Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oops, need an update! ...Manizales, Santa Marta, Parque Nacional Tayrona, Taganga... and up next..???

Hi friends!!! Oh man, you know how it goes, when you go for too long without updating, the task just seems harder and harder!! So much has happened I will surely miss oodles of things, but I will do my best to fill you in on my wild Colombian adventures. I´ll go backwards, because I remember things best that way.

Right now I´m in Taganga, a fun little town about 20 minutes from Santa Marta. It´s pretty and has a lot of bars and restaurants and things, but is small and the beaches are dirty, kind of like sitting on an ashtray... ugh. (I am told that the very sad earthquake in Haiti has caused the beaches here to be dirtier and the tides higher than usual, but I can´t saywhether or not that is true...) Luckily I´ve had PLENTY of beach time lately and am royally tanned/sunburned (open for interpretation) and am happily using the internet and avoiding the sun.. it is HOT. I don´t know the temperature, but I´d estimate it´s around 100 or higher. I also think all the sun I got the past 4 days in Tayrona really did me in, and I arrived yesterday afternoon to Taganga dehydrated and stomach-achy, and feeling so lightheaded I could barely talk... and those who know me know that if I can´t talk, I must be ill. I took last night very easy though, skipped the Saturday night rumba and opted to sleep for 12 consecutive hours, battling the mosquitos despite my mosquito net, but overall woke up today feeling much better...

Which is why I just purchased my trek to Ciudad Perdida tomorrow!! It´s something I´ve been planning to do on this trip for a long time, and though I thought about wimping out, I finally sucked up and bought the trip... not too bad,it cost me $250 USD for a 6 day trek, which involves 3 days trekking to the site (uphill through the jungle, crossing rivers... w00t!) and then a full day at the site, an ancient ruin believed to have been built in 800 AD by the Tayrona people, and then 2 days trekking back. I think it will be very difficult, and the weather here makes it hard (sweaty! humid! gah!) but I also think its an incredible unique experience that I shouldn´t miss. Unlike Machu Picchu, this trek will be far less overcrowded, more virgin... and its older! Wow, I´m excited! Let´s hope I stay healthy.

Anyway, yesterday I arrived in Taganga via an insane motorboat trip from Parque Nacional Tayrona... the boat was jumping over 10 meter high waves and I think my butt is permamently bruised from the impact... but super fun! I was on the boat with 9 screaming guys from Israel and my friend Pablo from Switzerland I met in Tayrona. I spent 4 full days in Tayrona, and I must say, it is gorgeous. And after the sort of disappinting beaches in Santa Marta (anyone who says they are stunning needs to tell me where to go, because I seem to have missed it), it felt like paradise. It´s no undiscovered treasure though. The crowds are intense and the beaches are far from virgin. But it´s worth it... the beaches are perfect, small laguna areas carved out of the ocean, with enormous boulders in the water and along the paths (I mean where did thesehuge rocks come from?? They are enormous, like they just dropped from the sky.), and the jungle right there next to the beach to wander through. The mosquitos, however, were ruthless. I slept in a hammock 3 nights in a row, which seemed so cool and exciting at first, but now I feel like the thrill is over and I want my back back!! Hahaha well too bad, because I´ll be sleeping in hammocks 5 more nights starting tomorrow in the Ciudad Perdida trek...

Anyway, getting to Parque Tayrona is an adventure in itself. From Santa Marta I took a 45 minute drive in a buseta, which is like a small van bus thing. The drop you at the main gate, where you pay about $17 USD to get in (not cheap!). Then you take a bus ride for about 15 minutes to the second gate. From there you have to walk down a fairly treacherous path through the jungle for about 45 minutes... not too fun in the heat!!! But really beautiful, and an adventure for sure, which I always appreciate. You finally arrive at the beach in Arrecife, and the first thing you see are signs everywhere about how more than 200 people have drowned there and not to swim.. and there you are facing the ocean, drenched in sweat. It´s brutal!

There are about 6 or 7 campsites there around Arrecife where you can pitch a tent or rent a hammock, but I decided to be motivated and hike another 45 minutes to the very end, Cabo de San Juan, which I´d heard was a prettier and more fun option. So off I went, dripping with sweat, passing swimming hole after swimming hole... there´s a lovely swimming area called La Piscina between Cabo and Arrecife that I looked at longingly, but really wanted to put my stuff down so I kept on... finally arrived in Cabo so hot and sweaty, and.... no more room! Sold out! It was really packed, with tents absolutely everywhere. But the beaches really are the best. It´s paradise. Unofortunately that first day I had to head back with my backpack on (luckily, I only had a smaller backpack, because I left my bigger one in Santa Marta) and headed back to Arrecife to find a place to camp. When I finally made it into the water for a swim around 4:30pm it was amazing! The water is the perfect temperature, not too cold and not too warm, just perfect.

I spent 2 nights in Arrecife (but walked to Cabo each day to hang out at least) checking out different beaches and getting a tan, and eating very little because the food is very overpriced. The first night I met a couple British boys who were crazy enough for me to hang out with, and then the second night I was joined by 7 Chilean boys traveling together, who shared with me their 3 liters of Chilean pisco... needless to say, I have forgotten the majority of that night. Then finally on the 3rd day I was able to swindle my way into a hammock in Cabo, so I stayed there my last night and the following day. It really is better, though more expensive. There´s a lot of people, which can be good or bad, depending on what you´re looking for. The shower experience was pretty dreadful, sort of felt like a concentration camp because there´s about 30 people, boys and girls, in line, and they kind of throw you under the water where you quickly scrub yourself down in your bathing suit and then go rushing back out. But whatever, it was great, and I enjoyed my final night by treating myself to an overpriced fish dinner and sipping beers by the beach with a couple Argentines I met and listening to the ocean. It´s really divine, despite the crowds, and I´d recommend that anyone in Colombia not miss a visit.

I have much more to write but am being kicked off the internet in 2 minutes... I´ll try to finish up this blog post tonight and write about Santa Marta and my final days in Manizales with Diana and her family and friends (seems like ages ago) enjoying their annual feria and staying up until I-don´t-know o´clock every night. If not, you will be hearing from me in 6 days after the crazy Ciudad Perdida trek! Please send me the good luck vibes that I don´t get attacked my dengue mosquitos or kidnapped by guerrillas! Thanks! :-)

Love to all, and I promise to write more later...


heather said...

sending you the bestest good luck ever for a wonderful trek AND that you are passed over by all dengue skeets and guerillas. be well, my sweet. we love you. xoxooxo