A holiday from travelling: why this little spot in Colombia was the perfect vacation
It’s 7.00am and the sun is shining as we glug freshly squeeze orange juice and eat arepas con huevos revueltos. A breeze swings through the leaves of the surrounding palm trees. Out at sea, a woman is bobbing gently on her surf board, resting until the next wave.
Over the next three days, we will cross a caiman-infested lake (we won’t know this at the time) to reach dense jungle. We will follow the journey of an army of leafcutter ants, listen to the calls of red howler monkeys and spot camouflaged iguanas moving lazily through the undergrowth. We will walk across the beach at sunset, get lost down forest tracks and have candlelit dinners to the sound of the ocean crashing on the rocks below.
SEVEN days earlier…
We were in a dark, stuffy room without any windows in Medellín, packing out backpacks for yet another flight. We ruffled the dyed-pink mohawk of a terrier belonging to the wacky hostel-owner and said our farewells.
The night before, amid a frank discussion with our fellow guests about some of the less appealing aspects of travel, someone had asked, “what comes to mind when you think of taking a ‘holiday’?”
A picture started taking shape. I thought of golden sands, palm trees and blue skies. I imagined myself reading a good book whilst swinging in a hammock, emptying my mind of the stresses of everyday life.
Whilst travelling is a beautifully humbling and eye-opening experience, it cannot always be described as a holiday. This is why, after spending umpteen hours on coaches, sleeping on saggy beds in and pounding the streets of vibrant towns across Colombia, Matt and I really wanted a ‘holiday’.
We made a beeline for the Caribbean coast…
Capping the country with baking sun and glorious beaches, it was just outside Tayrona National Park that we followed a tree-lined path to Finca Barlovento, a unique hotel that sits where the Río Piedras meets the sea.
In 1976, artist Gloria Mejía commissioned architect Simón Velez to bring to life a coastal retreat for her family. Forty years later, atop a rock that juts out over the ocean, we enter the Barlovento Cabin, a thatched-roof cottage that stands strong against the salty winds and thundering waves.
Over the next three days, we shared cheerful breakfasts and relaxed dinners with families and friends from around the world, exchanging stories of home, and away (like that time we found a crab in our bed…). In the daytime, we ran into the tide, basked in the sunshine and read a novel, or three (to this day, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life remains one of my favourite books).
We explored the wilderness, listened to troops of monkeys howling at the top of their voices and escaped to the shore when the mosquitoes started to get a little too hungry…
This was Colombia at its finest.
Our last morning was bittersweet.
We were sad to be moving on, but reinvigorated for our final two months of travel.
Our holiday gave us the chance to slow down, to ‘treat ourselves’, and to experience life’s small pleasures. The feeling of sand between our toes, the thrill of being surrounded by wildlife, big and small, and the opportunity to connect with strangers.
To quote Madonna (!) a holiday is a time to ‘come together, to release the pressure’.
Our three nights in this little slice of Colombian paradise was exactly that, and much more.
So, why am I telling you all this?
Yellow Zebra Safaris have invited bloggers to describe their best holiday as part of a competition to win a safari for two to Tanzania!
Matt and I have visited nearly every continent together, except from Antarctica and, you guessed it, Africa. Our fondest travel memories are the times that we spent in the wild - spotting bears in California’s Yosemite National Park, swimming with marine iguanas in the Galápagos and watching wild horses of Camargue gallop across the sunburnt fields of southern France. We have a hunger to experience the natural world, to capture in photographs (and, sometimes, film) the incredible everyday lives of creatures big and small.
It has been a pleasure to reminisce on our incredible time in Colombia, and we can only hope to experience an action-packed safari in Tanzania in the not-too-distant future!
If you haven’t already, head to the top of this page to watch the video we put together of our time at Finca Barlovento!