Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Taking the bus to Santa Marta with the guy from Scotland was great because we got to split the Uber to the bus station and sit next to each other on a smaller bus that actually didn't have Wifi (when it said it did -typical). So thankfully we had one another to talk to and arrived in Santa Marta before dark. Arriving there at night was chaotic as it was a small coastal town with a lot of buildings and people, very dirty and poor. The hostel was big but not as clean or modern as it looked in the pictures. The other two guys we were with in Cartagena were actually already in Santa Marta but they had booked another hostel. I had booked a 4-person dorm and it was annoying because my backpack barely fit in the storage bin and my lock was too big, so I had to go buy a smaller lock out on the street. Then we met up with the other two and took us forever to decide on what to get for dinner but I ended up just saying I wanted a hotdog thing at this one place. That’s one thing I realized after being alone compared to being with others while traveling and deciding on what to eat, is always an ordeal. We then went to get a beer somewhere else but wow, I was surprised by so many locals begging for money and constantly trying to get you to come into their shops. I felt this a bit in Cartagena but in Santa Marta it was to the extreme. And then there were street performers, breakdancers, and "dirty Argentinians" (we called them that because they were known for that since they really sucked at what they did but expected all the money). Called it a night around 10pm since we had talked about visiting the national park, Tayrona Park, the next day. It was so unplanned and very last minute, the guy from Scotland was freaking out but I knew it would work out haha. We all packed a day/night bag in case we wanted to sleep there and then met up at the market to catch the bus. The fresh market was very Latin with tons of street food and people out and about trying to sell the freshest produce.
The bus ride wasn't too bad but when we arrived to Tayrona Park, we had to pay 63,000 to get in and 30,000 Colombian Pesos for a tent (which was about $23 USD) so we were a little surprised by how expensive it was to enter the park. The hike started off really neat with the beach right along the trail (somewhat similar to the one near Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica) it was mostly a path with wooden platforms and you could ride donkeys along the path for a fee if you wanted. The first viewpoint was really beautiful with large rock-like cliffs and picturesque scenery (similar to Big Sir, California) and then walking to the campsite it was a different type of jungle than Costa Rica or Panama with more of a dry feel, but maybe that was just the time of year. We arrived at the campsite and thankfully my tent had a mattress so I knew it would be comfortable enough to sleep. Then we all walked to the different beach sites and they were stunning! This was a different place I didn't even know existed or what I was in for, which seemed to be the case for many of the unexpected stops along my journey. It was a magical surprise and I loved every second of it - there was a rock close to shore where you could climb to the top but not jump because too shallow and tons of colorful fish you could just see from just swimming. We had brought boxed wine so we drank that and watched the sunset while one of the guys was trying to find the nude beach. Then we went to get dinner at this place along the beach back towards our campsite while they tried to teach me this card game that I just couldn't understand, so I stood in line since there was a long line to get food. We finally got our food and then went back and drank more of the. rum one of them brought and played cards and went to bed. Woke up and went to the beach again and I I was ready to leave since I had to leave for Palomino that afternoon. We finally left and got back around 4pm when I realized the last bus to Palomino left at 6pm and so the guy from Scotland decided to come with me. We quickly ate and had to leave right away (without saying bye to the other two unfortunately) to catch our bus to Palomino (thankfully I was able to see one of them again in Medellin).
The bus ride wasn't too long, about 3 hours and we got dropped off in Palomino around 7pm. We couldn't get a taxi right away (it was this tiny poor coastal town) and there were motorcycle drivers asking us if we needed a ride. I was hesitant at first because I didn't think they could fit my backpacks on their motorcycle but it ended up working out and we both took one to Dreamers hostel which was at the end of the road, along the beach, driving past small restaurants/hostels along the way...we were definitely out of a city and into a small beach town atlas! I had booked a private room that night since I needed it after being in a tent and camping and it was just the best decision because I got a good night sleep-so important when traveling quickly like I had been doing. Unfortunately the room wasn't available the second night so I had to move my bags to the dorms the next day, after doing a nice yoga practice. We had to get more cash out for tubbing and I had owed the guy from Scotland some money, but there were no ATMs in town so he ended up going to get cash out for the both of us. It was already 2pm and I decided to stay another day so we changed our plans to go tubing the next day. We went to the beach and watched the sunset, got passion fruit mojitos and took pictures at this fun tiki bar and then went back to shower and find some place to eat. We ended up getting pizza at this restaurant nearby, not the best food. The next day we relaxed in the morning and then went tubbing in the afternoon. It was just the two of us and we took our tubes with us on these motorcycles (it was interesting carrying a tube on the back of a motorcycle for the first time) and then we were guided by this local Panamanian, probably 25 years old, up this trail and down to the river, where we finally were able to float on our tubes we had been carrying for an hour. We had 6 beers each and it was a nice relaxing tube ride (not a crazy drunk river tubing experience that we were expecting but that was perfectly fine). We went to the same bar to get more mojitos afterwards, except this time we got gin and tonics and then went back to eat at the hostel and there was karaoke going on so we watched that all night and went to bed (it was funny because the same British group that was performing karaoke, I ran into a week later in Jardin Colombia). I left in the morning pretty early since I had to catch my flight in Santa Marta to fly to Medellin. I said what I thought was my last goodbye to the guy from Scotland (ended up meeting up with him and one of the other guys in Medellin) after the bus ride and took a taxi to the airport which was actually a nice airport right on the water.