Tayrona National Park is northeast of Santa Marta, has beautiful beaches and steep hiking trails. The entry fee is around 64000 Pesos in peak season. You can sneak in for free, but you need someone to give their entry bracelets to you.
From Cartagena you can either take a bus to Santa Marta (which is an insanely ugly and polluted city), take a day trip to Tayrona Park and then head back (it’s 5 hours one way!) or do it as I did:
I booked a transport from Cartagena to Tayrona and stayed 20 kilometers east of Tayrona National park in a hostel called „Merecumbe“. The transport was a van with 15 people and cost 68000 Pesos (5-6 hours). I was brought directly to the hostel.
The hostel looked more like a resort. A lot of those hostels in Colombia used to be expensive hotels – now you can stay there for 10$ a night. I guess they make their money with food now. Which is amazing there by the way.
I arrived quite early at 1pm. The dorm rooms had stairs that led up to the upper beds, high ceilings and Safes where I could lock my drone. The property had a private beach and though the water was not as clear as I hoped the lounge chairs in the sand made up for that.
I got my swimming gear on and started talking to Dara (@dara_macauley) , a friendly Irish guy who soon became a model for my drone footage. He was traveling with his friend Dutchie who had both been playing in a football team in Pittsburg.
Dara invited me to come on a hike through Tayrona National Park with them the next day and I was more than happy to join.
He is one of those humble people, you can be yourself around. One of those that made you feel just alright. Easy to talk to and authentic – I liked that.
„We‘ll leave the hostel at 6:45“
Alright. I charged my drone and GoPro battery packs and went to bed kind of early. Weather forecasted a lot of rain, but we were lucky in the morning.
The sun was shining and with tired eyes I enjoyed my breakfast. Or at least tried to.
Meat, Sausages, eggs with meat, bread with butter… damn! I can’t eat anything. I stuck to the fruit, a rather strong coffee, silently complained about them putting meat and milk in fucking everything and had a pancake, well knowing my stomach would hurt in a second.
And so it did, but I was too excited about the maple Sirup and the hike, I tried not to think about food allergies.
Allanah, a nice girl from London, Dara, Dutchie and me were on our way to Tayrona National Park.
Allanah (kind of not sure if I spelled that one right) has volunteered on the Galápagos Islands and reminded me that straws are bad for the environment. She’s one of the people who love nature and do try to protect it. We definitely need more of these guys!
Dutchie (@idavydutch) is a tall muscular football dude who likes hikes, but only if there are viewpoints in it. It doesn’t make sense to him to walk up the jungle without seeing stuff. He’s worked as a teacher and quit his job to go traveling. He’s got a golden heart, he especially likes to show to girls – all of them 😉 If you happen to lose him, go where the girls laugh and you’ll find him as well, haha. And you will lose him a lot because he’s late every time, haha! He also loves to dance in the rain and has a terrible taste of music!
Alright. After having a coffee with a straw (wtf, hahaha) the four of us on our way to the park. The bus ride was around 8000 from Merecumbe to the entry. We chose a different entry off the beaten track – a little bit further on the west, which was a rather steep hike uphill, downhill, uphill again and then went along at the beach. I geotagged the entry below.
If you use maps.me you’ll find public attractions saying “Emergency Horse”, which was me tagging that- Haha. But don’t ride on them – those poor horses look rather tortured.
Alright. “Let the hiking begin” I thought whilst Dutchie laughed about my hiking shoes! “Chucks are perfectly fine!” I replied, not knowing I would drown with them in mud soon.
He offered to carry my bag and I honestly would have died if he hadn’t done that. Drones can get heavy especially in those waterproof bags.
The trail was steep and I do have to admit that I am kind of well trained and Machu Picchu was alright, but hiking up there with this humidity was kind of a pain!
We were all covered in sweat. Sweat was actually dripping down my nose while I walked, my shirt was soaked and I thought I would die. Plus there were three moments I kind of dizzied out a bit. After one hour I asked for a stop and was happy to see how much this stop was appreciated. There was a guy with an emergency horse and we immediately knew why.
We got some water, paused for 15 Minutes and went back on hiking uphill.
The whole hike does not have any viewpoints. You basically hike up in the jungle, hike down in the jungle and arrive at the beaches soaked in sweat looking at perfectly styled tourists who had arrived by boat earlier.
Well we definitely did look as if we had hiked through a tropical jungle for the past 3-4 hours.
But we were not there yet.
Up in the mountains is a tiny village with indigenous people living there. There are tiny wooden huts in the middle of the jungle, small fields where they grow their crops and a green eyed cat “with character”.
I looked on maps.me and saw where the river “ended”. There must be a waterfall somewhere, I said and we sneaked our way through the huts to find it.
We did. Clear water was running over a sandy bed of …
… wait what!? What is that?
It looked like there were tiny golden stones in the water. We picked up some of those shiny pieces and were soon to be discovered in the apparently holy waters. We had to leave, but we were able to sneak out 3 pieces of “gold”.
I lost them by the way, but still hope they turn out to be somewhere in my bag.
We left the village, apologized and hiked down towards the beaches, when we lost our way.
Fighting our way through a muddy river bank with lots of mosquitos and trees to duck down under, I took one wrong step and soaked my shoe in mud.
I am actually typing this article in the plane on my way back to São Paulo some days later- shoes are still wet…
We made it somehow to the beach, everyone dipped into to the ocean for a swim while I sat down and ate my apples looking at the crowded touristic beach, which sheltered way too many people.
It was kind of nice, but there are definitely nicer beaches in the Caribbean.
There was too much police to fly the drone, but I was able to make some rather boring shots with the GoPro.
We didn’t stay that long and the approaching rain clouds foreshadowed trouble. We knew we had been lucky with the weather before, but those upcoming 1,5 hours of hiking were going to get us soaking wet.
We started to hike back from the beach. It was a rather flat hike without much change of altitude, but those roads were covered in mud! Sometimes you had to climb over a little rock and get down with a rope to avoid sinking into light brown mud.
And then the drops came. Big fat rain drops quickly multiplying. Faster and faster until we were soaked. And with soaked I mean that there was not one single part of my clothes that had remained dry! At least it was warm.
I mean, one person clearly had fun here! Hahahaha
“Want a toke?” Dutchie asked me, lighting a cigarette under a rather wet tree.
Hahaha alright! Guess that’s a bad idea to do in pouring rain! I squished (might have invented that word) under the tree with him, we quickly smoked and went back on our hike.
Rain, rain, poor horse with fat tourist on, rain, more rain.
About 40 minutes later it rained a bit less, but our hike was still going to last for a while. It never seemed to end and while I tried to cheer up the group, some of us were already back at the hostel in their heads. How much we wished we had a warm shower, but that was not going to happen anytime soon.
Whilst I got lost in hot shower fantasies Dutchie had climbed a rock shouting down from above “heeey can you take a picture?”
Spreading his arms in pure happiness I was ready to disappoint and shouted up from below:
“You know that my finger is wet, my phone screen is wet and there is absolutely nothing to wipe it dry with! That’s not gonna happen!”
I promised him a painting, which you can see below:
After ages we arrived at a spot where we could take a van that would bring us down the road. We happily paid way too much money and sat down in the van soaking the seats in a mixture of sweat and rain water.
A German couple sat in front of us complaining about the horses. The girl talked about her horse being so short she almost touched the mud with her feet.
I wiped the wet hair out of my face and hated her.
“You think the horse felt any better, biaaaatch?” But no, I did not say that out loud, haha!
After another public bus that took us to our hostel we were more than happy to have that (rather cold) shower and ordered food at the hostel’s restaurant.
“Minca” it was going to be the following day and I was excited …