La Guajira

An adventure into the Alta Guajira (High Guajira) of Colombia. Colombia’s treasured coast, and some say forgotten people. Here you abide by different laws – specifically those of the Wayuu. This is their earth, their land and their rules.

I questioned if I should even be out here. This is the kind of place where – if you get lost – you may never be found. The desert rules and it is mighty. Flanked by golden sand dunes that dive into the sea. It’s as raw as it gets.

My doubts were warranted. I found myself somewhat captive for 3 days. In the hands of a very hostile Wayuu driver. He didn’t like me from the get go. He never knew my name. For 3 days, he never knew my name. I will never know where this behavior stemmed from. Never have I ever started a story on a negative note. But you can imagine my mental state. In the Alta Guajira of Colombia in the middle of the desert, 40 miles from the Venezuelan border in the hands of someone who at one point threatened to stick me in the trunk.

My other companions on this trip were quite the opposite. They were form Bogota and it’s outskirts. A very friendly bunch. They adopted this Colombian-looking Bangladeshi gringo into their inner circle and I was well-shielded from my menacing driver.

Together we enjoyed the stark desert scenery, the salt mines of Manaure and the many hidden beaches along the way. Once at Cabo de la Vela, where we would be spending the night, we had a wonderful lunch. I opted for the fried fish. It was delicious. It always is here on the coast. Pargo, Moharra, Lebrancha, Robalo, you name it.

Then we marched onwards to Playa Arcoiris to see the waves crashing into the rocks and hoping to see rainbows. No rainbows were to be seen today, but it was still quite spectacular. Next stop was a hike up a hill to the Pilar de Azucar. With a stunning coastline the likes of which I have never seen before. And of course the requisite statue of Mother Mary.

Pilon de Azucar, Cabo de la Vela

I didn’t want to leave this heavenly place. But the 20 miles per hour winds and our packed agenda for the day meant that we had to keep marching on! Next stop was Playa Dorada. A beautiful beach nestled between cliffs, one of which is shaped like a Tortoise – La Tortuga. We climbed La Tortuga as well. At Playa Dorada we witnessed pelicans diving for fish with the setting sun as the backdrop. I truly was, in another world. Far from civilization. And thus happy.

We walked up to a Faro – a lighthouse – to watch the sunset. It was a glorious sunset. Clear skies, no clouds nor smog meant a fiery ball of a sunset. Mesmerizing.

Once back at our lodge we settled into our Chinchorros – hammocks – by the ocean. Alas, instead of the sounds of the waves, we were destined to a sleepless night. Our neighbors happened to be partiers and they had brought their Picós with them. Their sound systems. Their speakers. They did not let up until 3:30 am. I used my yoga superpowers as best as I could to block out the nuisance. Chalk this down to a cultural experience. Hey some people enjoy wasting a day in Colombia’s most beautiful coastline, hungover and sleeping in. To each their own.

Chinchorro – sleeping in style!

We rose early on day 2 of this desert adventure. Most of us got a couple of hours of shuteye, but we were ready for the day. The show must go on. Moving further north and east we were heading towards Punta Gallinas – the northern most tip of not just Colombia, but also South America. On the way in we stopped at Playa Soldado – the most desolate beach I have ever laid eyes on. After the obligatory swim we had a wonderful lunch. I had the option to have Chivo – goat meat. But hey, I couldn’t pass up the fresh fried fish. Call it a habit at this point!

And then we drove through some insane sandy stretches to reach the Dunes of Tarao. These windblown formations drop dead into the sea. I hiked up the dunes and down them to access the ocean for another swim. I could get used to this. The water so clear and soothing. Nothing but sand and sea for miles.

Our last stop for this day was the lighthouse at Punta Gallinas. We were at the top of South of America. A magnificent coastline on either side. The lighthouse was a metallic structure and the light itself driven by solar panels. Not what you picture as a normal lighthouse. But we were far from the ordinary here. This was no man’s land. This was wild. This was a frontier of sorts.

We descended from the light house promontory to find a spot to look westward for our last sunset in this fabled land. And it did not disappoint.

The lodge for our last night was nestled between the river and the ocean. No partiers here tonight. I was able to sleep with my Chinchorro swinging ever so lightly in the wind. Day three would bring us back to civilization, back to the hustle & bustle. These were 3 unforgettable days in the wild wild Northeast of Colombia that will forever be etched in my mind!

2 responses to “La Guajira”

  1. Espectacular Nabeel!! Me dan ganas de ir!! (pero espero no me toque ese chofer)

    1. Gracias hermano por las lindas palabras. Ojalá que estes bien. Y ojalá que podamos viajar juntos un día (menos los choferes amenazadores!)

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