Oh Tayrona

As the five of us attempted the jungle three days ago, things couldn´t have started off better. We entered Tayrona Park east of Santa Marta in Northern Colombia just near the lush Carribean shore.  As we started our trek we began to see diverse wildlife everywhere.

Ten minutes up the path a countless line of fire ants cris-crossed the trail carrying with them leaves of various shapes and colors twice their size.  After snapping pictures and wading across the first river, the ascent and the beginning of a huge loop commenced.  For three to four hours we wondered aimlessly about going in the direction we thought would take us to Playa Brava.  Not finding a trail in the direction we wanted, and at the pinnacle point of no-return, we decided to stray off the beaten path and find our own way through the jungle -- not a great idea I must say, but one hell of a valliant effort.  Ehren led the pack down a steep vegitative ravine, barefoot, and in shorts, clearing a small path with one of the machettes we bought in town.  When the forest couldn´t get any thicker and the slope any more steeper, Ehren asked me to join him in the front with a second machette.  With both of us hacking somewhat of a bearable tunnel through the forest we all started realizing that voyaging through the dense Colombian jungle was not going to be easy.
After twenty minutes off the trail we had made it maybe five hundred meters, a very, very, slow process.  Luckily about ten minutes later, we spotted a tiny establishment, where it appeared there was a chicken coop and a small hut for perhaps one or two people.  After descending a steep wall with undeniably thick vines and roots, we came upon a small shantee.  Soon an older man appeared and stared at the five of us with a most bewildered look.  After accepting the gringo spectacle, which took him a few minutes of processing, we asked him for directions to Playa Brava, to which he answered, "Lejos, lejos" and pointed in the direction from which we had just come.  We all looked at each other and laughed.  After a few minutes of juggling directions, we once again set off.  A short jaunt down the path Katie recognized a unique piece of wood on the trail which I happened to notice on the way up, from this artifact alone we knew that we had just made one giant circle.
Finding the right path, or so we thought, we again started an ascent up a steep and twisting trail.  About an hour or so later, the light in the sky started to go down, and we all knew we had to get out of the jungle before dark.  As Ehren and I lagged behind to filter fresh water for the group we sent the girls ahead with headlamps to lead the way.  An hour later we were in complete darkness and no sight or sound of the ocean could be detected.  Armed with three headlights and two machettes we continued our journey through the thick, daunting, and foreign jungle.  Sounds I´ve never heard began to enter my ears and all my senses became heightened.  At one point, Jess had almost grabbed a rock for stability when she noticed a spider the size of her head, ready to strike.  After missing that attack, we all stopped a moment down the trail to read a sign in Spanish which appropriately quoted, "All which is passionate is suicide and eternity."  As we all looked at each other, we once again felt motivated to get out of the forest, when lo and behold it started raining.  Luckily, an hour later we made it to the beach.  Tired and sopping wet, with only one small tarp for the five of us, things were looking very bad, but there in the distance, we saw lights.  As we approached what seemed like another small establishment we met a man and the girls immediately started conversation.  The guy decided he would give us shelter for the night for a very cheap price, 40,000 pesos, about twenty US dollars, under the condition that we would help work in the morning.  Ehren and I woke early, before the sun had even risen and the view in front of us was breath-taking.
Playa Brava is a gorgeous white sanded beach with huge rolling waves crashing into it´s small cove. Around us were beautifully built cabanas and behind us the incredible Tayrona rain forest.  All was serene and no words come to mind as to how to explain the diverse and emmence beauty around us.  There were flowers and trees of every kind, shape, color, and size, butterflies and insects of a thousand hues, and dozens of tall palm trees lining the beach.

For work we picked up sticks, big surprise.  The group cleaned a major part of the beach and this was our toll for another night stay.  Leaving Playa Brava the next morning proved difficult, I´ve never in my life witnessed such astounding beauty.  On the way out we ran into the man who accomodated us the first night .  We said our goodbyes and wished him luck along his way.
As we walked back into the jungle we followed a natural stream-bed up a steep ridge back into the mountains.  As we found our way again through the forest we came upon some ancient ruins (400-1600 AD).  A road made of massive stones in the middle of nowhere claimed evidence to a once flourishing culture.  Circles of stones and small walls could be seen here and there amongst the thick undergrowth of various grasses and shrubs.  As we descended towards the coast once again the trail switched from natural waterways and streams to one constructed by man.  For 20-30 km we descended down the most gorgeous and mind blowing trail I´ve ever encountered.  The entire trail was built with massive boulders fitting just perfectly together as if God himself had patiently placed each one.  Each stone was positioned with unwavering precision, and the depth and weight of it all was neuronically staggering.  Vines and flowers hung from the massive trees, multi-colored catapillers danced off the huge leaves, and everyone was speechless as to what may come next.

As we came down the mountains zig-zagging our way down the unfathomable trail, we entered the wetlands and crossed another major river.  We then continued for miles along the coast admiring multi-colored beaches and breath-taking scenery that had a taste all of its own.
Leaving the park that evening, we had no plan or mode of transportation back to Taganga, but as fate would have it we caught a ride with some local Colombians.  Five guys about our age who were themselves on a road-trip headed for Taganga, offered us a ride.  As the nine of us situated our packs and selves in a souped-up, off-road jeep with pirate flags flapping in the cool breeze, we flew down the road to our destination.  Smoking the Crepe and laughing the whole way, we couldn´t have found a more appropriate way home.
Under the Cheshire Cat´s long, thin, and cresent smile we made our way back to the hostel, having just escaped a ticket from the Colombian police for exceeding the Jeep´s capacity of passengers.