Tayrona Park is a national park in Colombia and where we went on a 3 day dive safari with the Calipso Dive School. We all did 7 dives and Vlad and Brent got their Naui Advanced Certification. We stayed on a beautiful beach in an little bay, slept in hammocks, had a relaxing time without the complication and hassle of running water and electricity (haha) which left us plenty of time to read and relax. Since no one else was around for miles it felt like our own little paradise. On the trip was the 3 of us, a German guy (Kurt), the dive instructor, and 2 crew guys.
The first day was 2 fun dives where we had great conditions and visibility and saw large, green moray eel, several smaller, spotted eels, a lobster, and many beautifully colorful fish, coral, and assorted plants.
The second day we did a deep dive for Brent and Vlad’s certification, then Kurt and I did a fun dive while Brent and Vlad did a navigation practice dive for their certification. The last dive was by far the most amazing of the whole trip, and possibly my whole scuba experience. First of all, it was during a thunderstorm, which seemed a little dangerous being on the water with all the lightning, but when it light up the whole ocean, it was spectacular. Its a little spooky being underwater at night because you never know what’s going to jump out, especially because there are so many eels in this area and they hunt at night, but Vlad stayed close and held my hand when I got scared :-). But the most amazingly beautiful thing I’ve ever seen how all the plankton in the water light up when you turn your light off and stir them up. I’ve seen it before in night dives, but never this intense and beautiful. Its really hard to describe how stunning it is, but I like how Kurt described it: “Every dive is like another world going under the water, but that was like going into a different reality.” It really seems like something out of a fantasy book, and even makes me believe that magic does exist. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good enough camera to capture this miracle, so its something you’ll just simply have to come see for yourself
The last day we did a cave dive, which was fun, but not as impressive as most caves I’ve seen in the Channel Islands, Hawaii, Mexico, and Palau. Then a current dive, which wasn’t strong, but has always been my favorite kind of dive because of the flying feeling you get when you stop kicking and spread out your arms.
Luckily, Kurt had an underwater camera and gave us his pictures. (Thanks, Kurt!) Here are a few of our photographer’s handy-work:
On the last day in Cartagena I said to Brent and Vlad, “Okay, guys, next stop is Taganga where you are going to learn how to scuba dive.” Taganga used to be only a fishing village, but is now known for being one of the cheapest and best places in Colombia to learn how to and go scuba diving, so the first day we looked around at a few different dive schools and on our 5th place we found Calipso, which is the cheapest school and only NAUI school, opposed to all the other PADI schools. Of course its a matter of opinion, but a lot of people consider NAUI to be the better of the two and since my dad and I have NAUI, and of course because it was a little cheaper ($240 for the Open Water Certification), Brent and Vlad signed up and started the next day. I’m telling you, I’ve never seen either of these guys so excited before and I’ve never seen so many high 5’s. The course lasted 3 days and entailed 2 pool dives, 4 ocean dives, 2 classroom sessions, and the written test. Everyday the guys seemed even more excited than the last, especially after the first days in the ocean. I’ve been proud of them everyday, but especially happy because they decided to do the Advanced Certification on a 3 day scuba safari, which I went along on for fun (since I already have my Rescue Certification).
We’ve traveled through Ecuador and Colombia in a bit of a rush because we heard so much about the sandy, white beaches (or with Vlad’s accent: “sandy, white bitches”) on the Caribbean. When we arrived we immediately fell in love, Brent with the warm climate, Vlad with the architecture, me with the beaches (or bitches…making fun of Vlad’s accent is a continuous form of amusement for Brent and I), and all of us with the absence of buses. From here we were planning on taking a sail boat to Panama, but we found out that it would take 3-4 weeks for Vlad to get a visa (Russia and Peru being of the few countries that have a hard time). So, we decided to stay in Colombia for a few more weeks, maybe go to Venezuela, and then fly back to California on the 12th. We celebrated Brent’s 19th birthday in Cartagena and then got out of the city by taking a boat to the island of Playa Blanca (White Beach) where we ate fresh fish, slept in hammocks for $3 a night, and spent most of the time in the warm, bluish-green water.
Next stop is Taganga where Brent and Vlad are thinking of taking a 4 day course to get their Padi Open Water Certification.
Here’s Playa Blanca:
After Quito and Cali we thought of heading to Bogotá or Medallin, but decided that we were again anxious to get out of the city and find another small town. They’re are always a little harder to find and its always a decision on which one to go to since there are more of them, but the pros by far outweigh the cons. First of all, to me the cities in South America almost all look about the same so if you just go from city to city it doesn’t seem like your traveling and you don’t experience much culture. Plus, in the smaller towns the pace is more relaxed, the people are friendlier, you can avoid the heavy traffic in the big cities, you can find cheaper and much better hotels, more traditional food and there are more often other festivals where you can experience other aspects of culture such as dance, music, etc. So, we read about a few towns outside of Mediliin in our Lonely Planet guide book and settled on Rionegro where we spent a few days .
compare Brittni’s dinner to Brent’s dinner (of course Vlad got a hamburger as usual)
We thought about taking some more stops along the way, but since we’ve been hearing the beautiful beaches on the Caribbean calling out to us, we decided to do a straight shot from Quito to Cali, giving us another 21 hours of bus, bus, bus! (Writing this now I’m on the beach and can say it was worth it.) Cali is well known for being the salsa capital of the world, but unfortunately I’m traveling with the biggest non-dancing, any-excuse-to-avoid-it, two-left-feet bros in the world, so I wasn’t able to appreciate the salsa much. To redeem them I will say that at least I it never takes much effort on my part to get them out for a few beers at a bar and its almost always…mostly…usually…pretty good conversation
We got one funny story from Cali, though. The first night we stayed in a normal, main stream hostel with 10-bunk-bed-style dormitory, bar, etc., and while those are always great for meeting other travelers and having a good time, they aren’t usually the cheapest bed in town. So the first night we were walking around on the street and we met a guy (as usual asking for directions) and he happened to own a “hotel” that was about $5 cheaper than our current hostel. So the next night we move in and at first all looks good. …But after a little while we realize that there are some pretty funny characteristics of this place. For a few examples, the bed has a glowing red light under it (picture below), the bathroom has a window highlighted with blue lights (picture below), the showers have windows looking in on them from the bed, there’s an enormous mirror covering one wall, and instead of soap we got condoms. It wasn’t until later when we took a taxi back to the hotel that the driver told us that in fact its really not a hotel where people sleep, but usually just rent by the hour for….other purposes. If you need more explanation, e-mail me and I’ll spell it out for you.
We stopped in Quito for one night, but felt like it was really dangerous, even though we were in the old town which is suppose to be the safest area, so we decided to only stay two nights. But we got to do the main touristy thing to do in the area which is go just outside of the city to the equator, known as the Mitad del Mundo.