14th August 2014 – Tayrona, Colombia
The thin page of my notebook is flapping in the breeze. It feels flimsy to write on, almost wet, warm and muggy from the damp humidity. Something stings on my ankle, and a hand slaps down to catch it, brushing sand loose. My hair is coarse and wet with the sea, pulled into an unyielding bun at the nape of my neck. The waves crash in front of me, just white lines of foam looming out of the dark.
I am writing this on the ledge of the sandy patio, sitting in the pool of bright white light that spills from one lone lightbulb above the tienda. Three Colombian men are leaning against the blue concrete walls, bellies exposed, speaking in lazy Spanish. I miss most of it, only picking up the odd ‘amigo’ and ‘hija de puta’.
We are in Tayrona National Park, camping in hammocks in the Colombian jungle, and I keep having to remind myself that the salt water dried in my hair belongs to the Caribbean. I am sitting under a palm tree, and the dark nook that connects my ledge to the wooden steps beside me makes me think of tarantulas and iguanas, red ants and other toe-curling creatures. The wind is picking up now, and the chatter from the open restaurant behind me dies down.
Tonight we ate a cobbled together camping dinner of boiled eggs, canned tuna, candy and peanuts. The ‘pan caliente’ here is delicious, ham and cheese for just $3,000 pesos, the equivalent of about $2.10 NZD. We buy cans of beer and drink them on the beach for $4,000 pesos. Those are a little more expensive. We hiked in today, catching a five hour bus from Cartagena at 5am. We stopped at a bus station and watched as the sun rose over a hazy sky, casting a milky morning glow over the bus drivers as they sipped their cafe tintos in the derelict carpark.
My Spanish is incredibly rusty, and the Colombian costeños speak with a slow mumble that I find unbelievably hard to decipher. But each day it improves, and we add another phrase to the repertoire, another way to sound a little less gringo. We’ll sleep in hammocks tonight. We snagged the last two somehow, just bright stretches of fabric slung beneath a thatched island roof of palm leaves. It seems surreal that just a few days ago we were waking up to 3°C, our breath misting in the freezing temperatures inside our bedroom, and de-icing our windscreens before driving to work.
Tomorrow we plan to hike up to El Pueblito, some ruins about three hours up a nearby hill. Afterwards we will lie on the beach and swim in the warm soft water, drinking those cold lemony beers and reading books from faraway places on our Kindles.
Tayrona was definitely worth the hike.