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.
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.
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.