Santa Marta and all his activities around: Minca, Ciudad Perdida and Tayrona!
We got up, went to La Baguette for breakfast, packed up and got ready for the Marsol van to pick us up. We wrote to Gloria to double check and she said everything was fine, but unsurprisingly, 20 minutes later, she wrote back and said that we had to go to the offices. So we took a taxi there. The office was in chaos and we ended up getting the two places next to the driver. And they told us they wouldn't drop us off at the hostel either. The official prices: 28k with pickup and drop off, 24k without. And we paid 30k. It was still good, but annoying. The trip was good and in the last 10 minutes, the driver started chatting with me, mainly about sports.
We were dropped off at Marsol's office, and from there it was a 15-minute walk to our hostel, La Guaca Hostel. It looked great! We checked in, saw the room, had a beer and jumped into the pool. After that, we walked for 20 minutes to the city centre. We found the offices of Expotur, the company we got for our trekking to Ciudad Perdida and went inside to pay for it and ask for an English translator for Alex. To avoid paying the credit card fee, I went to the nearby BBVA and had to get 8 times 300k COP, the limit, in a glass office at the top of some stairs in the middle of a square. Not sure the money limit was increasing security in my case. I went back the two streets almost running!
Then we walked to the beach, and sat down with a beer on the malecon, to watch the first "full" sunset in a long time! Then we walked some more and went to a rooftop bar, where we paid a lot (70k) for 2 sandwiches and 2 daikiris, not worth it. We walked back to the hostel (stopping to buy a 6-pack of beer), and tried to refill the water at a purified water station. I managed to get about 2 liters in our bottles of our 5 liter coming out at full pressure, the rest ended up on the floor... ooooops. Before going to sleep, we drank 2 beers trying - and failing - to socialize with some other guests before going to sleep. The girl at the reception told us that the next day was a holiday and that we couldn't get a bike anywhere, but after a quick google search we sent a "whatsapp" to a company to ask anyway.
Surprise, the guy from the bike rental, Colombian Riders, wrote us that it was open. What the hell, Ana (that was the name of the receptionist who told us that it was a holiday and that we couldn't get a bike anywhere)! We had a good breakfast at the hostel before going to Colombian Riders to rent a 125cc motorbike. It was super simple, cheap, and the guy was very nice.
We headed to Minca. Our first planned stop was in Pozo Azul, but when we got there, the road was so full that we skipped it and went to Finca La Victoria, the coffee plantation that the guy on the rental bike recommended. We took a short tour and two coffees each, and were able to chat with a nice Argentinean couple.
Then we decided to try driving to Los Pinos. The Colombian Riders guy warned us that we probably wouldn't make it to both of them on the bike. It was a super bumby and we had to do it slowly, but it was fine until the last 10 meters of the climb, where I decided to get off the bike. There was a campsite there with local people drinking coffee, so we asked for 2 and they let us check the site (they said that coffee was our ticket xD). There was a super loud cricket sound, and we thought it was coming from some kind of giant flying cockroaches. We asked the guys and they confirmed: yes, it was that, those are called chicharras. They told us then that camping with your own tent is 30k, 40k with yours. Good information for our camping application, Caravanya!
We started going to the Marinka waterfalls. My phone went crazy and we had to ask a guy for directions, but we arrived there. We went upstairs, checked out the two waterfalls and the hammocks and then went back to Santa Marta. We returned the bike, left the stuff at the hostel, and went to a Caribbean Pro Drive center to ask what they were offering, and if we could do anything beyond Lost City. The boss, Victor, a guy from Barcelona, told us that we could try a mini course and if we liked it, do the other 2 days (1 and 3) of the PADI Open Water. It sounded great! We went to the supermarket to buy water for the walk, had dinner in a restaurant (crackling for 2, not my cup of tea) and went to the hostel to rest.
Excited about the beginning of the adventure, we got up at 6, packed, showered, checked out and had a super nice breakfast at 7. Forty minutes later, a four-wheel drive bus picked us up and went to Expotur's office. We left there everything we didn't need for our four-day hike to Ciudad Perdida and waited for the rest of the people to arrive. We were 30, so they divided us into two groups: the other one left in two jeeps, while we took the bus.
The first hour was across the road, then we made a short stop at the bathroom (where we have to pay 1k each!) and drove for 90 more minutes on a dusty and bumpy road. We arrived to El Mamey and had a tasty lunch of rice, chicken and beans with juice. All our guides were officially introduced: Miguel (main), Cris and Roberto, and Danilo, our cook.
Then we started walking up and into the sun, with many stops. Luckily, it was getting prettier and prettier. We bought a 5k coconut to drink, and halfway through we were given some watermelon.
When we got to our camp, el Campamento de Alfredo, I took a quick shower and changed into a long sleeved shirt and long pants, while Alex had a beer and talked to the parrots in the camp. Then he took a shower and we shared 3 more beers with our nice dinner which consisted of fish, rice and salad with a juice and a chocolate bar.
Then the Canadians bought cards and we played a name game to get to know the names of the ones that were there: the Canadians were Jerry and Caroline, the Swiss and French couple we met on the way were Rachel and Maxime (aka Mercedes), Kate was from the UK and Ray from another group. Afterwards, we played "Pass the Ace". Alex lost very early, but someone put a parrot on his shoulder. Super cute duper. While I won "Pass the Ace", Alex won "Pass the Parrot".
Then me, Rachel and Maxime played with the parrot before bedtime, too.
We got up at 5, had breakfast and the group was ready to leave before 6! The first half of the day was not difficult, a regular walk. We stopped at a place for a Wiwa to explain a little about their culture, religion and how they live. The morning ended at Camp 3, Camp Mumake, where we swam in the river before lunch.
Then came a more complicated part, mostly uphill with areas with little to no shade. There were also many mules on the road, carrying our food. At one point, an indigena got kicked out of the path and down a hill by one of his mules! But luckily it was not a big fall and he was fine.
We all smiled for a very small boy who had two puppies in his bag, and finally we arrived at Camp 4, El Paraíso. It was very crowded, so much so that when it came time to distribute the beds, some couples in our group (us too) had to sleep together so that there would be enough beds for everyone and no one would have to sleep in the hammocks. I took a shower, Alex and others in our group didn't want to wait and bathed in the river. We got popcorn and hot chocolate before dinner, which this time had pork in it.
Then we played Yatzy (poker with dice) before going to bed, excited about the next day.
Our wake up call was again at 5, we had breakfast and started at 6. As the plan was to walk to the archaeological site of Ciudad Perdida, spend the morning there and have lunch back at the camp, we just took with us some water, mosquito spray and cameras, leaving our things there.
To get to the entrance, we only had to walk for an hour. Thanks to the dry season, the river that people usually wade through was so low that we could cross it by jumping among the rocks. The stairs leading to the entrance were much easier than we expected. Once there, we waited for our whole group to arrive (ehem, Susanne) and entered the last ones. We made the round at the archaeological site counter-clockwise, unlike everyone else. Which means we were always alone. We felt really lucky! Everything was prettier than I let myself expect. Miguel explained us a lot (at times felt bit too much and too slowly) about the place and the plants and fruits around. We even painted our faces. The other groups were jealous when we passed them. The center area with the famous view was the last thing we saw, all for us. We ate fruit up there and the lower half of Miguel explained even more.
At that moment, I started to feel nauseous. I managed to get back to camp, but I could barely eat two bites of spaghetti and half my juice. Alex and I looked for a shadow and tried to sleep, but I was shivering and having nightmares, half awake. Soon after, I woke up and ended up running to the bathroom to throw up. I immediately felt better. Miguel gave me something to drink and we packed up and headed back to camp 3, Mumake. The first regular part was fine. I couldn't eat anything in the rest, the smell of orange killed me. The second part, all down, felt more difficult, but we made it to the camp. We took a bath in the ice cold river (for me), with soap, and then we drank Gatorade, and Alex a beer. For coffee time they gave me a tea, 1 oreo of Jorge's birthday cake and some popcorn. I still felt very bad and could not concentrate to talk to people. I had to wear the sweater when everyone was hot. So when they gave us the beds at 7pm, I brushed my teeth and went to bed. Poor Chris was worried because I skipped dinner and she came to tell me to wake her up if she had any problems. I read and calmed down, and when a little later, Alex came to see me I had a fever. A paracetamol did wonders, I began to feel less cold and I fell asleep while listening to the camp singing and celebrating.
The camp's power generator started at 4, waking me up. I had to pee, so I went to the toilets to find the apocalypse: one was more or less clean, another full of shit, and the other two full of vomit everywhere. I was still a little surprised when a guy came in and saw it too. He took me to the other bathrooms before waking up the guides, since he said, with reason, that it couldn't be like that when the camp woke up. I went to bed for another hour and then ate my breakfast very hungry (I had no food for 24h) and still feeling weak but happy. This time, Alex was the one who skipped breakfast because of his upset stomach, as well as many people from other groups.
We walked, ate watermelon, walked, stopped at the "parrot camp", where we played a little with them and had some juice and chocolate... We kept walking, drank some beers near the end, and arrived at Mamey. We had lunch, said goodbye and split up into two jeeps. On the way back, we found a jeep off the road, hanging a bit down. People were outside and safe, but scared, going in other jeeps. Our group tried to help, but it was impossible (Miguel almost drove it downhill!) The tour ended up at the Expotur office. We were all more tired than expected, so the Danes left immediately (no more Ouzo's dinner together) and we separated from them and the Germans after getting our stuff.
Before anything else, we went to the diving center and booked a mini diving course for the next day. The, we checked into our hostel, Rua Hostels, and finally took a shower! Feeling better, we got out to get a pizza (we had leftovers because I insisted on ordering 2) and went back to the hostel to sleep.
We woke up and finished our pizza. Then we organized the laundry, called the office (of course, 4 days off the grid in 6 years and the most dramatic happened) and had breakfast. My stomach hurt, but I took a pill and felt better, so we went to the Caribbean Professional Dive Center as planned.
We arrived, and Andrés was there. Unlike Victor, he was stressful and not as nice as him, in my opinion. We got dressed and went to the port with Peter, our guide, and an Argentinean. There, we boarded the boat with the captain and another guide for the other guy. We didn't get to Tayrona because it was closed, we stopped in an area they called "Remanso". We did some easy exercises to get to know the basics before diving a little. Alex was not able to equalize his ears at all, he did not enjoy it and felt pain. Back on the boat, we ate some cookies and went to "Barquitos". Alex couldn't get off this time, so I went alone with Peter. Apart from the shipwreck there, I and saw a lobster, moray eels, angelfish and played with sea dusters (they close when you move the water next to them). I went down to 12 meters!
We took a shower in the harbour and went back to the centre, where Andrés was a bit overbearing and I ended up singing for Open Water but a bit more hurried than I wanted: with pool lessons that same afternoon and 18m dives the next day. Before going to the pool I had just enough time to go to the bank and the pharmacy with Alex to get some drops for his ear. Then I went back to the centre, a taxi took the Argentinean and me to Andrés' pool, in his house in Taganga, 20 minutes away. Miguel, our instructor, was very kind, patient, and made the parts of the exam look like a warm-up or fun. I was freezing, so it wasn't really pleasant, though. After we finished and waited 20 minutes for our taxi, we walked back to the hostel. Alex still felt sick and my stomach still hurt, so we skipped dinner. Alex slept, I ate 2 cereal bars, and then we drank our 2 beers while I looked for the next day's place and the PADI course video.
My stomach was still very bad, so I went to the supermarket at 7 to buy yogurt, water, banana and ham to have something "good" for it. At 8 o'clock we went to breakfast and I had some eggs and bread. And, when I thought I was better... super bad stomach again. I finished the PADI Open Water videos, Alex picked up the laundry, we packed up and checked out, leaving our bags there. We went to the Gold Museum to check it out shortly before I went diving, although I should have postponed it, since you can't dive when feeling bad... But since I had already payed, I wanted to get it done. Stupid, but I did it.
The first dive, in "Piedra del Medio" sucked for me: I was hurting, too tired and nervous about my stomach, so I couldn't equialize my ears and didn't enjoy the exercises. I didn't have a good time, so I told my instructor I was going to the boat so the rest could have fun. I noticed my ear, but I managed to relax, drank some tea and ate some cookies, carefully, and my stomach started feeling better. We went to the second spot, "La pecera". The dive was really nice. Miguel distracted me, I could equalize this time withour problems, and he patiently took me 18m deep without me noticing it! Yippee! After that, we made the exercises I had left to do, took a shower and went to the dive center to get my logbook. I asked Victor about the theoretical part. He said I could write to him so that he could take care of my book, or I could do it if we came back! Easy, peasy!
I went back to the hostel, where Alex was with the Austrians we met at breakfast having a few beers while he was working. We talked a bit, relaxed and walked to take our bus to El Zayno, the entrance of Tayrona, where our hostel, the Moon Wind Tayrona Hostel, was. On the bus I remembered... we didn't get any more money, and there were no ATMs there! I looked and maybe there would be something at the entrance, or we could pay things by card. We got there, people told us where to go, and we were intercepted by the owner. She was very nice and had three one-month-old kittens! And we could also pay by card (before she said only cash). We ended up ordering dinner and breakfast there. The room was basic but the property was beautiful, with a pool and hammocks, and I felt a little sad that I didn't get there sooner! We cooled off in hammocks outside while she cooked our amazing dinner. Unfortunately, my stomach was still not right and I was so tired that I went straight to bed.
We woke up early, packed and got ready to "eat and go" as agreed, but they didn't start making breakfast until we sat down at the table! So we had to hurry a bit, and Alex stayed to pay while I went to El Zaino, the main entrance of Parque Nacional Tayrona, at 7:20 to try to get hammocks for the camp in Cabo San Juan and line up. I had to pay for the hammocks (the ones down because the vendor told me it was too cold to sleep in the mirador ones) and the mandatory health insurance with cash. The hostel wanted Alex to pay for the food in cash (suddenly the card was no longer accepted) and Alex didn't even have enough. So, considering the money we owed and needed to pay the bus to go to our next destination, too... We were very poor in Tayrona! We had to wait about an hour more to get into the park, even if we were in line before opening. We took the bus shuttle to the beginning of the trails, and did the 9 Piedras walk first, seeing the completely empty Cañaveral beach and some incredible viewpoints almost alone. Then we started the way to the other famous beaches. We got 2 breads for lunch at the famous Panadería Bere, really delicious and cheap.
We swam in Arenillas, and walked next to La Piscina to Cabo to get our hammocks. We got there around 13:30. We had to wait at the reception and saw several people who were turned off since everything was sold out, so we were glad we got them out! Afterwards, we left the stuff in our locker, took some pictures in Cabo San Juan and went to Playa nudista to relax, swim and sleep. Back at camp, someone had put things in our hammocks, we wondered, laughing, if they gave them out twice. We took a shower, saw the last light of day, drank a beer (just one! since we had to save cash to be able to eat!) and wanted to go back to another camp restaurant, but it was too dark and I wanted to go back. And then we found the girls in our hammocks, wondering why we had moved their stuff. We indeed had the same numbers! We all went to the reception, and they ended up getting a tent, and we all got free wifi as compensation. Alex had to wait in line for literally an hour at the restaurant, and didn't get 1k back because they didn't have change for a dish of rice (that we shared). Safe to say: we were not fans of the camp in Cabo San Juan. It was crowded, expensive and not so nice!
We went to sleep after wondering what should we do next day, since going Palomino, our first idea, sounded so nice anymore since it didn't have an ATM either, and we barely had any money left to eat the next day...
I didn't sleep that well, it was super cold! I got up at 5, and went to the mirador in Cabo San Juan to see the sunrise. I didn't want to wake Alex up, but a couple of minutes later he came too. Then, we took our things and went to La Piscina, which was quite full the day before, and we were alone. We swam and then I realized that I had lost my monkey stick (a flexible stick that can be used as a tripod), so I ran back to Cabo and found it in my hammock! To celebrate it, we took some pictures and relaxed a bit.
We walked to Panadería Bere, where fresh breads were still in the oven, so we shared one ham and cheese with two coffees. We were still hungry, as we couldn't eat much the day before with the prices in Cabo and our cash shortage, so we waited half an hour for the fresh breads to be ready, and got two chocolate ones with orange juice. Yuuuuummy.
Then we went to Arrecifes to swim and cool down some more before returning to the park entrance. We took the transfer, picked up our bags and paid our debts at the hostel, and took a bus... back to Santa Marta. On the bus I booked a hostel, Tunido, and walked there - really impressive! Perfect location, nice, comfortable, and all the things we looked for and did on our own... They offered them, among other great recommendations.
hen we went to the diving school to get my theory book with the exams for the PADI Open Water. Nearby we found Radio Bemba, a place we quickly wished we had known about before! We drank some impressive piña coladas and beer there while watching the sunset listening to good music. It couldn't have been more perfect, but it was, as we went to Ouzo for a very nice dinner. It wasn't cheap, but it was delicious, and after all, we had saved quite a bit of money by not having any cash in Tayrona! We finished the day in our hostel to plan our next days a little.
After much thought and almost booking a flight to Pereira, we decided to take a night bus to Medellin. We spent the rest of the time in Santa Marta having breakfast at the hostel, and Alex worked while I was doing my PADI Open Water exams, as he wanted to finish them before leaving Santa Marta in case I had any problems and had to ask for help at the dive centre. When I finished (and passed!) we still had time to go to the diving school to tell them and then to Radio Bemba for lunch, caipirinhas and beers. Alex's ceviche was so small that he ordered a burger later, But other than that, it was the perfect farewell.
Then we bought some snacks and water for the bus ride at Exito, picked up our bags at the hostel and took a taxi to the bus station. For once, everything went quickly and according to plan, so after buying the tickets we still had to wait 1h30min for our bus. What did we do? We enjoyed a couple of beers in the meantime and got on the bus at 17:30!
The start was good, and we arrived in Barranquilla faster than expected, as we waited there to start again. We got a juice and some chips and then the AC madness started. We separated to sleep more comfortably, but even with all the sweater it was too cold for me without Alex by my side, so I went back to warm up again. At 5:30 we heard something and the bus shook a little... we got a flat tire! The drivers tried to fix it, but at 6 o'clock another bus arrived with room for all of us, so we changed to that one. It was older and twe took the last free seats, next to the bathroom whose door opened randomly. Alex ended up fixing it with a bottle. By the way, thanks to Alex who insisted on buying a lot of cookies because there was no stop for dinner or people selling on the bus!