Costeño Beach : lonley beaches + surf = paradise
Close to Tayrona there is a beach called Costeño. It is not a town but a part of the coast. Taking a bus from Santa Marta, the bus driver will know where to drop you off and from there it´s a 2 km walk. It just staight forward direction to the coast and once there you turn right. I stayed at the Brisa Tranquila Hostel and loved it. The bungalows were just first line to the beach and leaving your bed you already had your feet on the sand. The bungalows were super tiny but it didn´t feel like it at all as you ad the whole beach as your home. In that part there are only two hostels so you can imagine that you practically have the whole beach for yourself. The food at the hostel was cheap, tasty and a lot so that I usually shared a plate. Water is a bit expensive but it´s worth it for the place you are in. I didn´t do much but walking around the coastline for hours and hours and resting in one of the hammocks in the afternoon always listening to the sound of the waves.
The currents are quite strong so be careful on where you take a swim. In case weather allows there are also some waves for surfing. In the second hostel you can rent boards, the whole day for 40.000 COP.
Mobile Phones : which company to buy
Before I forget passing through this information, I would like to recommend you Claro as telephone provider in case you plan to buy a SIM card. Internet is cheap and it is easy to get a chip. I asked some people before buying one and they said that the companies are all more or less the same. Price-wise this is correct – but not regarding the network! I bought Tigo and within the mountains, buses or beaches outside of town I just don´t get any network at all. A friend of mine used Claro and never had any issues getting a signal. So for those thinking to buy a SIM – at least for the regions I travelled so far, Claro is a much better option than Movistar or Tigo.
Palomino : What to expect
My next stop was Palomino. The bus leaves you at the main road of town and from there you walk about 15 min to the coast where you find lot of hostels. Palomino within travellers got quite famous as everyone seems passing by but right after coming from my personal paradise, Palomino is just another beachtown. It is quite touristic regarding to the prices, eating at the hostels is much more expensive and the town itself is small and not worth visiting. The beach is nice but with more people. Currents are less but still, it is not the same as Costeno.
Palomino is famous for surfing but then there is actually just one place where to rent boards (20.000 COP per hour!) and it´s shorebreak so they only rent short-boards which for me usally using 7.2 was quite difficult. Still it is always fun to be in the water.
There are quite some spots for Yoga here, but more details will follow in a separate post.
Riohacha : No fame but nice place to be, the place to eat
Riohacha is for most people just a spot on where to change the bus but I actually like this town. It is bigger than expected, even has a cinema and a large beach which almost no tourists. There are some great places to eat, from excellent seafood to organic quinoa bowls it was one of the best places food-wise. Prices are great, also if you want to buy some souvenirs from the market – some things cost only half as in Cartagena or Santa Marta. People are friendly and it is much saver than Santa Marta. You can walk during the evening without any trouble and you get more the local feeling as you don´t hear English, German & co all the time. I ended up spending here longer than expected. Close by you can also visit a Natural Park where you can see Flamingos or on the other side of town, around an hour drive there are salt mines. The most famous thing to visit coming from Riohacha and which was also my objective was visiting Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas.
Cabo de la Vela : visiting the desert and the world of poverty
As everyone said that Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallina in the desert of La Guajira are so pretty places I also wanted to go there and see it for myself. There are no common buses going there but as tours are quite expensive (250.000 COP for two days or 450.000 COP for three visiting also Punta Gallinas) I ended up going there on my own. It is pretty easy and much cheaper. You can take a collectivo to Uribia (which is the Indian Capital – I expected some nice city but it is horrible. No charme, just dirt and poverty. Don´t stay here if you can avoid it) and from there take another car to Cabo de la Vela (per way count with 15.000 COP). Once there, it is basically one road with small and easy houses. There is no electricity nor water. No way to take a bath or wash your hands but in the ocean. The moment we arrived – and already on the way there, there were lots of children asking for water, food and money. I didn´t expected this at all… so far the cities here might have been poor comparing to Europe but this was a whole different world and it hit me quite hard. No matter where you went there were always people asking, basically children which is hard to see but I don´t want to support them not going to school by giving them money… We ended up giving them some food or water but still – when we asked them why they arent´t at school a Monday morning (and they actually have a school) they “didn´t want to go”. Though this might be their only way out, they prefer getting some food instead. The contrast of all that almost made me cry and I just wanted to leave there as soon as possible. When I tried to eat my meal, there were so many flies it was hard see the food. It was also a bit scary as some people said that the locals sometimes come into the rooms at night to steal. I felt akward the whole afternoon. In the evening we wanted to see the sunset from the so called Faro and went there by mototaxi. The one I was supposed to go with didn´t work, the motor just stayed death. It needed the power of tho men running behind till it got back to normal and I could sit on. I was kind of scared who we would get back if that happens again but this didn´t seem to be a problem (nothing never here is a problem till it is actually happening, no time for worries which is so different to our Western view, but maybe they are right?).
The sunset was amazing and the motor actually did work perfectely on the way back. The only problem was that the second mototaxi wasn´t there any more (they were supposed to wait for us) so we went three person in one motobike which was ok. I just wanted to get to my room and end this day. In the end we had some drinks with another couple and ended the day watching the reflextion of the moon in the water of the ocean.
Mouse vs. human
So far so nice. The room seemed ok but dirty. Also the fresh bed wasn´t fresh but sandy. But what to expect if water is so rare and you cannnot wash properly. I felt asleep quickly and only woke up a few hours later hearing some too familiar voices of rustling within one of my plastic bags. I guarded some food for next mornings breakfast. Switching the torch of my mobile on I looked into the alerted face of a mouse. Once again. The first time this happened to me was in Malaysia so at least this time I already knew what to expect hearing this typical sound. It was a pity though as the food was from an organic store in Riohacha and suposed to be my breakfast. But I guesss it was also my naivity bringing food to the desert and just leaving it in the room. The mouse was clever and I´m always impressed of their good nose. On this ocasion they just won over humans. After the incident I left the bag outside the door and instead of hearing the mouse shortly after I heard the steps of a person. Probably someone watching the scene and taking the food before the mouse ate all of it. Not speaking of all the cockroaches I saw when I had the light of my mobile phone on.
This is just all so different, I just wanted to leave. The next morning we visited the Pilon de Azucar and headed back to Riohacha right after lunch. The mototaxi we went with got a broken wheel this time, but no problem. Of course not, it never is. And yes, there are always solutions.
The landscape is nice, the water perfectly clear but the rest is just not for me. The beach is great for kitesurf and there were some people staying there for weeks and eventually you get used to all this but for me in this moment it was not the place I wanted to stay and I was tired and relieved once I got back to Riohacha.