Co-ordinates: 11º15’S, 74º13’W
Weather: clear skies and very hot
Air Temperature: 27C
Wind speed 18km/h North Westerly
Pressure 1006 hPa
Today was our second day in Colombia, and quite a day it has been! I had the opportunity to lead (together with Hans-Peter and a local guide) one of the two group tours in the Tayrona National Park. To get the best view of any potential wildlife, this meant we needed to leave at 7am for a one-hour drive up to the National Park. The drive wasn’t particularly picturesque, as our little bus took us through industrial and fairly poor areas of Santa Marta, however, when we reached the National Park, it was stunning. We had gone from a very dry, dusty environment to a rainforest full of unexpected delights. This being the Easter weekend meant that the park was unusually full, with many local Colombians taking the chance to enjoy pony trekking through the park, swimming or simply strolling along the beautiful trails.
We started out on a fairly flat trail, with the forest canopy keeping us cool. The walk was glorious as we stopped regularly to look at butterflies, birds and frogs. We saw numerous Blue Morphos, a species of butterfly that is larger than the palm of my hand and a beautiful iridescent blue, a bit further down the trail we saw the friendly Blue Grey Tanager, which is a small flycatcher type bird that happens to be a delicate blue and gunmetal grey colour. One of our guests had particularly sharp eyes and noticed a poison tree frog with its spectacular yellow and black coloring. After going up and then down to two lookout points, our trail came to a small brackish estuary where we spotted a small American Crocodile in the water only a few metres away. We then had a longish walk along a beach, which was a lovely walk although very hot as we had lost the shade of the forest. It didn’t matter though because at the end of the beach we were treated to fruit smoothies, with fresh fruit and freshly made sandwiches. After a half an hour rest we headed off to the beach for a bit of a swim for those who wanted one. The sea was a lot rougher than we were used to and decidedly colder than the Pacific in the last few days. Some brave souls enjoyed a dip before we had to head back to the busses for our trek home.
There were two city tours today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon around Santa Marta. Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities in South America, and we had a chance to walk down the narrow colonial streets leading from plaza to plaza, each with a statue in its centre and shade trees overhanging benches. Houses dating from the Republic are distinguished from the earlier colonial buildings by having stone balconies rather than wood ones. The simple white-washed Santa Marta cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Colombia, used to hold the remains of the Independence hero, Simon Bolivar. We were unable to enter the cathedral, but managed to have a look at it from the outside.
We then took a short drive out of Santa Marta to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino Park. It used to be a sugar-cane plantation, but today it is a beautiful botanical garden filled with exotic trees and palms. In 1830, Simon Bolivar came to the plantation to recover from an illness but he died there eleven days later. We visited the museum and large marble monument that is dedicated to the memory of the Independence hero.
After a very long and busy day we all gathered back at the ship, where we had a chance to freshen up before heading off to recap where we learnt more about coconuts, fisheries in the Caribbean and the history of Tayrona. Then off to another fabulous dinner in The Restaurant before heading off to bed to get a well-earned rest.