The bus driver yelled Tayrona! and the bus came to a halt.
A handful of women from Spain and ourselves collected our things and disembarked. Parque Nacional Tayrona is a preserved space directly on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. We backpacked in with only the essentials: tent, pad, sleeping bags, food and water. We were on the path to camp at a little spot called Arrecifes. The day was hot and humid. Not just your normal hot and humid but the kind where you see sweat pouring out of pores you didn’t know you had.
When we decided to do this backpacking trip it was literally the morning of and we didn’t know much about what was ahead. Needless to say, it was absolutely and outrageously beautiful. The dense rain forest gave way to the untouched looking coast line. Big boulders the size of small houses create unique points on many of the beaches. We spent the majority of the day hiking and swimming in the water that is nearly as warm as the air. Throughout our hikes we spotted many ants on a mission to collect leaves, lizards fashioning the brightest colors, and monkeys gorging themselves with fresh coconut. To end the day, we watched the storm clouds roll in and then proceed to light up the sky with lightning. It dumped rain and then lingered with flashing lights and intense humidity. While falling asleep, we came to the conclusion sleeping bags can be left behind while camping on the Caribbean coast.
Waking up to rain patter under the thatched roof where we’d put up our tent was a reassuring sound. Especially when a deluge of rain accompanied with thunder and lightning rolled in above us. We stayed in the tent a majority of the morning watching the rain fall around us. As we contemplated our current situation, we realized we had just enough funds to get back to Santa Marta, no ponchos, and a drenched rainforest to hike through. At one point, we could see the lightning directly above us, followed closely by snapping thunder that sounded like a chorus of cannons booming through the leaves. Mother nature showing her force wasn’t encouraging for the hike back to the entrance.
Eventually we scavenged a couple spare trash bags from the camp manager and wrapped the essentials (passport, money, camera gear etc.). Stuffing the trash bags inside our packs with the pack covers over it all, we decided to sludge through the mud. After committing to soaked clothes, we got to enjoy a different path back, passing by the indigenous population of Tayrona. The rainforest canopy is so thick the sky turned from thunder clouds to a consistent green.
The wildlife is abundant in Tayrona (especially the mosquitoes). We were lucky to see a troop of Capuchin monkeys moving away from the storm early in the evening on the first day. Crocodiles, anaconda, and even a small family of jaguars are known to live in the park. Even though we had hoped to see all of these, luck wasn’t on our side in such a short amount of time.
Although the park doesn’t do the student discount fee any longer, the adult fee of 42,000 COP (approx. $15 US) was worth the overnight experience. Visiting the park during the low season was a blessing because although there were still people on the trails, we would’ve been amongst the crowds if it was high season. We imagine high season being comparable to Yosemite Valley in the summer. Overall, Tayrona delivered on its expected jungle experience. The breathtaking beaches and jungle humidity pulled us away from the crowds of the city and into nature. It’s hard to find anything wrong with that.