Zona Bananera

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    • Day 285

      IV. SA Colombia/W3, 8d: Punta Gall-CP EN

      June 10, 2017 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

      Fr, 09.06. Medellín-Riohacha-Cabo de la Vela
      Wow, that was definitively my longest bus travel day so far: I kind of expected that the roughly 950km from Medellín via Barranquilla and Santa Marta up to Riohacha on the Caribean Coast were not 18h as scheduled but 20h in total - from 6pm in the evening to 2pm in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the bus was also not the most comfortable one and this time also pretty expensive (120,000, expresobrasil) but still cheaper than flying, especially as the airports are usually quite far away with longer transports that also need to be added.
      Riohacha is with 270,000 habitants the capital of the most northern department La Guajira - has a city beach but apart from that there is not that much to see. It was already quite hot and humid, typical for the Caribean Coast dirty, super chaotic with many Indigeneous as well as Afrohispanics and unfortunately also working kids. At the terminal I had to wait for another h for Paula and her husband who were currently setting up a hostel in Cabo de Vela and were so kind to take me with them. Due to important shoppings we started quite late (there is not that much in the desert and if so it is pretty expensive so better get sufficient water and food supplies :)). We first drove 1,5h to the 20,000 habitants counting Uribia - also known as Capital Indigena (Capital of the Indigeneous) and currently strongly growing due to Venezuelan mass immigration and then in theory another 1,5h to Cabo; that was at least the plan (30,000P). However, it was already slowly getting dark and based on poor unsealed road conditions and tremendous holes as well as later in the desert high dunes and river crossings incl 3-4m width and up to 30cm deepth plus losing the way it turned out to be quite an adventure :O We finally found a car that brought us back to the main street, passed some tribe villages, enjoyed a nice sunset and finally arrived around 8pm - ui, after 26h of travelling I just wanted to relax in my cheap 15,000P hammock with sea view, ocean sounds and awesome moon and sky full of stars :)

      Sa, 10.06. Cabo de la Vela
      The next morning I woke up by the rising sun and ocean view. The hostel was just nice, directly located on the beach, with kitesurf school and authentic bucket toilets and showers.
      Cabo de la Vela is a sleepy small village of only 1,000 habitants, a cape on the northwestern part of the most northern department La Guajira located in the peninsula of the most northern point South America's. On the West you find the Gulf of Darién, in the North and East the Caribean Sea. There is just one street and it is very windy, thus perfect for kitesurfing - which it is also known for. Two more advantages of the wind are that there are no mosquitos and no bites like in other parts of the Caribean Coast as well as that the heat is not that strong. Moreover based on its isolated location it is not (yet) so touristy as most don't have the mood or time to travel that long - thus a bit off the beaten path ;)
      After 26h sitting and as a prevention for thrombosis I was in such an exercise mood that I went for an h desert hike after breakfast, passing kids, dogs and lizards to arrive at Pilon de Azùcar (Sugar Hill). From there I was rewarded with an awesome view over the whole cape, Cabo, a salt lake as well as 2 nice bays and had a good lunch spot. Shortly before I went to the red sand beach with view of the bay and the hill. After that a local gave me a small lift incl drifting in his car and then I went to the yellow sand beach Playa ojo de agua as well as the Faro lighthouse from where you can get a nice view of the Caribean Sea.
      After that I spent some nice relaxing hours on Cabo's beach watching all the kitesurfers before enjoying a super yummy fish dinner in the evening.

      Su, 11.06. Punta Gallinas
      On Sunday we started around 5am to Punta Gallinas, the most northern point of the Guajira peninsula and the most northern point in Colombia and whole South America.
      Another adventure off the beaten path - there are no buses but only 4WD jeeps bringing you for usually 120-150,000 (I haggled it down to 100,000) to the hostel in Punta Gallinas and from there back to Uribia, also including a small tour. You indeed need a 4WD here, we got stuck in the sand several times :P
      Having been squeezed in between the driver and a French guy in the front seat (they can be again quite happy about my small size :O) it was a 3h adventurous sand storm ride through the desert, passing cacteen, salt lakes, dunes and a lot of kids blocking the road. The drive itself was already worth every penny and also included the ferry to the hostel with views of the bays and rock formations as well as awesome 15,000P hammocks and good food.
      After breakfast we already started a 4h tour. For sure we first went to the absolute most northern point at Faro Punta Gallinas, the lighthouse. It was so incredibly windy there that I with my 43kg was almost blown away to the Caribean Island DomRep and was also more flying than sitting in the jeep - two more reasons to gain weight :P After that we went to Mirador de Casares, a very nice viewpoint with even more wind. But the highlight were the Dunas de Taroa, enormous sand dunes with a nice sand beach.
      After a late lunch I took advantage of the free time and chilled in the hostel hammock with nice view and later a beautiful sunset.

      Mo, 12.06. Puntas Gallinas-Palomino
      Originally it was planned to already head back around 7am but as typical for South America and Colombia you are better off adding another 1-2h :P We already started quite adventurous with a flat tyre after half an h that could fortunately be changed within an h - for South American conditions and also the desert quite quick ;) Around 12pm we then arrived in Uribia where we had to take a Colectivo car back to Riohacha for 15,000 and from there I continued with a 1h bus for 10,000 via 4Vías and along many plastic garbage further on to Palomino.
      Palomino is with 2,000 habitants another small village on the Caribean Coast and was for me with a nice hostel and only 10,000P hammock the ideal place to relax. Everything is within walking distance, very relaxing, nice people and definitely a better beach than in chaotic-noisy Santa Marta. Just perfect to relax from the long journey and adventure - but it was worth every effort and especially due to its remote location and incredible landscapes one of my highlights in Colombia :)

      Tu-Fr, 13.-16.06. Ciudad Perdida/Sierra Nevada
      Yeah, Tuesday was the start of my 4 days trek through lush rainforests in Sierra Nevada, the highest Coastal Mountains in the world incl small and big river crossings via super slippery and muddy paths through pretty hot exhausting heat and dozens of attacking mosquitos with one destination which in the end would be worth every effort: Ciudad Perdida, a lost city rediscovered by tomb raiders.
      Unfortunately this is one of the few treks worldwide that can only be done with a guide and would also blow my budget again. But it was worth every penny: there are only 6 tour operators who are only allowed 30 people a day and I had a lot of luck with my tour operator Mega Sierra: it is the only one only allowing local people directly from Tayona Sierra Nevada as tour guides with an extensive knowledge about the site, flora and fauna as well as having small groups of a max. of only 6 people. Thanks to low season we were even only 2 (apart from me Lieke from the Netherlands) and thus had a private tour with David, the best guide ever. He always treated his two 'Chicas' like princesses, brought as wooden walking sticks, made us lilian bottles holders, always brought the best food and snacks, was similar to us always in a super good mood even during the most exhausting parts (sliding and 4h walking in the pure rain) and rather a super friend than a guide. The food was also always a lot, kind of healthy and veeery delicious - exactly what you need for 6-8h daily hiking :)))

      The first day started with a typical breakfast made off fried arepa, butter, jam and scrambled eggs which I improved with healthy and super yummy mango and papaya. I then had a 1h local bus ride to the entrance where I was picked up by David and got a 40m motorbike ride via muddy unsealed roads to the starting point. After that we had a short introduction round as well as a typical and big lunch with chicken, rice, beans, salad and green banana as well as juice.
      Being well fed we finally started, a pretty steep and due to rain season also very slippery way through super nice lush green hilly scenery, some kind of rainforest with nice views and a bit of rain later on. After around 2h we had a short fruit stop with water melon as a snack. In general, it was always very hot and humid, you were sweating immediately so that the first layer of sunblock and the second layer of bug spray did not last that long and you got a nice mixture of sweat and rain water :P After our arrival we fortunately even had showers (cold and pretty simple but showers with normal beds and mosquito nets were more than luxurious and touristy ;)), played a bit of cards and then enjoyed another delicious meal with an enormous whole fish, for the first time no plain white but good curry rice, patacón, good salad and juice as well as a chocolate rice bar as small desert - all that from our only 23y old cook. This accommodation had apart from pigs, dogs and cats also monkeys, parrots, frogs, snakes and of course a lot of mosquitos ;)

      The days and thus also the second day usually always started quite early with getting up at 5am, breakfast at 5:30am and leaving at 6am - no problem since we were also already in bed between 8-9pm :)
      After a good breakfast with scrambled eggs, 3 toasts, pineapple and papaya as well as sunrise we first walked 2h to an indigeneous village where also all people were completely dressed in white. From time to time we were overtaken by the horses and cooks with all the food - it is always impressive how much weight these animals can carry.
      After that we continued for another 2h through super nice scenery before relaxing in a cool river and having lunch at exactly 10:30am with a very yummy soup incl rice, potatoes, yuca, carrots and lemonade. Exactly what we needed for the 2h intense steep hike - especially as David loves walking and also quite fast, always wanted to be the first - he just loves his job so much which impressed me a lot ;) Moreover, he always had the best ideas not to slip on the mud and while all the others had to take off their shoes and walk barefoot through a river his Chicas got an extra transport via lift over the river - a good exercise for the arms :)
      After almost 8h in total we then arrived at 'Paraiso' (paradise) accommodation, only 1km away from the lost city. We had again bed and showers that make you clean for at least 5m before first applying normal body lotion for the dry skin, Tigerbalm for the mosquito bites and bug spray to prevent new bites :P

      On the third day we eventually went to the lost city site. However, we had to walk quite steep before, had to cross another river (which current was so strong that David had to hold my hand to avoid me with my small weight being flushed away - another reason to gain weight :P) and then via 1,200 steps to Ciudad Perdida.
      There we were so constantly attacked by mosquitos that we salsa dancing could hardly listen. But David could understand that and has to be praised again here: he had a lot of knowledge and made sure that we were always the only ones - no other tourists, very quiet and ideal for pictures; moreover he bought and gave each of us a Colombian bracelet made by the Momo and supposed to protect us - just so nice :)))
      The lost city Ciudad Perdida owns its name to the discoverers who couldn't see it because of all the trees. Its original and more suitable name is Tayona meaning paradise. The 2,000 habitants living there were very intelligent regarding architecture and agriculture and the location is indeed a real paradise that was only a bit destroyed by the heavily armed soldiers of the military government but they were there for our own safety.
      To regain energy we had again super yummy typical Colombian snacks such as Bocadillo con queso, brownies with chocolate y arequipe as well as marshmallows, fruits and nuts. We were also sooo lucky with the weather as it as usually started to rain around 3pm in the evening, the whole afternoon until the morning but was then quite sunny at the site. Lieke and me had so much fun with a lot of laughter and pictures, I still had a huge grin the following day ;)
      After a super steep walking back via the steps we had lunch around 11am with lenses, rice, potatoes, pork, salad and maracuja juice. After that we relaxed a bit in the river watching the many butterflies and birds before continuing around 12pm.
      There it was, the weather change: from sunshine in the morning we suddenly had thunder, lightning, a bit of rain and then a lot of rain - we could hardly recognise the paths, there were small and big rivers, it was incredibly slippery - but also super funny, nice and adventurous :)))
      However, we were quite happy to finally arrive and especially have a shower after almost 4h walking in the pure rain - I have seldomly smelt so badly in my whole life :D
      After tea and popcorn we then had coloured pasta in the evening and got a lot of information about the indigeneous culture and music before hitting bed at around 8pm with a lot of frog sounds :)

      On the 4th and last day we then had to walk another 5h back. We passed again our first accommodation, fed the monkeys and parrots and got some watermelon, orange juice and an awesome 300kcal chocolate cake - which we would also need for the super steep and especially also very sunny and hot hike back and were then rewarded with a mega yummy fish lunch as final meal :)))
      After a sad farewell from the best guide ever (oh yes, a tip was more than necessary here and David even used my collage as his new WhatsApp profile picture) we first had a 40m rollercoaster ride via unsealed muddy roads and then another 2h to Santa Marta that were in the end 3-4h due to a car breakdown. We fortunately had a technically talented French guy in the car who could remove the shock absorber pressing onto the tyre and thus made it possible for us to continue (the engineer from France, the Asian from Hongkong and we two girls were not that helpful :P). It also only started to rain shortly afterwards - we were again quite lucky, everything fine, everything chevre :)))

      Fr, 16.06. Ciudad Perdida/Sierra Nevada - Santa Marta
      After 4 weeks out of civilization as well as almost a week in small villages I got a shock in Santa Marta and its 482,000 habitants, the capital of Magdalena department and due to the current precair situation in Venezuela and a lot of mass immigration ever growing city: too big, too much traffic, noise, honking, taxis, people and on top of that I also first had to search and find a hostel :P
      But that was quite nice in the end with a top location and family-run and I treated myself with an amazing shower to feel like a normal human being again for my birthday the next day ;)
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