As soon as we were done with the kite surfing lessons, we headed out to Santa Marta. Santa Marta is a city about 4 hours away.
Instead of catching a cab to the bus terminal, then catching a bus, we decided it was easier and around the same price to catch a mini bus that would pick us right up from our hostel for $40000 each.
The ride was fairly comfortable on a Mercedes bus with AC.
We arrived at our hostel in Santa Marta, which we were told as an old cartel house. It was in a nice area, reminded me of the hostel in Medellin. Very nice hostel with hammocks everywhere and a pool.
We took a ride to the nearby “crappy beach” which was actually a very nice beach.
We hung out here for a couple hours and watched the sunset.
The hostel looked like it had a lot of potential, but when we were there it was pretty much empty. Chris and Jeremy had heard that a nearby town 20 minutes away named Tongonga was the place to be.
So, we caught cab over the hill to Tagonga.
Tagonga was much smaller, and everyone liked it better. Very beautiful. There was one main club that everyone went to that was a good time. When we got there we definitely had our guard down as it seemed so chill and relaxed. We talked to 4 Argentinian girls that said they had been robbed right down the road and were scared to go out now, and we were wondering how they managed to get robbed.
However, after spending a little more time in the area, it definitely started seeming sketchy. Everyone you walked past would ask from the shadows if you wanted to buy drugs. They were selling every type of drug you could think of, from acid to meth.
One day on the beach the cops randomly asked to pat us down, which sketched us out but nothing came of it.
The first day we were there, we decided to hike a path along the side of a hill we saw some others in the distance doing.
There were spectacular views, the town was beautiful.
At one point we hiked down to the beach and there were hundreds of these weird things I have never seen before, almost like snail fish. Well, exactly like a snail fish.
All the garbage here really bothered me. There was trash everywhere in the water, in the woods, on the streets. These people just destroyed a beautiful place. I couldn’t understand how people could live in such a beautiful place and just carelessly trash where they live. Where is the pride?
While in Tagonga we also went on a diving trip.
The cost was 100k per person, but the snorkelers got to go for free.
The diving really wasn’t anything special; we went on two dives, but we didn’t see too many fish or anything on either. The second dive the something was definitely up with the air because it tasted really funny and gave me heartburn. We thought maybe rusty tanks?
From Tagonga, we headed to Tayrona National Park. We read this park is the #2 most visited park in Colombia and on the trip advisor top 10 list.
We couldn’t find too much information on it, so we pretty much went off the information we got from other travelers.
We had been given 3 options to get there:
One was a 40 minute boat ride directly from Tagonga. The second option was taking a cab to the bus station in Santa Marta then catching a public bus to the park (cheapest). The third option was to catch a private van from Tagonga to the park which costed us 17k and we opted for this option.
At ten in the morning we caught a bus to the main entrance of the park.
We had read that one of us in the group had to bring a passport, but luckily we all did just in case (except Kody, who was able to get in anyhow).
We had to pay a steep 37k entrance fee to get in, where the van dropped us off in the lot.
It was to be a 2 hour hike to Cabo San Juan Del Guia where we had planned to go.
The trail was pretty easy to follow, we weren’t that well prepared so didn’t have a map or anything. Luckily it was pretty much all one path that would go through each little beach camping area.
The first hour of the hike was through the jungle, until we started to be able to see the ocean.
It was absolutely stunning; we were told that these were the most beautiful beaches in the world and I wouldn’t argue it.
We were amused by some ants that would create distinct paths along the ground or across logs carrying pieces of vegetation with them
Part of the hike was directly along the beach which was very hot
Which brought us to more beautiful beaches..
At all the 3 or so camps we hiked through on the way to San Juan, there were options to sleep. However we were told to head straight to San Juan since it was the best beach, and I noticed the other beaches you couldn’t swim at since there were signs up that there was a dangerous rip.
Our two hour hike turned into 3 or 4 hours after our run in with the national police.
We had stopped to have a smoke at a picnic table in one of the parks along the way. It was so tranquil and relaxed here, we had not a worry in the world. Out of nowhere, we see someone marching straight towards our table; it was the national police. He asked if we had anymore and we cooperated and gave it to him. He told us to come with him.
At this point, we were all shitting ourselves and didn’t know what was going to happen. He started off telling us that we had to leave the park. That sure was a bummer as we had only been there a couple hours, but could be worst. Then he started telling us we were going to have to leave the country, that he would bring us back into the town to the station. We started asking questions, as to where we were going to go, where we would fly from.. We all had trouble understanding as everything was in spanish. After this, he started telling us we were going to have to go to prison for 2-3 years.
He went on for a long time, and we were convinced at a minimum we were going to have to leave the country. After a while, he says he is going to give us a break, how much do we want to pay? Kody had suggested 50k each which seemed more than reasonable. Unfortunately, Katie was still scared and had just gone to the ATM, so he ended up robbing us of 250k or so.
After this, we were pretty shaken up. We all now look at the cops here differently, who would have thought that we would end up getting robbed by a cop? I used to think of them as nice helpful people to be trusted, as they always helped us in many other situations. Now I look at them like sketchy people on the corner.
We ended up getting to our camp around 4 or so in the afternoon.
This place was obviously stunningly beautiful, not able to show in pictures. There were tents set up that you could rent (35k a tent), or hammocks in a hut up on a hill (30k/night)
Or the lower hammocks inland off the beach, for 25k a night. We were told to get there early to get a hammock, but with our incident we were late. The top hammocks looked incredible in the hut on the hill but they were closed so we slept on the lower hammocks. It was freezing there at night and we were all under dressed. Not so much cold (high 50’s, low 60s?), but very windy, I woke up several times because I was so cold.
We did some exploring checking out up on the hill and walking up and down the beach
We ate dinner there, they had set times for breakfast lunch and dinner with pretty reasonable prices. There were a lot of people at this place, probably 150 or so just in our camp, I was surprised. But it was a big area so did not seem overly crowded.
The next day we just kind of hung out, did some short hikes.
We decided to take the boat back, so we could spend a little more time on the beach. The boat left at 4:30 and took 40 minutes.
It was a very quick ride and scenic. Pretty rough swells.