Colombia – the last country on our journey! Not taking car import time into consideration it was the longest border wait on this trip. Entry and exit immigration was handled via the same queue at the Ecuadorian immigration. We reached it via taxi from Tulcan’s bus station (4$ for a 20min ride).
There was an own queue just for Venezuelans and there were lots of them waiting for a better future in Ecuador. After 1h and 20min we finally got our exit stamp and headed over to Colombian immigration. Here it was luckily just a 20min wait and then we officially arrived in Colombia!
We took a shared taxi to the next town’s terminal for 4000 COP per person. We changed 30$ at a bad exchange rate before at the border. At the terminal we bought two tickets for the 21:30h night bus to Cali for 45,000 COP per person. Out ultimate goal was the Pacifico Hostel in Bahia Malaga. To get there we had to make sure that we catch the last boat at 16 o’clock from Buenaventura, at the Pacific coast.
We reserved some time for dinner at an Italian restaurant (nothing special) and bought a Claro chip for 12000 COP (70 MB and calls and texts included for one week). The night bus took unfortunately much much longer than expected: 15 hours instead of the announced 12 😦 At least we caught a bit of sleep.
As a consequence, we just had 20min for a quick breakfast at Cali’s terminal and took a minivan to Buenaventura at 12:30pm for expensive 27,000 per person. Fortunately, we arrived at 15:30 at Buenaventura’s terminal such that we just made it on time to the docks! Puuuh, since we left Otavalo we were nearly 30h on the road. That deserved a beer on board!
The boat ride into Bahia Malaga National Park and specifically to our Hostel took two hours due to a rough sea (80,000 COP for a return ticket per person). We were super-happy when we arrived at the hostel. Luckily, we could still some dinner 😉 Due to the long journey we went to bed (only dorm rooms were available) early.
The next day we intended to go kayaking but then we met the two Colombians Laura and Mayra who invited us to join them on their hike to the next village. We happily agreed. When we started walking our group had grown to six people: Pablo from Chile with his dog Salsa and Karin from Germany had joined us.
It took us half an hour via a muddy path leading inland to reach the next bay. At this time in the morning we could not walk via the beach since it was still high tide. We reached the village of Juanchaco where our native Spanish speakers organized a taxi. The taxi driver Marco turned out to be the right person at the right time since he brought us in touch with a friend of his, Armando, who offered a tour through the mangroves, natural pools and the beach “La Barra”. Also we pre-agreed with Marco on a very good price of 25,000 COP per person for this trip. Armando told us that he usually sells this trip for 35,000 COP 😉
We started off with a boat ride through the mangroves of Bahia Malaga NP. There was not lot of wildlife to see but still fun observing the fauna. Furthermore, it was just fun being part of this group!
After 20-30min we reached a shallow spot were we had to get off and push the boat a little bit. Another 5min later we got off the boat again to walk over wooden trunks over the river and reached cascades of natural pools close by.
Another group was already there and their guide animated everyone to jump from the rocks into the pool which everyone happily followed 😉 There was also a tiny waterfall which served as a natural shower.
After enjoying ourselves for a while we continued through the mangroves for another 40min until we reached the beach “La Barra”. The name refers to the sand banks which are an important part of the eco system here. First, we headed to a nearby restaurant called “Hola Ola” to have a late lunch.
Then we jumped into the Pacific. The water was incredibly warm – the warmest one on the entire journey. But still not too warm to be not refreshing. Pablo who is an educated marine biologist explained to us that the cold Humboldt stream which is very dominating in the southern part of South America’s coast does not play a role in Colombia.
Then we headed back to Juanchaco were we took the same muddy trail back to the hostel. Dinner was already waiting for us there. We spent a great night with our new friends at the hostel bar and got also to try a couple of shots of the local liquor “Viche” which tasted very similar to Obstler/Schnapps 🙂
The next day, we went with an even bigger group to another day trip. Two Austrians, Johannes and Max, and two Germans, Annika and Laura, were the latest additions. German speakers took over this day trip 😉
It was an hour boat ride until we reached the first of the two “sights”, “La Serpiente”. These are two large waterfalls (ca. 20m) which are hidden in a calm bay. Everybody jumped into the water upon arrival and showered under the waterfalls. Also no one missed out to take a decent jump into the water from the rocks under the waterfalls! Great times!
After an hour we continued in the boat for half an hour to reach the “Tres Marias”. These are cascades of partly deep natural pools. There were a lot of other groups already there which gave it a very touristy touch. Nevertheless, bathing and jumping into the cold sweet water pools also was quite fun.
We returned around 12:30pm to the hostel where Lothar inquired about kayaking. Since it was low tide the only option was to go out to the open sea which he opted not to do. His idea was to explore the bay inland from the hostel but this was impossible at this time of the day due to the low water level.
At 3:30pm we said goodbye to our new friends and took the last ferry of the day back to Buenaventura from the low tide beach. The boat ride was much smoother and we reached the city before sunset within one hour. We walked to our hotel and had to negotiate the same rate we had a confirmation for since the had canceled our reservations while we were at the hostel without wifi ;( Luckily, that worked out well and we got a room (no idea why it was called VIP 😉 ) to bridge the night. Buenaventura did not seem very special to us but we had a great dinner at Cafe Pacifico. We were served a four course meal with ingredients of the region prepared in an African-Colombian way and accompanied with different type of Viches ;). A bit pricey with 90,000 COP per person but very yummy!
Overall, we were very happy with Bahia Malaga and Pacifico Hostel! It gave us a great start in Colombia!
Since the picture storage is completely full pictures can be found here temporarily: