Taganga Bay and Sierra Nevada Park in northern Colombia, March 2015Th

The Santa Marta winds that are a known phenomena along this part of the Colombian coast have kicked in. We are safe and secure in the marina here but noone is moving out. The government officials discourage yachts from anchoring and require a special permit to do so overnight. However we took a bus over to the nearest bay(only 3 KMs away) called Taganga Bay for the Sunday. It was filled with families and locals. It is known as mostly a fishing village but popular with divers and backpackers. The scenery was beautiful but windy.  Here is the view from the bus window.

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Wind was whipping the sand into everyones face but it did not seem to bother anyone. I think they are used to it.
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Fishing boats are made out of dug out trees but often with a coating of fiberglass and some paint.  The hillsides are brown and cactus covered. Not sure why this Virgin Mary needs so much protection!!

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Taganga Bay has a trail joining the next bay with eco-resorts like this one with the tiki thatched roofs. Lots of people playing and eating here on the beach but no town. We had a delicious lemonade adorned with fruit there.  Getting into some bird watching too.

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See the wind whip the water on the bay!
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Delightful sunday at the Beach.

We wanted to make of trip up further into the Sierra Nevadas to see our snowy peaks. John met a tour guide in town who could take us up into the Sierras for an overnight which included hiking, birding and staying at a hostal Colombian style. He spoke good English and was a very enthusiastic birder. so we signed on for the next day. 0800 we were at the appointed place with our packs ready to go. Erik, the guide and his friends uncle who was the driver of a 4×4 which was owned by another uncle. We would be going to the home of the family. The road was 40 km of mostly dirt and potholes and dust. The driver was skillful and kept saying that the road was in great shape. I would hate to imagine the rainy season on this road. We had to drive over the river a few times now during dry season. We stopped many times to see birds, overlooks, have a drink, etc. Our tour was priced as including everything, drinks, snack, lodging, guides etc.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAflycatcher?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARose breasted grosbeak
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Weaver bird(oropendola or yellow tails) nestsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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And this was just on the drive up the mountain.  At the end of the road for us waited Alejandro(cousin of driver and owner of farm) his horse Corselle and mule for carrying a bag of platanos.

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The finca is 3 Kms up a dusty trail and is the only way to the farm. Everything must be brought up this path.  In the hour or so it took us to walk the path, the weather changed from hot and sunny to being in the cloud forest, cool and wet. Not sure of the elevation at the start of the trail but we ended up at 2200 meters at the finca.
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At the gate to Finca Santa Elena in the cloud forest. Santa Marta is the red dot at the left.

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Erik, our guide had prepared us for this weather change and so we quickly changed into our long pants and jackets. Ana the owner with Alejandro had prepared for us a large meal of Colombian food and drink. We were starving and it all tasted so good. First we had a drink called Panela which is pure cane sugar and can be served hot or cold. It is meant to replenish you with energy after our exertion of walking uphill to the farm. It tasted very good and not sweet. Then came the meal of beef, patacones(green platanos fried crispy), rice, vegetable soup and Lulo juice. Now very full we sat around the kitchen dominated by the cooking area which is all done with wood. We chatted for hours with Alejandro and Ana with Erik doing all the translation both ways. He is remarkably good at that. The cloud forest had turned into a rain, light but windy so we missed out on a sunset but enjoyed the fire and warmth inside.

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Early we all went to bed under several blankets as we were truly cold for the first time in more than a year. The plan was to be up and watching the sunrise above the farm. 0530 we were up, dressed warmly and out seeing the sun come up over the snowy peaks of Pico Colon, Bolivar and a few other 18,900+ peaks.

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It was a spectacular site for sure,so quite except for the occasional cow mooing, rooster crowing! No wind, crystal clear. We wandered up aboe the farm looking for birds and watching color come into the world.

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By 0700 we were back to the house to have breakfast and prepare to climb up to the top of Cerro Kennedy at 3100+ meters. We needed to get a start ahead of the clouds that usually begin to gather by midday.Oh but first I have to do a bit of milking of the cows to provide fresh mile for the meal. I think they did not believe i knew how!  Ana hobbles the cow in the corral and away we go. I believe they had 6 milking cows at this time and that provided their milk plus they make cheese. i heard that Ana is also the “vet” for the area cows. Tough lady and very hard working. They raised their 3 children on this farm and now they live in Santa Marta. Carlos, their son, is involved with the tourism business and is partners with Erik. He leads tours but does not speak much English so Erik did our tour.

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Our breakfast was a milk based potato soup-with a poached egg in it plus arrepas with their cheese in it. (Cornmeal bread fried with cheese) and Lulo juice made from their lulos. (seen below)

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So good and so filling. Turns out we would need all this energy to climb to Cerro Kennedy.

Alejandro would be our guide while Ana went to nearby farm to tend a sick cow and do a bit of milking for a neighbor who was in Santa Marta.

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Alejandro and his dog Komotu

We walked all types of terrain, pastures, wooded areas, crossed little streams.

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This ruin is now owned by Alejandro and his brother. The bank repossessed it from a big ganga dealer who built it from his profits.

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We walked upward from 0800 till about 1130 and still had not reached the Cerro and the clouds were now rolling up the valley on both sides of mountain. We decided to eat our snack of passion fruit that Alejandro had carried up, enjoy the meadow at 3000 meters and return down to the farm! They said we could just pretend we had reached Cerro but that would be fraudulent.                                                                                  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSCN1367 (1)DSCN1369

The clouds did indeed move in and we ended walking back in and out of clouds. Luckily for us, Alejandro has lived his whole life on the mountain and so has Ana. The only farms we saw along our path up belonged to his parents and Ana’s parents. They love their mountain home.

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Waiting for us was another fabulous meal. The green soup is made of green pumpkin and their milk. Again Patacones, rice , beef and cucumbers from their garden. The juice was made of tomato de arbor which is like a sweet tomato and made a delicious juice drink. Finished off with a guava paste and their cheese.

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Just a quick siesta in the cool sunshine before we said our goodbyes to our new friends at Finca Santa Elena.

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I will miss the rooster(all 6 kgs of him), the cows and calves, horses, mules and our hosts.
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Alejandro and his trusty steed stands ready to lead us back down the mountain to return home.
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After a few more stops to get pictures of parrots and other birds, and a sunset we arrived in Santa Marta where the wind is still blowing hard.

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As always, happy to be home but have so enjoyed this excursion into Colombia and its people. May be sore tomorrow from our uphill climb but will recommend this to everyone. Soon we will be moving on towards San Blas and Panama–when the wind lightens a little. Hope all is well with our family and friends. Enjoy each day that you have!!

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7 thoughts on “Taganga Bay and Sierra Nevada Park in northern Colombia, March 2015Th

  1. Another stunning series of photos of spectacular beauty! What a wonderful way to meet the people of Columbia who live away from the cities. The family on the mountain were certainly very hospitable and generous with their knowledge.
    Your narratives are excellent! They give the reader the feeling they are traveling with you!

  2. So was it a chance meeting of Eric the tour guide or was there a recommendation? Is it fairly safe wandering around Colombia?

    • John met Erik when he went in to ask about this place he had read about. Erik in his enthusiasm talked for 15 minutes about it. John was not all that interested at first. He and Erik continued to talk for a long while. I think they are all new at this. And related.
      We have felt safe all the time here. As safe as anywhere else. It was a wonderful adventure

  3. I especially enjoyed this particular blog with the gorgeous photos. The tale of your tour and visit with the farm family made me feel like I was there with you. What a wonderful adventure you are having and making memories to last a lifetime.

  4. Lucy, what an adventure and what a photographer and writer you guys are!. These blogs are spectacular. We just sit in Michigan and dream about what you have had the courage and daring to do. Love it. I would send you pictures of snow but I think you know what it looks like! Rick

  5. great pics all. the striped dark/light cowboy is a special mark of the region, or so my students tell me. i love the paint job on the boat in pic #4. did you get a closeup?

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