Days 43-44 - Cabo de la Vela is a very long way

Published: March 10th 2018
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Cabo de la Vela is a long way, so it turns out. Probably not to be done in only two days, but that doesn’t stop ALL the tour companies trying. So the background is that I had read about La Guajira, the desert up here in the north-east of Colombia (bordering Venezuela) and the pictures on the internet look beautiful. People at the Spanish school had also recommended it, and since I gave up on doing La Cuidad Perdida (The Lost City trek – too hard, I decided with 7 hour hikes each day for 4 days), this was a lazier option. Cabo de la Vela, in the La Guajira department, is one of the first places ever visited by Europeans in South America. It has also been home to the indigenous Wayuu community for hundreds of years.

We drove for HOURS. Ok, so we stopped for breakfast (chorizo and arepas, of course - not just a post-beer snack evidently) in Palomino – where they have tiki huts on the beach (mental note to come back one day), and Uribie (Wayuu/La Guajira capital). But it took from 04:45 until 13:00 to get to our accommodation (and lunch!). On a bus with no suspension, and I was sat next to a retired Polish guy who (whilst mostly very nice) insisted on starting a conversation just as I kept trying to nod off. He was, though, the only other person who had no clue what was going on for most of the two days, so we could keep each other updated on the Spanish we did understand between us.

Our accommodation was originally a hammock in a shack by the beach – all sounding very romantic, but the reality is mosquitos (potentially) and a bad back. So I paid a whole £5 for my upgrade to a room with a fan and bathroom. The bathroom consisted of a flush toilet and a shower which was basically just a hose of water, but it was fine given the intense heat.

The place was way in the depths of the Wayuu community, in a what looked a little like a ghost town which was only just opening up to tourists. A few shops and hostels, but not actually many people. We were the only tour group there that night. Driving through the desert, children would run from their houses with their hands stretched out trying to catch the bus up – very hard to pass them by. At mealtimes, they waited for leftovers and anything else we would buy them from the shop next door. And, after an extraordinarily large rum that night from the Polish dude, I came away with a Wayuu bag and about a million bracelets (none of which I really wanted). Hard to resist those faces. What’s even sadder is that those bags are apparently fetching hundreds online because celebrities have them. I didn’t know this…it made me sad because they were charging £10 and they clearly thought that was a lot because they would always drop when you said no thanks. So, if anyone reading this knows about these bags and has a burning desire for one, then ask me rather than buying it from some store online (I will give them however much you want me to).

After lunch we headed back on the bus to Cabo de la Vela itself to get some beach time and photos of the dramatic headland. Pretty spectacular. My confidence in my Spanish has also gone up since Cartagena, thanks mainly to the universal language of football. So spending an leisurely afternoon discussing Harry Kane/Real Madrid with our tour guide overlooking the Cabo was perfect.

After dinner and aforementioned purchases, Polish dude wanted to have another giant rum by the beach, which to me sounded like it could go either way (he had just asked how old I was), so I politely declined and went to bed. The fan in the room was a godsend. Until I woke up in the middle of the night and it had gone off, along with all the electricity (they only have it between 6pm and midnight it turns out). I have never been so hot. This may have been the only positive of having a hammock – being out in the open. Argh.

Today, we headed back – not quite as early as yesterday, thankfully, but I felt just as sleep deprived. Via the salt flats and Riohacha, where we had lunch by another beach (did that sound blase?). But it was so unbearably hot that you couldn’t walk for long in the full sun. Managed to make acquaintance with several people in our group from Medellin, including one who used to live opposite the Spanish school in Envigado…small world. She now lives with her husband in Florida (because I know you needed to know that). And a young guy who Polish dude attempted to talk to constantly in English, without ever recognising he knew no English. Except, as it turned out, ‘Adolf Hitler’ (ok, not actually English, I realise). So I spent part of lunch trying to explain you probably shouldn’t keep going on about Adolf Hitler to someone from Poland. Especially if you’ve said nothing else to him in English for two days.

Thankfully, to minimise any further awkwardness, we appeared to have Lewis Hamilton driving back and made it back to Santa Marta at their scheduled time. I had to share a taxi with Polish dude, because it seemed everyone else was staying at the same place. He lived miles away, so that extended my journey a bit (cue cab driver saying repeatedly ‘that was VERY far’ to me after PD left).

I’m back at the Santa Marta hotel and have completed the next plan. Back to Medellin tomorrow to do as little as possible and see some familiar places and faces. Fantastic scenery aside, it’s far too hot up here, and I’ve done everything I wanted to. Then Pacific Coast next week, which I had wanted to do after my classes finished but flights didn’t work out. Then onto Bogota the week after next. Then I don’t want to think about anything, because it means it’s the last bit of my trip (albeit in Peru). *sob*


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