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Leisure days in Santa Marta at Colombia’s Caribbean coast

Hustle and bustle, people and market stands, shouters and funny smells everywhere. Street people and dogs looking for scrubs in the garbage. greyworldnomads-santamarta.jpg

Traffic noisily finding its way through the narrow streets of the ancient town. Some churches and mansions telling from a more glorious colonial past. Playing children at the beach till late in the night, where huge freight ships with famous brand names written on their mighty iron bodies find their way to the bordering harbor.

A small marina tells the story of the few more wealthy people of this town, who can sip their cocktails at the for the common Colombian unreachable expensive bars on the seafront road. Our hostel is a heaven of cleanliness, where travelers from all over the world escape the heat and business of the town. Never before we’ve been so thankful for working air conditioners.

Open space in the center of the building with an inviting swimming pool and a rooftop with a jacuzzi and a bar, give rather an impression of a precious hotel than a hostel. Even the soccer World Cup fans can follow their favored team on a big screen so that the sound of cheering fans carries far over the next rooftops.

Tayrona National Park

After three days we are happy to escape the heat of the city for a hike in Tayrona National Park. To catch the bus to the park, we shoulder our backpacks and walk to the marketplace of the town. This place is actually not exactly a spot than rather a whole street full of market stands with all kind of vegetables, meat, and other food, which by our own definition lost their freshness long time ago.

Even more, as the black smoke which escapes the exhaustion pipes of the busses enhance the food, as the bus station is in the middle of the marketplace and hundreds of crowded, old busses pass the stands by just a few inches.

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We reach our seats in front of the bus just behind the driver, which seems a good idea to us, as our backpacks have more space behind the driver’s seat. Wrong thought as that space is needed for boxes of tomatoes, bags of flour, corn, chickens and other merchandises, which the passengers gathered at the market and need to bring to their homes.

The bus driver makes his way through the chaotic streets full of motorcycles, donkey carts, and people by using his hooter excessively – not in an aggressive, but more in a constantly communicating way. Other vehicles seem to respond the same way and so the air is filled with a constant hooting vibe.

The bus leaves soon the town of Santa Marta eastwards in direction of Tayrona National Park. The region hasn’t seen much rain for years. Only the strongest trees and bushes can survive this harsh climate. The coast mountains are covered by dust and dry, brown trees. In the south the mighty Sierra Nevada with it’s dark, high mountain shapes lets hope for more rain and therefore green.

The bus stops at the entrance of the Tayrona National Park, where park ranchers wait to check our bags for prohibited alcoholics and plastic bags. They do their job while making jokes with us. At the gate, someone tries to get a cheaper ticket as local but fails to show proof of residency. As he tries to avoid to pay a ticket for foreigners, which is about double the price, the cue piles up behind him.

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After a further short bus ride, we arrive at the start point of our hike into the Tayrona Park. Several mules are saddled and ready waiting for tourists, who don’t want to take the hike under their own feet. We don’t carry too much weight, so we decide to go by ourselves. After about 20 minutes we hear already the sea and after a short while we climb over some boulders and arrive on a beautiful empty pearl white beach.

The sea is rough, while the waves thunder like angry Greek gods warning not to put one foot into the cool wet water. Hundreds of tourists took a swim even so and lost their lives, warns a sign at the pathway. The waves rise high till their white top curl over a beautiful more than man’s high blue room, which must make every surfer’s heart bleed when he can’t experience this magical waves with his board.

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We walk partly through hot white sand along the seashore, along lagunes with caimans and through the dry tropical forest. The path leads over some hills to further stunning beaches till we reach Cabo Beach, where we thought to get a hammock for the night. Unfortunately, we are not alone with that idea and the hammocks, tents, and cabins are all sold out.

We don’t carry an own tent with us, so we decide to get back to the previous camp at the Arrecife Beach. But before we take a dip in the steel blue and clear water at the beach of Cabo to cool down, as here swimming is allowed. In the evening we spoil us with for Colombian measures hugely expensive, but extraordinary tasty dinner and head into our hammocks tired but satisfied.

We get some sleep despite being next to plenty other hikers in their hammocks, which are hanged with little space next to each other under a thatched roof. Although some bones might hurt in the morning and you don’t really feel like you had a rest, these experiences make travels unforgettable and give the essential ingredients for fascinating storytelling evenings.

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