|Sunset in Cabo de la Vela|
So after taking in parts of Colombia's secluded Pacific coastal region* for our last 'voluntary' travels i.e. outside of visa renewals or specific events, this time around we headed back to the Caribbean, a part of Colombia we like to think we know very well. That's largely based on the fact that we've been to the 'highlight' city, Cartagena, on three separate occasions; taken in Sapzurro, Capurganá and Turbo (for more on the latter see http://bit.ly/SVtkWW); visited Santa Marta and stayed in Taganga; alongside travelling from Turbo via Cartagena to Maicao (that city's 'delights' are detailed here http://bit.ly/VG94Ho).
This time however we took in what might be described as a more tranquil side to this part of the country (the bustling port city of Santa Marta and the calmer Riohacha apart that is - not that there is anything wrong with both places. They’re just bigger cities but have their own charms too).
Palomino is described by many as Taganga of the 1990s; laid-back, reasonably priced and not very crowded with tourists. Of course, there is a risk that this could all change, especially as more people discover its treasures. What might keep some people away though is a constant strong ocean current, meaning a relaxing dip in the sea is not an option. However with two river estuaries a short distance away, there are natural places to have a cooling-off swim, along with gentle tubing on offer down said rivers.
Being able to relax on a beach without a host of people constantly trying to sell you things was enough for us; throw in an unexpected photo shoot of a Colombian model right next to ‘our’ sunbathing spot and we were more than happy with our time there.**
|Downtown Cabo de la Vela|
Now while Palomino is certainly a chilled out spot, the fact that it is just off the main road between the cities of Santa Marta and Riohacha ensures that it never feels completely cut off from ‘the real world’. The same cannot be said for Cabo de la Vela. To get here is less straightforward, where asphalt roads give way to desert expanse making everything look pretty much the same. But like many of these secluded locations, the extra bit of effort (not that it’s that difficult) to get there is worth it.
For our own journey, even the required transfer stop at the nondescript Cuatro Vías de Maicao turned out to be an unexpected delight – four free beers (we’ll never say no to that) from the street vendors there while we waited for the next leg of the trip were well received in the hot midday sun.
The town of Cabo de la Vela itself is, unsurprisingly, quite basic with that ‘tumbleweed style’ feel to it. There are, we estimate, a few hundred residents – after a day it feels like you know all of them and they know you – and it gets plenty of tourists passing through, mostly in December and January. However this is still very much Wayuú territory; unlike some other remote Colombian resorts we’ve visited, the indigenous here are the dominant force and haven’t been pushed to the margins. Indeed Spanish plays second fiddle to the Wayuú native tongue in these parts.
|A desert stroll|
The sport of kite surfing has found a suitable home here, with a never-ending strong gale blowing. There is also the option of taking a trip to Punta Gallinas, the furthest point north in South America. It’s approximately a two-hour jeep ride to get there and relatively costly; hence, on our tight budget, it was something we passed on this time. We like to give ourselves an excuse or two to return to such places.
|Atop of Pilón de Azúcar|
Returning to our inland abode of Bogotá was nice – we’re not going to disown it just yet – but this latest coastal adventure certainly gave us food for thought. Just more examples of the plethora of treasures Colombia has to offer.
* See 'Lesser-spotted Colombia: Bahía Solano' at http://bit.ly/X3lWpV.
**For more on that photo shoot, visit http://www.revistadonjuan.com/galerias/andrea-escobar-el-angel-colombiano-de-victorias-secret/12993587/0.
***Hostal Urbe is the name of this place. It's located about three blocks off the main road heading towards the beach, down from the tienda 'Donde Leopoldo'.