Thursday, December 4, 2014

Back to the Carribean side

Because my end flight is out of Cartagena back to Miami (in retrospect I should have returned from Medellin and gotten to explore that area as I hear great things, oh well next time), I flew from the Armenian airport (near Salento) to Santa Marta to explore that region, especially Tayrona National Park and the mountains in Minca. Rather than stay in Santa Marta, I'd opted to stay in the smaller backpacker/beach town of Taganga a 15 min bus ride over a mountain from Santa Marta. I'm glad I chose to do that because its been much more peaceful and less expensive. I have my own room with bathroom for $15/night, and its set away from the main roads off a dirt road, so its the first place I've stayed where I don't have to where earplugs.

Santa Marta didn't seem like anything special. It had a nice, but small down town area with hostels and expensive cafes - overall the whole carribean coast is way overpriced from the rest of Colombia. I can't say I'm really a fan like I thought I was going to be of the colombian carribean coast. Its just so hot, humid and full of mosquitos and the cost is high. Maybe its just that I've been spoiled by way nicer, quieter and more beautiful beaches in so many other places I've traveled like New Zealand, Austrailia, Hawaii, Taiwan, so these over crowded ones here are just okay to me. It seems to me that they get raves from people who haven't experienced many other places, like Austin does to people who've only experienced the rest of Texas. Just being honest.

To be fair, my time in Tayrona National Park was lovely and a much needed reprieve. It was glorious to sit at Cabo San Jan beach for hours just listening to the sound of the sea and watching the waves come in. It never gets old doing that no matter where you are. The campsite was still packed with people, but all the foreigners were respectful and quiet, it was the colombian vacationers who had the music blairing until 11pm, which in a campsite near the ocean is highly annoying when you just want to fall asleep listening to ocean. Why do you want to hear music and tv in a place like that when you have to hear it day in day out in the cities?

To get to Tayrona National Park, I took public transport to the lesser known/entered Calabazo entrance. I got off the bus and started walking into the park. Basically I had a 3 hour hike over the mountains to get into the park. I was headed first to an ancient ruined civilation called El Pueblito. I didn't pass anyone for 2.5 hours until I arrived at El Pueblito! It was a wonderfully introspective time.

This whole trip has been so introspective. As my friend told me, I should store up this time for when I need it. How often do we get alone time? I'm so grateful for it. I do feel mentally recharged from this time alone so I'm not burnt out from work and am ready to go back and face the deadlines again. Physically, I'm pushed myself on this trip, but in a good way and my health feels great. The stagnation in my back has all but disappeared thanks to this introspective travel time. I realize how grateful I am for all that I have. The more I accomplish on the trip, which is rough around the edges, the more I boost my confidence and become more trusting of the guides within.

When I got to El Pueblito, I ran into the first people on the trip, a UK couple from London my age. We clicked right away and I ended up spending the rest of my time in the park with them. I was grateful to have like-minded company and people to help watch my stuff while I went swimming, eat dinner with and share the experience with! The beaches at Cabo San Juan were great for swimming. In other areas of the park the waters are too rough. We saw fish, sea iguanas, white egret like birds, and lots of neon colored lizards. A mangey little dog, that looked more like a cat, also befriended us. My new friends saw monkeys, but I missed them.

After the sun set, we had dinner together, fresh fish, rice, fries, salad and cerveza. I opted to rent a tent for the night (rather than a hammock). Even though it was stuffy, I didn't get chewed up my mosquitoes, just a few bites.

In the morning, we took another swim in the ocean, then started the 2 hour trek out the opposite side of the park from where I'd come in. This stretch was all flat along the beaches. Because I had come in the back way, I hadn't had to pay an entrance fee from that direction. I lucked out leaving because they were only checking people in, not out!

The bus dropped me back off in Santa Marta, I mailed some postcards, then took a little bus back over to Taganga where I spent one more night. I'd left most of my belongings at the hostel there and only took minimal things into the park.

Taganga is an alright little town, very shappy/shanty town feeling, but it does have a few hole in the wall restaurants with healthy options. Nothing to write home about.

Today I will take a bus back up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the little artist down of Minca. My hosts will pick me up by mule and it will be a 45 minute mule ride to my next little homestay at a Minca coffee farm for 4 nights. I may not have a lot of internet access there, which is grande.

I had quite a bit of design work come in while in Taganga, but luckily was able to get all caught up on it before and after the park trip, so I feel ready to head out....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Last Few days in Salento

After Thanksgiving, I spent a few more relaxing days in Salento. I lucked out finding a massage/reiki clinic tucked away behind some other shops. A Colombian/Canadian woman owned it and she set me up with a reiki session with a Colombian lady who looked like she belonged in India with her saris, crystal bead between her eyes and short, plump, smiling budah stature. She gave me a wonderful session with her unique blend of crystal pendulums and colombian essential oils. I've been feeling great ever since - the little knot in my mid-back that's so stubborn to disappear is still gone 5 days later. But I think it was equally the rest I recieved in Salento and the time I spent in nature, the long hike through the wax palms, and the absense from my computer, that did the trick.

The atmosphere was lovely and I would return here for the peace and pleasant climate. As a bonus, I met some very nice travelers in Salento I hope to keep in touch with. I'm glad I went out of my way to get there.