Friday, February 13, 2009

The worst boat ride yet...Taganga & Tayrona

Destination: Taganga & Tayrona National Park, Colombia
Number of Days: 1.5 days in Taganga & 2 days in Tayrona
Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 1 too many; Bus/Minivan - 1 Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 2 Motorbike - 0
Where we stayed: La Casa de Felipe - excellent value at 40,000 pesos ($18) including breakfast and wifi! The rooms were simple but the courtyard had hammocks & tables to sit in to enjoy the view. It also had a kitchen and a TV room though we didn't use either we noticed that many people took advantage of it.
Favorite Restaurant: Maria's Baguettes had an excellent chicken sandwich (9000 pesos) and a phenomenal fruit salad (6000 pesos). We also enjoyed the "no name restaurant", it's the house with the graffiti on it but no name and plays cheesy love song videos on a huge TV (From "Love of a Lifetime" to "Wind of Change" we were in our glory!) . The food was just ok but very cheap (7000 for a fish dinner with all the fixings that could have been split) and the owner was super friendly.
Best of: Hanging out on a deserted beach in Tayrona
Worst of: See the boat ride from hell...
Most Memorable: I believe the boat ride will stay with us awhile (I think my head is still spinning)...
We used Marsol Transportes to get between Cartagena and Taganga (50,000 pesos for door to door delivery). The trip took about 5 hours including the hour spent picking people up from various locations around Cartagena. We arrived at La Casa Felipe in the afternoon and just took it easy enjoying the scenery, taking advantage of the free Internet and having a few drinks while chatting with other travelers. That night we took in the afore mentioned "graffiti" restaurant and ended up sitting there playing name that tune and singing along (quietly of course!)
We had heard that there was a nice quiet beach just a short hike over the hill from town so we set off the next day for a relaxing day at the beach. Passing by all the loud music blaring at the beach in front of the town, we climbed up and over the hill to find a quieter, but far more crowded beach! The music and bars were replaced with tons of people, hawkers and plenty of "banana" boats in the bay. Dejected, we trudged past all the mess and walked even further over another couple of hills till we saw in the distance a small bay with hardly anyone in it and no bars. No music, not many people, perfect...that is until we actually got there. It smelled of rotten fish, the handful of people there were actually the local fishermen, and the beach was more of a rocky slope down to the water. We gave up on finding our private Eden, spread the sarong over the rocks under a dead tree and pulled out the sandwich we had packed for our picture perfect beach day. That spelled the end of our thoughts of beautiful beach days in Taganga so we decided to go ahead and go to the park the next day by a "scenic" boat ride.
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Now for those of you who have read most of our blogs, you might recall our previous "Boat ride from Hell" to the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. With fear of overusing the phrase, we are changing the status of that boat ride to "Pleasure Cruise" in comparison to this one. The boatman came and got us at 9am the next morning to take us to the boat. On the way down he informed us that we would leave at 10 o'clock because we were waiting for a couple of people. 10 o'clock comes and another man says, 30 more minutes. Around 11:30, after boarding the boat and sitting in the hot sun for an hour, enough people showed up to make the trip. Apparently they needed at least 8 people to make the journey. At the time we thought it was a money thing, but we think it might be more of a weight thing in retrospect. This should have also been more than enough pre-warning to what was about to ensue and to cut our loses while we still could. What little we listen to those voices in our heads! Upon rounding the corner of the tranquil bay the swells tripled and for the next two hours we were stuck in a boat getting tossed about like a bunch of wet dish rags. Like a scene from A Perfect Storm, the waves were seemingly walls of water at times and there was not a dry inch to be had by journey's end. About thirty minutes into the ride, the wooden bench three of us were sitting on jumps out of the holder and lands on the anchor sitting just underneath Jason breaking the bench in half! The boat men glance down, see nothing wrong enough to bother with, and continue about their duties all the while running at full throttle. Up and down we went, now sitting on the floor grabbing onto whatever we could to brace from the impact of every drop. Tracy's half of the board gave way with every crest and she had to adjust the position of the board. The other girl sitting on the other half of the board fared worse, tossing her lunch several times inside the boat. Jason sat in a pile of ropes holding on to the anchor and trying really hard to stay focused on the land and amazingly managed to not throw up as well. By the end of the journey, the smell from the one girl's "lunch" was starting to make Tracy nauseous as well. In its one redeeming quality, the Colombian coastline was beautiful. The mountains here rise faster out of the ocean than any other mountain range in the world. The rough waters crashing against the sheer cliff walls made for an impressive backdrop to our plight and allowed us to think of something else for a moment.
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Finally on land once again, we made it to the park office and rented our hammocks for the night (12,000 pesos/person). We spent the afternoon recovering and having a quiet afternoon on the beach. Tayrona, for all the trouble of getting there, was certainly a beautiful park and we had found our quiet slice of beach after all!!
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After enjoying the beach and sleeping the night in hammocks, we decided that taking something on wheels out was the best move (the thought of taking the boat again never really crossed our mind to be honest!) After hiking most of the afternoon through the muck and the mud (I shutter to think what this path looks like in the wet season), we got close enough to the main highway where we caught a taxi back to town for the same price as the bus. We grabbed our stuff from Felipe's and boarded the night bus to our next stop - Barichara!
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