February 2022 

Tale 04:
Of Magic & Plastic
(Colombia Travel Diary pt. 3/5)

Palomino / Cabo de la Vela 

A lot has happened since the last entry to this little travel diary. 



I spent a couple of days more in Palomino to enjoy the colorful and interesting group of friends I made. A Turkish DJ, a Swedish psychologist, a Punk from Berlin, a Clown from Venezuela, a Colombian drone pilot and a local fire performer couple. What a group. We all spent a few days in a hostel / artist collective in the jungle and celebrated a wild goodbye beachparty for Aras, who was about to move to Costa Rica. We jumped over fires, danced for hours and I got wrestled by a French girl. Without my heavy backpacks and with a few beers, I don´t mind the moto-taxi rides so much anymore. After all, it is the only way of transportation that can get you places and the locals know their roads and shortcuts very well.

After the party, our ways parted and I took a “collectivo” further north. (”Collectivo”= basically a taxi that starts driving when it´s full). It´s a great way to meet some people and get to know the area. My plan for the next days was to travel to Cabo De La Vela and maybe join a tour into the bare lands of the Guajira Desert. I heard only bad things about these tours so I decided to talk to some locals in the area first before booking. Turns out that was a good idea. In Riohacha, where I ended up being the only guest in a hostel, I had to go the “Terminal de Transporte”, where I was swallowed into a machinery of collectivos and taxis. I couldn´t even think fast enough before being shoved in a car with a Colombian family that was headed to Uribia, the last real town before driving into the desert. Uribia is a horrible place. It is supposed to be the capital of the local indigenous tribe that governs this area of the country. 


The whole town is covered in plastic, the poverty is heartbreaking, it is loud and smells rotten. I am overwhelmed and don´t take any photos.  I feel like a piece of luggage as I am handed over from collectivo to collectivo and end up in a car with a group of French people. The leader of the group is a massive, sweaty, obviously rich, terrible smelling man and complains about everything. Including me being there because he had booked a private tour for himself and his friends. Wait. I didn´t book a tour… why am I on a tour? Thankfully my Spanish is good enough to make that clear and they promise to drop me off in Cabo de la Vela.

The French guy eats half dried goat meat from a plastic bag for the whole two hours of the drive that leads us from paved roads to dirt roads to no roads past fields of plastic and begging children and hungry goats. It´s a horrific sight and I feel sick.

The indigenous tribe, the Wayuu, don´t live in these conditions by choice. Over the course of history, they were repeatedly driven out from their homeland, enslaved and forced to adapt and restart. In an area without running water, electricity, schools, garbage disposal systems or any kind of infrastructure, their culture is sold to tourists. For the price of water that arrives in small plastic bags that pollute their land and candy for the children. I am told there is money available for developing this area but it usually ends up in the pockets of politicians and greedy businessmen. NGOs are fighting an uphill battle to provide education and sustainable ways of living. Good thing I did not book a tour. I ended up staying in Cabo de la Vela for two nights instead and I have to say it´s a fascinating place. Away from the horrors on Uribia, away from electricity, water and roads, one can find a tiny village between the most incredible sunsets over the ocean and the bleak desert. I get a hammock on the beach. The community here is a wild mix of adventurers, kite surf pros and those who want to become it, some tourists, Wayuu and Colombians, dogs and cats. There is a small school close by, run by an NGO that is associated with the kite surf school I hang out at during my stay. There´s a small bar and a ropeswing for the kids. It´s a peaceful place and I made friends with the team there and young Wayuu boy who is fascinated with my camera. 

According to one of the girls at the bar I have “lime green energy”… I don´t know what that means but I like it. I also learned that, if I were a nut, I´d be an almond.
I wish I could have stayed longer but work (and therefore internet) calls me back to civilization. My collectivo back was a much nicer experience with great conversations that led to spending a nice evening on a hostels roof with good company. 
Back in Santa Marta, culture shock. Interesting how fast I got used to rice and beans, hammocks and silence. I am heading to Minca next where I will spend some time working before I leave on a 5 day treck into the jungle.

To be continued…


(translated from a little travel-diary I made for my family)