Google Maps; Colombia, at the northern tip of South America, is a country of lush rainforest, towering mountains and coffee plantations. In the high-altitude capital, Bogotá, the Zona Rosa district is known for its restaurants, bars and shopping. Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, features a walled colonial Old Town, a 16th-century castle and popular beaches. Nearby, culture-rich Barranquilla hosts a massive yearly Carnival.
Population: 48.32 million (2013)
President: Juan Manuel Santos
Tayrona National Park
Journey into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, where you will find the Tayrona National Park. Colombia is the second most bio diverse country on earth and the wild untamed beauty of the Tayrona Park is home to a great variety of species of flora and fauna. The scenery varies from white sandy beaches to semi tropical rainforest and the park is home to many species of birdlife, for which the Colombia is famous. The majority of the park is covered by virgin tropical forest and inhabited by over 100 species of mammals; 200 species of birds and 50 species of reptiles. After a scenic drive to the park you will begin a walk along natural pathways through the semi tropical jungle vegetation with your expert local guide highlighting the information on the vegetation, animals and eco system. Along the trail there are a series of look out points which afford general views of the park and the possibility of seeing some of the local wildlife. After your guided walk drive to the, perched amongst the cliffs of the Tayrona Park. Refreshments will be served on the terrace with spectacular views of the wild coastline. Afterwards re-board your coach sit back and enjoy the scenic drive back to Minerva.
We board a coach at the port and head off to the park through some fairly heavy traffic
towards the Tayrona National Park. The outskirts of town are not very remarkable
and our coach avoided going anywhere near the centre
and all we saw was a variety of shops, offices
and small rural houses
Eventually the Sierra Nevada mountain range appeared - behind this range is the top section of the Andes (which we were unable to see).
The entrance to the The entrance to the Tayrona National Park is fairly unremarkable.
There were however a number of armed soldiers on duty
and it was rather chaotic with lots of people milling around trying to purchase one of that day’s entry permits. The number of people
allowed to go in on any one day is limited and there are numerous stories on the web about the difficulty of getting in and how money talks.
Once in, it is either make your way to a carpark using your own transport, or walk or pay for a ride.
It would take about two hours to walk to the car parks
where a variety of maps direct you to camping areas
or one of a number of paths
cut through the jungle.
There are numerous signs warning of Caymans but we did not see any, no doubt the noise we made kept them away.
When you get to the beach, there is no doubt that it is beautiful
with miles of sand and breaking waves.
As we took it in, a flock of Pelicans flew over the sea.
One of the attractions here are a group of stones
The encounter of fresh water
with the sea.
You see groups of nine holes.
Here ancient tribal people predicted
the future using quartz stones.
Even after 500 years
of erosion the traces of this
sacred place have not disappeared.
and this is one of the stones at the start of the "Nine Stone Trail". Although there were nine, now only four are in place. Each stone has a hole through the middle which it is said was made for observing the passage of the cosmos, possibly over 1000 years ago, by ancient indigenous groups.
The views from Nine Stone Trail and beautiful
and eventually you come across another of the stones
at a place called “The viewing point of the stars".
When I looked through the hole, I could not see the Cosmos
and I suspect the stone may have moved slightly over the past 1000 years.
Whilst on the trail, we came across a couple of walkers we had met somewhere else in the world before today.
The jungle behind the stones looks as a jungle should look. Hot steamy and hard to get through. It was a long way to go and there was a lot of waiting around to get into the park. However, the views were superb, the jungle was interesting and overall, it is an environment we have not seen elsewhere in the world.
The best online guide I have found to the Tayrona National Park is here. The link looks like it may go out of date fairly regularly and so if it does not work for you, I apologise.
A walk into Santa Marta
Having attended a lecture on the architecture of Santa Marta, we felt duty bound to walk into town even though the temperature at 3 pm was 32C. Walk slowly slowly slowly is the technique !
We went past the fairly unremarkable beach (with the Minerva in the distant background)
to a statue of Rodrigo de Bastidos where families have their photographs taken because he was the founder of the city.
As it seems in all cities in South America, there is a statue to Simon Bolivar
and a horrible building
directly opposite one of the nicest government buildings we have seen for a few days
This is the tax office
and has been decorated in a traditional style
and the crest above the door is beautifully picked out.
The back alleyways are interesting
the graffiti is somewhat artistic
and balconies (something we had been told to look out for) are starting to appear.
Around the corner is a square with many traditional looking buildings including
the Inglesia de San Francisco de Asis which from the front looks like a traditional church
but inside it looks a totally different style.
This is because the church burned down in the 1960s and was rebuilt but not in the original style.
Hence the stained glass looks relatively modern and there are concert girders holding the roof up.
We thought that the centre of Santa Marta was well worth a visit and is very different in style to the outskirts.
Unfortunately when we got back to the Minerva, it was afternoon tea with Black Forest Gateau on the menu. It would have been impolite to have refused a slice.
And at dusk, we left Santa Marta for the relatively short trip to Cartagena.