Thursday, September 25, 2008

Parque Nacional Tayrona -Paradise

Was given a beautifully hand-drawn map and sent on my way with well wishes, bound for Parque Nacional Tayrona. Decided to go solo, so shunned the tours and got on the first bus out of town to the park entrance. I'd remembered reading that from the park's entrance it was another 4 or so km to the admin building where you needed to pay the entrance fee, but that there would be colectivo jeeps making the journey back and forth.

So, as soon as I got off the bus I noticed a jeep and walked towards it, enquiring with a couple of local dudes on my way. They told me that "yes, it would go up" but that I'd have to wait and they then pointed me towards a shelter where I could do just that. Cool. So I started walking up the road a few metres, past a police shelter, manned by 2 police officers.

They called me back and through my basic Spanish and their heavily accented version, they explained that they wanted to check my bag. Sure. I've had this before. They usually ask me to take things out, one by one, and check them over. Nope. A bit different here. He wanted no help, actually moved my hand away and proceeded to take every small object out of my pack (which was luckily only a day pack and not my huge "bag-o'-shit" which I'd left behind in Santa Marta). I wouldn't say he was "rough" with my belongings, but he definitely wasn't gentle. "Thorough" would be a better description. Nothing went unchecked, except my person (I just love saying that). I then gave him my passport and when he seemed satisfied with all of his checking, there was some brief, misunderstood communication as I said I was waiting for the jeep, then the next thing I knew, the officer who had checked my bag was firing up his bike (although I'm guessing it was someone else's because he pressed the horn by accident to start it - laughter), then I was handed a helmet with not much option but to get on. There's something about saying "no" to a man dressed up in army greens, carrying loaded weapons that just doesn't feel right.

So...I sat behind him on the bike, right on top of a sexy lady's face, and we took off. He took me (what I later realised in hindsight) towards the park entry office, but then just ahead of it and off to the side, to avoid paying any entrance fee. We got off, then I followed him down a jungle path, asking if it's been a busy day, trying to determine if this was a well frequented path. "Sure, no worries, very safe. Just if someone asks you where your pass is, say you lost it in the sea". This took a couple of goes until I fully understood (damn coastal accents), but in effect I'd paid this police officer the park entry fee and entered just past the official entry point where I would have been given a wrist band.

Ah ha! Nice and dodgy! "No worries, can do" I said (he'd saved me $2 on the ride up), then he walked me to the right turnoff in the path, we shook hands, and he bid me good luck before returning to his post (although not before asking me if I had a boyfriend, to which I lied, said I did, and that he'd be joining me tomorrow).

I've come to realise that there are 2 types of boyfriends over here in Latin America. Ones that are with you, and ones that aren't in that particular moment. When I told the officer that I had an Argentinian boyfriend (a lie, but fresh in my mind because I'd just been travelling for the last week with an Argentinian guy) he said "right, but do you have a Colombian boyfriend?". This happened the last time I made up a story about so called boyfriend . On that occasion when he wasn't with me at that particular moment, I was asked if I wanted one for right then and there. Again, I'm going to have to devise a better story.

On my walk further into the jungle, I passed armies of leafcutter ants forming 8 lane highways across the path, dodged flying insects that sounded like bomber planes, narrowly missing my eardrums, heard wookpeckers pecking away at the trees (they make me laugh they do), and saw vibrantly green striped lizards scuttling away from my heavy footsteps.

I made the hour long trek (relieved when I saw the first lot of people as I was slightly disheartened walking through this unknown jungle, alone, in Colombia), and came out in paradise, to one of the most beautiful beaches I've laid eyes on on this trip so far. No beach-front restaurants, but a long, white sandy beach with wild waves and big rocks jutting out of the sea.

I spent 2 nights camping just behind the beach at Recife, got taken to hidden beaches by a local guide, ran into my Argentinian friend again by chance, and basically swam, ate and slept. Alot! (although I didn't sleep very well because I couldn't fit inside the tent and it was super hot inside. I was sleeping diagonally and I still had to lie curled up. Twas a wee tent!). Walked to the next beach in gorgeous afternoon light and sat on a big rock, watching the ocean, the entire beach to myself. I've missed the ocean. I never thought I'd say it, but the Caribbbean can get kinda boring sometimes with it's warm, flat beaches (gosh life's tough huh?). Nothing like the wild energy of an ocean.


Anthony Who? said...

Hi Talia
M~ here. I have really enjoyed reading your vivid accounts on these 'catch up blogs' ...from leaving Costa Rica to here. And the photos are exquisite, as usual. I feel like I have been transported to South America myself!
Thanks for making the effort to update.

Anthony Who? said...

I have just reread this Talia, It moves me, I love your writing. You must keep it up.