Santa Marta is easy to pronounce, which was a great start. We had booked a handy 11am Avianca flight from Medellin to Santa Marta, so we'd arrive at 12. Avianca had other ideas, and booted us off our nice flight and put us on a 7am to Bogota where we could wait for a bit, until a 10am to Santa Marta. Not so convenient.
Santa Marta is quite small, and the nice, touristy bit is tiny. We were warned don't go beyond street 13 (the streets are numbered in a grid). What happens past street 13? Just don't go there. Okay.
Exhausted and hungry from our hundred flights that morning, we were delighted to find a sandwich shop. I had scared myself senseless reading about the tap water in Santa Marta so was faced with a massive dilemma when they put ice in my drink. On the one hand, I didn't want to be impolite and imply they would use tap water in such a lovely establishment. On the other hand, I didn't want to die from tap water consumption. But my Irish politeness won out and I drank the damn thing. As of writing, I am still reasonably intact.
I love Santa Marta. It's by the sea and though the water near the centre isn't safe, it still has a beautiful boardwalk. The centre is lit by fairy lights and colourful bars, restaurants and shops. Local kids practice break dancing routines in the square. They were more skilled than any acts I saw at the Fringe and they weren't even taking money. There are a lot of hawkers, and if you're eating outside, some awful singer with a mic and a backing track will rock up and start screeching then ask for money. But it's a small price to pay (especially small if you don't actually pay him).
For the first time since we'd arrived in Colombia, we didn't get any form of public transport (that is of course if you discount the two flights we took to get to Santa Marta) and just wandered around for the day then sat by the pool. It was nice.
Enough of that though, the next day was jungle trek time. Tayrona National Park is about an hour from Santa Marta. We had planned to get a taxi to the bus station (you can't walk as you'll go past the dreaded street 13) but our taxi driver was very persuasive and eventually convinced us to let him bring us the whole way. It cost about $25 and he dropped us to the gate. We were also swayed because it was much quicker than the bus and we'd faffed around too long that morning.
We bought our tickets and 5 minutes into the jungle walk were completely bathed in sweat. It was about 34 degrees, but not so bad in the shade. Along the way were two campsites, for completely insane people, but they did have toilets. There were also a few pretty beaches that we didn't have time to see properly because of aforementioned faffing (you have to leave before dark because the jungle doesn't have many street lights). It took three hours including our stops to make it to the final beach. Set in a sort of cove, El Cabo beach has that emerald colour that you assume has been photoshopped. On a hill looking over the sea there are hammocks where the most hardy of adventurer can stay overnight. Those are the sort of adventurers who wear khaki jackets with combats, and the type I hope never to be associated with. You're basically under a big umbrella sharing the space with 30 strangers, in hammocks. No thanks.
Treacherous river-crossing. Just the type of adventure these River Island combats were made for.
Pretty, but not sleep-in-a-hammock-nearby pretty.
Before coming on this trip, we had to get shots and tropical medical advice. The pharmacist I went to said that Colombia is no longer a malaria zone, but under no circumstance get bitten by mosquitoes, and sold me mosquito-repellent. I think he accidentally sold me essence of human blood because after the walk back (which mysteriously only took 2 hours), Dan and I were absolutely covered in mosquito bites. We're now anxiously waiting for the dengue fever to set in.