Travel, Food & Books

Glamping and Hiking in the Caribbean Coast

A taxi ride from Santa Marta town to Tayrona Park is about 90,000 ~ 100,000COP, but you can also take public transport to bring down the cost. The bus parked in front of Santa Marta public market at Carrera 9 Calle 11 with a signed P. Tayrona and other destinations like Guachaca in front of the bus’s mirror.

On this trip, we stayed at Playa Los Angeles, which was about 70 minute’s journey – 40km from the town, and 3 km away from the park’s entrance.

When we got on the bus, we told the driver that we were getting off at Playa Los Angeles. Without air conditioning on the bus, it was hot, and we had to rely on the air coming in through the window. The fee was 7,000 COP per person and paid to the attendant once the bus travelled about 2 – 3km away.

During the journey, vendors come and go selling varieties of things such as traditional medicine, cigarettes, bottled water (4,000 COP), and foods and there’s also a performer on board. He approached every passenger and started rapping accordingly based on the person he laid his eyes on. Once he finished with everyone, he approached them again and collected his payment (any amount you wish to give). It was entertaining, and he was very talented.

Glamping in Playa Los Angeles

Glamping or Glamour camping means ditching the traditional ways of camping. It involves accommodation and facilities without leaving behind any of life’s luxuries. When we saw this type of room advertised in Agoda, we were intrigued.

We read the comments and didn’t find any complaint, just that there’s no electricity in the room, and any electrical equipment can still be charged from the reception. We gave it a go because I’ve never done any camping in my whole life, and this Glamping would be the first soft introduction to me.

The walk from the roadside to the reception was about 8 minutes, with some herbs and fruit such as banana, coconut and mango trees along the way and occasionally Gecko that scurried away when we crossed their path.

The reception was built with a thatched roof and a friendly lady sat at the counter welcoming us to the resort. She produced two wrist tags with the resort name printed on them as well as our check-in date, and we put them on.

She then gave us welcome drink coupons, but we didn’t head on to the restaurant immediately. Instead, we hung out around the place while waiting for our room to be ready and I took the opportunity to charge my phone. While we were waiting, the guy that we saw earlier who was tending the resort’s garden approached us and gave us three big mangoes, yay! Fresh and ripe mangoes!

Reception in Playa Los Angeles

The staff walked us to our room; which was about 50 meters away from the reception. Our room was made from thick canvas with ropes tied to the nearest coconut trees to hold the structure, the floor was cemented, and there was a mosquito net adjoined to the roof.

However, some of it wasn’t glued properly, and it made us worried about the possibility of being eaten alive by the mosquito. We told the staff about it, but he said not to worry about it as they never received any complaint about any mosquito problem in the room.

The beach was about 30 meters away from the doorstep. There’s a hammock next to our room, a place to sit in front of the room, and the washroom about 15 meters away. We have a key to access our private toilet, but as for the shower room, we would have to share it with the other guests.

The cafeteria was located about 20 meters away and it was an open concept with sand carpeting the floor.

Food Prices at Restaurante Los Angeles

Before the sky turned dark, we went to the reception to collect a torchlight and also a little battery-operated fan. We retired early to bed that night anticipating soothing wave sounds to lull us to sleep. At night, the wind started picking up strength, but inside the room with the door closed, it was warm.

We didn’t want to sleep with the door left open, who knows what might join us and we also didn’t want any mosquitoes inside (we haven’t got our yellow fever vaccine yet), and the netting on the door and three windows did little on letting the air inside.

Although we have the little fan, it wasn’t sufficient, and it only lasted for about 4 hours! We were sweating profusely and had to fan ourselves manually. To top it off, we could hear the sea crash the shore, and it was very loud like a hurricane! It was scary and not soothing at all, and I was paranoid, fearing the seawater would rise and get to our room.

That night, we decided that we were not putting ourselves through it for another night. It also had us re-think our plan of going to the lost city, having to camp in the jungle for a few days probably not our cup of tea, especially in this tropical climate. Maybe camping was just not suitable for us.

The next morning, before leaving for Tayrona Park, we asked the reception if there was a room available that included a fan and maybe away from the sea. At first, she asked us if we would like to share with the others, and we said no. It would be cheaper, but we never like the idea of sharing a room with people. After going through the record, she finally got us a room, but since the previous guest was still occupying the room, we left our luggage in our room and left for the hike.

When we came back from the hike, the staff accompanied us to get our things. On our way, just next to the hammock near the room, he showed us our first snake in this country. It’s a baby Boa that was sleeping peacefully on the tree trunk. It’s such a beautiful creature, and I was fascinated by it, but meanwhile, I didn’t wish to meet its mother who was probably lurking nearby.

Boa in Playa Los Angeles

The new room that we had was a family room with a double bed and a bunk bed. And although the price for the room was double what we were paying on the first night, it was worth the penny. The room comes with a private toilet and a shower, and most importantly, we have two standing fans and of course, electricity.

Though it was situated up the hill, we couldn’t see the sea as the trees blocked the view. We could see our previous room just down the hill, and at night, we could still hear the raging wave, but it wasn’t as bad as when you were down there.

There’s a hammock and also a few wooden chairs on our balcony.

On the third day, while I was reading my book, I fell asleep on the hammock only to be woken up by a peculiar noise. The sound was coming from a gecko, with a scaly body and greenish neck. It’s beautiful, but I couldn’t admire its beauty for long because when I adjusted my position for a better view, it scurried away as fast as the wind. The next day, I purposely left the mango seed near the hammock to tempt it, but I never had the chance to see it again because we checked out that afternoon.

There’s a guest book in the room, and I spent time reading all the comments. Mostly written in Spanish and only a few in English. I also left my comments about the experience in the Glamping and also about this room. There’s nothing wrong with this room; it’s just that on the second night, because there were guests on the top floor, every time they walked on the creaky floorboards, the noise was a bit disturbing.

Tayrona National Park

This park is one of Colombia’s most famous national parks. It covers some 12,000 hectares of land and 3,000 hectares of sea. Some of the animals in the park are Jaguar, Iguana, Caiman, Poison-dart Frogs, Basilisk, and the unique one is Cotton-top Tamarin.

It’s probably because our hike wasn’t far enough that’s why we couldn’t spot any of these lovely animals. I believe if we had stayed overnight, we would have a better chance.

After sorting out our hotel issue, we waited at the roadside for about 10 minutes before the public bus arrived. It’s the same bus going to Santa Marta. The fee was 2,000 per person for a roughly 8-minute journey. When we got to the National Park entrance, it started to rain heavily, but we were still determined to continue with our plan.

There were over 20 people in front of us, and while waiting for our turn, we heard an announcement telling everyone that only one person was allowed to line up. So I gave my passport to Mike and sat down watching the programme shown on the screen about the national park. There’s also an announcement about the pricing, and I heard that the fees for foreigners were 57,000COP per person.

When Mike came back, he told me the cost of two tickets was 51,000 COP, a discounted price for residents. I haven’t got my cedula yet, but they didn’t question much when they saw my visa. I should have shown it when we purchased the ticket in Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.

We put on our wrist tags before entering the park. The shuttle van was full when we got there, so we waited for another one to come. It didn’t take long, but despite being the first one to arrive, I still ended up standing throughout the journey to the starting point as the other passengers were rushing to the van when it came to a stop, it wasn’t fair!

Tayrona Park Shuttle Van

But never mind, because the journey wasn’t far, it’s only about 10 minutes drive. The fee was 3,000 COP per person, and along the way, I saw other travellers walking while carrying their big backpack. When we got to the destination, we quickly sprayed mosquito repellent even though we were wearing long pants. We started our walk at 10:16 am, and I noticed that the path was dry.

I’m not sure of the exact distance from Canaveral to La Piscina, I think it’s probably more than 3.2km. The trails have a well-maintained walkway platform. I even saw a few people just wearing flip-flops and some walking barefoot!

We encountered a few indigenous people throughout our journey, some were walking past us in the opposite direction, and others were selling drinks in certain places along the trail. We also saw some Howler monkeys on the trees, but I couldn’t get any pictures because I didn’t bring my DSLR camera.

At a certain point, we stopped for a fresh coconut. The coconut was small and young; it wasn’t sweet. It costs 4,000 COP. I noticed that the Taironas were pretty much wearing the same design made of white fabric and the males and females had long hair.

The terrain was up and down, but the level of difficulty was relaxed and comfortable. I even regretted wearing long pants and sports shoes. I should have just put on shorts and flip-flops because some of the trails were sandy and I didn’t like to get sand in my sports shoes, I also didn’t get bitten by any mosquitos at all.

In fact, throughout our stay in Santa Marta, Playa Los Angeles and the hike in Tayrona Park, I didn’t see that many mosquitos, but I did get bitten by sandflies, and for two days, my ankles cursed me for being careless, neglecting them and had them became the source of snack for the blood-sucking fly.

We stopped for a break in Panaderia Bere; it’s easily missed when you’re in a hurry to your destination. We ordered Pan Au Chocolate and a bottle of Coke. It was a bliss to have warm food in your stomach, and a cold drink after the sweaty walk. We sat at the bench overlooking the water with massive boulders, and a bird perching on it added character to this serene view.

Playa Arrecife – Jalyintana Padre Del Mar

One of the most dangerous beaches due to the strong currents. There’s a warning sign in case you didn’t notice the red flag or blind to see the wooden fences. Another sign was not to enter and also to respect the use of lights on the beach as it would disorientate the turtles and prevent them from reaching the sea.

La Arenilla

Just before reaching the beach, there’s a place to have food and drink. This place is about 8 minutes away from Panaderia Bere, and also the first beach you will come across that is safe to swim. It’s due to the natural barrier of corals blocking the dangerous current from reaching the beach.

La Piscina

This beach was located about 20 minutes away from La Arenilla. The natural barrier extended to this beach, and it’s much broader thus making it much more popular than La Arenilla. There’s also snorkelling equipment for rent here too.

It took us about 2 hours and 17 minutes walk including stopping in the two places to reach this place. Mike had his first swim in the Caribbean Sea, and he told me that the water was clear. However, the water wasn’t warm like in Malaysia or Thailand.

I also took the opportunity to bottle up some sand for my collection. The colour was lighter than the one in Playa Los Angeles. We spent about an hour in this place before heading back.

We stopped by Sector Yuluka for a drink before continuing our journey. I think it was somewhere after that place that we walked into a different path. It was wider to give more space for the horses and mules that carried mundane necessities and also passengers. My phone was completely dead by that time, so I didn’t get any photos of the journey back.

We spent most of the walking alone on this quiet path. Once in a while though, we came across horses carrying a passenger on it, or with food load. There’s not much to see in this path.

The road was very dusty like it hadn’t been raining for months, it stunk with horse/mule urine and dung. Occasionally we heard a rustling noise from the jungle, and it kept my mind busy, imagining all the possibilities.

Aside from fearing Jaguar attacking us, I was also imagining Bandit robbing us. That sort of thinking made me push my leg even harder. Thankfully, when we emerged from the jungle, it wasn’t on the other side of the entrance. It was near to the starting point where the van had dropped us and close to the horse stable. The whole journey back only took us 55 minutes!

Walking to Guachaca Town

The day before we were scheduled to leave this place, we went for a walk in the nearby town. We thought we could reach our destination by walking along the beach, so I just put on my flip-flop.  For the first kilometre, three dogs from the hotel accompanied us.

It was hard to walk on sand, so we changed our course, bypassing private land. That’s when ‘our dogs’ cowardly turned their tail down when they saw another dog there with its owner.

We asked the owner the way out and then continued with our walk. When we reached the exit, the gate was locked, and we had to go under the barb-wired fence. Walking along the main road, we didn’t see much going on. Occasionally we came across with roadblock by an army. A few riders on motorbikes also stopped by asking us if we needed a lift.

The only animal we saw was some squirrels and plenty of Skinky. We crossed two bridges, and we tried looking out for crocodiles at the riverbank, but we didn’t see any.

Before reaching the town, the roadside scenery changed from just some random plants to a banana farm. Covering from the left and right side of the road it stretched across miles and miles away.

It took us about two hours for the 8.6km walk to the town. Guachaca town was small with just some basic shops like a saloon, butchery, burger stalls and a few restaurants.

We had a cheap and delicious lunch at the roadside restaurant. The total cost was only 55,000 COP for two fish, two Morra juice, a bottle of malta drink and two beers.

After spending about an hour in the restaurant, we walked out of the place. Just in time to catch the public bus! The ride back to the hotel only took 10 minutes, and 2,000 COP fare per person.

Travel Date: 30th July ~ 02nd August 2018

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