Dispatch: Tayrona National Park in Colombia
PHOTO: The Ecohabs in Tayrona National Park were the climactic high point of G Adventures Caribbean Colombia Express. (Photo by David Cogswell)
After a full day of hiking and swimming on Wednesday, the most active day of the trip so far, the G Adventures Caribbean Colombia Express scheduled a free day for rest, beach time or exploration. We headquartered in the town of Taganga at the Ocean hotel, just up the block from the beach. The next day it was off to Tayrona National Park for the tour’s climactic peak.
After breakfast we packed into a van and headed out for Tayrona. After a couple of hours' drive we found ourselves at the gate of the park. We dropped our luggage off at the Ecohabs, a cluster of individual accommodations in the national park. Check-in time was at 3 p.m. and we had hours for exploration before we would move in to our mountainside domiciles.
Our fearless leader and chief experience officer Maria led us along a path through the forest toward the ocean a short walk from the Ecohabs. We followed a walkway at the edge of the forest along the shoreline. We saw some monkeys in the trees above us, lots of lizards including some with brilliant shiny blue heads, and ants that carry pieces of leaves in long processions that are easily visible to the human eye as you walk along. We heard many bird sounds but didn’t spot many of them.
The pathway led all the way to a swimming beach at the end of the park, past many amazing beaches along the way. Most parts of the ocean were far too ferocious for swimming but their power and beauty was mesmerizing to observe. Some of the beaches were designated as safe for swimming.
One member of our group had a pedometer and by the end of the day it indicated 10 miles to the end and back, including whatever other walking she did that day. The shore walk must have been about four miles each way.
At some parts of the path there were wooden plank walkways a foot high for the rainy season when the ground is normally covered with water. This year, though we were in the rainy season, the areas were all dry.
At some places, wooden-planked stairways were in place to help in walking up or down steep inclines. Most of the path was just well-packed earth. There were concessions at various points along the way, rustic little restaurants or food stands, and places where natives of the area sold various items such as coconuts that were chopped open with a machete so you could drink the milk right out of the fruit.
There was a horseback concession where you could take a horse for a ride, with pretty horses saddled and waiting for their next passenger.
The walk took us through a range of terrain. The beaches were the most spectacular part, but also the hottest in the open tropical sunshine of midday. So the coolness of the forest was a welcome relief when you entered into the shelter of the trees.
When we came near our destination, the swimming beach at the southern tip of the park, we ordered some fresh fish from a vendor. He brought it to us on the beach after it had been prepared. It was an ideal swimming beach. The water was cool enough to steam the heat out of your body and there was ample shade to stay out of the sun and plenty of sun if you wanted that.
After eating, swimming, resting, exploring or lounging on the beach, it was time for the walk back up the trail to the Ecohabs. By the time we reached them it would be past check-in time.
We were told to allow about three hours for the walk. We made it in more like two without hurrying. At points along the way there were signs telling you what percentage of the walk you had completed so far — 20 percent, 40 percent, 75 percent, etc. It gave you a sense of your progress and how much farther you had to go.
When we reached the Ecohabs our luggage was already in our cabins. They were taken as triple shares so we were assigned same-sex roommates. The huts, as they are called, are spectacular. They were by far the most luxurious accommodations we had had on the trip so far. They really broke the mold.
In general the hotels on the tour were chosen for location, either proximity to the beach or to the center of the city action and nightlife, and a few other qualifications. They were simple, good sleeping quarters for active travelers who were not planning on lounging in the room much during the day.
Besides location, local color and friendliness that they all had good air conditioning and good Wi-Fi. The Ecohabs had all that and much more. They provided a glorious climax to the trip. After that it would be a drive to Santa Marta, a closing dinner in preparation for individual departures the next day.
The Ecohabs huts are brilliant, ingenious beauties with cone-like thatched roof in the Colombian style using palm leaves woven together. They are double decker constructions with a lower, open section for lounging and an upper walled-in section for sleeping.
The bottom section is built on stone floors, with a lowered area in the middle furnished with a wooden table with two chairs, a refrigerator-minibar and a luxurious bathroom. Surrounding the middle pit is a higher level of stone with cushions on the rim creating comfy benches. On the higher level is another table and chairs. And hanging from the wooden stilts that support the upper level are two hammocks.
A wooden staircase leads from the lower level to the higher level, which is built on top of a dozen wooden stilts and the bathroom.
The bedroom is a heavenly domain for sleeping, resting, reading or lounging. It was built with rich reddish-brown woodwork, open air ventilation and a ceiling fan hanging down from the thatched roof. A pair of broad doors open onto an ocean view and turn the room into an open breezeway. Patches of the nearby ocean were visible from our upstairs window, and the rhythmic rush of waves was always audible.
It was a taste of five star luxury in the wilderness of Tayrona, and a stupendous climax for the tour.
More by David Cogswell
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