We awoke the next morning to cloudy skies and choppy seas. Not the greatest of weather for an island hopping adventure. We were desperately hoping it would clear up for the next 4 days.
The rest of the group who we would be doing the trip with were arriving and after meeting them we all made the 20 minute boat ride to Sapzuro. The boats were small and packed down with our gear and were precariously floating quite low to the water line. Everyone pretty much got soaked as the sea was rather rough.

From first impressions we seemed to have a really great bunch of people on our tour and we were pleasantly surprised that we were not the oldest. Not even close actually which was a nice change. We started discussing our trips over on the ferry from Nicocli and apparently we had a dream of a trip with theirs being ridiculously rough and everyone getting wet. Also their first impression of Capurgana was nothing like our experience as it was cloudy and wet. 

Sapzuro is a teeny tiny village maybe half as big as Capurgana. Although nice in our opinion it definitely wasn’t a patch on Capurgana. But again it wasn’t the nicest of weather so maybe our view may have changed if the sun was out. 

After dumping our stuff at the hostel we went for a walk and a swim. On the way we saw a camera crew interviewing some people. Apparently they were Cubans who were effectively stranded as Panama has closed its borders to them. The reason being that Cubans who want to illegally get into America travel to Venezuela into Colombia and then catch a boat into Panama and from there travel overland and get into the USA via Mexico. The Panamanian government found out so shut their border to Cubans. So these Cubans are stranded in Colombia where they can’t stay but can’t get back to Cuba because they don’t have enough money. I know what they are doing is illegal but my heart goes out to them as their life at home is so bad that they feel they have to go to these extremes to get a better life. Makes it hit home again how truly lucky we are.

After our swim we then went back to the hostel and started getting to know everyone over a few beverages and we ended up at the billiard hall. Hard to believe a town of this size had a billiard hall but we took full advantage of that. We spent the night mostly with Louie and Stevie a couple from Sydney and Chris and Hattie an English couple. I think it is definitely going to be an awesome trip. Just hope the weather improves. S

As you can see the waves where bigger than the boat!

Ready for the adventure.

One of the beaches of Sapzuro. There was a rather large police presence there due to the border being so close. They still have issues with drug smugglers on this border as it would be very easy to either boat it across or trek through the jungle.

View of the town.

Day 2 in Paradise

Well today wasn’t the most active of days by any stretch of the imagination. There was no climbing of mountains or visiting of museums or sacred places. In fact we went and laid down on the beach and went for the occasional dip in the crystal clear waters before coming back to our towels and laying back down.
Well there was a little stroll (certainly couldn’t be described as a hike) and we managed to find some idyllic places to eat. The local specialty is seafood cooked in “salsa de coco” basically a curry and served with some coconut rice, it is just so delicious!!
The pace of life here makes laid back look like rush hour!! It’s definitely got a Caribe feel to it and the people are really lovely. I don’t know what everyone used to do here (I am guessing fishing) but they all seem to be embracing tourism very much.
Everywhere there is building going on and a lot of the places have been turned into hotels, hostels and b&bs. It’s obviously the quiet season because a lot of the restaurants are shut and mysteriously there are a couple of massive hotels which have turned to ruin.
It’s a tiny place and I am glad we are here when it’s quiet as I have a feeling too many people may spoil it a little. I love the fact that there are no cars, just the odd motorbike but horse and cart is definitely the most used mode of transport.
The horses, when they are not pulling the carts, are left free to roam the streets!! It’s quite fantastic to see them wandering about wherever they please and then when the owners want them back they wander around until they find them. It’s all quite surreal and we are often left staring at them in amazement.
It’s amazing in a setting like this that even with no hot water our hostel has some of the fastest internet connections we have had so far in South America. I am guessing that while Colombia might have been forced to fall behind some other countries in the past, now that the shackles are coming off the only way is up for this beautiful country!!
Just so sad to leave and can’t wait to get back!! T

Going for a stroll with a horse, as you do!

Slightly rougher waters today

Just stunning coastline to walk along

Enjoying a cool down

The guys hard at work.

A few pictures of the horse and carts. As you can see there is a lot of parking them up and sitting for a chat!

How else would you carry your electrical cable.

Nighttime in Capurgana. Lots of sitting outside and drinking beer.

Capurgana = Paradise

We went down to the dock early to make sure we didn’t miss out on ferry tickets and sat watching the dock boys working while eating breakfast and drinking coffee. There are a lot more black people along the Caribbean coast of Colombia so the physic has changed from Latino who are short, to big and tall and muscly. Needless to say I didn’t mind watching them carry the bags onto the boats with no shirts on. Before anyone gets outraged Tim has also enjoyed the beauty of the Colombian women and their unbelievable bodies so we are equal. 

We were advised by the head guy to wrap our bags in plastic bags as it was likely we would get wet. We had read that this trip could get a little rough as we were crossing a bay to get to Capurgana. We were so lucky with the weather with it being so calm and I don’t think a drop entered the boat. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and once we got closer to the other side of the bay the scenery we could see was stunning. Lush forests leading to sandy beaches with crystal clear water.

We arrived to Capurgana and couldn’t believe that we got to spend the next 2 days here. The place is tiny with no street names or signs, as you just ask where to go. Once we got off the boat out hostel owner Luchio greeted us with our names written on a piece of paper and he soon directed us to a horse and cart as our mode of transport to the hostel. For us this was just the best but totally not unusual here as you can only get here by boat or plane so no cars. The trip was only about 300 metres but we couldn’t keep the smiles of our faces as we passed locals also on their horse and carts or push bikes.

We quickly dumped out stuff and asked Luchio where the best beach was because we were desperate to get into that amazingly inviting blue water. Instead of giving us instructions he walked us all the way to make sure we had the right spot. We arrived to an unoccupied beach! We had it all to ourselves so we picked the best tree, dumped our stuff and went for a dip. Just to really make it unbelievable there was a little rocky island off the shore covered in coconut trees for an idilic setting.

We spent pretty much the whole day there and after a quick shower and change went out for dinner. We could hear music not too far from our hostel so ventured in that general direction. We came across a park/soccer pitch that had plastic tables and chairs outside a few places where we sat down for a drink. Over on one side of the park, fenced off was the airport runway. Although it was fenced off there was obviously a way in as all the kids from the village were riding their bikes up and down it.

We then went and had a few drinks at a laid back little bar right on the water front followed by some delicious freshly prepared seafood from Josephine’s which is a little shack literally on the beach.

This place has really got to me and I am so glad we got to see it. It truly is amazing and different to anywhere else I have been. I know down the track this place will probably change into one of those glitzy Caribbean destinations of extortionate expense but I really hope it doesn’t. Yes it already is kinda touristy and has a few really nice hotels for rich Colombians but they are not the Hilton or Sheraton and are made out of painted wood rather than concrete. Therefore keeping a real small island vibe about the place. I am just glad that we got to experience it when it was just a tiny backwater Colombian fishing village that knew how to make an awesome mojito, you could lay on the beach without hawkers trying to sell you something every two minutes, shade was provided by the trees instead of cabanas and the taxis were horse and carts. S

Tim on the boat over to Capurgana. As you can see flat as a pancake.

A few from the boat nearing Capurgana. We knew then we were in for a treat.

Capurgana from the sea. Not that big a place really. From the  shore the town only stretches another three streets back.

The jetty.

Our taxi! 

Tim was given shotgun. I had to ride in the back with the bags. 

One side of the deserted beach. 

As you can see the water is stunningly clear. The temperature was perfect too. 

Just so relaxed.

Definelty on island time here. A few of the locals getting out of the midday heat on the jetty.

The beach shack Josefina’s. Where we ate dinner.

Can’t really get more picturesque than this.

A few shots from around town. Some of the streets were cobbled and others just dirt.

One of the locals with his catch of the day.

A beautiful sunset over the park. If you look closely you can see the runway straight ahead and all the kids riding on it.

Perfect place for a mojito…. Or two……. 

Santa Marta to Necocli 

So yesterday we left Santa Marta to begin our journey to Panama. It was sad to leave Santa Marta as the place really had everything and it was a shame we were only there for a few days and in fact probably only scratched the surface.
Our bus arrived to pick us up just as we were halfway through a riveting conversation with Fernando, our host, about his opinion on the peace talks. (He only got so far as to explain both sides of the story not his opinion). Shame to leave at the juicy part but on we went.
We had a fair bit to sort out in Cartagena when we arrived, all the mundane things like trying to get our hands on some US dollars and other bits and bobs on our list. Speaking of bobs, Sarah finally got sick of growing out her hair so decided to go for a haircut. I will only presume that something was lost in translation!! (Picture below)
Anyway the first stage of our trip to Panama involved us getting from Cartagena to Necocli by bus. We couldn’t find out much information about the trip and a couple of checks on the Australian and British foreign advice websites have some conflicting info. Aussie said red (no go) and the British said Orange!! Anyway we had to do it so after writing Mum & Dad to say where we were going off we went.
We got up early to get to the bus station as quickly as possible. The taxi ride was an ominous start to the journey as we spent 15mins with him trying to fill up with gas, then he proceeded to try and make up time by cutting through the back streets of Cartagena!! Well the poverty on show there was a stark contrast to what we were shown as tourists. It was pretty alarming to see such squalor and certainly got us thinking.
Anyway the rest of the trip wasn’t exactly the adventure we were expecting. Arrived at bus station to find a direct bus to our destination leaving in 45 mins. Toilet, Air con, comfy seats,tv and WIFI!!! So we just laid back and watched the world go by (whilst fiddling on our phones)
We passed a few places on the way that looked as though they might have been worth staying at. All of them Colombian seaside resorts. Not exactly modern but certainly different to what we are used to!
The same could certainly be said for Necocli. It was certainly an authentic Colombian town full of hustle and bustle and the locals certainly weren’t used to many gringos as we were stared at everywhere. Not in a menacing way though because as soon as we said hello they all smiled and greeted us back. We were jut a bit of a novelty I guess.
We went for a wander around town and then sat at a crossroads for a beer and tried to work out who had right of way! Two beers later and we still had no idea. But it was great being in such a place, hardly any cars, everyone on motorbikes. The markets here were real markets and we must have been here during quiet season because all of the bars on the seafront were shut.
Still there was enough going on to keep us entertained and we were certainly getting more and more excited about our upcoming trip to Panama!! Speedboats and desert islands here we come!! T

Me still having to use my hands to communicate, this is the international symbol for “I want to buy a ticket for the boat tomorrow, please”

The sea front was closed for business.

We were visiting half the places on this sign.

A typical street in Necocli.

Our vantage point for watching the crossroads.

Playa Cristal

Fernando had told us that if we wanted to go to the best beach around here we had to go to Playa Cristal. You had to get a taxi to town about 15mins away called Taganga and then an hour by boat. We arrived, got our boat ticket and then sat down to wait for the boat to depart. Most backpackers stay at Taganga instead of Santa Marta but we were so lucky we didn’t. It’s a tiny little fishing village that has been overrun with tourists and the infrastructure hasn’t caught up. It’s dirty and smelly and not our up of tea. They soon piled 20 of us into a smallish wooden boat and off we went. Once we passed the bay things got a little rougher but the El Capitano was actually pretty good and we all arrived in one piece.
The beach was a lot busier than we expected but it is a long weekend here so can’t complain really. The water was crystal clear, hence the name of the beach and to our delight there was a little coral reef just off the shore that we could snorkel. 
We purchased our little cabana for the day and spent the rest of the day snorkeling and relaxing. There were hawkers selling everything from beer to fruit salads to fresh cerviche prepared in front of you to guys carry fresh fish around that you could pick and then they would go off and cook it for you. Needless to say our salami and cheese sandwiches didn’t sound so great. 
The boat trip back was a lot better and soon we were sitting down with Fernando sipping a gin and tonic and talking about all the problems in the world. We again ventured out to the square and discovered another little pedestrian side street lined with restaurants with great happy hours and there was a band as well. That band soon stopped but another just down the way had set up and soon were playing salsa tunes. It looked as if they shared the street and would alternate hours. Very clever.
We stumbled home, feeling a little sad that we have to leave Santa Marta tomorrow but happy that we have had the chance to experience the Colombian way. I am going to make a big call here and say Colombia is by far our favorite South American country. S

Our skipper above and his yellow boat below.

Taganga, the fishing port where we caught the boat.  Just struggling to keep up with the influx of tourists.

Ceviche on the beach.

Snorkelling just off the reef and the place was teaming with fish.

Us in our cabana.

The beach was a little busy but it certainly added to the entertainment.

Once again just wonderful water and beaches.

Taganga from the way back to Santa Marta.

Us, sipping rum and listening to music in an alleyway in Sanat Marta!

Tayrona National Park

This morning I will admit that I awoke a little fuzzy headed after having enjoyed a few rums the night before but it wasn’t long until I was feeling fine as we were off to Tayrona National park. The park was described as where the rainforest meets the beach and we were both pretty excited.
After wandering around town a bit looking for the bus asking a fair few locals for directions we eventually got to the right place and jumped on. It wasn’t long before the bus was absolutely jam packed and I ended up standing (still a gentleman). Suddenly the conductor starting shouting at everyone and all those standing had to duck down. Turns out we had to hide from the transit police!!! Well I am sure they knew fine well how full the bus was but there was a sense that we got away with it!!
We soon arrived at the park proper where things all got a bit official! They wanted identification and us all to watch a video and listen to a talk. In fact it was harder to get into the park than into Colombia itself, and not helped by how hot it was.
After about an hour we were on the path heading off on our hike!! It was all very well signposted and easy and we loved hiking through the rainforest, excited about the beaches the other side. Not only to see how gorgeous it all was but because it was so hot and humid we were ready for a swim!!
Well we weren’t disappointed when we first glimpsed the sea as it was a beautiful turquoise colour, unfortunately though it was closed for swimming as it was too rough. So on we went.
It really was lovely walking from bay to bay every time we came around a headland a beautiful bay opened up before us and eventually we got to the end where we jumped straight into the water to cool down.
Now it wasn’t quite the private beach we had hoped for, there were plenty of there there. There were tented areas and hammocks and a restaurant but it was all rustic and still really nice.  
We certainly enjoyed relaxing in the water before we had to hike back, taking sneaky dips as we went to try and evade the heat!! We were almost praying for rain but it didn’t come!
Being fairly exhausted when we got back we didn’t have much planned to do, but as we got back we had a surprise FaceTime from Kelly and Ben to say that they had got engaged!!! Just fantastic news! So hopefully their wedding will feature later in this blog!
We celebrated with them in spirit with a delicious cup of ceviche from our local stall and an equally deliciously cold beer. Cheers to them both! T

Ducking down in the bus to escape the Colombian police!

The first local resident we saw at Tayrona.

The rainforest we walked through to get to the coast.

Our first glimpses of the water.  Just fantastically beautiful

Walking through the mangroves.

A local kid in the traditional garb selling coconuts to everyone who passed. Plus another 1000 for the photo!

A joke about Sarah’s coconuts!

Absolutely stunning!

We were very excited to get to a spot where we could swim.

Walking through the coconut trees.

This guy was just strutting along the beach, easily a meter long!

The bay where we decided to spend our day.

A little white after not seeing the sun for so long!

Sarah finally got to see a monkey in the wild!

A progress report on the Panama Hat.  Maybe not designed for the rigours of everyday use!

Santa Marta and Minca

Our next stop was Santa Marta. About a 4 hour drive north of Cartagena. On arrival we both took a liking to the place. It had a much more Colombian feel to it again. Definietly a tourist town but mostly for Colombians. We were staying in a really nice hostel and Fernando the owner really made us welcome. We let it cool down a little and then went for a wander to find some dinner. On Fernando’s recommendation we went to find a pedestrian street full of restaurants which flows into the main square. We settled down for a drink or two, my drink of choice being mojitos and boy they didn’t miss the rum. Delicious! 
The next day we had planned a trip to Minca which is a little sleepy village up in the hills behind Santa Marta. We arrived with a brief plan of walking to the swimming holes and soon found the correct path. Man it was hot! But after about an hour we arrived and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the ice cold water. 
We then started heading back just as the heavens opened so we stopped at a little restaurant with a view of the valley and ate some lunch and listened to the rain fall on the tin roof. But unfortunately it didn’t stop so had to make the rest of the walk back in the rain. 
There was another walk to a view point but by that stage we were soaked and over it. We enjoyed the trip but it certainly wasn’t a must see of Colombia.
On return to the hostel we sat down with Fernando and enjoyed a Colorado gin and tonic. He is a freelance writer who is currently writing a book while running the hostel. This influence comes through in the hostel as there are books everywhere along with some fantastic artwork.
We also met an English couple staying at the hostel and after a few drinks with them we all went out for a bite to eat. They were looking for this restaurant that served seafood cocktails and although Tim and I assumed that it would be like prawn cocktails they assured us it was alcoholic cocktails with seafood in them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt we eventually found ourselves in front of a tiny little diner filled with locals eating cerviche out of plastic cups. We had a little chuckle at their literal translation and sat down on the sidewalk to consume some delicious cerviche. We then went to a cool little bar that was pumping and full of locals near the central square. We drank and watched the antics of the locals dancing or grinding on the bar top to some local beats. A very fun night out that gave us a little headache the next day. But it was definitely worth it! S

On the way to Santa Marta we passed some lovely scenery but some pretty poor villages.

The local egg man.

The hustle and bustle of Santa Marta.

Bags of water.

Don’t know how we missed the bus station!

Local restaurant on the way to the falls at Minca

The icy cold pools were a godsend after the heat of the walk up.

Me enjoying a dip.

Sarah’s Panama hat got a fair beating from the weather on the way back.

Our loca fruit juice man.

Our local cervicheria