27 June 2012


Linda Michel & I arriving at the waterfall
For the second long weekend in June, a group was going to Tayrona National Park, northeast along the coast just past Santa Marta. I had been here during my 2009 trip for a day and it was beautiful, but a bit more crowded and noisy than how I normally picture a national park. This time I chose a different route starting from a less popular park entrance. Derval and started off with a strenuous 3 hour hike to a lesser known beach, Playa Brava, to spend the night there. It was a beautiful and solitary hike, which was fine except that the trail wasn't always very well marked. If we weren't sure where we were going, we plunked ourselves down for a bit and sooner or later someone (usually carrying a machete--seems almost everyone has one here!) would come along to help us figure out the way.

Great roots!
Playa Brava was definitely less popular and also didn't look quite as luxurious as it seemed in the photos on their website. We were the only guests there but were greeted by a man, woman and her cute, chatty 8 year old girl. We ended up going on a hike with little Linda Michel to a waterfall and spent a nice afternoon. Four more people showed up in the evening and we all enjoyed the great peace and quiet in that beautiful setting.

Entering Pueblito
The next day, Derval and I set out to hike another strenuous route to meet up with the rest of the group at the "popular" beach. We had seen the turn off to this trail on our way down the previous day and were planning to reverse our steps to that point. Our host told us there was a short cut, basically the hypotenuse to meet up with that trail, that would save us quite a bit. We figured it would be great to go a totally new route. He led us to the trail head (really a dry river bed) & told us to go straight until we see the "big tree" and then go left. Really? Turn left at the big tree? We were facing a jungle of big trees! We hoped it would be obvious to us when we saw it but....it wasn't. After a little while we realized we missed our turn and decided to head back all the way to Playa Blanca and take the trail we knew. Only about 10 minutes after we turned around, we saw the Big Tree. We had to search a bit for the "left turn" but ultimately found it & kept on hiking (mostly straight up at that point!). Our first goal was "Pueblito",  where between 460 and 1600 AD approximately 2000 people lived in a village of some 250 structures. Pretty cool. Of course, also in this isolated spot you were able to buy a chilled, ok, at least not *hot*, Coke, Gatorade, etc. I do admire the industriousness of people who will lug a cooler chest and ice to a remote location to sell cold drinks, even if it seems a bit out of place!

A millipede the size of your hand.
Once there, we saw some others who'd come up from Cabo San Juan (where we were meeting the others), telling us it was a really difficult hike. We headed down & it did involve some boulder hopping & climbing but it wasn't really that much harder than what we'd already done. At least on this trail we saw more people; on our previous trail that morning we saw no one. On the trail the day before we saw I think 3-4 people. It's comforting to see people to at least know you're going the right way!! Although we'd been warned of snakes and "tigers", the only animals we really saw were insects--huge millipedes and leaf cutter ants being the most interesting!
The beautiful Tayrona coast

We met up with the others and had lunch at the outdoor restaurant there; then I headed out to the main park entrance while they spent another night in the park. I was ready to leave the "crowded" part of the park and head back "home" to Cartagena!

More photos of Tayrona are here.

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