After falling for the rough charm of Los Roques we were rather disappointed by the banality of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao: part of the Netherlands Antilles). We had forgotten for a while the rumbling of engines, traffic lights, and the stink of exhaust. And what a shame to wear shoes again! We were horrified by the complications to clear into Curaçao and the rigidness of the people we dealt with. Nevertheless we ended up spending quite some time in Bonaire to enjoy daily scuba dives right from the boat when the kids were snoozing with abuelo. Kazaio was moored to a buoy just 5 meters away from a reef and all other diving sites were clearly marked and accessible within a brief dingy ride. An excursion to the Washington National Park in Bonaire transported us to a wild wild west version of the Caribbean where cacti grow tall and iguanas pop out from aloe plants. In some places the dusty red soil was replaced by stretches of white powder with splashes of pink from the flocks of flamingos in the salinas.
Two sailing moons away, and escorted by playful dolphins we reached the arid desert of the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia. Unfortunately the winds were too strong and the sea too rocky to comfortably disembark from Kazaio and explore the land of the indigenous Wayuu Indians. We sailed overnight and woke up to the astonishing sight of the Sierra Nevada. With peaks sweeping 5,700m, the Sierra Nevada is the world’s highest coastal range. We anchored in the Tayrona National park surrounded by virgin rainforest and palm-fringed beaches. We were alone but not really. A concert of birds, monkeys and frogs made this postcard scene come alive. It felt a bit spooky to think that just a few years back, this very same bay would have hosted loads of boats smuggling tons of drugs from the lush hills. This was the cradle of marijuana where drug lords and guerilla groups ruled. When we arrived in Santa Marta and Cartagena, we were positively surprised to find relatively secure cities with very welcoming people- far from the image of violence associated with Colombia. Although a bit over done and too touristic, the old town of Cartagena remains a jewel with its colonial facades, wooden balconies, and enchanting squares. We enjoyed the vibe of Santa Marta and its strong connection with the indigenous people and cultures. After admiring the craftsmanship of the Wayuu indians, I have officially become a mochila bag aficionada! I was amused by all the businesses that can be born out of a shopping cart. Street vendors on 4 wheels were preparing pizzas, fresh juices, fancy cocktails, oysters, burgers, coffee, and fritters, anywhere at anytime. In Minca, we wandered through the dense rainforest, and visited a traditional coffee plantation. To our disappointment, the best coffee is exported and could not be tasted. At night we stayed in a hut perched high up in the trees open to the rainforest and the bay of Santa Marta down below. Under our duvet (yes it was that cold!), we listened to all the sounds of the forest and imagined all that we could not see.
Our only regret from this part of our journey is that we could not visit more of Colombia. But given our target to cross the Pacific this season, we had to move on and start to get ready. Next destination: Panama.