I made my (probably) final long vacation from school before my contract ends and I’m free to explore the rest of South America. This time was specifically dedicated for one important thing: making my way to a place where the road ends.
Punta Gallinas is the most northern point of Colombia and mainland South America. It is located in Guajira, one of the poorest and relatively violent departments of the country. It is notoriously long and not so easy to get to, which is exactly why I was determined to make it.
But before I got myself into all of that, me, Emily and Checho first started in Cartagena, my beloved Caribbean coast. We spent two days wandering around the marvelous old town, admiring the architecture and history that it all pulsated. After that we went our separate ways; those two stayed to enjoy the beach and later Santa Marta, and I got myself on the bus to start my quest. To anyone who is thinking of traveling there, here’s a breakdown.
- Firstly, you need to take a bus from wherever you’re starting to Riohacha, a small town at the start of Guajira. I got mine fron Santa Marta and that took about 3-4 hours. Fun.
- After you get off in Riohacha, you have to look for a colectivo to take you to Uribia, a town literally at the end of the highway. That’s where any form of pavement finishes. All this takes an hour. This is also your chance to stock up on snacks and water. Guajira’s a wasteland so all products have to get imported from the nearest town 4 hours away, so it gets expensive. Also, if you can, try to buy some little bags of water or some sweets for the kids:)
- At Uribia comes the fun part, a 4 hour jeep ride through the desert until Cabo de La Vela, the village you’ll have to stay at in order to make your way to Punta Gallinas. My journey was beyond entertaining as it is currently rainy season so the part of the desert up to Cabo was nothing but mud and water. That resulted in our jeep’s engine giving up several times, getting stuck in the mud and our driver stripping down to his white Calvin Klein’s and going in the pouring rain to try and fix it.
- At the end of the day you arrive at Cabo de La Vela, a tranquil and laid back village where every house is a hospetaje that welcomes you to spend the night before going to Punta Gallinas. The family that we picked was very welcoming, made us a much needed dinner and hung up our hammocks for the night.
- From Cabo you can then book a tour to Punta Gallinas. I would recommend that as it is just simple and doesn’t require you to do too much thinking. You can get to Punta Gallinas without a tour but from what I’ve heard the boat alone costs 105,000 pesos which if you can’t find people to share, you’ll have to pay for yourself.
- If you take the tour, that means you will be woken up at 4.30am to leave on the boat. It was so worth it as I saw the most gorgeous night sky full of sparkling stars. The boat ride takes about 2 hours and you then finally arrive at Punta Gallinas. There’s just one hospetaje where everyone ends up.
- After breakfast they drive you with a jeep through the blisterring heat to the lighthouse that marks the northern-most point of South America and to the Sand Dunes where you can roll down a massive hill directly into the refreshing crystal blue sea. That’s what the end of the road looks like.
After that, you spend one night in Punta Gallinas and make the same route back. Our ride back to civilization did get abit delayed as our jeep’s tire, along with the screws, just decided to fall off, so we spent three hours laughing, from both the situation and the heat I think, waiting for the car to get repaired. But it was worth it. The beauty and peacefulness of Guajira is one of my favourite memories I’m taking with me from Colombia.
My remaining holiday time was spend relaxing in Palomino, a lush and laid back village surrounded by beaches and jungle. All I did for 5 days was go tubing down the river from the mountains into the sea, sleep in hammocks, drink coconut water, eat delicious seafood, walk barefoot everywhere and get caught in some of the most amazing purple lightning storm during my stroll on the beach. I didn’t want it to end.
However, like all great times, this too finished and after an entertaining 23 hour journey, during which I briefly lost my bus but did not feel too concerned about it, my phone died so I didn’t have a clue in which part of the country I was in or what time of day it was, and taking the long way around due to road accidents I finally was back home. Oh, and I also got a new name; one bus driver was reading the list of passangers, got to mine, couldn’t pronounce it, so just ended up calling me “puesto numero 20” (seat number 20). That’s how far I’ve gotten in life…
Regardless, one of the best vacations ever. And with only a month left of teaching, I cannot wait for the new thrills that await for me in the rest of South America.