Taganga to San Gil By: Anik

Internet access now feels like the ultimate treat, just like air conditioning, shade, salads, and places free of mosquitos, gnats, and sand fleas.  We reached San Gil last night and we chose a nice hostel to stay in for the next few days.  The idea of a real shower and a real bed with access to a full sized refrigerator thrills us.

We left Taganga and headed toward Parque Nacional Tayrona.  We stopped by a beautiful river on the way to filter water, it was a refreshing swim and the kids played with a beautiful 5 year old girl who lived nearby.  The kids stripped down and with our strainer, caught fish and other critters and carried them around in a coke bottle they found by the river.  The filtered water was a great idea, but after sitting in our nalgene bottles for a while, it began smelling a bit un-wordly.  If I had to pick one thing I’m definitely OCD about, it’s my water.  Let’s just say that I’m learning to adapt.



We drove a few miles past the park entrance and found “Casa Grande”, our oasis and place of respite for the next few days.  We got a campsite right on the beach with nothing around, except for the the very friendly local dog who took a liking to us and spend his time in the shade of our awning.  We napped, did yoga, and read while the kids spent most of their waking hours climbing and twirling around on this Cirque Du Soleil-like sort of stretchy cloth hanging from a branch.  Despite the tranquil setting, sleep was difficult due to the 50-70 sand flea bites we each had on our legs.

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We walked the beach and found what seemed like a great surf spot.  The locals assured us that unlike the deadly violent currents and rip tides found everywhere else in the area, this was a very safe place to surf.  We attempted to surf this spot the following day and we were very much humbled.  In fact, I, in particular, walked away from there with my tail between my legs.  It felt like a full body beating, while being pressure hosed up the nose.

The following morning, we headed for the Tayrona Park entrance.  We parked the van 7 KM in at Canaveral.  We stuffed our backpacks and started hiking through the jungle to Cabo de San Juan, where we would spend the night.



A few hours later, drenched in sweat, we reached our spot and marveled at the beauty of the setting before us.  We camped a few feet from the water, in the picturesque cove, spending yet another night scratching our legs to no avail.

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The next morning, we started off early on a challenging hike up to the ruins of Pueblito.  The hike was straight up, bouldering most of the way through Tarzan like vines.  Being Indiana Jones fans, the kids felt completely in their element and they climbed like monkeys and descended like cats.  Back at the van, our solar shower was an absolute necessity after the 9km, 100 degree  hike of the day.

We started our drive to San Gil, which, due to the roads and the large trucks, would take us close to 15 hours.  The driving is like a constant game of chicken, there are many white knuckle moments.



A few hours out of Santa Marta, it was getting dark, and we’ve promised ourselves to heed the general rule of not driving at night.  We pulled into the town of Fundacion, stopped at a guard station for a recommendation on where to pull off for the night.  As we rounded the corner toward the recommended “El Centro”, we hit a curb and our back left tire blew up.  It’s up to Darin to share the details of what happened next.

Once at the Centro, I felt a bit defeated, we were in the town’s center, parked at the curb, under the bright lights, with unbearable heat.  Simon said “I’m not sleeping here!”  I was feeling the same way, but not much could be done.  As we reluctantly popped the top of the van, surrounded by dozens of locals with dozens of questions and stares, our savior for the night approached us.  A short, sweet man, dressed impeccably, insisted that we couldn’t spend the night there, and that he had a much better space for us.  As Darin followed him down an alley to see the spot, I sat in a chair and watched the local teenagers play barefoot soccer in the square.

The man led us to a gated parking spot behind the town’s cultural center.  The finagling it took to get the van into this space was hero like on Darin’s part.


The man locked us in and left us for the night.  Tierra and I slept in the tent while Darin and the kids slept in the van.  The heat was overwhelming.  We woke up the following morning seeing that we were pretty much under a bridge with broken glass all around us, safe, but very much feeling like dirt bags.  We washed up and happily finessed our way out of Fundacion.

We spent the following night, not itching quite as much, at a campground by a beautifully cold river.  We had a nice fire cooked meal, and found a cool breeze.


The drive to San Gil took our breaths away, the elevation gain was enormous and gave us a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevadas that played tricks on our depth perception.





Our dear Tierra left us this morning to finish her last week in Columbia on her own.  I can’t think of too many people I could have as a 5th person to travel with in a small van for a week.  For now, she definitely wins the prize.


We’ll be spending the next few days in San Gil, taking advantage of it’s adventuresome offerings.


Parque Nacional Tayrona By: Simon

We were hiking somewhere outside of Cartagena.  It was challenging with a twenty pound backpack.


We saw leaf cutter ants that formed highways across the path.


But the coolest thing was the battle of one spider and one bee.  Guess what?  The bee won!


We drove and my dad hit a curb and blew a tire!!

P.S. We saw monkeys!


Fundacion and San Gil By: Darin

With all my preparations in the weeks prior to our trip, I tried to imagine all possible scenarios involving van troubles.  I made a small tool bag with some of the essentials…Crescent wrenches, box wrenches, a diagnostic computer, volt meter and on and on.

The driving reminds me of driving back in New York, only on steroids.  Narrow roads, high speeds and illegal passing.

After a long day of sweat dripping hiking in Tayrona Park, the darkness forced us into the town of Fundacion, hurried to find a place to call home for the night.  We crossed a hap hazard 4 lane road into a security guard station to get a recommendation.

As “van” prepared as I was, the exceptionally high curb in Fundacion shredded my rear driver’s side tire.  The van shifted one foot to the right immediately after hitting the curb as it wobbled across the opposite shoulder.


Before I was able to get out of the van, many Colombians on motorcycles, rickshaws and on foot were surrounding the van, eager to help. It took 3 minutes to shuffle the gear of 5 people living in the van in order to get to the tools stored in the back.  Within 5 minutes, my new comrades and I were installing the spare tire.  In all the preparations, I’d never inspected the spare tire to be sure it was inflated.  Although low in air pressure, the full size spare tire was good to go.  I was particular about installing the lug nuts myself to prevent stripping of the threads.  As I was installing the tire, my Colombian friends were stripping the threads holding the spare tire under the van.


The following morning, after spending 50 mil col pesos ($25.00 USD) on a used tire and 14 mil col pesos ($7.00 USD) on installation, we left town with the winds at our backs.


As we approached San Gil, the noise coming from the right rear wheel that started two months ago heading back from a Mt. Baker ski trip, started to intensify.  Five kilometers out of San Gil, the noise was now unrelenting after hitting a large speed bump at a high speed.  At this point, I had Anik drive and I sat in the back by the wheel to diagnose the noise.  My first thought was that it was a rattling gear.  As we entered San Gil, we found a great place to park and stay where I could take a better look.  What I saw made me cringe.  The top bolt that holds the shock in place had worked its’ way out.  The noise was that of the bolt shifting up and down with every vibration of the road.


After jacking the back wheel up, I made a friend named Andres, from Bogota. Through limited communication, with the help of Andres’ jack, we were able to align the shock to reinstall the bolt.  After numerous failed attempts, I realized the threads were stripped.  My amigo drove me all around town to find a replacement bolt, which failed.  He took me to a machinist who was able to true the threads on the bolt.  One tool I failed to pack was a ratchet and sockets, which sent us to hunt them down.  After an hour of traveling around town, the trued bolt was installed in seconds.

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I never imagined that Colombians would be so kind and helpful.  They seem to feel it’s their duty to help foreigners as they travel through their country.  Over the past three weeks, I’ve seen nothing of the current stereotype that North Americans hold of Colombia.  VIVA COLOMBIA!