Artigo em Português no Chicken or Pasta.
Palomino is one of best places I visited so far. Great beaches sitting on top of the huge mountain, raising 5kms above the sea, and with snow resting on tops, visible by dawn. Inhabited by the indigenous tribes for over 15000 years, with the Palomino river inviting us to explore deeper into the jungle, out to the sea. Most of the hostels there recreate the typical huts where the tribes live. And it couldn’t be lovelier!
Travelling from Santa Marta to Palomino
The best and cheapest way to get to Palomino is getting on one of the local buses that run directly between Santa Marta and Palomino. In Santa Marta you get one on the crossing between the Carretera 11 and Calle 11, just past the Santa Marta’s market.
It’s around a 2h journey. There are buses running every 15 minutes though. It’s kinda funny seeing so many people being picked up on the way. For those of us who are used to stick to bus stops to hop on the bus home, this is a forward thinking way of travelling, in my opinion. If it’s on the way, it can stop to drop off / pick up people, anytime!
When we got to Palomino it was already dark. When the bus drops you off, in the middle of the road, there are always guys on motorcycles (the self-tittled “mototaxi”) asking if you want a ride. Being knackered and with 2-backpacks on your back, after a 2h journey on a boucy bus, the answer is “hell, yes!”. 3000COP, my first moto ride in Colombia. Rough roads, no helmets, local guy – really chatty… kept asking random questions such as “do you have a fiancé?“!
I had this long-time obsession I wanted to go to Palomino, because I saw these huts and really wanted to stay there. They are built according the local traditional architecture, in wood, cane and straw. A bed in a dorm comes at around 35000COP, and a private hut 135000COP.
The dorms are nice – they have 9 beds (4 bunks and a single), and come 2 bathrooms in each dorm and a private locker per each guest. All beds have an individual mosquito net and the dorm has a couple fans to cool down. the way they are built is amazing, there is so much wild life around there, you can always hear different birds, crickets, etc… it’s almost like sleeping out in the wild, but with the comfort of a mattress and proper bathroom facilities 🙂 The shower bit in the bathrooms is also open air, so it always feels like outside, which is lovely.
The private rooms are little huts. They stand in line, facing the pool, and each one is named after a beach. Each hut has a single bed on the top floor, a double bed, a private bathroom, a fan, and a hammock in the porch. You can shut down some “curtain” like screens on the porch, for extra privacy or light blocking. Clean towels and soap bars are provided.
We stayed in both accomodations and I must say – I actually preferred sleeping in the dorm! Don’t ask 😀
The Tiki Hut has a kitchen, a bar, a pool, a TV, lot’s of board games, and a few hammocks outside. Its easy to “just be”, get lazy, relax, and make new friends!
And of course, like every good place on Earth, there are pets as well <3 Lazy pets 😀
Palomino is really small! It’s just around 4 blocks or so. The main road (where the bus drops you off) has all the major facilities – pharmacy, shops, cafés, petrol stations etc. Here you’ll find cheaper waters, for example. Remind you there is no drinkable water on tap, and it’s always really hot, so we purchase lots of water bottles all the time. I also bought here more mosquito repellent, as I kept being bitten all the time!
On the little streets, as you are heading down to the beach, there are other little shops, and as you get closer to the beach, more and more hostels, campsites, lodges, and other tourist activity places.
On the beach there are lots of restaurants, bars and activities to do. The restaurants are not the cheapest (comparing to Santa Marta, for example), but there is a great vibe around. There are also lots of guys selling handcrafted jewelry, playing instruments, doing yoga, reading books… it’s a fantastic vibe. The sea is quite harsh though – strong waves hit the coast hardly. There are lots of surfing schools and rental places for surfers to get boards or for newbies to learn how to surf also. Bars usually have happy hours too!
The Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada is over 5000m high. If you look at the top at dawn (and if you’re lucky enough to find clear skies), you can see the snow sitting on the top of the mountain. Lots of places offer tours to the mountains, to go tubbing on the Palomino river, to visit the indigenous tribes, and others alike. We really wanted to go and see the tribes, but all the tours we found at the hostels were either unavailable or expensive (100000COP and up). We met a guy on the street who was a mountain guide, who did it for 70000COP pp, so we decided to go.
We (me and Lucie) met Thomas, a german cardiologist and also a solo backpacker, at the hostel, and asked him if he would like to join us – this way we brought the tour price down to 60000COP pp, and more fun for the walk!
We left the hostel at 7am, but it still wasn’t soon enough to see the snow top on the mountains though… To help and save us time for the walk, we got the moto guys to take us to the furthest they could go, saving us about 30 min walk or so.
And then the climb is harsh! The journey is steep, filled with loose rocks, water, plants, all these different animals… Lots of little ants cross your way carrying their little leaves for their food storage.
Indigenous Tribes (Yogi)
As far as we know, these guys have been hanging around here for the past 15000 years. That’s way before Jesus. Way before “calendar-concept”. Way before a lot!
I personally find indigenous people in South America all very similar – short, darker reddish skin, long straight black hair, oval-shapped black eyes. It’s hard to tell how old they are.
Usually, girls are proposed for marriage since they turn into women – around 12, 13 years of age. Boys marry at around 18. They live as a family all the way until they die. They live in hierarchical order as well – apparently the most important person – the Mamu – lives on the very top of the mountain. The Mamu is like a “Pope and a monarch”. He pretty much decides what sort of “punishments” are given, and takes the most important decisions.
There are 16 villages of these tribes in the Sierra Nevada, and around 17000 people roughly. They are not officially registered – like a normal “citizen” – no id or birth certificates. This whole mountain is protected, and so are they, by the Colombian government. They are a sociological / anthropological institution of their own, and I love that… It’s like travelling several centuries back, and have a peak into the past!
They live in the little huts, in which the hostels in Palomino are inspired. They live in groups of families.
It’s incredible what you hear and see in the mountains! I couldn’t see and / or photograph all of them, but here’s a sample:
I’ll be back!
Palomino was my favourite spot. Being disconnected from everything else, the nice people, the ambient, the mountains, the beach… I loved it, and I hope to come back!