First ride and hiking in Tayrona park and more jungle exploring

Dear friends and family,

Just finished my first ride and arrived at my hostel in Los Naranjos. Anna, the host asked why i booked a double room when a single with a double bed instead of two tiny single beds in a room. When i reserved it on booking.comthe double was all they showed available., so I’m finally sitting prone in a tiny room waiting for the air conditioning to kick in. I hear it labor to change the air in here from almost 90 to the lower 70’s that i prefer.

It’s basic here. For less than forty bucks I  get a private room with private bath, including breakfast. The pool is on top of the hill. Wait till you see the picture of the stairs to the pool. I’m not sure about going up there for the steepness-not kidding!

I expected the ride to be hard and I was not disappointed. I rode out of town in fairly heavy traffic with Adrenalin running through my veins from worrying  about traffic and heat. About mile 6, the adrenaline wore off and it was just me, an old guy turning the cranks in the heat. 

It was exactly 80 F at my 545 start, slightly dark with my bright lights on. Hardly any traffic in the local streets but very busy on the main highway. 

Once out of town, the divided highway became two way, with an adequate shoulder. I rode through quite a large concrete and mud house “development” which is where i suppose the workers that wait on the richer people live. 

Hundreds of bicycle and motorcycle commuters going both ways allowed me to use them as a shield as I figured  out the local riding customs. 

I expected a mountain pass in the middle of the ride and it was challenging. I admit to walking a long way on my way up. There were dozens of nattily dressed bike racers out training on the road to the pass.

As I walked up, pushing the heavy bike with my head down to see the pavement i felt a touch on my left shoulder (the road side) which scared the bejeesus out of me. When I regained my senses I saw a beautiful woman completely dressed in purple biking clothes (including purple helmet and purple bikepacking seat bag) slowly making her way in low gear up the hill. She asked if I was ok, where was i going, and did i need more water, all in Spanish of course. Those answers I knew in spanish,  so we shared that she was going into the park to camp and I was going to my hostel to hike the Park tomorrow. Then she tootled along leaving me to my three mile per hour uphill  walking pace. The first bike packer I’ve seen since i landed in Colombia.

Once I gained the pass it sure was easy and fun to  coast down the east side of the pass to complete my 25 mile day. I rode past several “eco-something” lodges and hostels. I guess if you say “eco” it is a draw. I’m not sure what it means really.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

Ecotourism is a form of tourism marketed as “responsible” travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people.Wikipedia

As the youngster backpackers say “ Might be a lot of greenwashing here”

Twenty five miles in a day is not much. On last year’s Southern Tier route across the US, I averaged 46 miles per day, even on the desert heat. I am thinking that once I get more acclimated to the heat, humidity, and traffic that I can increase that by a lot (double?). It is hotter and more humid here, even early in the morning, and I do have to be really sharp in my navigation between trucks and motorcycles, and I do have lots of time and it isn’t a race. By ten AM it is 95 degrees and the sun is burning hot. 

You can see how my mind is mixed on the miles per day issue. When I meet people one of their first questions is “How many kilometers do you ride per day?”. Maybe I should put my sensitive ego to bed.

I chose to do a day hike in the Tayrona National Park. I was warned of mosquitos, so wore long trousers and a long sleeve shirt. First mistake. Too hot.

The hike meandered through the jungle, the mangrove swamp and the white sand beaches. It’s holiday season here, so there were lots of hikers, so I had to practice my Spanish and also I met travelers from all over Europe and the Americas, but interestingly, not a single Asian tourist. 

Every mile or so there was a vendor, often dressed in traditional local Indian clothing, selling water or ice cream bars. After two strenuous and hot hours hiking in, I enjoyed lunch at a lovely thatched roof restaurant. I logged eighteen miles that day according to the gps tracking on my watch. 

I didn’t see much in the way of fauna, but could hear the monkeys and birds in the canopy above me. 

All the supplies for the restaurants and snacks  are brought are brought in by horseback each day. I saw pack horses with big blocks of ice, and piled high with food.

An aside: as I sit on my veranda writing this the power went out. Soon after, the daughter of the owner came by to tell me that they then had it restored except for no “wee fee”. You can guess what that means. I happen to love the sound of the spanish for it. 

Hiking through the jungle like today reminds me of hiking in another jungle a long time back:

To get to see Angel Falls, in Venezuela, one flies a jet into the edge of the Canaima National Park, the sixth biggest national park in the world, and home of the Pemon Indians.

Nancy and I were on a big jet, like a Boeing 737 (not sure of the model, whether they were flying in 1988, but a big commercial airliner). We could look out windows on both sides and see that we were flying in a valley, but lower than the famous Tepuis rock plateaus that the area is famous for. I don’t think I ever was in a jet that flew lower than the surrounding mountains, my first time.

We landed at a paved airstrip in what appeared to be a clearing in the jungle, with a tiny grass shack as the control “tower”. There was a very civilized camp there, more like a resort hotel. To explore the surrounding jungle area we opted for the guided trip through this jungle. This included a hike and then a boat ride down a river to explore. As we got into the huge dugout canoe, complete with a 25 horsepower outboard we started to cruise the river. Our crew, on two boats, were young local Pemon Indian boys, maybe teenagers and two twenty somethings in charge. I think there were six passengers in each boat. 

I could hear a crashing of a waterfall (not Angel Falls) on the river below us. Our crew seemed quite confident and capable of driving the dugout near the upper part of this waterfall, as we had a strong engine and there didn’t seem to be that much current. Until the engine quit on the boat Nancy and I were on! One young man grabbed the only paddle and vigorously paddled us to the side of the river and three boys held on to tree branches to keep us in place.

The head guy yanked and yanked on the starter cord with no starting success. He then proceeded to take off the engine cover and remove the spark plug with a rusty crescent wrench. He did say something about “too much gasolina “ in spanish so I thought he was on the right track to dry out the plug that he probably flooded with his many attempts at starting. Except when he lit a cigarette and blew the exhaust smoke on the bottom of the plug to dry it out. What could go wrong?

He must have done it before, because it worked and we didn’t go up in a ball of flame, both good things. No problem after that as it worked fine from then on.

When we stopped for lunch, they gave us the sandwiches they packed for us and told us that we would rest to eat for “una hora”. 

I was fascinated by the young boys heading deeper into the jungle and followed them. They proceeded as a team to source material to make two bows and arrows. I think they had the bowstring with them, but the remainder they found. In very little time, they fashioned these tools and shot at and killed tiny fish in a creek branched from the main river. They then proceeded to start a small fire, cook the whole fish on a stick and share it between themselves. I think they had a lighter with them (how else could they start that cigarette?), but the remainder was wild scrounge.

Impressive? You bet. It didn’t appear that they were showing off, just hungry, since this was all done away from the rest of our group. 

Some days I can get a can opened without hurting myself.

Another aside: Anna, the proprietor, just walked back to this hostel (they live in half) with a big cake box in hand and her little boy following. She put the cake down on an outside table and came over to tell me it was his third birthday. Junior saw that she wasn’t guarding the cake, picked up the box and took off running with it, with mom soon in chase. Not sure of the damage, but sure was funny. 

I am going to be off grid for a few days, so the timing of these blogs might be further apart. 

Sending love,


We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

5 thoughts on “First ride and hiking in Tayrona park and more jungle exploring”

  1. so cool Charley!

    What adventures and fun to hear about your past ones…
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Those stairs look pretty steep and long, this after a hefty up hill ride over the pass. You seem to be in great shape and manage the humidity.
    Wish you Merry Christmas!!
    Stig and Aleta

  3. The pool looks really cool, the stairway not so much.
    Reminds me of our trip to Angel Falls. We got in our canoe at the edge of a waterfall and puttered away hoping for the best. But, the Angel Falls trip was one of the best we ever experienced. Besides flying on a huge jet in a valley, as you say, below the mountains, everyone ran from side to side to see Angel Falls as we flew around to take a look. Probably not the best for balance of the aircraft. Exciting though! Love hearing your tales, esp about Venezuela since we were also there.

  4. Carlos –
    Perhaps the accountant in you gets satisfaction from the “logging of miles” (smile)? I think there is something very satisfying about having that information on long rides.
    Wow! If there are ice cream vendors along the hiking and cycling routes – that will definitely help with your motivation and caloric intake!

Comments are closed.