Back in 2019, before the infamous Covid-19 pandemic took over our lives, I had the privilege and honor to tour my home country's Caribbean before moving to Switzerland. Approximately two weeks soaking the sun, eating fried fish by the beach, drinking piña coladas, and wandering the most beautiful country in the world: Colombia!
We started in Cartagena, famous for its castle and walls covering the historic center, that was constructed in the 1500s and is now recognized as a a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Then Santa Marta, where we got to boat to the Tayrona National Natural Park, known for its diversity in fauna, flora and cultural ethnicity. We finished in the River Don Diego, a river that connects from the iconic Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the caribbean sea.
Cartagena and its Archipelago
The colorful and colonial streets and vibrant people of Cartagena will make you understand that the only risk comes from wanting to stay.
Walking around the flowerful streets with colorful women carrying tropical fruits make you truly understand the Realismo Magico, or Magic Realism Gabriel Garcia Marquez would inspire from. It almost seems that this country of mine, is the best country in the world.
South the bay of Cartagena you will find an archipelago with more than 20 tiny islands, called Islas del Rosario. The crisp and crystal clear beaches resemble exactly what we imagine being the Caribbean paradise. The most well known island is called Barú, famous for its white beach, ironically called Playa Blanca. Many foreigners from all over the world come to this beach and stay in tropical hostels, with hamacs instead of beds, and ocean breeze instead of air-conditioning.
The day we went, we spent the day hoping around islands until the dawn crawled upon us. We had to wait for it to be pitch dark to embark in tiny boats to the middle of the ocean for our last adventure. I can officially say, because I saw it with my own eyes, the Colombian Caribbean glows in the dark at night. This is caused because a chemical reaction within the tiny marine organisms, in this case plankton, produces light from its enzymes. The less we moved, the more they would intensely glow. It was a magical experience I will never be able to erase from my mind.
Tayrona National Park
Although there are many ways to get to the Parque del Tayrona, we were craving the sea, the sun, and the sound of crashing waves, so we took a day long boat trip there. This is one of the best way to reach some of the most excluded in virgin areas of the natural park.
We reach the beach and we had a group of fishermen ready to offer us some of their freshest catch of the day. We went with the staple fried white fish, and grilled octopus with patacones and lime.
I must confess this was one of the most relaxing and refreshing days of the holidays. I felt miniscule within the majestic and extensive kilometers of beach and mountains. The feeling of seeing natural wonder exist, gave me this feeling of a bigger power around us. The sensation just gave me serenity of knowing any problem in my tiny little life is quite miniscule.
From the Magdalena River into the Caribbean sea
56 Kilometers from the city of Santa Marta you will reach the deck where you can begging tubbing through the Don Diego River. You must be thinking, what the hell is tubbing? It is what the locals call the activity of floating with big inflatable rubber tubes. The floating down the river lasts 90 minute and finishes in the mouth of the Magdalena River into the Caribbean sea. This river comes from the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a unique mountain range that is only 42 kilometers (26 mi) away from the sea, yet its highest peak is of 5,700 meters (18,701 ft) asl.
Once we reach the beach, we had time to enjoy the waves and see our fishermen friends catch our late lunch menu. As you might have noticed, our diet has been fried everything, from the fish to the patacones. However, on this day, we got eat one of my favorite things too, Arroz con Coco. It is slightly sweet as it is cooked with caramelized coconut, which balanced perfectly the fattiness of the fish, the freshness of the salad, and the acidity from the lime.
Seeing the contrast of the river, the seam the mountains, and the trees is a mental picture I have in my head and will never in a million years forget.
Would you want to discover this side of Colombia? Let me know in the comments below.