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Tayrona – Where Part of My Heart Lingered

by Olivia-Petra Coman

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It all started as a sort of experiment. I took part in a competition organized by BookSurfCamps.com and I won! I do have some fabulous people supporting me and I thank them from all my heart! 

Then, I was torn between Lesbos Island and Colombia – because they both offered windsurfing camps and I knew that flight tickets to South America can get pretty expensive. In the end, I followed my heart and made my decision.

Fast forward to mid-May: Marcel and I were already in love with Cartagena when we met Jimmy, our surf instructor and guide. In-between exquisite coffees and views, we managed to complete our first windsurfing lesson, marvel at the wonderful people around us, and leave for the fresh mountain air of Minca.

Our third day meant returning to the sea – first to the tranquil fishing village of Taganga and then to Tayrona National Natural Park. It proved a bit of a hassle simply getting in – no guitars allowed (because we could use them to earn money) and no surfboards allowed (because the rip tides could endanger our lives).


In the end, we got in! :-) Grumpy as I was, I didn’t appreciate the jungle vegetation or the scenery at first… that is, until I heard the sea and realized it was wild. When I saw Playa Arrecifes for the first time, my phone nearly dropped. The wow was THAT great! In seconds, it landed in the first place of my all-time favorite beach chart.


© Marcel Băncilă

Do not enter – over 100 people drowned here’ – beautiful yet tempting and dangerous, such a surreal combination!

Horseback riding to complete the route had left my mind. We got to see the Kogi people selling fresh coconuts and then stopped for a few minutes to buy some more water bottles, because the humidity was almost unbearable.


© Marcel Băncilă

Our trek continued along La Piscina – great for swimming and snorkeling –, dense palm tree forests where spotting monkeys was possible and ended in Cabo San Juan (where most people stay overnight). Not our case, apparently. I had such a good rhythm on the 3-hour return to the parking place where we had left the car, that the guys started asking me if I had not lived there in another life. By the time we reached our starting point, my clothes were soaking wet and full of reddish marks. But I was happy!


© Marcel Băncilă

I can’t believe we went all the way to Cabo San Juan… and came back,’ Jimmy kept muttering.

It had gotten us closer. That’s how it felt. And it became clear while sharing a large wooden swing, having a beer, and watching the surfers shred. Costeño Beach Hostel, well-known to Jimmy, was a delight, with all its facilities and good infrastructure. Marcel fell asleep in a hammock, I chatted with Jimmy about Colombia on the beach.   

Waking up in the 32-bed cocoon-style jungle (open) dorm was a very interesting experience. Breakfast was delish.

That morning, surfing was on the agenda. We left, carrying the boards and being greeted by brown pelicans – so eager to be seen around Tayrona, yet so elusive in the Danube Delta (as their white siblings).

The beach along Mata de Platano was superb… It quickly became my second-favorite all-timer… and the wild crests of the waves reminded me that we shouldn’t bow to stereotypes and take the Caribbean Sea for the lazy body of water pictured in wedding brochures.


© Marcel Băncilă

The sand felt endless and there was almost no other soul in sight… until we reached the ‘lake’, actually part of a river sharing a stretch of land with the sea. So cool and inviting that I jumped straight in. I didn’t even care about putting sunscreen on (a thing I’d start regretting that same evening, because one shouldn’t underestimate the Colombian sun).

When a kayak was ‘delivered’ to me by the man renting it, I didn’t care about surfing anymore. I left the guys train and I started paddling as far as I could, all eyes and ears along the shores/banks. We then switched places, I swam again, I kayaked again. It was like—x, y, z STOP. REPEAT.


© Marcel Băncilă

I couldn’t get enough of the coolness of the water, one I had waited for so many days. I even practised balancing on the longboard after watching Jimmy and Marcel catch some really great waves.


© Marcel Băncilă

We headed back to have lunch – a storm was coming anyway. The grains were hot and my nostrils felt as uneasy as my feet. Washing the equipment and ourselves seemed like putting an end to a beautiful fantasy. It remained my favorite spot of our entire Colombian adventure.


© Marcel Băncilă

As we left, on the road leading us to the main artery that would get us all the way to Cartagena, it started to rain. Did that mean that we would be missed? We DID part as friends.

And there was surfboard wax all over Marcel’s backpack… to keep us company.

*This article was originally published on Olivia’s blog.

Soak in the tropical sun and discover the warm waves of the Caribbean Sea by joining a surf camp in Costa Rica, Panama, or Colombia.

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