La Guajira, Colombia. Just the mention of it evokes thoughts of warm landscapes and deserts, the mysterious legends of the Wayuu and infinite views from the last corner of Colombia. Something like this:
However, like always, Colombia surprised us with the diversity of its destinations. A few weeks ago I was invited by Fontur and the Vice Minister of Tourism of Colombia to a trip around the lesser-explored of the already little explored La Guajira: Lower Guajira. It was a surprising trip from which I returned with many notes and things to tell, but for now here are the 5 things that I didn’t expect to find in La Guajira.
5) You don’t need gas stations
On the exit from the airport, on course for our first destination I was surprised to see that in the places to stop for food and refreshments, along the road were some stands with very rudimentary empty drums. When I asked Mingo, our driver, about it, he explained to me that the petrol in Venezuela is so cheap that it’s more convenient to ‘import’ it directly in an ‘independent’ manner. And so it is that these stalls in the road sometimes become mini gas stations.
4) La Guajira is also green. Very green.
In this part of La Guajira it’s very hot, but there’s nothing of the desert in sight. During all our trip we were accompanied by impressive vegetation, African palm trees and even waterfalls!
3) La Guajira is the cradle of Vallenato
This is a very, very serious thing for people from La Guajira. In La Guajira you live, eat and breathe vallenato. There’s no person from the area that you could ask about this genre of music that won’t start by declaring that vallenato was born in La Guajira, and that all its biggest exponents are from La Guajira. I, like many, thought that it originated in Valledupar and its name was derived from that. A crass error.
2) The roads are very, very good
In my mind, to travel to La Guajira would be an off-road experience in the style of Paris-Dakar. But with the exception of some destinations further in like “La Cueva de la Perrita”, the roads of La Guajira were some of the best that I have experienced in my travels around Colombia.
1) The food is truly fantastic
In Rioacha I tried some of the best rice and prawns in my life; in Dibulla spectacular fish with coconut rice; in Pueblo Nuevo a delicious ‘arepa trifásica’ that mended my relationship with all arepas; and up to the first iguana I’ve tried in my life, from Villanueva, it was all incredible!