Further off the beaten path in Colombia…

After Cartagena Laura and I went off the beaten path (even more so than just being in Colombia…) to a place called Punta Gallinas. The Lonely Planet describes it as being near impossible to reach without being on an organised tour that costs $350 (for 3 days!), and also says it’s like the hidden island in The Beach, a place that photos won’t do justice, now you’re really travelling, people won’t believe you etc. Well, we took this as a personal challenge and set off at 7am from Santa Marta to embark on this ‘impossible’ adventure. As the guide book told us, we had to take a cab to the bus station, then a four-hour bus to Riohacha, then a ‘colectivo’ car to Uribia, then wait outside Peter Pan bakery (below) for a Jeep, take the Jeep to Cabo de la Velo, then get another Jeep to the port, then get a boat (three hours) to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost tip of South America.

Twelve hours, 20 fake Oreos, two numb bums, one bout of almost seasickness, a million cacti, all the constellations, one view of Venus and one sea lit up by plankton later and we were plonked in a Wayuu tribe’s hostel (10 hammocks and a cactus roof) in front of a plate of lobster. Then we settled into our chinchorro hammocks (huge) and slept like babies.

The next morning, after an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs and arepas, seven of us got in the wooden crate on the back of a truck and sped through the desert to a completely deserted beach surrounded by sand dunes, craggy rocks and 10 donkeys. We took photos, paddled in the sea and burnt to a crisp (the wind covered the heat), then got back in the truck to see the big dunes. The Jeep journeys were long, hot and we were all standing the whole way, dodging the langostas, massive flying insects with double wings that look like lobsters but really really mean.

Then we went back to the hostel for a lunch of shark, took a nap, went to another beach for sunset, visited a couple of local families who live in mud huts in the desert, bought some Coke bottles filled with the local firewater and went back for some spaghetti followed by whatever the hell was in those Coke bottles. Not such a comfortable night’s sleep due to severe sunburn for Laura and getting tangled in the hammock for me.

The next morning the seven of us (me, Laura, two Canadian sisters Sylvie and Cait, a Belgian girl Sarah and a German couple) got back in the puke-boat (calm seas this time thankfully – on the previous journey there was air between our bums and the wooden benches 50% of the time), back in the Jeep and off to Cabo de la Velo, where five of us were spending the night.

We spent the day hiding from the ridiculously intense sun, playing with the little girls who live there (two of them grabbed my camera and went off shooting – note all my flickr photos with a thumb in the picture), attempted to walk to sugar hill for sunset, aborted walk to sugar hill for sunset due to the path being made of poo, washed feet in sea, had some delicious fish and settled into the smallest and most close together hammocks in the world. Not the best night’s sleep for any of us, as our hammocks were all tied to the same beam, so if one of us moved we all felt it. In the middle of the night I woke myself up laughing at some stupid dream and shook all five hammocks. Saw everyone start shuffling but for some reason couldn’t stop laughing. Then we were woken up at 4.45 as we had to leave for Santa Marta but we wanted to go to sugar hill (pila de azucar) to see the sunrise. Saw it, took photos and set off for the long journey back. Things didn’t go too smoothly for me and Laura though – but I did discover a newfound joy in yelling at people in English because they don’t understand a word I’m saying. Very cathartic.

To be continued…