At breakfast today in my Santa Marta hotel met two older American women who were travelling together, without husbands. They were a bit smug when they found out I was going with a tour to the park as they had taken a 'collectivo', (small bus), that is until they discovered how little I had paid! It's easy to succumb to this mentality, that using anything other than public transport is cheating: why take a taxi when you can spend hours walking and waiting for buses? Well, because it's exhausting and wastes precious time, that's why. Have decided the trick is to do some trips on public transport just to prove you can and for the other trips do whatever makes best use of your time! In any case in the hierarchy of independent travellers I reckon I trump almost everybody!
Tayrona National Park turned out to be relatively deserted, probably because it was a Monday out of season. They are very strict about controlling entry. I said to the guy next to me, (young Italian with his beautiful Colombian wife and two year old) that it was easier to enter Colombia than this park! The guide spoke relatively slowly and
very clearly. He was so easy to understand he could have been Spanish.
The tropical beaches were lovely but for me lacked the wow factor'' – they were no more impressive than others in the Caribbean, for example. Also I am always a bit disappointed that so-called jungles are not more 'jungly'. Next time shall have to do the Amazon. I went in the sea briefly but the water was quite rough with a strong undertow and I wouldn't have attempted this on my own.
However the day was made for me by the people I met, especially a Canadian who turned out to have been a major in the Canadian military police and served in Afghanistan and his Colombian-born wife . (Re Afghanistan, he remarked that we should have never been there. I asked him if he felt that at the time and he said: 'No'.) They were visiting Colombia for three months to see his wife's family and friends and to travel. So interesting to find out what they thought about Colombia and they were also very keen to learn more about the UK.
On the other hand, there were a few problems! The company'
s web page clearly states that the total walking distance is about two hours and the guy I booked with on the phone also said this, although granted, I forgot to check whether this was 'ida y vuelta' (there and back). My legs were really hurting by the time we got to the last beach so, worried about my back, I decided to take a horse. Bad decision!! We started off with me in front and the guide on the other horse behind. My horse kept breaking out into a trot. After I had shrieked: 'No!' a couple of times he got the message, put my horse on a leading rope and went in front. Obviously admitting I had ever been on a horse before was a serious mistake! However the new arrangement did not stop my horse trotting as he was very keen to overtake the one in front! The other problem was that the track for horses was not the one we had done the outward walk on, much steeper and with lots of boulders blocking the way so, as the horse lurched downhill, I was bounced up and down like a sack of potatoes - not good
for a dodgy back! Anyway seem to have survived - touch wood.
In the evening, back in Santa Marta, spent ages looking for a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet but of course couldn't find it. I am doing no better with mastering street layouts, which, in Colombia and other South American countries, are on the numbered grid system and supposed to be very easy to use. At least I have the sea to orient me here but I can never work out /remember whether I am on a ‘calle’ or a ‘carrera’ and am not helped by the fact that the numbers on the street corners here are worn off.
I went to an Italian place instead where the food was actually not bad but prices here are more like Spanish ones. This is backpacker territory and sitting opposite me was a table of four where a young man with a Hooray Henry accent was holding forth. He had been to Argentina and Brazil but they still had a couple more countries to ‘do’. Then there were effusive greetings as another group of backpackers, who presumably had stayed at the same hostel at some point on their travels,
walked past. A separate world, obviously.
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