[:en]The 3 short days in Minca only wetted our appetite for nature, so we went directly to Tayrona National Park. We left the majority of our possessions at a small family run B&B outside of the park, and took only our day-packs, stuffed with camping supplies, food, and a change of clothes.

After a quick breakfast we rushed to the park entrance, eager to arrive early in order to have plenty of time to hike to the campsite. Greeted with a long line of impatient tourists, we looked at each other in surprise. It looked more like Disneyland than the entrance to a national park. Apparently, it was a bank holiday (I have to admit we didn’t even know it was the weekend, pitfall of travelling for extended lengths of time). The crowd was thronged with Colombians, mainly from the capital, escaping the hot overcrowded cities. We couldn’t do anything except wait.

An hour later we finally purchased our tickets and we ushered to the security checkpoint where they searched out bags. Food is expensive in the park so people try to sneak in as much as they can, but alcohol and flammable cooking gas are forbidden. We got off scot-free and paid 3k for a bus to take us further into the park.

After the bus, you either have to hire a horse for 30k or use your own 2 legs. Since the trek was only an hour and we could use the exercise after all the arepas we’d eaten in the last week, we hiked to Arrecifes. By the time we crested the last hill, we were drenched in sweat, our clothes sticking to us as we approached the San Andres camping grounds. After finding some blessed shade, we pitched our tent underneath a grove of palm trees only 50 meters from the beach.

We stayed two nights, and the day and a half was filled with magical forest walks and breathtaking snorkeling with thousands of colorful fish. The water was crystal clear. As I dove underneath the water, the visibility was so far and so crisp I could barely tell I had submerged. The world underneath the surface was bright and colorful, home to countless tropical fish that flitted from rock to rock. The sand glittered like gold, catching the sunlight and reflecting a dancing magical light that caressed my skin.

For the most part, we had the water all to ourselves. There are bays at Cabo and La Piscina, and a few smaller unnamed inlets that are perfectly safe, where we spent hours chasing fish and playing in the turquoise water. However, the current along the unprotected coast is very strong, the waves crashing thunderously. Apparently 100 people have drowned, so most of the coast is marked as a no-swim danger zone. As a result, most people were overly cautious, preferring to stay out of the water all together, leaving the tranquil bays for us to explore.

Next to Cabo bay, we discovered a covered path that hugged the coastline, leading all the way to the last beach. It was less crowded than the others, but had far more skin showing. We enjoyed our first nudist beach of the trip, spending the rest of the afternoon napping in the sand and playing in the calm waves of the sheltered cove.

We only bought one lunch in the park, otherwise we ate canned chili and bought a few cokes to wash it down. Even in the middle of nowhere, Coca Cola has managed to make a steal. We also hauled in the majority of the water we drank, finishing our last drop as we hiked back.

On the way out of the park we took a risk and chose the horse path. Used to transport goods and wealthier campers, it is only ½ an hour, is much shadier, and has only a mild incline. We walked cautiously, staying out of the way of trotting horses and bottleneck hazards. A few close calls later, we made it out the other end, passing the “no people allowed,” sign.  Laughing at the surprised look in the horsemen’s faces, we quickly moved away from the incriminating entrance. Nature Check. Camping check. Close calls, check. Always an adventure.

Lodging: San Andres Campsite (stayed in our own tent, but tents and hammocks available).
Cost: We spent 28,000 Colombian pesos (approximately $11) for 2 people for 2 nights, using out own equipment.
Kitchen: very shabby, we brought food that did not require cooking.
rating: 4/5

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