Well my friends a lot has happened in the past few days. Mostly good, some bad, but it's all part of the experience. So a few day ago I set out for Tayrona National Park, northeast of Santa Marta. When I rolled up to the extravagant entrance they told me that no bikes were allowed. That was indeed a curveball, I never heard of a park that didn't permit bikes. I sat for a while well I tried to come up with a plan. I could leave my bike chained up at the entrance all day and hope for the best, or I could ride it back to Santa Marta and leave it at a hostel there. Option 1 was too risky, and option 2 was too boring. So I came up with option 3. I remembered crossing a little dried up riverbed on my way to the park. I decided to pull up a map and see if the stream led into the park. According to the map, it fed straight into the ocean in the middle of the park. This seemed like my best option, I would stash my bike in a secluded spot along the banks of the river and trudge straight into the park. Right under their noses. This was too easy!
|The terrain changes so quickly here. Dry to wet, to somewhere in between.|
|Keep your eyes out for a random anteater.|
|This was the riverbed near where I ditched the bike.|
Well not exactly, but it still made me feel like a ninja. It looked like it was about 6 miles until it drained into the sea. That didn't sound too bad. I packed a small bag of necessities and set out. It wasn't at peak heat yet so the first hour was fine. By noon it became apparent that it may have been wise to bring along my flip flops after all. The sand felt like hot coals. If I walked fast enough without stopping it was in the tolerable range. If I stopped for even a second I had to find a leaf or rock to cool off on. Small price to pay, I would soon be into the park chilling on the beach. The riverbed twisted and turned for ages. I finally reached a big open area to take a much needed break. After refueling on food and agua I set back out on to the Sahara.
|Much needed break on a scorching day.|
|Holding this pose was a bit painful.|
Just around the river bend a little boy on a bike spotted me. I was hoping he wouldn't turn around to report me to his padre. He pedaled towards me to find out what the strange gringo was doing in his river. He came up to me and started some small talk. All I could think of to say in Spanish was: "Do you like bicycles?" He modded and smiled, then he squeezed his tire to show that it was nearly flat. I didn't have my pump so he was out of luck. He rode alongside me in the sand for a while as we spoke using my broken Spanish. He reached his home and waved goodbye. I guess they don't teach kids here not to talk to strangers.
|This was the little guy. So niño. Crocs and a slingshot, ready to take on the world.|
|These guys weren't so stocked about seeing me.|
|Looking out into the mountains.|
Before I knew it the shriveled up river became a swampy mess. I pushed on through the mucky muck for a while until it became impassable without a machete. It was so dense and overgrown I could not continue along the river. Progress had been slow, it had taken about three hours already, and I wasn't even halfway. I now found myself in another predicament. Head back and cross the desert again or blaze a trail through the jungle barefoot, without a machete. The thought of turning back three hours without seeing the park sounded like a terrible idea. Both options were blazing, but I decided to continue the trek into the unknown. It was actually far more tame than I expected. There were little animal paths that zigzagged along. After I got too far in to remember my way back out, the jungle upped the ante. I came across these trees that had massive inch long thorns. They decided that it would be a good idea to drop a bunch of their branches on the ground. Spoiler alert: these trees were everywhere! I had the cautiously caress the ground with my foot before taking a step and putting my weight on it. The going was now extremely slow. I didn't want to press on, but I was so far in it would have taken hours to backtrack. That is if I could even remember my way back.
|This was part that was a bit swampy.|
|This was a bit of the jungle I was creeping through.|
|The forbidden fruit.|
I continued tiptoeing along until I heard the distant sound of Mariachi music. This is my shot at getting out, it may be an angry farmer, a tribal ceremony, or a bumping hostel, who knows. I got close, but decide to go around rather than hit it straight on. It turns out it was a different entrance to the park. I snuck past it and came to a road. This must be the road to the park! I had to climb over a barbed wire fence to get to the road. After about a half hour I noticed a big clearing in the trees up ahead. Could it be? It was the beach! I made it! Six hours later! I ripped off my shirt and plunged myself into the crystal clear Caribbean water. It was amazingly refreshing! Much needed reward after a long day of hiking. The fact that it was gorgeous helped a bit too. It wasn't they way I expected to get into the park, but it was definitely more memorable than hopping a bus.
|A day well spent!|
More to add.....to be continued.....
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