Colombia has a Pacific coast and a Caribbean coast. Cartagena is situated about in the middle of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. West of Cartagena is Turbo. East of Cartagena is Baranquilla, and Santa Marta.
Taganga (http://wikitravel.org/en/Taganga)is a tiny fishing village a mere 8 km East of Santa Marta that has morphed into a laid back, international backpackers tourist spot. It is a surprisingly idyllic place. There are dozens of budget hostel options. Many people qualify for a Padi (or Naui) scuba diving certificate in Taganga because of the comparatively low cost.
This area has the unique distinction of combining pristine Caribbean style beaches, and cuisine, and the Tyrona nationa park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tayrona_National_Natural_Park), with the directly adjacent Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Nevada_de_Santa_Marta). Simon Bolivar peak is the highest altitude in the world that is so near to a sea, ocean.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Mara is home to many indigenous tribal peoples. One of the most interesting of those is the Kogi. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogi_people) Some Kogi young men do not see the sun until they are 7 years old. They are raised in caves and taught the tribal ways and legends. The Kogi refer to so called ‘civilized peoples’ as ‘younger brother’. From the Kogi perspective, ‘younger brother’ has been messing with mother Nature to the point of weakening her severely. Not cool. (http://youtu.be/LLrTPrp-fW8)
On my first visit to Colombia, during my grand motorcycle adventure with the intention of repairing my teeth, I did not get to Cartagena. My solution to crossing the ‘Darien gap’, the infamous ‘end of the road’ was to negotiate my way from Panama to Turbo, Colombia aboard 4 different boats. I successfully did that in May, 2012.
From Yazviza, Panama, (rode there on the bike to check things out in person) there is only jungle for 200 kms or so. People who enter the Darien jungle uninvited have a 50/50 chance of ever coming out again. There are a number or reasons for those statistics, most of which are ‘political. I opted to increase my chances of survival and sought another route. I went to Kuna Yala territory.
The Kuna Yala are the native tribal people who are officially recognized as owning the San Blas Island chain. I passed all those islands and spent the night at the docks of a five of them.
My first ‘Darien gap’ boat ride was to Isla Carti in a 30 foot long 5 feet wide dug out canoe carved from a single mahogany log, powered by outboard motor. Rode the bike right into the canoe on an 8 inch wide plank, one end on the beach and the other on an old tire. Me, my 150lbs of gear, and four very sturdy Kuna Yala men motored on the glistening Caribbean sea to Isla Carti where the men hoisted bike and gear up and out of the canoe and onto the dock. The canoe was so stable that I did not so much as tie it down… it made the journey upright, resting on it’s kickstand.
Three more different boats and eight days later I arrived in Turbo, Colombia where there is a road. I was so happy to be on the road again that I skipped going East and headed directly South to Medellin.
I am seeing the Colombian Caribbean coast for the first time.
Here are some photos I took around Taganga yesterday: