Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tayrona National Park

Next stop was Santa Marta the oldest surviving city in South America which is located on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Whereas this city is the go‐to spot for holiday‐making Colombians looking to soak up some Caribbean sun and also the place of death of legendary military leader Simon BolĂ­var, we used it as a base point for a week of trekking.

Following a bus ride through the dry, arid landscape of a city in the middle of the dry season, we arrived at the National Park, a 12,000 hectare stretch of land hugging the coastline which once belonged to the indigenous Tayrona people - hence the name. We made it to the park and began the hour and a half walk through wooded areas interspersed with beaches squashed between huge rocks breaking up the coastline. 
The beaches are as wild as the nature within the park - huge waves crash down on grainy sand dunes with caiman infested inland ponds all under the strict guidance of the danger red flags whipping in the wind. 

Once we had reached Cabo San Juan, a popular beach base for tourists, we claimed our hammock (yes I slept in a hammock for two nights) and jumped at the chance of soaking up the late afternoon sun. 

The following day we set out for Pueblito, an archaeological site where the ruins of a pre-Hispanic town can be found. The four kilometres to the town was spent mainly crawling up rocks placed mysteriously into helpful paths and steps and climbing over huge protruding tree roots the width of my torso. We spent an interesting hour off route following a wrong turn which taught me two things: it is near on impossible to manoeuvre through wild jungle without a machete at the least and that I am not cut out, despite all my protestations, for that kind of remote survival!
Eventually we reached the eerily quiet site of Pueblito, a smaller version of Ciudad Perdida and an ancient pre-Hispanic town which was once home to the Tayrona people. However great it was to see the ruins and get a feel for the history of such an old site, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by the unkept site. 

Following a steep walk back down we headed to the beach restaurant to relax in the company of other like-minded travellers before making the final 5km walk back to the entrance of the park. A lovely way to spend a few days.