While Santa Marta may not always be a final destination, it is certainly a starting point for and resting place after many a wonderful adventure – Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona included. Approximately 30 minutes from Santa Marta’s center and at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Parque Tayrona’s lush, Caribbean coastline offers Colombians and foreigners alike much relaxation, after the initial hike, of course, and minus the many lines and ankle-nibbling sand ants (beware).
We arrive to Parque Tayrona by taxi, splitting the cost between four people (90,000 COP ~$30). Privy to the high visitor volume and wanting to secure lodging for the night, we leave SM at 8 AM. After a brief informational video and the first of many lines, this one for our tickets (42,000 COP ~$14 for foreigners; 8,500 COP ~$3 for students and kids), we catch a small bus (3,000 COP ~$1) to the start of a 2-hour hike to our beach of choice, Cabo San Juan, passing a few others along the way. Our friend at the reception booth is not having it today and with little interest, he tells us to return at 1:30 PM to get a hammock for the night (20,000 COP ~$6.67 x 2 nights). He fails to mention that the line forms about an hour prior, so when we look up from our shaded places under some trees to see a line of people waiting for hammocks, tents, cabanas, oh my… we follow suit.
There’s this weird trust and/or carelessness thing in which we and others partake, and we leave the majority of our things (minus camera and wallet) in and around our hammocks, hoping that they’ll be there upon our return – backpacks marinating in the sand and clothes hanging off ropes. Our items go untouched, but we do use the lockers (free with own lock) the next day, when we visit a nearby beach.
During the day, we do nothing more than swim and sunbathe. I work on advancing my morena while A shows sunburn who’s boss with SPF infinity. The both of us enjoy our failed attempts at underwater photos. At a nearby beach, a young guy in his barest of selves asks me to take his photograph, chatting with us for a brief moment. Uhh, he knows he’s naked, right? Because no one else is. We look on curiously as he prances away. Perhaps everyone else missed the memo about the nude beach, or maybe they weren’t as brave as our friend, here. Guess who later sleeps in a hammock near ours? Jordi, with a friendly smile and sweet demeanor, tells us he is visiting from Baranquilla. He is clothed this time, partially.
Twilight draws the overnighters out of the water and onto the line for the showers, after which they will wait in another line for dinner, the only meal we decide to purchase during our stay. Peanut butter sandwiches and fruits keep us throughout the day. Budget. travel. At night, many convene by the water, engaging in song and conversation. By this point, the park’s young workers have traded their uniforms for their non-work attire (aka another shirt) and they sit on plastic chairs, legs stretched out, with a cooler of Aguila at their feet, introducing us all to the rhythms of vallenato and champeta. Orlando in his white tank and knee-length denim teaches me the dances, one pegado, the other, suavecito, he says. But let’s be honest. When is Latin American dance not pegado? On night two, A and I spend our evening howling at the moon. By howling, I mean singing some oldies-but-goodies, which our Polish hammock neighbor seems to enjoy. He, too, joins in. We return to an empty Santa Marta, by bus, the next morning (7,000 COP ~$2.30), decorated in Parque Tayrona’s Earth (read: ashy).