It’s hard to beat hiking up a seemingly endless hill in the midst of a tropical forest, so sweaty you feel you could ring the liters of water you’ve been drinking out of your clothes. However, with the monkeys, birds, waterfall, beaches and good company, it’s going to be hard to beat this weekend.
Two friends from Canada and I left Friday afternoon in an impossibly cheap taxi for the national park we visited early on in my trip here, called Parque Tyrona. This time however, we decided to do it the hard way. We started at the less common entrance and hiked about an hour to a beautiful little hostel called La Cima. It is run by a local homeschool family with four lovely children and lots of chickens, ducks and 2 dogs. The mom and main chef told us that she often prefers to eat vegetation and thanks to this, we had a fantastic meal complete with lovely herbal tea. We spent the night in tents and slept very soundly. Well, I slept soundly. I woke up in the morning to being questioned if I had been able to sleep due to the dogs barking and the rooster being upset. My reply: What noise? Apparently, I slept through quite the ruckus. Also sharing our sleeping hut was a nesting chicken. She seemed to have chosen that particular spot for no apparent reason and used to lay her eggs in the tents if guests left them unzipped. They finally had to compromise and put her nest box in between the tents and she seemed quite content with this arrangement.
The next day we began the majority of the mileage for our trip but of course had to stop within the first 10 minutes of the hike to try coca leaf tea. Yes, you read that right. Tea made from cocaine leaves is a common medicinal tea in parts of South America. It has mild muscle relaxant and energy properties but is a far cry from the drug derived from it. Along the same relation as poppy seeds to opium I believe. Post tea, completely relaxed and energized (just kidding, we didn’t drink enough to feel any effects), we continued on to a most likely beautiful beach called Playa Brava. I say most likely because we stopped just shy of it to have lunch and then hike to a quiet waterfall for a refreshing swim and never did get around to braving the sun to check out the beach.
However, the true elevation of the trip had yet to come. We left Playa Brava and began a slow and drippingly, sweaty climb. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was the sweatiest I’ve been in my life. The combination of the hot, still air, humidity and exertion made for the feeling that the water you were drinking was running directly out of your pores. By the time we reached the top, you could see the color change in my friend’s hiking pants from being nearly completely soaked and there wasn’t a square inch of even vaguely dry material in my shirt. However, near the top, we ran into a small troupe of Capuchin monkeys which made every step worth it. One of the little fellows decided to put on quite a show for us and I’m still curious if it was trying to scare us off or get us to play. Watching the monkey’s antics also gave me the opportunity to make a trail friend who hiked with us the rest of the way to the beach we where staying at for the evening. He was from Germany on his way to Chile where he had recently gotten a Computer Science job but hadn’t received his visa, so he was traveling and working in Colombia to be closer to the correct time zone.
We arrived at the beach in time for dinner and met up with another group of international students who were doing the same trip in reverse. After dinner, a nice swim and some late night games, we crawled into our rented hammocks and amazingly sometime in the middle of the night got cold enough for me to be glad I’d gone to the trouble of hauling a blanket with me. It’s amazing here how much the sun and the wind can wildly change the perceived temperature without the actual temperature changing much at all. The typical 85 degree day can feel swelteringly hot if the air is still or quite fresh when there is a good breeze. Sadly, upon returning to Barranquilla, I discovered that the weather here has shifted a little bit more towards spring and the intensity of the heat has kicked up a notch.
All in all, we did about 16.5mi and 1750ft and came out of the weekend with relatively few bug bites. It constantly amazes me that this park isn’t brimming with mosquitoes, though the bites did start to appear after a few days. Along the way we were graced with the presence of beautiful stars, many fun jungle birds and good company. It would be hard to ask for a better weekend though it has taken me half the week to sleep it off :)
Please say hi to the iguana camped out in the tree outside my window as I write this.