From where you’d rather be: on the Caribbean Coast. 21st and 22nd August 2014
The day got off to a slow start as we all sort of slept in and the girls from yesterday needed to grab some things from the shops. By the time we were waiting at the bus stop it was already 11 and half the day had gone already. Not that we were in any hurry but it would definitely be easier to be waiting by the side of the main road when it’s not the hottest part of the day.
The thing about buses here is that I’m never really sure when to pay; to the driver when you board the bus, to the driver when you get off the bus, or to the conductor who comes past your seat at some point during the bus ride.
By the time we got on there were no seats left so were had to stand in the aisle. It’s only about 45 mins to the park entrance so not so bad to be standing. Suddenly I heard my name being called and looked up to see 2 of the American guys from Paragliding sitting at the back of the bus…it’s times like this you realise how all tourists are basically all on the same trip.
At one point during the bus ride, the guy beside me tapped me on the should and motioned for me to bob down; looking down the bus it’s what all the other standing passengers had done. I think it had something to do with passing a checkpoint and possibly not having to pay extra for additional passengers? Who knows, really.
The park entrance fee is 38 thousand pesos, or 8 thousand if you’re a student. Well of course im going to try use my outdated student card to get in for a quarter of the price! This is the first place I’ve ever had issues with my student card that has the expiry date scratched off – usually they never check. Turns out you have to have your passport, be under 26 AND have a valid student card (all with you) to be eligible for the student price. Bummer. I had 2.5 of the 3 items.
If I had bothered to look at a map before this day trip I would have known that it was going to be a long, long walk. But of course I didn’t and I rocked up to the park in my plastic $4 kmart thongs. From the park entrance (El Zaino), we all took a short shuttle bus to the start point of the walk (Canaveral). From there, I understood it’d be an hour stroll to the La Piscina beach. For your benefit, I’ve included a picture of the map below: look at the names in the top right part of the map.
It wasn’t a flat path either, there were loads of ups, downs and more ups, between rocks, through branches etc. Thongs were NOT the best shoe choice. I’ve never been so happy to get to a beach before! I basically ran towards the water. The walk took over 90 mins so by the time we got there, we were only able to spend an hour at the beach before having to do the 90 mins walk (read: hike or traumatic punishment) back to catch the last bus out. Yep, should’ve woken up earlier. Since I hated the walk so much on the way in, and had had to fork out 4 times as much for the entrance fee as I had planned for, I was not prepared to leave the park after only 1 hour of relaxation. New plan: ask the girls to tell the hostel I’d be staying an extra night when they got back and I’d stay in a hammock at the next beach along for tonight. Only problems were that I’d planned for a day trip so I didn’t have my toothbrush, change of clothes, towel or extra money, and I was still paying for a night in the hostel as all my stuff was unpacked and thrown all over my dorm bed. Oh well, there was absolutely NO way I was about to do that walk again.
After an additional hour on the beach at La Piscina, the 2 American guys and I walked to the next beach across, Cabo San Juan, where the campsite was. As it happened, there were no hammocks left by the time I arrived and tents were 25 thousand per person (the same price as the guys were paying to share a tent). I was checking in at the same time as some other random guy and as were we being walked to our tent(s?) I had to wonder if we were going to share a tent or get one each. Surprise new best friend? Luckily I got my own tent J
Dinner that night was pretty average pasta served with a side of salada-type biscuit. Sunset was stunning – like a 3d postcard! Tried lying on the beach to look at the stars, which would have been so lovely except that there were clouds and you couldn’t actually see any stars. Still, just sitting on the beach listening to the waves is super calming.
The number of times I’ve been camping before is so low you would probably round down to zero, or a negative number if you include how I feel about being outdoors. So that night was, well, interesting. As I hadn’t planned on staying, I hadn’t brought a small pillow or anything else to sleep with. Sarongs are brilliant, though the question was, do I lie on it so I didn’t have to sleep directly on the filthy foam mattress, or do I use it as a blanket? In the end I didn’t sleep all that well cos I wanted it to do both things and it just wasn’t big enough, but on the up side, being in a tent meant no extra mosquito bites through the night. The other problem was that I have an over-active imagination and the lack of proper walls worried me slightly; ever single sound I could hear made me think someone or a massive insect was about to tear my tent down and eat me alive while I battled my sarong situation.
The next morning, I was forced to wake up super early because of all the natural light shinning through the tent. Sigh, I guess I’ll have to sleep on the beautiful beach…how terrible 😛 Skipped breakfast due to the disappointment of last night’s dinner and went straight to lie on the beach. The beach around Cabo San Juan is simply gorgeous. There are 2 small bays with a peninsular between them that also has an area of hammocks (with an amazing view). What I’ve learnt since coming back is that this is the picture that’s on the front cover of the Colombia Lonely Planet. If I had known at the time I would have tried taking the exact same photo. The sea is not overly salty and the water is crystal clear and the perfect temperature. So, so beautiful!
The rest of the day was just filled in with finishing the book I’d brought with me and getting minor sun burn from staying in the same spot for too long. I was meant to start walking back at 1pm but I was still hating the idea of having to repeat the walk so I was talked into catching the speed boat back to a town nearby at 4pm. The boat ride left me with a mere 4,000 pesos (2 bucks) cash – the ONE TIME I decided against taking too much money with me L
Most of the afternoon I was planning just to get on the boat and work out payment later. Luckily I checked with some other travellers around 3 as I needed to buy a ticket from “the black guy with the hand patterned T-shirt” who was hanging somewhere around the bar. The boat, which was only meant to seat like, 26 people, ended up carrying around 40 back to the town. It was incredibly uncomfortable and ranks a definite 2nd (after the walk to the beach) as things I do not want to do again. There was even less room for my feet/legs than on those tiny city collectivo buses. And as people had to step in the water to get on the boat, the seat I was sitting in had large sand/tiny pebbles on it from people’s feet. The whole boat ride I could feel these pebbles creating little holes in my butt. Super uncomfortable. We were packed so tightly together I didn’t realise I was soaking wet until we stopped and I stood up!
I was fortunate enough to have been talking to some German girls who were staying in Taganga (the town the boat dropped us at) as they knew where the one and only town ATM was – I didn’t have enough to catch a taxi home and wasn’t about to get on a bus dripping wet. Reading the Lonely Planet later, I found out that that ATM doesn’t accept most foreign cards…Win for the Commbank travel card I have!
I was very happy to find out that all my stuff was still in the room and I had a booking for that night when I returned to the hostel. Even though I’d spent the whole day lying on the beach I was still super exhausted when I got back and was glad to be able to sleep on a proper bed again.