Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park

The journey is coming to an end and this is our last stop before going to Bogota to fly home! We took a bus from the terminal at Cartagena to Santa Marta thinking it would take about 4 hours. But look at us setting expectations, we should know better by now! Of course the bus helper lied to us (nothing new there) 1. about what time the bus would leave and 2. every time we stopped he said it would be for five minutes. We got on the bus that was supposed to leave RIGHT NOW but ended up leaving 20 mins later. Ok I'm fine with that it happens all the time, but then we stopped at one spot just sitting there for an hour and another spot for another half hour. It ended up taking more than 6 hours to get to Santa Marta and even the locals were getting upset (so we knew it wasn't just us!). We thought we would have some of the evening to get stuff done at SM to prepare for our trip the next day to Tayrona but we pretty much just got to our hostel (hostel dreamer), ate dinner and went to sleep.
Hostel Dreamer is cool because it has a pool, bar, kitchen, many dorms and an Italian restaurant (owner is Italian) what I didn't like about it was the creaky doors lol. Seriously, oil your doors! The next day we went to the huge supermarket across the street to stock up for our camping trip. We knew that the park would be expensive so we brought all our food with us, plus we could use up our gas cans we had been carrying since Chile in December! We also went to the bus station to get our tickets to Bogota, we ended up saving 40 mil Colombianos by getting from the terminal and not from the hostel. We repacked our bags and headed out to the road to catch the bus to the park. At the park we geared up to pay the entrance fee 35mil or $18 which is more than 2x the price locals get to pay. I don't like that it's like that but that's just the way it is down here and that's all I'm going to say about it : x I heard from a girl who heard from a Colombian that 95% of this park is owned by a French company, don't know if that's true or not. Then we had to pay more money to get on a bus to take us into the park (what! that's not included in the money we paid to get in? of course not..) Now we start our hike to find a campsite. We weren't sure exactly where we would camp, we figured we would figure it out along the way. The first 50 mins of hiking were to get to the beach, the jungle was really beautiful and it was a nice hike...very hot though, water is a necessity. The first beach we go to was Arrecifes. You can't swim on this beach because of the tide but it's pretty to look at. The first campsite we got to was at this beach and we decided to keep going to camp closer to more swimmable beaches. Next we got to La Piscina which is a nice beach you can swim on. The jungle comes right up to the sand and there are barely any waves, very calm with clear water perfect for snorkeling. We though we would hike to Cabo San Juan, the next beach, because you can swim and camp at that beach (the closest camping to la piscina was about a 7 min walk away. Unfortunatly, we couldn't find the path/it wasn't well marked on where we had to go to get to Cabo and by that time we were so tired and hot and just wanted to be there. So we went back to the campsite that was a 7 min walk away from La Piscina.
The campsite was nice with a view of the ocean (Arricifes, no swimmin!) and not many people. The workers were friendly so we pitched our tent for 10 mil a person (around $5) and realized we needed to start making dinner before the sun went down because we both amazingly forgot to bring a flashlight. And you'd think with all our experience...I also found a coconut that nick was able to get into and it was quite yummy. After we had dinner is when things started to go downhill. we had a 7pm bedtime (the time it was dark) I think we fell asleep for ten mins and both woke up dying. It was so hot in the tent we might as well be sleeping in an oven. was hell. We couldn't open the door because of the mosquitoes so i just had the door unzipped a crack so i could have some breeze on my face. It was actually hell. finally around 11pm I couldn't take it and had to get out of the tent. Our tent neighbors were around at that time and we started talking (they were from NYC) and then the campsite people invited us over to drink rum with the which was awesome. We sat around taking shots of rum and watching really bad Colombian music videos and talking until the power went out. At 1pm we headed back to the tent, and I was able to fall asleep with the help of rum. Until 2:30 am when someone came to the tent with a flashlight. I woke up nick and he said 'hello?' and they walked away and went to the neighbors tent for a couple seconds. We though it was either someone going after nick's phone (you could see the glow from outside, it was by the door) or someone trying to sneak into a tent for a free nights sleep.
The next day we decided to shorten our trip from three nights to two (we had pre-paid for 2 nights so we kinda had to stay) because of how awful it was in the tent. We started our day at La Piscina swimming, sleeping and watching sea turtles come up for air. At 2pm we went for a walk up to find Cabo, hiking through more jungle full of crabs. Yes. crabs. They dig little crab holes in the ground in the jungle and hide out in them. When you're walking down the path you see them all run into the holes as you walk by, like little aliens running away. Very strange. We got to the Cabo campsite which was livelier, had a big restaurant and store, plus a beach you can swim in right at the door step. It was more expensive there though, but we were finally able to get a big bottle of water instead of the small ones our campsite offered. We kept walking though to check out the other beaches close by, the next beach was 3 mins away and I think it was a nude beach, playa nudista, but barely anyone was on it and the people who were were not naked. I thought this was the most beautiful beach out of all of them. It had the jungle but also it was like a cove and you could see the hills on one side and big rocks on another. I parked up leaning against a big rock and watched a crab I dubbed Leo go about his business right in front of me. We stayed there chilling for an hour, then we had to make a mad dash back to the campsite as a thunderstorm rolled in. We made it back right before it started raining heavily but had to wait for it to stop to make dinner. We though maybe it would be better since the temp dropped a little after the rain and we could sleep. Oh no. The mosquitoes came out with vengeance. After another horrible, sleepless night in the tent (actually I think I fell asleep for a couple hours) we woke up to find 15 very full mosquitoes in the tent. They were promptly killed for being so indulgent and I quickly got out of the hell tent, only to be attacked by damn sand flies! All over my legs I now have the painfully itchy red bumps I was so used to from La Senda Verde. 15 on one leg and 21 on the other. joy. We packed up and ran out of there as fast as we could to enjoy the pool at the hostel. 
all in all my view of Tayrona:
Junlge hike, cool
beaches...not the best i've seen (mexico!) but not bad. I think they were hyped up a bit much.
camping..horrible. unless you like sleeping in ovens. almost makes it not worth it. You can do a hammock with a mosquito net but I know I can't sleep a whole night in a hammock.
Maybe it's better if you bring a mosquito net and use it like a tent over some sleeping pads.

Next day we actually went back to the park but to a different beach on the other side and as a day trip. We went to Bahia Concha with some others as an organized trip from the hostel. We crammed 8 people into a six person van and drove 40mins to the beach. It was very tranquil there, not many people at all. It was a bay with calm waters and hills on both sides. We sat by the fishing boats under a tree and relaxed knowing we would be in a bed that night. Now we have 2 days to just chill at the hostel by the pool before going to Bogota. We will try to see Titanic 3D tonight at the theater across the street tonight, if it's in English and enjoy the rest of the trip!

Jungle hike

first view of the shore



Beach kitty at Bahia Concha

Bahia concha

Dreamer Hostel

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