Dec 05

Top 5: How to not look like a dope on Colombian trails.

Tayrona National Park

If you haven’t noticed aready, I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a dope. I’m generally quite comfortable with my dopiness, but sometimes it is cause for concern. Here’s an example, just a little sample:

OK, so if you want to see this:

Tayrona National Park
Beautiful, right?

Or this:

Cocora Valley
No less beautiful.

You need to go on one of these:

The path along the Lost City Trek
A path (well, duh).

“Tell us something we don’t know, you dope,” I hear you muttering in exasperation. Alright, so, while I have enjoyed the beauty of Tayrona’s sublime beaches and backdrops, and Cocora Valley’s mist-shrouded gorgeousness, I have, due to my aforementioned dopiness, been caught out on trails in both places. I’ve been thoroughly footsore, demoralised, and have found myself quoting Frank O’Hara : “I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.” It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Colombia has such a variety of sublime natural destinations that are decidedly worth a brief little walk. And, through my mistakes, I’d like to put forward my top 5 things to consider if you don’t want to look, and feel, like a dope.

1. Talk to Locals.

Don’t be too scared, or proud, to ask Colombians that live around the area for directions or advice. Even if your Spanish is terrible, a simple “donde esta…” plus map-pointing and gesturing will probably be enough to convey your meaning. I haven’t met a local on a trail yet that’s not less than happy (if a little amused) to point out directions to a poor, bedraggled, gringo.

Locals relaxing before getting a coffee (probably)
All these guys are just waiting to answer all your “donde esta” questions.

2. Wear the right footwear.

Just like in fancy clubs, you don’t want to be caught out with inappropriate shoes. You don’t need the latest, super-extreme, radiation-proof hiking shoes with blue-tooth and GPS, but how I cursed my crappy, ill-fitting flip-flops when I was traipsing through Tayrona’s aromatic mud, attracting bemused glances from locals in their gumboots. A good, sturdy pair of shoes or boots that you don’t mind getting a little dirty can be your best friend.

For a number of reasons, I kinda regretted wearing these, too…

3. Pack plastic.

Which brings me to my next point. If you don’t want a sodden, possibly useless, passport, or a fried mobile phone, take some plastic bags with you. They don’t have to be the fancy-pants zip-lock ones; just a couple of shopping bags you picked up from the supermarket should suffice in keeping your valuables safe and dry.

4. Clothes, darling, clothes.

I like outrageous flares. However, I didn’t like them that much after I’d traipsed through mud and water around Cocora Valley. Even if you’re Disco Stu, a pair of no-nonsense shorts or three-quarter pants are probably a better option. Maybe a powder-blue safari suit….?

5. Knowledge is Power.

I can be fairly lackadaisical when it comes to preparation for a trip, and that’s often fine. However, as signage can sometimes be scarce or confusing, I’ve realised that if I plan to go on a Colombian trail, it’s probably best to know where I’m going. Browse our website here, do a bit of googling, and quiz anyone you see (vide point 1 above) about how to get to those majestic wax palms or that beautiful, secluded beach.

One of the beautiful beaches of Tayrona
One of the beautiful beaches of Tayrona

Paul Giles


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