The foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world, plunge into the sea like the fingers of a gigantic hand forming beautiful bays and covesFrom the Tayrona NP website
Four indigenous groups consider these lands part of their ancestral territory. The park management acknowledges this, saying that ‘the sacred sights within must be protected and respected as part of the cultural heritage’. This respect means that for short periods each year the park is closed, at the request of these groups, so that the land and the sacred places can rest and recover from the stresses of tourism.
We were fortunate that we arrived in this region just as the park had reopened after one of these closures. But maybe that’s why we found it so busy? Arriving with our guide Christian just before the opening time of 8.00 AM we found a long queue at the ticket office and a number of vehicles clustered around the gate. Christian immediately joined the queue to buy our tickets. Even so, it was half an hour before he returned with them and with wristbands we were required to wear.
Our hike in the park
Some walks are tougher than others, especially for those of us less used to hiking and with joints that don’t always work as well as we’d like! Often a difficult hike is labelled as such, as is an easier one; but in my experience these labels don’t always reflect my reality! So it was in Tayrona National Park.
Our driver Nestor drove us along the rough track to the parking area, from where we started our hike. At first it was easy going, a mix of flat dirt path and raised boardwalk.
Christian pointed out a large spider in a web, the female Yellow String Spider. He told us the name comes from the web, which is often yellow (although this one was white), and that the male is tiny in comparison.
We saw lots of leaf cutter ants too. But the best wildlife sighting was a troop of White Fronted Capuchin Monkeys.
These were so used to people that Christian was able to feed one with a bit of guava. This caused a bit of friction and one monkey who’d missed out got quite aggressive. I’d felt it wasn’t a good idea to feed them and this backed up that impression.
In an adjacent tree we saw a solitary Colombian Red Howler Monkey, moving too fast to be photographed. The Capuchins were chasing him off.
As we continued the path became harder going, with lots of steps up and down. These were often quite rough ones on tree roots or boulders. I was very glad I’d brought my hiking pole as it would have been even more tough for me and my poor knees without it. But there were some great views to reward us for the climbs. Very ‘Lost World’, I thought!
After a while we started to hear the sea and eventually came within sight of it.
We could have walked on to reach the park’s most famous beach, Arrecifes. But as I was finding the path quite challenging (and inwardly disputing its rating as ‘easy’), Christian proposed a shortcut directly to the other beach we were to visit, Cañaveral.
This path had the other advantage of being less busy. After a short while we came to a cluster of thatched round cottages. These belonged to one of the accommodation options in the park, the Ecohabs.
There were great views of the coastline from here. The sea was a beautiful shade of turquoise and the spray created a sparkling haze that was very hard to do justice to in a photo.
We stopped for a much needed cold drink in the restaurant attached to the Ecohabs, with an equally fabulous view!
We then followed the short path down to the beach where we sat for some time enjoying the sights and sound of the waves. I took quite a few photos too, of course.
But if some of my photos give the impression that this is a tranquil tropical paradise, think again! The beach was busy with swimmers (or rather wave jumpers, as swimming wasn’t really possible in these rough seas), with sunbathers and picnickers.
Still, it was a great spot to relax after the walk and chat with Christian about his time living in Australia, how he’d coped during the pandemic and more.
Then we returned to the restaurant for a delicious lunch before walking back down a much shorter and easier path to the parking area. Nestor drove us back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing. Now, that’s my idea of easy!
Nevertheless I was glad I’d done this walk and I hope Jo will enjoy it too!