Seeking to increase our adventure quotient once again, Annie and I headed off for a few days hiking in Tayrona National Park. This coastal park near the town of Santa Marta did not disappoint. Hiking? Check. Jungle? Check. Beaches? Check. Monkeys!?! Check.
Reaching Tayrona from Cartagena is an uncomplicated afare and we opted for perhaps the easiest option: door to door private transport. Our driver picked up in the morning and after 45 minutes spent picking up the rest of our fellow passengers, we were off. The road paralleled the coast and took us through sand dunes and miles and miles of salt marshes.
Whenever we stopped for a break, the heat outside was truly astounding. We made good time and in 4-5 hours we arrived at our destination: our van stopped on the side of the highway and we walked up the road to the entrance. We bought park tickets and a couple of cheap snorkels from a roadside tout. From the park entrance, the trailhead is an additional four kilometers and if you're hardpressed or hardcore your can choose to walk. We payed 3 pesos a person for a ride.
From the trailhead, the path winds through the jungle for 1 hour before bringing you your first sight of the ocean. The trail offers plenty to keep hikers entertained enroute. There are the immense trees, the vines and lianas, the leaf cutter ants, as well as huge monolithic boulders. We made sure to carry plenty of water and the extra weight, combined with the heat, made this a suprisingly challenging hike. Within 15 minutes we were both soaked in sweat.
Tayrona is not one beach but a series of beaches and coves strung out along the coast. The first beach you come to is called Arrecifes. This beach is reached in roughly 45 minutes of solid hiking - more if your slow :). One of the most challenging sections of this hike is a slog across the sand in the open sun - so hot and so tiring!
From Arrecifes, we continued onwards for 30 minutes before reaching La Piscina - a bay sheltered by rocks where it is safe to swim and snorkel. As it was getting late in the afternoon, we continued on and reached Cabo San Juan in another 45 minutes. On this section of our hike we were lucky enough to see a group of Capuchin monkeys just off the trail. This was our first time seeing monkeys in the wild in South America!
Cabo San Juan is a lovely campground with both tents and hammocks available for rent. You can swim here in a sheltered bay and there is a restaurant as well as a little store selling beer and snacks. Feeling a little tired from our hike, Annie and I, registered - DON'T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT - and set up our tent in the grass. Then we changed into our swim suits for a quick dip before dinner.
We spent the next 2 days enjoying the water, the beach, and the sunsets.