|'Welcome, Join us'. Eat some foam.|
|Panorama of the old town in Cartagena|
|Queuing like ants to get into a mud bath with lots of other ants - Volcan de Lodo El Totumo -|
- We stayed at La Brisa Loca hostel and enjoyed it very much. A grand old restored building with an open air atrium, swimming pool, great bar, roof terrace and comfortable dorms and private rooms. It’s undoubtedly got a traveller vibe about it, and this can be fun, in small doses. It’s run by two charming American brothers. They also run volunteering programmes, starting at a minimum of one week.
- Getting to the park entrance is easy by public bus; the stop is located on the other side of the public market in Santa Marta. Your guesthouse will be able to provide directions. Getting back to Santa Marta from the park entrance is similarly simple – buses stop all the time, so just hop on the first one that comes by.
- Entrance fee to the park is 35,000 pesos (approx. $18) at time of writing, which you pay at the stand at the park entrance, getting a wristband in return. Jump in one of the minibuses that will take you the 10 minutes into the start of the park proper (4,000 pesos, $2).
- The hike through the jungle is relatively tough going, but well worth the effort. There are horses that can be hired to ride you in if you prefer (14,000 pesos, $7, or a bag of carrots). Pack light.
- The hike to the first camping spot, Arrecifes, takes about an hour, at which point you’ll leave the jungle and hit the first beach. We wish we’d stayed there, but carried on instead to Cabo St Juan, an hour further along the beach.
- Cabo St Juan is indisputably beautiful although the set-up there could be improved. There are a small number of cabins for rent, and also a small number of hammocks available on a rock overlooking the sea. Stay in these if you can – the sea breeze will cut the night time humidity. They were full so we had to stay in the hammock area set back from the beach. It was cramped, the night was muggy, and the hammocks could have done with a wash. The food is OK, although it did feel a little like a refugee camp as everyone gathered together in the evening under the harsh fluorescent lights of the thatched restaurant and then queued to order their food. Albeit a refugee camp with an amazing view.
- There’s a boat that runs between Taganga (near Santa Marta) and Cabo St Juan in the park, if you don’t fancy the hike (although I’d recommend hiking at least one way).
|Panorama of Cabo St Juan in Tayrona NP|
- We stayed at Hotel Villa Colonial in the Getsemani area just outside the old town. The staff were fantastically helpful, the rooms comfortable and the roof terrace pleasant. It wasn’t really a party hostel so if that’s your kind of thing then try Media Luna Hostel, just round the corner in a beautifully restored colonial building.
- El Bistro is a great restaurant in the old town, particularly for their set lunch which is more inventive and tasty than the usual ‘menu del dia’ offerings.
- The mud volcano – don’t let me put you off, everyone else on our trip seemed to enjoy it. I'm just a miserable bastard.
- Getting from Cartagena to Mompos was surprisingly easy, and took about 7 hours in total. Taxi to bus terminal in Cartagena, bus to Magangue, boat to Bodega, shared taxi to Mompos. I recommend leaving Cartagena early just in case the boats don’t run all day. The total cost for the trip was about 60,000 ($30) pesos each.
- Mompos is a beautiful old town, a UNESCO world heritage site. There is very little to do other than wander around and enjoy the architecture. Personally, I think they need to clean the place up as it was awash with litter, particularly the river. Is it worth visiting? I’m not sure to be honest, it’s quite the detour.
- If you do go then La Casa Amarilla is a decent place to stay, a restored riverside house. The staff were friendly enough, and the rooms were OK. The deluxe rooms looked really nice, and the dorms only had four beds in each.
- Getting from Mompos to San Gil takes a bloody long time, about 18 hours. Leave early. We took a boat to El Banco at 7.30am (2 hours), waited around in El Banco bus terminal for a couple of hours for the bus to Bucaramanga, got taken back to the El Banco port, put on another boat (20 mins), got on our bus to Bucaramanga in the middle of nowhere (8 hours ride), changed buses at Bucaramanga’s nice bus terminal for the 3 hour ride to San Gil. Total cost approx. 100,000 pesos ($50) per person.
|Mompos from the water|
- Hostel Santander Aleman is a smart guesthouse, with breakfast included. They could do with extending their Wi-Fi coverage to the second and third floors.
- Gringo Mike’s does good, large portioned, western food and is run by the eponymous Mike, an émigré from Seattle. Mike also organises mountain biking tours that look great. I say look great as I was booked to do one but it was cancelled at the last minute due to vehicle problems. Not his fault though, and he clearly knows his stuff, has top notch bikes, and is a nice bloke to boot.
- We stayed at La Pinta, in the north of the city. It was OK but I’d recommend you looked for somewhere else. The showers were pitiful, the location seemed a long way out of the main historic area, and they asked me if I wanted to tip three times when I was checking out. I’m normally a good tipper but this pissed me off.
- Bogota Bike Tours was brilliant. Really brilliant. Can’t recommend it highly enough. For 30,000 pesos you get a five hour tour around the city with the erudite and interesting Mike, seeing areas that you realistically couldn’t cover on foot.