Tag Archives: Tayrona

Saguinus Oedipi

From the moment we fell off our horses on arrival at Tayrona, Lynn’s mantra had been, “I will not get back on a horse.  I will not ride a horse back to the parking lot.”

She was also sure that, if we walked, we would never find our way—a reasonable assumption given our track record.  We had been told there was an “easy” walking path back to the parking lot.  Hmm. Easy enough to pull roller bags for an hour?

After breakfast, Lynn approached the young man at reception and informed him that we wanted to send our bags back by horse, and that we would like a guide to walk with us to the parking lot.  He smiled as one would smile at a small child who has said something cute but dumb.

“There is no need for a guide.  The path is so easy,” he said slowly, as if English was our second language.

Lynn protested and began to insist, and I wandered off.  I can’t bear conflict if it seems low stakes to me.  I was willing to try the path.  It couldn’t possibly be like the one to the Cabo the day before.  Right?

And it wasn’t.  In the end, the young man wore Lynn down and we walked by ourselves.  I’m so glad we did, otherwise I would have felt bad making a guide stop every two minutes while I took photos of the magnificent sea views.

I saw some strange tracks in the sand. Snakes? Crabs?  No, turtles!

We didn’t see any turtles but it would be fun to be here when the hatchlings emerge.

The path really was flat and easy at the beginning.  “Capybara!” I shouted as one ran through this tunnel of hedge.  I was so glad Lynn got a glimpse of one.

This spectacular beach had, literally, a red flag.

And here is why—it’s a killer beach where more than 100 people have drowned.

Signs often tell you where a destination’s visitors are from.  This one is in Spanish, Italian, English, German, French, and Hebrew.  The English isn’t a great indicator because most travelers will speak some travel English.  I know Israelis get around, but Colombia?  It’s such a long way for them. Maybe that’s the point.  I wondered why there was no Portuguese translation.

We passed one untamed, unpopulated beach after another.  “In five years,” I commented, “I bet you will see throngs of people here, at least at the safer ones.”

The path began to climb, but there were stairs and handrails. Why hadn’t we been directed to this option coming in?  Maybe we had.  Who knows?  It would have made for such a more pleasant first impression.

I was smitten with these huts in the distance.  It turned out that a former colleague would stay here in two weeks’ time and they were more “luxury huts.”

There were plenty of signs on this path.  I found it amusing they were addressed to “Mr. Visitor.”

Farther on, someone had carved in a correction to make it “Dear Visitor.”

There was some fairly steep climbing up and down stairs and roller bags would have been out of the question, so sending them via horseback had been a good compromise.

After an hour we descended onto a flat board walk which led to the parking lot.  We stopped to read the signs about the animals we had never seen.

“Crax Alberti.  Hmmm.  I wonder who that was named for?”  I commented.  “I wonder how many birds and animals and plants were named for Prince Albert during Victoria’s reign.”

“Oh, hundreds, I should think,” replied Lynn, reading the next sign.

Saguinus Oedipus.  Smart mother fucker,” Lynn pronounced.  Lynn is rarely crude so this caught me off guard and I laughed as we walked on.

At 9am sharp, we emerged to meet our driver from three days before, waiting with our bags loaded into his truck.

“How was it?  Did you enjoy Tayrona?” he asked in Spanish, and I told him we had loved it.  I didn’t mention the horseback ride or the fire ants or cockroaches or the heat stroke.

We settled into silence for the five-hour drive to Cartagena.


There’s a 1969 movie called “If it’s Tuesday, This must be Belgium.”  It features an ensemble of B List actors who play Americans touring nine European countries in 18 days.

Which is kind of how I felt in Colombia.  There were seven flights in nine days, three major cities, and one major jungle misadventure involving a horseback ride over boulders and a Bataan Death March-type hike which led to a case of possible sun stroke.

I kept having these moments where I didn’t know where I was.  Was I in Italy?  Spain? El Salvador? Oh, that’s right—I’m in Medellin—if this is Tuesday I must be in Medellin.  I kept consulting my damp, crinkled print-out of the tour to re-orient myself.

After seeing Israel and Portugal and Cuba on group tours with packed, dawn-to-midnight itineraries, I swore I would never travel that way again.  And those are small countries.  Colombia is twice as big as Texas and has twice as many people.  Colombia is five times bigger than the UK!

The thing is to know what you’re getting into and to set your expectations accordingly.  I knew I would probably not get enough sleep and have to push myself.  I knew I could do this for nine days. I gave myself permission to say “no” to some things that were on the itinerary and not feel guilty or like I had wasted my money by not doing something I’d already paid for.

And you know what?  It was fine.  It was a great way to get an introduction to the country.

Best of all, it was hot and humid.  I didn’t need to use Chapstick or hand lotion once.  The hacking cough I’d had for months went away.  My hair went crazy curly.  I got sun burned.  I know that’s bad, but I don’t care!

And now, back to reality.  My brother picked me up at the airport.  He had my down puffer coat and gloves ready for me in the passenger seat.  I picked up my car at his house; it was splattered with dirty slush from the snow plows.  I stopped to pick up milk for my morning coffee at Super America and laughed at that name.  A bundle of mail was crammed into the mailbox, mostly junk. The house was cold and dark; I felt grateful for central heating as I heard the whoosh of the furnace responding instantly to me cranking up the thermostat. I left the milk on the front porch rather than turn on the empty fridge just yet.

I often come back from trips with goals for things to do/do differently.  After being in a jungle, my return goal is to more than double my plant population—from 17 to 40.  None of my plants had died, which I took as a good sign that I could achieve my goal.

It was midnight.  I had been in transit since catching my ride to the airport in Cartagena at 10:30 that morning.  I leaned against my bedroom doorway and gazed lovingly at my bed.  My bed!  Oh, how I had missed it. Every bed in Colombia had been like sleeping on a wooden plank.  In Medillin, the beds were so creaky I had to wear ear plugs so I wouldn’t wake up every time I rolled over. In the jungle, the mattress was narrow and only inches off the floor.  I kept waking up to pull my arm back from the edge of the mattress.  I had seen giant cockroaches, spiders, and grasshoppers; and geckos, in the bath when I turned the light on.  I assumed they were lurking in the dark under my bed, just waiting to run up my hand.

I thought about unpack but I couldn’t face the smelly, dusty clothes I’d been wearing for nine days.

I did pull out a few special gifts I had bought for my son, the cook.  For instance, this snack that was sold on the street—Big-Bottomed Ants.

I’ll write a lot more about Colombia, but for now, here’s one thing they want you to know: