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!
Here’s something you might find mildly interesting: I don’t think there is a single country I have visited where I haven’t heard a local mutter a variation of “…only in this country!” It happens all the time. Really. Truth is every country has its share of problems, some more than others, but the uniqueness of the complaints is often… well, not that unique!
As Jack Torrance once famously wrote: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” So when Birgit – a lovely Austrian girl I’d met in the hostel in Santa Marta – mentioned she was going to Cerro Kennedy and asked me if I’d like to tag along I found it very hard to resist the invitation. What can I say? I’m a sucker for mountains (that much you already knew, I’m sure) and Cerro Kennedy was very high on my list of things to do in Colombia before I left the country!
Despite the rocky start, I quickly settled into a nice routine in Santa Marta. I strongly believe that you should never judge a place based on the first night you spend there, especially when things don’t go according to plan. It happens more often than you’d probably imagine and these days I flat out refuse to make rushed decisions until I’ve had a chance to sleep on them. Needless to say, more often than not, things do majorly improve the next day and Santa Marta was no exception.
When it came to picking a place to settle down for a few months to get some work done I had some ideas in mind. However, there was one important requirement: it had to be warm. Even though winters in Portugal are mild by European standards, the atrocious lack of insulation makes them a lot tougher to bear. Especially, in my case, after living in London for over a decade used to the toasty warmth of central heating all through the cold season!
When I said I didn’t do any sightseeing while in Bogotá I wasn’t being totally honest. 😅 There was one thing I simply had to do before I moved to Santa Marta. When I originally visited the city in 2015 I quickly fell in love with Cerro Monserrate, the 3,152-metre peak with an imposing white church overlooking the Colombian capital.
The first thing you notice when you arrive in a place like Colombia is the music. The salsa is everywhere! Airport terminal? Check. Taxi? Check. Hostel? Check. Even a trip to the supermarket has a soundtrack. You truly can’t get away from it, and I LOVE that. I’m sure I heard more salsa in my first morning in the country than in the previous couple of years combined. No complaints, though. Gotta love the hot rhythms of Latin America!