Friday, January 25, 2019

To the beach !

Parque Nacional Tayrona
Our place in the jungle - Manigua Tayrona Hostel
The beach from the
 jungle -
Playa Los Angeles

I am not sure where I heard about this beach/jungle/National Park but I am sure glad that we decided to visit for several days. We stayed at Manigua Tayrona Hostel and once again living with many young backpackers and other travelers. I like finding hostels with private rooms as the "vibe" is different than a hotel. Right now there are 7 people all on their phones in the dining room - planning their next trip or ???  I've been talking to a woman who is traveling 5 months from Norway, and the others are German, English, Italian and Colombian. We have hardly met anyone from the US during our 5 day stay.

walking into our hostel over
a bridge
This is all in the National Park area though one has to walk in daily to avail of the park beaches. We walked about 5 miles into "El Cabo" and then out again. Along the way were several beautiful beaches and we spent time at La Piscina which was a very calm cove where swimming was great. Some of the beaches have dangerous waves and undertow and swimming is forbidden. It was another very long day of up and down rocks with sunny beach walking in between. We were both quite tired at the end and I decided that we would do nothing the following day, but we ended up going to Playa Los Angeles as I felt fully recovered.

The environment of this hostel, the people who worked there and the food were excellent and a pleasant place to spend a "vacation" during our vacation.


Leaving the Santa Marta area of Colombia we headed by bus to Cartagena in a small van of 11 people
for 4 1/2 hours which brought us right to our AirBnb in the center of the walled city. After a few days in this bustling city of African-Colombian people mixed with the Spanish-Colombian along the Caribbean Sea gives a feeling of "island" life. The city is very large, placed along the sea with high rise buildings in the newer part of town (we never went there). We spent most of our time in the walled city wandering the streets with beautiful, colorful buildings and interesting architecture. There are areas where no one ventured several years ago but now are revitalized with tourism growing moment by moment. There are large ships that dock in the harbor, evidenced by the large groups of tourists wandering around the city. We enjoyed, again, the free city tour which gave us a good background to the city.

Once again we came upon our favorite veg restaurants but also enjoyed having a kitchen of our own after weeks in hotels. As it is also very warm everyday, we are grateful to have an air conditioner in this apartment. We are happy that we came to Cartagena but it is our least favorite of the places we have visited so far in Colombia. I think that three days would been sufficient for our stay.

On our last day we decided to hire a taxi to take us to San Basilio de Palenque which is a small village a bit over one hour away. Below you will find the information I found on the web about this very unusual destination taking us back several hundred years.
Benkos Biohó

San Basilio de Palenque - the first free slave town in the Americas.  It is a small village nestled in the foothills of the Montes de Maria, a small mountain range to the south of Cartagena. It doesn’t appear in many guidebooks, and few tourists take the time to visit. However, this small settlement of some 4,000 people is one of the most important historical villages in the Americas and a UNESCO-declared ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ since 2005. 

Palenque was founded sometime in the 16th century by Benkos Biohó, a former African king from either the Democratic Republic of Congo or Angola, who was sold into slavery and escaped the slave port of Cartagena in 1599. He fled his captors into the swamps and went on to form an army of escaped slaves who conquered the area.

Recording studio for local band
famous for Champeta
Biohó also created an intelligence network, which helped to facilitate more escapes. Eventually in 1605 the governor of Cartagena offered him a peace treaty. It was finalized with inhabitants of Palenque in 1612 before being violated by the Spanish in 1619, when they captured Biohó in Cartagena. He was executed by hanging in 1621 on the basis that his image was likely to inspire dangerous subversion among the slave population. Today he is immortalized in an evocative statue in the main square with his right arm reaching towards Africa, broken chains hanging from his wrists. 

The village of Palenque grew slowly in the early days when it was a small group of escaped slaves living secretly in the mountains. However, in 1691 the Spanish Crown issued a Royal Decree officially freeing the Africans in San Basilio de Palenque from slavery. This made them the first free Africans in the Americas and Palenque the first free settlement.

Famous Featherweight
world champion boxer born in
Palenque - Antonio Cervantes
aka Kid Pambelé
These former slaves maintained many of their African oral and musical traditions, including the only Spanish-Bantú spoken on earth, known as Palenquero. Influenced by the Kikongo language of Angola and Congo, it is only spoken today by roughly half of Palenque's residents but is recognized as the only Spanish-based Creole language that exists in the world.

We witnessed all of the above in person through a guide that spoke some combination of Spanish along with his native language. They are living so very simply in adobe or concrete one story houses with dirt roads. The government would provide paving but they choose as a community to keep the roads the way they were. They also have their own police system (similar to the indigenous communities around San Cris in Chiapas). I am happy I discovered this place to visit which gives a completely different view of a small part of Colombia. (Really different!) They are very proud people and well known for their particular style of music, their actors and boxing champion.

So, friends, we are leaving the beach and off to Medellin tomorrow for a nice long stay in an Airbnb. Thanks again for traveling with us.

1 comment:

  1. Trish Singer referred me to your blog. We are considering a trip to Columbia soon, so I have been reading closely. WE too want to go to Tayrona NP but I read that Yellow Fever shots are required. You mentioned that those of us over 59 are too old for shots. When you got to the park, was there any issue?