[The second part of my North Colombian “detox” story was my insane Lost City trek, which I’ve already described. (Part one was adventure time in San Gil.) The third and element of my solo traveling in Colombia was Parque Tayrona.]
After the Lost City all I wanted was a hot shower and a night’s sleep in anything but a hammock. And maybe also some way to exfoliate all that DEET offa me.
But because of time constraints, I went straight on to Tayrona National Park, also known as Jurassic Park, also known as “The Island” from Lost. I headed there with two British guys from the trek and once we got there we realized, what the f were we thinking?
We just return from six days of hiking and sleeping outdoors in rainy, uncomfortable, jungle, only to RETURN to it AGAIN? We had to hike for at least an hour just to get to our campsite, and once we got there, it was another no-shower, hammock sleeping situation! (And the hammocks were way too close together, when one person shuffled in the night, all 30 of the other hammocks shook). And of course, it poured half the time. Damn monsoon season.
But the landscape was really wonderful and I got to get a bit of a sunburn after a few chilled out days on the quiet beaches.
The highlight was the mirador, where our hammocks were located.
See that little hut atop the rocks jutting out into the ocean? YEAH! I slept there!
After a month of Adventures in Bartending and Late Nights in Bogota, I needed a detox. I found one in the north of Colombia, first with a stop in San Gil, the country’s “adventure” capital.
I stayed in a craphole of a hostel (note: most hostels in Colombia are not “indoors”—all the rooms basically open to a central patio with no roof. So you’re exposed to the elements, be it rain, freezing cold, or just obnoxious drunk 19 year olds from Manchester. There is simply no such thing as indoors.)
But anyways, the hostel was cool because I made friends with a group of kids there, and the owner, who knew Oscar, my Bogota hostel’s owner, was extra welcoming for my first solo traveling stop.
Every morning I ate a massive fruit salad covered in gooey sweet white sauce and shredded queso blanco for ONE FREAKING DOLLAR. I love cheap, weird Colombian fruit. Like have you ever heard of a Lulo fruit? How about a Tree Tomato? Or maybe a peach imitator that, when you take a bite, looks on the inside like a cherry and tastes like a pear? Yep. Weird shit.
My friends and I hiked (in flip flops, this adds approximately 1 hour to every scheduled 2 hours of hiking) to a charming little colonial town.
We drank Chicha corn beer which was so sour it must have turned bad months ago and ate some gross lemony taffy crap that almost pulled a tooth out.
Upon embarking on our return hike, we were caught in a downpour and had to hitch a ride in the back of a truck to get home.
Even though there were spiders in my bed I slept brilliantly to the sound of rain.
We hiked to a waterfall, which was wonderful and powerful and freezing.
It was a little scary climbing around a bunch of makeshift rope ladders in slippery bare feet in the middle of nowhere with basically no supervision or authority in an hour’s walk.
But in reality that was nothing:
Later that day, A SNAKE BIT PETER IN THE FOOT.
Peter is the token Dutch dude from our little traveling crew. So after the snake bite we all kindof panicked and decided to return to civilization. Except when we got there and asked the one human being within miles if he was going to die, the dude just shrugged.
Peter: “Hey, I was bitten by a snake!”
Dude: (Shrug) “It’s cool man, no big deal.”
Peter: “How do you know that? Could it be poisonous?”
Dude: “Nooo no, you’re fine.”
Peter: “Uhm, are you sure? Don’t you know want to know what it looked like? Or see where it bit me?”
Peter: “Well It was a big red and black snake! And it bit me on the foot!”
Dude: “Heyyy, tranquiiiilo man.” (Passive aggressive Spanish for “chill the eff out.”)
So, I mean, ok. He didn’t die. El Tranquilero wins I suppose. When we finally returned to San Gil, we found out our OTHER friend had been in the hospital all day because he was attacked by a DOG! I should also mention here that I myself was attacked by a furry caterpillar but that injury, while seriously itchy, healed up much more quickly.
Then we ate roasted ants for dinner. It’s a local delicacy.
Nice and crunchy.
The next day Peter and I rode on motos to my first ever caving experience. Dude. This shit is crazy. We waded through murky, freezing cold water to our necks wearing helmets and headlamps. At one point, the tour guide pulled a rope ouy from the water, handed it to me, and said, “OK, we’re going to swim under this rock wall by pulling ourselves on this rope. If you’re underwater for more than 7 seconds, you’re doing it wrong.”
Like, what? Oooooookay!
We crawled on our elbows through water and muck, we swam through lakes and rinsed ourselves under waterfalls, we waded through what felt like knee-high shit and frolicked across boulders.
I voluntarily covered myself in mud for the second time in a month.
And I ruined my Toms once and for all. We checked out bats, spiders, stalagtites/mites, and various other cavery.
And basically we emerged from the cave two hours later feeling both confused and energized.
So, San Gil was cool.