Tayrona National Park Pt. 1: The Trail to Arrecifes

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Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona is a protected nature reserve and national park along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, renowned for its varied landscapes and climates: mountains, forest, and beaches are all nestled right up against each other and provide a unique environment for a huge range of flora and fauna. It was one of the few places I knew I had to go to while I was in Colombia, and after I’d had my fill of Santa Marta I headed off with two other travelers I’d met at my hostel, Susan and Jay.

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A cramped, hour-long sweaty bus ride from Santa Marta brought me and my new friends to the entry gate. We took advantage of the last cheap roadside stand to buy some juice and bread and top up our water reserves. Then we paid our COP37,000 admission fees, got our wristbands, and boarded the van that would take us to the end of the road. There we hired some horses (COP16,000 each) to ride to the first beach, Arrecifes.

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I haven’t been on a horse in years, and it was hard! The stirrups they use here are these solid, enclosed metal things, and my feet didn’t really fit in them and kept falling out. I kept shouting “¡Yo perdí el pie! ¡Yo perdí el pie!” at the guide so that he could stop the horse and put my foot back where it was supposed to be.

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Also, since my mochila was weighing my down on one side, I kept tipping to the left and found it difficult to readjust. To make matters worse, it was such a bumpy ride through the forest (on a very narrow path, uphill, downhill, over giant boulders and tree roots), that I found it hard to tell when I was actually tipping and when I was fine, just worried and uncomfortable! My guide’s accent was very difficult for me to understand as well, and when I said “No entiendo” (constantly), he wouldn’t try to rephrase or speak more clearly, he just said the same thing in exactly the same way again and again. I found it immensely frustrating. At one point I could tell that he was saying something about falling off, but I couldn’t understand if he was telling me not to be afraid of falling off or warning me that I was in danger of falling off! Kind of an important distinction!

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My horse also seemed kind of on the small side (or maybe I’ve just gotten a lot bigger since the last time I rode), and she really liked to race ahead of the pack. So we proceeded in this somewhat ridiculous fashion until we arrived at the first beach in Tayrona, Arrecifes.

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This entry is already getting pretty long, so I’ll save Arrecifes Beach for my next post!

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