Guajira Shakira Guajira
Trip Start Oct 24, 2011
12Trip End Jan 14, 2012
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Our long nights in Cartegena had established an entourage fit for the celebration of the incumbant new year and hence we were in the backpacker Mecca of Taganga with new found friends to celebrate. Not alone in our thoughts, the small seaside fishing village was thronged with Colombians, backpackers and locals all doing their own to destroy the towns tranquil vibe and turn it into one big Fiesta. Taganga is a dirt road fishing village set on a bay on the eastern side of the city of Santa Marta. It has been an oasis for backpackers for years but quickly is transformed during the holiday period. Itīs ramshackle dusty uneven streets are barely fit for cars yet the town was bumping.
Only on the Colombian coast is it common place to acquire a set of wall to ceiling speakers, place them on your front porch facing the street, and then blare them at the highest possible decibel level throughout the entire day commencing at 7am in the morning
On the day of New Years Eve, Jude and I selected different paths, she headed to an idyllic beach for an R & R whilst I headed up into the Sierra Nevada with two legendary lads from North London (named Mango & Will) for a spot of mountain bike riding, coffee tasting, waterfall jumping, river tubing and more downhill riding. Hardly the perfect preparation for a New Years Eve, that adrellin buzz needed to be felt.
The Sierra Nevada is a spectacular densley green mountain range that lies behind Colombias epic Carribean Coast, the mountain range climbs as high as 6,000 metres with snow capped peaks atop of dense green jungle. Our ride down started from 1,500Metres a new road opened up in the wake of security in the region. We bee-lined it down the mountain like Cadel in the early stages of his career. Stopped at a coffee farm to sample some local beans, continued to a waterfall where you could only swim via swinging on a tarzan styled swinging rope to the deepest part of the pond below and then continued to the town of Minca with gushing river rapids flowing through its core
I have never been more tired on New Years Eve in my life, but Judes enthusiasim for the party lifted our collective spirits as we met our entourage of friends from weeks previous. The night culminated in a bar positioned magnificently over the bay of Taganga and we danced long into the night as if the thirty or so of us acculmulated from all corners of the globe had known each other forever. We embraced the New Year like lifelong friends destined never to see one another again, but there was something profound in the notion of that feeling itself
New Years Day recovery was spent poolside in our bohemian hostel, venturing to the local juice stall felt like too much effort and we all retired back to Divanga to watch the first sunset of 2012. Following another days lazing in the Bay of Taganga had my eyes on a unique part of the country. The infamous Guajira peninsula lies at the very northern tip of Colombia and of South America itself, it is home to the native Wayuu people, neither Colombian nor Venezulean the Wayuu have a reputation for being fierce and protective of their own land and culture. The landscape is known to be arid, vast and inaccessible yet stunning in its stark nature. Jude sceptical at first was up for the adventure and we got in touch with a local tour operator to take us there.
Like always is the case in South America what is advertised on the tin is not always what ensues and instead of being transported to an idyllic beach by our conductor we found ourselves stuck in a jeep full of 7 Colombians travelling to places we had never heard of
Upon approaching the remote town of Cabo De La Vela four wheel drive tracks paved the first thing resembling a road and our jeep was soon stopped by local Wayuu children holding a string across the road to halt our path. "Dulces Dulces"Ļ(sweets sweets) they demanded as if military guards in training. The irony of the situation was wonderful, in this country so feared and famous for road blocks by both guirilla and military groups alike, here were 5 to 8 year old kids halting our car in the middle of the desert appearing from nowhere in traditional dress demanding sweets before we passed forth. They were beautiful children donned in long dresses, a native Indian complexion yet high cheekboned long haired and exotic. They snatched at the sweets we gave them as if unaware of western courtesies. Up the road a few hundred metres forth we were stopped again and further and further again. It seemed as if Willy Wonka himself would not have enough sweets to appease these endless children of the desert.
Cabo De La Vela itself was a stupendous anti-climax, the secret of this remote desert town was clearly out and every Colombian and their 3.5 children packed the hammocks, cabanas and dust filled streets of this remote outpost for the Christmas holiday break which is celebrated in the first week of January
The following day we knew we would find the isolation we had craved as we went in search of the famed Punta Gallinas the most northern tip of the entire continent. It is only accessible by a 1 hour four wheel drive through untracked road and then a 2 hour dingy ride up the coast. We were accompanied in our journey by four like minded adventurous Colombian lads and we all had an eager sense of anticipation about what we would find in this most remote corner of the globe. Upon arrival into Punta Gallinas the landscape was simply immense, a turquoise water filled inlet meets you upon arrival with spectacular sand beaches adorning either side of the entrance, the landscape is flat and sparse and only 20 local native Wayuu families live in this stretch of desert coastline.
A local Wayuu fisherman come tour operator named Joaqim quickly showed us to our quarters for the night, which were a set of 10 hamacks lined up facing a vast expanse of dessert and shrub, our flatmates for the night would be some local goats, eagles and flying locusts the size of birds
That afternoon we strolled on more desolate beaches creating first footprints in the sand and felt as if we had the world to ourselves as the sun set in what was the most remote place we had ever been. By night our group feasted on plates of fresh fish, lobster, plantain and rice and washed it down with bottles of Venezulean beer
Our trip back to Santa Marta was a 15 hour ordeal, with more four-wheel drivers than fish in the Caribean sea and countless stops in nameless towns. Santa Marta was eerily quiet upon arrival at night, restaurants were shut and streets desolate. We stayed within the comfort and safety of our happening hostal and rested for the days ahead, and with a last minute call to our travel agent we had managed to extend our trip in Colombia for a week longer.
It is a country that will always demand a week more of your time....