I didn't know we could sweat this much...
26.06.2016 - 03.06.2016
After our downpour on our first night in San Gil, things improved a lot...
The first day we just spent relaxing and getting the lay of the land.. explored the local supermarket and found we could buy a litre of rum for $16NZD!
And it wasn't bad either... Makes for passing the time while pouring with rain each afternoon much more fun
Day two we headed to Curiti, a small nearby town to go caving, in the Cow Cave. Apparently named as the locals were losing cows to the drop into the cave (which now has a ladder).
The cave begins with a 'military crawl' through some surprisingly cold water, and then opens up into a series of 5 rooms with stalactites and mites. It was pretty cool, and even involved some underwater swimming to get from one room to another, while pulling yourself with a rope. Richard managed to pull the "I'm too big for that tunnel" card for one low crawl, and took the high road (where you could walk like a normal person, directly over the top of the rest of us crawling on our hands and knees through a tight spot). All in all a good morning out. The couple from Bogota who came through the cave with us kindly gave us a ride back to our hostel (well a block from it, as the street its on is probably steeper than Baldwin street and not suitable for cars), so we weren't soaking wet on the bus.
Final day in San Gil was marked with a rafting trip, along some grade 4 and 5 rapids, with a bunch of UK Drs and a Frenchie. We were the only ones who had been rafting before and the others were suitably nervous. The rapids were pretty fun, and we only had one man overboard. I did manage to headbutt Richard with my helmet.... twice... while we were going down some big rapids. I also managed to wear my paddle accross my thigh at one point. Naturally now my leg has a bruise the size of my hand, and Richard's face is unscathed.
Each afternoon in San GIl was passed with further milkshakes, and eventually a meal at the same restaurant, so it was lucky we were only there for 3 days, as my god those portions were huge!
After rafting we had time for a final quick milkshake, before heading to the bus terminal. While doing a final clean up at the hostel, the owners cat sprayed Richards pack, and so we got a free taxi ride to the bus station out of it.
This was to be our first Colombian night bus, and we didn't have high hopes.. It was not great - like a normal NZ long distance bus but the seats went back further. Not much space. Richard quickly figured if he pulled his windfleece over his face it doubled as a blanket and an eye mask, and claims he slept like a log. Me not so much..
Arrived in Santa Marta, and got a ride with surprising difficultly to the hostel - eventually getting grossly over charged as it was "sunday". We figured it was probably as it was so close by. But when its 9am and already >28 degrees with 95% humidity we weren't walking ANYWHERE.
That day was spent in the hostel pool half asleep, and was exactly what we needed.
From there we tried to calculate our next move - to go stay in Tayrona National Park (which everyone said was amazing), or go diving in Targanga (which everyone said was super cheap). Eventually NP won, and so we went to the supermarket and bought 5L of water in preparation.
That evening we met a Kiwi/Dutch couple Josh/Wanda who had been living in Chch but now moving to Amsterdam. After spending the whole evening chatting, and able to extend the conversation beyond recent travel activities, we aimed to head to the park together the following day.
In reality we left an hour before them, as our whole dorm was up, and by 8am it was stupidly hot again. We won the transport lottery and got ourselves what ended up being a private collectivo (share taxi) to the point where you start walking, where as the others got squashed onto a local bus and couldn't sit down, almost dying of heat.
Getting into the National park was not as straight forward as we thought it should be - there were no signs explaining anything, so I lined up to pay for entrance, which I was refused until we had watched some conservation video and gotten a ticket to say we had done so.. so went back to do that, at which point our dirver got in an argument with ticket man about having to wait for us, so I was recalled to be told to go and sit down again, and then recalled again and finally allowed to pay our entry fee and given wrist bracelets for the two of us. Meanwhile Richard actually did see the entire video anyway.
Finally walking time... I did not know we could sweat that much. God it was HOT! Sweat was running down into our eyes within minutes of starting. We did see some cool lizards and hear plenty of cool insects and see some monkeys though. All up we walked for 2 hours, and we vowed that after this trip we were not going to go hiking again in this heat.
On arrival to the beach we threw ourselves in the sea and eventually cooled off, before finding ourselves some shade under a few palm trees, settling in and reading our books.
Josh and Wanda arrived around hammock check in time, so we all got our beds lined up pretty nearby, and then it was back to the beach. Managed to while away the whole afternoon reading and swimming on the beach. It was great. Somehow we managed to get burnt, despite sunscreen and being in the shade all day.
(And applying heaps of sunscreen, which was sweated off pretty quick!)
Evening time and the four of us played some cards, drank some beers, and generally had a good time. Then it was off to the hammocks for the night. Other than feeling that my knee was getting a bit hyperextended I slept surprisingly well!
So next day we started off with more of the same - beach and book. The area felt much less busy than it had the day before which was quite nice.
All too soon it was time to head off, so the four of us started out and all sweating within seconds. It was ridiculous!
On our walk our we met this girl who was dragging her wheelie bag behind her. So this track goes up and down, has stairs, goes across some rocks and 2 beaches, and she was making the easy bit look hard. We tried to tell her that it wasn't worth it and she should hire a horse, but later while waiting for our collectivo to leave, we heard that she had continued anyway and still making it loo just as hard.
Hilariously, on this NP trip we met more Kiwis that we had our entire trip - there was another group of 8. They had been organised and prebooked their transfer from Tayrona to Palomino. We were slightly ahead of them on the walk out, but naturally jumped on the opportunity to get a direct ride to Palomino with promise of a real seat. Little did we realise, but we had hijacked their private transfer.. ops!
But we did make it to Palomino after a bit of a wait, and eventually found our hostel (which was about as far away from the beach as you could get). Luckily Wanda and Josh has a hostel close to the beach with a pool. We spent enough time there that the staff probably thought we lived there too.
After settling into our hostel we went for a wander around town and down the beach, quickly establishing that there was very little to town, and that the beach was a bit like New Brighton with a 20degree temperature increase. All this time we were supervised by our hostel dog, who we named Jaffa. Now Jaffa walked with us for about 2 hours, through town, down the beach. chasing waves, he came into a restaurant, he came into Josh and Wanda's hostel and supervised Richard while he swam lengths in the pool, and then walked us home. It was hilarious!
That night, we had pizza, at what would be the best pizza restaurant we have been to in all south america. It was delicious!
While we were there the evening rain started.. and continued.. and then the power went out. We hadn't bought our torches as after careful consideration we decided there were enough street lights not to warrant it. In the end. it was closer to our hostel than theirs, but even still our walk home was pretty dicey, filled with fireflies, and my brief wonder about whether there would be snakes. Wanda and Josh also had to contend with puddles that took up the entire road, but were kindly given a flaming beer can as a light to get home... not sure it helped.
The next morning we had another walik down the beach, and then planned to go tubing down the river - kind of like Vang Veing, but more BYO styles and no slides. Sadly our plans were derailed by early rain and thunder and lightning, so the afternoon was passed with Yatzee instead. This time the power seemed to hold out, but we headed home in a break in the rain before it got dark to avoid a repeat performance.
Take two at tubing was the following morning - good weather, no overnight rain and so we were off! Seemed slightly odd to be buying beers at 9:30am, but totally worth it after the 30min walk over a hill to get to the river entrance. But once we were there, the river was cold and amazing.
Navigation was slightly hilarious, as we kept ending up sucked into the trees on the edges without a lot of forward paddling. But was a good morning out, even if we did get a little burnt.
After that it was seafood on the beach time - delicious prawns two days running, and then bus to Santa Marta. Man the bus was hot when it stopped. Like unbelievably hot!
In Santa Marta, Richard and I said a temporary goodbye to Wanda and Josh - who will join us again in San Andres, and got ourselves a collectivo up to Minca. But first we went to the mall and we are now the proud owners of matching long sleeved rash tops haha.
Arriving in Minca was interesting - it was well after dark, and the driver dropped us off, and then said just walk up this road and then take a right up the track.. so we did, in the dark, head torches well buried, into what quickly became a mud track, and then a staircase.
We did eventually find our hostel and settled in for the night.
Today we went for a wander in and around the village and on nearby roads, with the plan to go to a swimming hole this afternoon. We picked up some delicious ham bread around lunchtime and headed home for a brief rest before continuing for the afternoon. Here our plans were derailed by the POURING rain. The staircase was a river within seconds, and the rain continued for 2 hours. Some girls arrived in the middle of it, after initially being lost as they thought the staircase was an aquaduct.
Hopefully tomorrow we will head out bird watching and maybe go swimming in the afternoon. But mostly we are just grateful for a respite from the heat - man Palomino was HOT.
Following that we will head to Cartagena on Sunday to get our flights out to the islands for Richard's birthday.
Oh and we finally have heard that all our Bolivian efforts have paid off and we have GP interviews! Win!