We hopped off the bus in Palomino town; a series of concrete and wooden huts lining the dusty road to Riohacha. We had intended to visit Tayrona National Park during our stay here, but the humidity sapped our energy. The beaches at Tayrona are exquisite, but the boom in tourism has left them more like a Glastonbury festival field than a Caribbean paradise. A four day hike through the jungle to the lost city of the Tairona (‘Ciudad Perdido’) sounded hellish, so instead we hitched a motorbike ride to our hostel by the beach and spent the next few days chilling out.
A daily pattern emerged; a morning dip in the pool, reading in the baking midday sun and finally sipping cocktails on the beach whilst watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. The beach was incredibly beautiful, dense jungle foliage reaching almost to the shoreline. We had been warned about the local riptides, but I was unable to resist body-surfing in the rolling waves. Sunset turned the sea to gold, dark silhouettes stretching across the beach whilst we lay in hammocks sipping our drinks.
Waves of Western tourists passed by during our stay, most of them spouting guff about ‘finding themselves’. The majority were guys with dreadlocks and girls with ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’ tattoos, who had come to this beach resort to experience ‘real Colombia’.
‘Finding yourself’ usually involved lots of cocktails and pizza, thoughtfully-posed beach selfies and shagging everyone in sight. Staying in dorms, we met a succession of fellow travellers, ranging from perfumed Swedish girls who woke us up at 5am to an aspiring Geoffrey Dahmer, breathing heavily in the night as he contemplated harvesting our skin.
During our stay Colombia peacefully elected the right-wing presidential candidate, Ivan Duque, over the left-wing Gustavo Petro. Alcohol was banned nationally during the elections, horrifying the Westerners frottering down on the beach. After a few days we were definitely ready to move on, so we cut short our stay and set off for Cartagena, ‘the jewel of the Caribbean’.