Hiking in Tayrona National Park, Colombia

| Johan van Rijswijck

From the jungle I hear a cacophony of sounds of animals. They wake up in the immense greenery, while the morning dew surrounds the forest like a veil. I am on the edge of Tayrona National Park. From the village of Calabazo we leave early in the morning for an impressive walk through the national park. We buy some more provisions and set off.

The home of the Kogi Indians

The first stage brings us to the village of Pueblito, a community of the indigenous Kogi culture, one of the four pre-Columbian cultures, living in the Tayrona National Park. Since we started our hike early, around six o'clock in the morning, we are the only ones on our way to Pueblito. We enjoy the relative coolness that the dawn brings us and follow the sandy path up. Almost all the time we walk in the shade of the rainforest and sniff the scents of the surrounding flowers and plants. Along the way we're watched by a small troop of capuchin monkeys pelting us with fruits. The capuchin monkey is one of the three species of monkeys that occur in this nature reserve. The red howler monkey and the rare piché monkey, complete the three. Although the Tayrona National Park with about 400.000 tourists, is the busiest natural park of Colombia, a visit to this area is absolutely worthwhile. Besides the playful monkeys, a variety of bird species can be spotted, and it is even possible to see a jaguar, although that chance is very small.

After two hours of walking we reach Pueblito. It is extinct here. According to our guide the inhabitants are working in the woods or on their fields. We greet some residents who are characterized by their white costumes. Although they are in daily contact with the western world, they know how to preserve their traditions and customs. We take a look at their houses with the characteristic round pointed roofs of palm leaves. The park has been privatized under strict conditions. The indigenous cultures can decide at any time that tourists are not allowed in the park, because they have a deliberation or an event and every year somewhere in the months of January and February the park is closed for a couple of weeks because it needs to be ritually cleaned.


The Idyllic beaches of Colombia

We move on and follow the route from Pueblito to Cabo San Juan del Guia. This route goes down again, but it doesn't get any easier. The walk along a wide sandy path changes more and more into jumping from stone to stone. In the meantime, we follow a small river towards the Caribbean coast. Along the way we meet more tourists who make the trip up and down to Pueblito from Cabo San Juan del Guia. After an hour of clambering and climbing through an enchantingly beautiful landscape, we reach the coast. It is here where this green wilderness, that connects the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada with the Caribbean coast, plunges into the azure blue sea, occasionally interrupted by idyllic beaches.


By now the sun is high in the sky and it is sweltering. The high humidity makes that our T-shirts are soaked. Arriving at Playa del Cabo, we take an invigorating swim in the lovely seawater. Not much later we continue our way to Tayrona Ecohabs. This is the best place to stay in the national park, consisting of villas on the coast, surrounded by the rainforest and built in the style of the traditional houses in Pueblito. The walk to the accommodation takes another hour or so and the route takes us along a dirt track again, this time with little difference in altitude. The path leads us alternately through the forest and along the coast with beautiful views over vast beaches.

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