To say I spent all summer anxiously waiting for this trip to start is a gross understatement. I was finally going to see Mt Everest after a certain pandemic kept me from doing so in 2020. The excitement was real! I’d ran, walked and hiked a lot in preparation and felt ready for whatever the Himalaya was going to throw my way. Nepal was the first stop on my Asia adventure, and was to be followed by equally exciting visits to Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines – my first time in the country.
After a lovely time in Porto Seguro (where I sort of wish I’d stayed longer) I hopped onto another overnight bus to make my way to Salvador, the capital of Bahia state. I’d read a bit about the city and was rather excited to be able to explore such a culturally and historically important place. What I didn’t expect was the city to be rundown to the point where safety is seriously compromised just by stepping outside. That was definitely a surprise, and not a great one at that.
I’m not going to lie, I was super excited about returning to Brazil. The first time I visited – in 2016 – ended up being a bit rushed as I was at the tail-end of an 18-month round-the-world trip. While I did get to explore the city in the few days I spent there, I felt like it was a place I would eventually have to return to. Rio is a special place and you can feel its uniquely awesome energy pretty much as soon as you arrive.
Arriving in Bogotá after four months in Santa Marta was a breath of fresh hair. Quite literally. Unlike the intense heat I’d experienced on the Caribbean coast, the temperatures in the capital were much cooler. Thankfully, I had brought warm clothes so that was not going to be much of an issue. And to be honest, I was excited about it. I also missed rain (for some reason) and was hoping Bogotá delivered on that front. Ironic, seeing how I’d ran away to the Caribe precisely to escape the cold and rain.
Before I went back to Bogotá there were two nearby places I did not want to leave without checking out: Taganga and Rodadero. What I find fascinating about them is how they sort of represent polar opposites; while Taganga is usually compared to a hippie haven, Rodadero is tailor made for the resort types. They’re both very popular and also part of the reason Santa Marta sees so many visitors, with a considerable amount choosing to stay there instead of the city proper.
When my short stay in Palomino came to an end it was time to return to Santa Marta. I’d been away for a couple of weeks and felt ready to get back to work. One thing I didn’t realise was that January is peak season in Colombia, proper peak season – like August in Southern Europe. To say I was surprised by how busy I found Santa Marta is an understatement. So much so I had to spend a week in a different hostel because República was full. Madness!
After my time in Riohacha came to an end, I had two options: go back to Santa Marta, or make a brief stop in Palomino – a sleepy coastal town with a tremendous reputation among backpackers, located somewhere between both cities. Since Palomino already featured on my list of places to visit before I left Colombia I figured it would make much more sense to visit it now rather than having to come back some other time.
One of the disadvantages of sleeping on the beach is that once the sun is up you can’t really sleep anymore. Which wasn’t all that bad because we had a long day ahead of us. After a tasty breakfast, we waited for the other groups to get ready (since we were all moving together in a sort of convoy) and headed towards the first stop of the day: the Parque Eólico de Jepirachi. A wind farm, basically. It was fun to get close to the towering wind turbines although they’re not much of an attraction per se.
While Riohacha may not have all that much going on, it still sees a lot of visitors. The reason for this is quite simple: the city is the gateway to Alta Guajira, the northern – and wildest – part of La Guajira department. When I say wildest what I really mean is that it’s mostly deserted, has no roads, and features some truly unique landscapes. It is also where you can visit the northernmost point in both Colombia and South America at Punta Gallinas, a big part of its appeal and – yes, you guessed it – the reason I could not miss this experience.
After a very productive month in Santa Marta I figured it was time to take a little break. Well, not quite a “break” but a temporary change of scenery. See, I’m not the biggest fan of NYE celebrations and whenever I get the chance to escape to some remote place, I do it. Pyongyang? Check. Somewhere in Cabo Verde? Check. Timisoara? Check. Vietnamese jungle? Yeah, check. The list goes on!