Deeper in Tayrona, Colombia

9th October 2019

I am in the jungle; deep inside the leafy, humid, creepy-crawly mass that is the Sierra Nevada.

A few days ago, I trekked for two hours through the heat of the day with all my belongings on my back, continuously uncertain that I was even heading in the right direction. Twice I spotted families of monkeys brushing through the canopy above, which gave me a good excuse to pause, admire and catch my breath.

When I finally arrived to the campsite I was consumed with exhaustion and relief. The owner — an old man wearing hiked-up shorts and a crooked posture — ignored my ‘Hola, ¿cómo estás?’ and waved me on with an averted gaze and lazy hand gesture.

He showed me to the hammock where I’d be sleeping that night and took his time retrieving the key for the locker room, as my backpack continued to dig in and redden my shoulders even more. Perhaps if I had been more fluent in Spanish I would have snapped at him, as stress took over reason, but fortunately I held my tongue.

The campsite is stark and minimal and there are few people staying here. After a bucket shower, I noticed a wooden, painted sign reading ‘Raw Vegan Food’ and couldn’t believe my luck. I tried asking a man where this place was, but he couldn’t understand my broken Spanish, so pointed me to a man I had walked past without even noticing.

He looked in his early thirties and was laying in a hammock eating Nutella from the jar.

I sat down on a bench near him and his conversation saved me from my frail emotions. His name is Danny, raised in the US with Colombian blood, living in the jungle to escape the consumerist American culture. After making acquaintances, we walked barefoot through the jungle and headed to the beach.

We reached the crashing waves and padded along the shore, passing a dozen sunbathers to the secret spot Danny had told me about. We clambered over some rocks and under some too and came across a secluded, enchanting little cove.

Around me was sun-soaked rocks, clear-water pools, vultures perching and the ever-present music of the ocean. Through a beaming smile and without thought, I ran and bombed into the rock pool, coming up with a soaked, salty face and the feeling of ‘This is life.’

I spent two more nights at that campsite with Danny, agreeing with his rhetorical question: ‘Where else would you want to be but the jungle?’ I felt truly animal there, living the earthiness of it all. I was contented alongside the wildlife — the blundering toads, slick lizards, leaf-cutter ants and poison frogs that had become typical daily sights.

In many ways, the jungle is where I belong, but I have plenty more to see and a flight booked at the end of it, so it’s best to keep moving.

I’ll miss the days spent lazing in the buzzing heat, eating rice and fried plantain while watching the rain and gathering coconuts for their flesh and water.

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