Lost in the jungle... again.
Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
76Trip End Apr 25, 2007
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By the time I reached the front gates of Parque Tayrona it had begun to drizzle a little, with a slight indication of the whipping I was about to receive. Not content with the previous five days of brilliant sunshine to start my journey, I managed to choose a rare day of torrential downpour just for a challenge. I paid the exorbitant Ps21,000 entry fee and found out that the next shuttle bus for the 7km of road was at least 45mins away. Mistake #1: decided to walk it. About 3km into the walk the sky began to rage with booming thunder and lightning that shook the leaves off trees and turned the path into a frenzied river of frantic ants, all keen to close business before the rain. It started raining pretty heavily, and steadily became heavier and heavier until I couldn't see more than about 30m ahead of me. After about 6km the shuttle bus glided past me with just enough speed to spatter me with muddy water. At this stage it was irrelevant because the entire path was a flowing river and my all-terrain thongs were already being carried in hand.
Finally I made it to the end of the easy 7km walk, but to the beginning of the 3hr jungle trek. There were some pansies there hiring donkeys, but that was not an option for me. It was a knee-deep struggle the whole way, with each step into the sloppy combination of mud and donkey shit capable of swallowing my leg or harbouring a nasty sharp stick, stinging insect or killer crab. As per South America, the trail was littered with concrete slabs and rusty bolts that may once indeed have held important directions, but were instead completely fucking useless to me. I opted to depend on the reliable flow of horse and donkey shit that would surely deliver me along the most common trail, which is where I wanted to be.
I made it to the furthest beach camp, known as El Cabo, primarily because it seemed to be regarded as the best spot on this part of the Caribbean coast, and it was also close to an ancient terraced village called El Pueblito. I grabbed a hammock for the night, and began to rue my decision not to bring too much of my own food as I glanced through the restaurant menu prices. I casually burned a couple of days lazing under coconut trees and dipping in the reasonably clear waters as relief from the heat. One night we foolishly challenged the local Colombianos to a game of football on their makeshift pitch - not so much due to any sort of staggering skill they possessed, but more so that they were a ragged band of hackers who relentlessly pounded my shins and calves enough that even days later my bruises weren't going anywhere. I really should have left the field after my blistering 1st-minute goal from just inside half way (top left corner, just where I like it). Instead, I had a good taste of why Colombia didn't make the World Cup this time. Passing? Crossing? What the hell are you talking about? They seemed more comfortable with the technique of skinning every player from the opposition before firing an impossibly angled shot. For the record I had a lackluster game but conjured up the winner as dusk fell - towering over the 4-foot locals to produce a poorly timed header that somehow dribbled over the goal line. Spectacular.
Once I'd recovered enough strength to walk again, I employed the company of a nice Canadian chap and we headed off to check out El Pueblito (The Little Village). As is often the case, for me the journey was better than the destination. We saw giant butterflies, grasshoppers, lizards, spiders, ants, and a decent array of interesting plants and fungi. It was a pretty good workout seeing as it was almost solely uphill in the form of a boulder climb, for about 80mins solid. The actual historical site was little more than a cleared area with some reconstructed huts, complete with sham family living in traditional rags while still finding time to nip out the back of the hut to knock back a Coke where they don't think we can see them. The traditional solar panels were also a nice touch.
Eventually I gathered enough strength to drag myself out of the Park - sitting on a beach for too long is pretty boring anyway, and listening to a Yank talk to an Israeli about the pros and cons of an AK-47 versus an M16 was easily enough to cause an unrecoverable lapse in sanity. Thankfully the return walk was without accompanying rain, and not surprisingly it was both terrifically fast and easy work. As a bonus, I even came across a family of monkeys lunching in the canopy. A famished and exhausted tourist obviously represented a threat to them, because they came quite close and started making a racket by jumping from branch to branch before staring at me to see if I had run off yet. Then they started dropping things down through the canopy and undergrowth so that they would thud off various palm leaves and produce a bit more noise. I watched for a while, and when heading off I copped a final barrage of berries from above.
Where I stayed
Tayrona National Park