Sunday, February 21, 2010

almost... perfect!


Tayrona National Park is the gem of natural tourism in Colombia. It stretches a hundred kilometers along the Caribean coast, 4 hours northeast of Cartagena. The park´s bays and coves are shielded by the wild, open sea and provide plenty of opportunity for exploration - by boat. As you head east the coast gets greener and wetter. We started in the backpacker-saturated fishing village of Taganga, where the bay is backed by dry, brown cliffs. We decided to wait on entering the busy part of the park (accessible by road and a walk) and take a boat to Playa Cristál, set in a huge bay about midway into the park. We packed all our water, snacks, and some food onto a rough boat ride, arriving to the calm, crystaline waters with a smile and a sigh.

The beach was clean, the snorkeling was great, and the setting was spectacular! We woke up each morning to an empty beach and went for invigorating morning swims. The water was full of brightly colorful, large, curious fish. We navigated around the shallow corals and dove down to swim in the midst of the bright blue schools of angel fish. In the late mornings, the boatloads of tourists descended onto the beach to enjoy the Colombian-style snorkeling -- huge families holding onto a small raft in knee-deep water for the group snorkeling experience. During the mid-day heat and crowd, we found respite in the shade and read our books. By mid-afternoon, the boatloads of people were leaving and we once again had the beach all to ourselves. Paradise.

It was perfect... almost. Though the bay sheltered us from the worst of the weather on the ocean, the wind picked up at night - pushing around our tent and flinging sand in our faces. I constructed some windblocks, but the weather was truly wild (and uncommon this time of year.) The sand came in from all directions! After 4 days, we decided to leave the next afternoon. That evening was beautiful. A calm afternoon and beautiful sunset. It was a joy rather than a chore to make dinner! Without the wind it was warm and we barely had to change out of our swimsuits. We settled in to sleep feeling content and like we might decide to stay longer. (A restaurant served food to day trippers, where we bought lunch. So, the only thing limiting us was drinking water.) Well, that night the wind was back! Clear that it was time to go have a shower and a bed, we hiked out the next day, hitching a ride back to down with a tour bus.


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