out with a few beers on our private balcony overlooking the beach. It really was a win win situation!
Photo: Wade working hard at becoming a PADI certified diver...... while I admire the sunset from our balcony in Taganga!
With a new PADI qualification under his belt, Wade proudly accepted his certification and spent the following days looking up all of our upcoming destinations that offer Scuba Diving. Looks like there will be more beers and balconies on the cards for me!
As always, there are plenty more photos from our time in Tayrona National Park, they can be found in our "Colombia - Part 2" Photo Album!
Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.