The eerie, tranquil, and isolated streets greeted us as we hopped out of the truck upon our arrival to Cabo de la Vela. We had been traveling for eleven hours from Cartagena by minibuses, coach buses, taxis, and finally a two hour 4x4 truck ride that finally dropped us off at one of the most remote locations in Colombia. The Guajira Peninsula is a desert region inhabited by members of the Wayuu indigenous tribe. These determined indigenous people persevered and didn’t allow foreign countries to invade and conquer their territory.
After living in Arizona for several years, Cabo de la Vela reminded me of my similar experiences walking through traditional Native American reservations. Most of their homes were made out of clay and their roofs were either thatched or covered with tin. The town consisted of only one street that hugged the coastline with various restaurants and hospedajes (hostels) along the side. Once Corinne, Karyln (our new friend from Amsterdam), and I strapped on our backpacks, we searched for a place to spend the night.
[TIP]: It costs around $400,000 COP for a full fledged organized tour to reach La Guajira, which is the most Northern tip of South America. One way you could reach La Guajira is by booking directly with a hostel in Cabo de la Vela. They will set you up with all the transportation links, but it definitely is a steep price. We were able to negotiate a package which cost $150,000 COP ($50 USD) total. Our package included a four hour tour around Cabo de la Vela visiting three incredible beaches, a fish dinner in Cabo, a hammock to sleep in Cabo and upon our arrivial in La Guajiraa, breakfast in La Guajira, a 4x4 transportation to the Northern tip and back to Uribe.
We found a cozy and peaceful accommodation along the beach with traditional hammocks hanging a stone throw from the ocean’s edge. After lounging in our hammocks for an hour recovering from the extensive travels, we headed onto another adventure visiting the nearby sights. We hopped in a 4x4 vehicle owned by our hostel and the driver first took us to one of the most picturesque beaches that we’ve ever seen! Glistening sand rested within this mesmerizing cove and towering silver and golden cliffs lined the coast. After sprinting into the turquoise waves and sipping mini Venezuelan cervezas on the beach, we decided to hike up the nearby mountain for a birds-eye view. It was incredible!
The next two places that we visited were also stunning and very unique landscapes. We arrived at a silver sand beach with dozens of pelicans flying above and diving for fish. While our other friends in the vehicle enjoyed relaxing on the beach, Corinne and I hiked to the end of the nearby peninsula to capture photos of the beautiful coastline. The final stop of our tour was a sunset lookout hundreds of feet high up on a cliff. Many of the other travelers huddled together on a nearby ledge while Corinne and I walked the opposite direction to our private mountain peak. It was the perfect sunset to end our day.
[TIP]: Many of these small tours are doing the exact same sequence of destinations. Since we very rarely take tours, we were a bit alarmed to see dozens of tourists in each location. We recommend asking the driver beforehand to change it up, so that you’ll have the beaches all to yourselves! You can also walk to the beach we visited in Cabo de La Vela without having to go on an “organized tour.”
The next morning at 5am, we woke up bright and early to get ready for the epic adventure ahead. After eating peanut butter-banana sammys, slurping down a quick coffee (dirt mixed with ocean water), and gazing at the sunrise, we jumped in the 4x4 SUV and took off! The car was packed with several other adventurers: a French solo traveler, an Argentinian from Patagonia, our new friend from Holland, and an energetic Colombian/German travel pair. Within minutes, we quickly realized that we were about to embark on the wildest ride of our lives!
Imagine if you were to give a 16-year-old teenage boy a large 4x4 truck for his birthday, took him to a desolate desert, and told him, “Alright son, there are no speed limits, laws, or regulations in the desert… HAVE FUN! I’ll see you tonight.” Yup, that’s the kind of ride we had for 3 hours! Don’t get me wrong, we had a blast. Corinne and I just gripped the seats in front of us with both hands, concentrated on the dirt path ahead, and prayed 1,000 times during the entire journey.
As we finally pulled up to a river bank and parked the car, I whispered to Corinne, “Thank you, God!” We boarded a small boat and crossed to the other side. I was so amazed! Bright orange and red cliffs with thousands of cacti lined the banks of this aqua-blue river. After cruising for ten minutes, the crew hopped out and walked up the winding path to the indigenous village. We stayed in one of only two accommodations in this entire desert region. The hospedejerestaurant was perched on top of a ledge that overlooked several rivers, bays, and islands in the distance.
We devoured a quick lunch, dropped off our backpacks in our hammocks, and jumped in the next 4x4 vehicle to get us to the ultimate destination: The Most Northern Tip of South America! Huddled in the back of the truck bed with ten other backpackers from all across the world, we took off! Nearly as crazy as our other driver, we had another speedy-ganzolas weaving throughout the numerous cacti and rock formations across this desolate desert.
When we finally made it to the most northern point, I had mixed emotions stirring inside. At first, I thought to myself, ‘This is it?’ After three days of constant traveling with these high expectations of something so magnificent and grand that we were about to see, it definitely fell short. This is the inevitable problem while traveling. We all have these expectations on what we think we will see, emotions that we think we will feel when we arrive. However, when we actually get there, the destination or experience often doesn’t meet those expectations we originally had. This happens when we reach the top of the mountain and all that we see are clouds in front of us, when we’re scuba diving to see large sharks and all we really see are tiny fish swimming around, or hiking to a hidden waterfall and arriving with fifty other people already sitting below.
My whole life I’ve been battling with this issue and Corinne has definitely been an incredible mentor through this process. She loves how excited and stoked I get when we discover new destinations, but also sees my disappointment when we arrive somewhere and my expectations aren’t met. I’m slowly learning from her with each of our experiences together that I have to simply release those expectations before they ruin my experience. When I realized these emotions and thoughts were eating me inside, I was able to step back and truly realize where we had just arrived. It wasn’t just an open ocean that I was gazing out at. I was standing with just ten other people at the most Northern tip of the entire continent of South America in one of the most remote regions of Colombia surrounded by miles of desolate coastline in either direction. This was a very special place that just a few years ago, no tourists had ever been.
I held Corinne in my arms and we both gazed out in silence at the the infinite ocean in front of us. After taking it all in, we all hopped back in the truck to spend the rest of the day at a nearby beach. Towering sand dunes lined the coast with stunning blue waves crashing against the sand. While Corinne walked the coastline reflecting on our past week's traveling, I also adventured on my own snapping photos of this unique landscape. These are the experiences that both Corinne and I thrive in - the less traveled destinations that are difficult to reach, the solitude of nature surrounding us, and the challenges that we overcome throughout each step of the journey. Our relationship is strengthening every single day, and I feel so blessed to have Corinne by my side.