The Caribbean Coast: Parque Tayrona

Next stop on the Caribbean tour was Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Natural Park). Since Taganga was focused on diving, Tayrona was supposed to be my beach time. It was recommended by pretty much everyone who’s ever been to Colombia and it definitely lived up to the hype.

Getting to Parque Tayrona was an adventure of local transportation. First I took a bus from Taganga to Santa Marta, and got dropped off nowhere near the bus to Tayrona. At least in my accidental tour of Santa Marta looking for the bus I got to see the town and pick up a cheap lunch (jamon y queso pan for COP2500 that lasted for 3 meals!). After walking around, sweating profusely, I ventured through a market that I hoped was Mercado Publico, aka where the bus would be. It was full of locals and looked like somewhere I probably shouldn’t be but I soldiered on in faith that I would find it. I was about to turn back when I saw a clearing up ahead and a bus parked on the side of the road. I reached it and saw the sign: P. Tayrona. All I could think was, “Really? This is where the bus picks us up?” Yup it was. In the middle of the crowded town, looking nothing like a terminal, a bunch of buses depart for surrounding areas. So I got on and a few minutes later was on my way to the park. As soon as we got out of town I turned on my shuffle (yes I’m traveling with an iPod shuffle) for a soundtrack as I watched the scenery go by. “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin came on. Perfect.

Parque Tayrona was beautiful, and hot. Have I mentioned yet that the coast is sweltering? It’s the kind of humid heat where you sweat just sitting still, so you can imagine what it’s like when you’re actually on the move. And for those of you who know me, I hate anything above 80, and even more so with humidity, so this is not my kind of climate in any way. Which is a true testament to the awesomeness of this region since I had to put up with my most hated weather and I still loved it.

The walk to get to the beach I was hoping to stay at, Cabo San Juan de Guía, was a jungle wonderland. At some points I was climbing over huge boulders, the next trudging through sand underneath leafy bushes, then wandering up and down narrow dirt paths, and at another point through a palm tree forest. The way in I stopped to take pictures along the walk to document all the landscape variety, but on the way back out I just powered (and sweated) through.

Arriving at Cabo San Juan de Guía felt like entering a sublime fantasy land where time never mattered and people never left. The agenda was to lay on the beach for a while, maybe nap on the beach, cool off in the water, read a book for a while, or grab a beer, also while on the beach. With such a pristine beach of white sand, blue water, and a jungle background, why would you do anything else? If you wanted to be more active you could climb the rocks and stare at the ocean for a while. I found this to be the perfect place to go at sunset. As the day cools off people gather under the only place to eat and have dinner with conversation or card games. Which I also did, alone.

This adventure to Cabo I made the conscious decision to just be alone: I walked it alone, I read/napped on the beach not near anyone else, and I stared at the ocean on my own rock as the sun went down, with just my thoughts for company. At dinner I listened to music while playing Solitaire, Patience and Clock – card games from my childhood that continue to entertain me today. It was perfect, exactly what I wanted. And I was in paradise.

I called it a night fairly early, curling up in my hammock reading by headlamp till I was tired enough to fall asleep. If only the person in the hammock next to me had been more graceful when he got into his hammock I probably would have slept great; instead he swung into me multiple times, creating a Newton’s Cradle with a few of us. My guess was that he enjoyed a lot of beers at the restaurant before getting into bed. Oh well, it happens. It still didn’t take away from the cool factor of sleeping on a beach in a hammock.

It was hard to tear myself away from Cabo San Juan de Guía, but I had to move on. After breakfast on the beach, it was time to hike back out to the world, but not to civilization just yet – to the mountains. But that’s for the next post.

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