25 Oct LOST WORLD – PART IV – COLOMBIA COSTA CARIBE
This is the last post of an epic journey and one that will go down in my memory as a literal dream come true. I have wanted to travel to every country in the Americas since moving to SA for good in 2011. This being the completion of the Lost World trip, I am happy to say that with the crossing into Colombia two weeks ago, I have successfully reached that goal. Boo yeah! High fives all around.
Now ending in Colombia was no chance of fate, I chose this country to be the last one visited, I chose this wonderful land as the last to explore, the last to enrapture my divine curiosity, to steal away my every sense and leave me in awe of its ever enchanting beauty. This is land of endless beaches, fascinating history, inviting people, mesmerizing music, deliciously prepared plates, fresh ground coffee, and best of all smiles at every turn. Please indulge your wandering eye and be enveloped within my version of Colombia’s Costa Caribe.
In Venezuela I met up with a pretty rockin’ crew of travellers from all over the world, some of which were travelling onto Colombia and were thinking of taking more or less the same route as I. As most backpackers do, if you’re on the same route as another and you seem cool enough, a small crew forms and you travel together until the time comes to split once again. Any solo traveller has experienced this type of camaraderie at some point during their travels. I am no different and have had the pleasure of travelling with some pretty amazing people since the beginning of this three month trip.
In Merida I met two Americans and one Aussie who were all on the same route into Colombia. We decided to join forces and hit the 20 hour trip as a team. I ended up travelling the next two weeks with Jeremy, Feldman, and Liam, and have to admit that these dudes are the most entertaining people I have travelled with thus far. We have kept each other in absolute stiches of laughter and have easily brought the party to every new location visited thus far. I am going to miss these dudes and look forward to following their continued travels as I set my sights on new beginnings and new continents. This is a pretty great shot of a classic travel day. Bet you guys don’t remember this one eh! Ha.
So yeah, Jer, Feldman, Liam and I decided to hit the so called 20 hour trip into Colombia, and what we thought would be a relative breeze turned into a 38 hour adventure of classic South American “dilemmas”. Everything ran relatively smooth up until the night bus from Cucuta to Santa Marta and the coast. Once across the border we started in on the 16 hours to Santa Marta. At around 2am the bus stopped and didn’t move again until 12 noon that same day. Fun, 10 hours on the side of the highway seemingly waiting for something to happen. Sound familiar to anyone? Turns out there was a labour strike being controlled by a faction of the FARC rebel forces and the blockade was considered too dangerous to cross. Fair enough. Long story short, the military police showed up and actually escorted our convoy through a winding network of farmlands successfully avoiding the blockade and eventually reaching the main road again. At 10pm that night, after 38 hours in the bus, we made Santa Marta and the small coast town of Taganga.
Taganga is considered a diving mecca. It is a small fishing village turned backpacker paradise. There are rockin’ parties, friendly people, good food, and best of all, good diving. The town sits right on the north west border of Tyrona National Park and all dive boats leaving from the village set sail for the outer islands of the park looking to explore some of the vertical rock walls and teeming reefs. I decided to take part in two dives before moving into the national park for a week of sun tanning, swimming/snorkeling, hiking, and frisbee. Here are a couple of the better diving shots and a quick vid we made just for fun.
Taganga is also a great place to get your PADI Open Water and being one of the cheapest in the world doesn’t hurt either. You can get certified here for $280USD… and people do. There are a ton of dive schools pumping out newbies every week, every year, for the last ten years. It is no Thailand by any means, but it is still a pretty big mecca within Latin America. This being said, Jeremy and Feldman decided to jump on the chance to get certified, and Liam and I being ‘professional’ divers, decided to wait for them, but instead of wait in Taganga we jumped on the chance to join new friends, two Brits and one Belgian at a private cabania just within Tyrona National Park about a 25min boat ride from Taganga.
The cabin was a simple hammock style accomm with a perfect terrace view looking west over the open ocean, we had two hours electricity a day, a small cove for swimming, bucket showers, a resident dog and chicken, a small kitchen, and best of all a cooler that was filled with ice (and rum) each morning. The cabin is conveniently owned by the dive shop we went out with and where Jer/Feldman and new friend Stien (Belgium) were diving as well. This being the case they offered us the crash pad for free! Yes, free. I obviously stayed three days and two nights. Paradise.
Sadly Feldman had to drop out of the PADI course due to equalizing problems and spent one extra day in Taganga while Jer and Stien finished their Open Water cert. During this time, Liam, Seb, Alex, and I made our way from the cabin back to town and started packing up for the trip further afield into the depths of the National Park and the famed Cabo San Juan. With the crew assembled we bought a ton of rum, some snacks, and a boat ticket to transfer us from Taganga to Cabo.
The boat leaves daily and gets you directly into the heart of the park, basically skipping the 2 hour walk in that most people do. It also allows you to easily ‘sneak’ in rum. At the main entrance the park guards search every travellers bags and bottles, a step seemingly forgotten during the daily arrival of the boat at Cabo. The park guards do the search to confiscate or limit any alcohol (or drugs) being entered into the park. This is mainly so that the locals living within the park can sell their own stuff for whatever price they wish, creating a sweet little business for them and a pretty monopolized position for the traveller. Either way, after all the rumours were said and done, we decided to take a slight risk and bring in our own booze via the boat, which worked perfectly and saved us all a ton of money on drinking over the next three nights four days. Winning!
Once in Cabo, there is a great little set up for travellers looking to spend anywhere from one night to a couple months in the bay. There are two types of hammock accomm as well as a number of tents all available for rent. Most people go for the hammocks and without counting, I would say the park had around 150 hammocks available if need be. The two types are really just two different levels. There is an area near the communal toilets and generator that can house around 75 hammocks (not the most ideal by any means), with the other spot being this super incredible raised gazebo accomm set a top the rock splitting the two beaches of the bay (way better). This accomm is quite possibly the most photographed scene in Colombian Tourism history and a place I have wanted to visit for many years. It is almost surreal to finally sit in the exact spot you have seen countless photos of, like Macchu Picchu or Uluru, or the Eifel Tower, you know… this is the one for Cabo.
Anyway, we got lucky and were able to secure a spot in the gazebo overlooking the sea and basically spent the next four days swimming, playing Frisbee, eating coconuts, hiking, drinking rum, laughing, listening to great tunes, and sharing amazing stories with new friends. Everything that travel is about really. Cabo San Juan is a literal paradise and something all of us had been very much looking forward to. It is sort of that exact dream that people joke about in an office. ‘Oh. I wish I was on a perfect beach right now, drinking fresh coconut water, and lounging in a sea that resembles the clearest salt water pool you could imagine’, sound familiar. This is Cabo San Juan, Tyrona National Park, Colombia. Have a gander for yourself.
From Tyrona we decided to head back towards reality and the world of news and the internet. At this point I had spent seven days and six nights in the park and it was about time to check my email. We hiked out on day four and spent the afternoon ‘missioning’ on three buses (with a couple taxis) eventually making our way to a beautiful hostel in Santa Marta. Upon arrival we were introduced to quite possibly the most dysfunctional bartenders I have ever met and a number of other travellers, with such an inviting locale we easily decided to have some fun and successfully passed the night drinking, playing pool, listening to excessively loud electronica, and laughing at the ridiculousness of the ‘staff’. We stayed at La Brisa Loca for three days and two nights, getting caught up on internetlandia, editing photos and videos, exploring Santa Marta, and best of all working out on their roof top gym, nice!
Santa Marta was actually a much needed technological time before heading towards Cartagena and my last destination of the Lost World trip. I used the three days to sort my videos and the timeline for my future posts. I also finally started to realize the enormity of the move which was brooding in my imminent future. I was about to fly back to Canada for the first time in 2 years and 10 months!! Seriously things were starting to get REAL.
The four hour bus trip from Santa Marta to Carta was spent typing away and smashing out the first portion of this post. Once arrived in Cartagena we quickly caught the end of the fleeting sunset and headed out on the old town to find some cheap (and delicious) street food. Cartagena’s old town is a small confined maze of beautiful colonial streets that are just wide enough for a horse and buggy, walls of intricate stone work rotting in the perfect state of decay, cute little shops somehow squeezed into the nooks and crannys of the twists and turns, it truly is a step back in time and a fantastic example of colonial Spanish architecture.
Cartagena is a very popular backpacking hotspot along the Gringo Trail and for good reason, it is the jumping off point for boat trips to Panama, a great hub for accessing islands and other beaches along the Caribbean Coast, a historical gem (being one of the first Spanish Colonial cities on the continent, founded 1533),and also a great place to meet other travellers, talk past adventures and future ambitions. The perfect place for me to say goodbye to the continent I have learned to love and one that holds memories for life. Cartagena was to be my last destination of over two 2 years travelling around South America.
So yeah I arrived and spent my time taking photos, writing, partaking in one salsa class, drinking freshly squeezed juices, laughing with the dudes, drinking, editing videos, and overall reminiscing about the trip. I am having mixed feelings about leaving South America and saying goodbye to this lifestyle I have come so accustomed to. In order to address these sentiments properly, I have decided to write an additional post entitled South America Farewell which should be live within the week on the blog. Have a gander if you’re interested however, for now, this is the last post of the Lost World trip and I want to focus on that.
The end of a 10,000km three month journey covering five countries, crossing from jungle to savannah, from pristine Caribbean islands to the Andes, and back again. The Lost World trip has been an absolute adventure in the purest sense and has only left me craving more. I love being able to dream up the ultimate tour, then having the freedom and relative stupidity to attempt it, then documenting the highs and lows, the experiences, the people, the photos and the videos, and sharing these experiences with you, the reader, is truly a great pleasure. Your interest and love for travel is something that we will forever share.
We are so lucky to have been able to experience travel in whatever form. It doesn’t matter if you’re embarking on your first year abroad, a weekend on the Eyre Peninsula, or a prolonged camping trip to Algonquin National Park, whatever. Travel is about freedom and experience. It is the perfect creative stimulant and entices the imagination in a way I have yet to find a replacement for. This trip has been exactly that for me, and as I said at the beginning of this post, an epic journey that will go down in my memory as a literal dream come true. I have now been to every country in Central, South, and North America. 🙂 Maybe it’s time to move on and focus my desires on the Eastern Hemisphere…maybe Australia would be a good place to start.
I hope you have enjoyed the posts and videos, and following my three months of travel and adventure through a relatively unknown corner of the continent with what I easily refer to as the Lost World. It has been an absolute blast and I have enjoyed sharing every moment with you along the way. Stay tuned for the last video and of course my goodbye post to South America.
From Cartagena to the world, thank you so much for the love and support and for being with me on this awesome trip. Hopefully see you soon in either the Great White North or Downunda’!!