Santa Marta no nos pareció una ciudad muy linda, asique seguimos hacia un pueblito que está casi pegado que se llama Taganga. Es un pueblito de pescadores sobre una bahía, muy chiquito. Almorzamos sobre la playa y nos fuimos al mar. Hacía un calor impresionante, y aunque estaba un poco nublado estuvimos en el agua. La playa no era muy linda, había bastante basura. El agua en cambio estaba linda, calentita. Nos tomamos unos buenos jugos de frutas y miramos el atardecer desde el deck del hotel. T se puso a jugar al fútbol con otros chicos y después pasamos por unos juegos y cenamos sobre la playa también. A la mañana siguiente decidimos ir a conocer otra playa, Palomino, que nos habían recomendado como más tranquila, sin tanta gente ni vendedores ambulantes. Palomino queda en la provincia de la Guajira, que es la que está más al norte de Colombia, en el límite con Venezuela. Es una península desértica. Hicimos una parada entonces en Santa Marta, donde almorzamos y compramos algunas cosas para nuestros días de camping. A la tarde llegamos a Palomino, y realmente la playa era mucho más linda. En una plantación de cocos estaba el camping. Instalamos la carpa y nos fuimos a la playa. El agua estaba increíble. Disfrutamos el atardecer, comimos nuestro picnic y nos acostamos tempranito. A la mañana siguiente, aprovechamos la playa y cerca del mediodía decidimos partir hacia el extremo de la Guajira, el Cabo de la Vela. El camino estaba bastante bien hasta que llegamos al desvío de la ruta hacia el Cabo. Esta zona está habitada por los indios Wayuu. Apenas tomamos el desvío, unos chiquitos Wayuu nos pararon usando un cable que cruzaba el camino para pedirnos plata y/o comida. Por suerte teníamos muchos paquetitos de galletitas, asique los fuimos repartiendo. El camino estaba desastroso, muy embarrado e inundado. Después de varias paradas para preguntar (no sabíamos si pasábamos o no, L no estaba muy feliz con las condiciones de la ruta y los Wayuu no eran muy simpáticos, asique no todos nos daban buena información), más las paradas forzadas que hacíamos cuando se cruzaban los chicos, llegamos al Cabo de la Vela. Al llegar nos enteramos que había otra ruta que estaba en perfecto estado y más directa… pero bueno… tuvimos un poco de aventura. Era casi el atardecer. La playa era muy linda, con arenas claras y el agua sin olas porque es una bahía. E preguntó si podíamos acampar en la playa, y así lo hicimos. Los chicos se metieron al agua, hicimos un picnic y nos acostamos temprano. A la mañana siguiente, sin haber dormido demasiado bien (E y L) visitamos el faro y el pilón de azúcar. Al lado del pilón de azúcar había una playa muy linda, con arena amarilla, cangrejos amarillos y un mar divino. Los chicos se divirtieron un buen rato en el agua, antes de que nos agarrara la lluvia. Entonces arrancamos la vuelta hacia Riohacha y Santa Marta. Llegamos al Rodadero a la tardecita para comer algo, refrescarnos en el mar e ir a descansar. Mañana partimos hacia Cartagena para empezar los trámites del envío del auto a Panamá.
Deep in the mud in Cabo de Vela
Warning: island + rain + no internet = long post
We arrived at Santa Marta after a ‘short’ five hour drive from Aguachica. Santa Marta is a big city on the Atlantic and has a few stretches of beach. As much as we wanted to go to the beach E was not in the mood to fend off the hoards of men offering apartments and rooms for rent when we arrived at the Rodadero neighborhood. When they saw our car with foreign plates many jumped onto their bikes and followed us around for blocks. We decided to head to Taganga, a small touristy bay right next to the city. Again men following us and waving signs but this time we just parked next to a hotel and got a room. If you can filter out the trash that is everywhere, including the beach, the place is fine. We had fresh fruit juices at the beach and a great view of the sunset from the hotel’s deck. We weren’t thrilled with the place so we headed to Palomino about an hour drive east. Palomino is a small roadside town but the unspoiled beaches is what we were after. We stayed at La Sirena, a place Juan had recommended, that has a couple of basic huts, hammocks and allows camping. We could tell this is as a quiet place before we get there when we had to drive through long grass with a track barely visible and had to call for directions. The place is enchanting, full of coconut-heavy palms (we were wisely advised to park away from the trees) that make it all the way to the pristine beach. We opened our tent right next to the beach and enjoyed an afternoon swimming and playing with sand. The night was great too and we all fell asleep to the tune of the waves. We did involuntarily donate blood to the very active sand flies and were itchy for a few days but it was well worth it.
When planning the trip we had decided not to go to the ‘remote’ Cabo de la Vela, even further northeast from Palomino and close to the border with Venezuela. The guidebooks made it sound like a hard-to-reach destination with just a few hammocks on the sand and no electricity or water. We imagined a place where there’s only sand and water. Juan had told us we should go, Natalia and Roberto also told us it was worth visiting and more importantly that it was not difficult to get there. We were short on time because we need to be in Costa Rica in a couple of weeks to meet L’s parents but we decided to go for it anyway. From Palomino it is mostly straight roads with little traffic so after driving about three hours we saw a big but faded sign indicating the turnoff for Cabo de la Vela, just 17 km ahead. As soon as we got out of the road we found serious mud and water but were told by a kid that we could make it to Cabo with a 4×4. The area is inhabited by the incredibly hardy Wayuu people. The habitat is difficult to describe: very hot, soil that seemed very impermeable and at the time had mud and puddles of stinking water, and the vegetation almost exclusively spiny shrubs with tiny leaves. As we slowly went along we would spot in between the shrubs groups of three or four houses made out of wood branches and the black-skinned Wayuu sitting or laying in hammocks. In the beginning the track had very muddy sections that we negotiated by driving fast in high gear with 4×4, splashing lots of mud and plastering the car in brown all the way up to the tent. As we progressed we came across more water and switched to low gear and low speed, stopping several times to check the terrain. Definitely the worst conditions we have come across so far. Unfortunately the stress prevented L from taking pictures or video of the adventure. After about two long hours (yes, that’s and average 8.5 km/h) we made it to Cabo de la Vela still married and with two children, just as we had started. When talking to the locals we confirmed our assumption that a few miles past the turnoff we took there was a perfectly fine road that went straight to Cabo de la Vela. Nobody could believe we made it through the mud.
Cabo de la Vela was much larger than we expected with many huts lined along the shore, most of them for tourists to stay at. There was electricity (until 10 pm, and the street lights were on all night), two shops selling the basics (i.e. semi-cold beer) and a good number of small restaurants. After checking that it was ok, we camped along the shore of the tranquil bay, somewhat lowered our body temperature by diving in the sea, had a picnic and climbed to the tent early. Early the following morning we visited a lighthouse with great views and went to the beach by the ‘Pilón de azucar’ (~sugar pile). The sand was bright yellow and some of the rocks bright green (copper?). We had breakfast along with the birds that were catching their own by plunging into the water. After playing in the water and trying to catch lizards we headed back towards Santa Marta to make it to Cartagena de Indias the following day. We took the easy way out of Cabo de la Vela…