It was one of those trips. You know, the kind you daydream about for years but you never think you’ll actually get to go on in this lifetime. After all, adventures like this don’t come around every day. And the monotony of life can sometimes leave you feeling like your dreams are far more exciting than your reality ever will be.
But then something changes. Suddenly, your biggest dream turns into a plane ticket and an updated passport. And just like that, you set off on a life-changing adventure you won’t soon forget. After a much anticipated and very long hike across the globe, you find yourself on the Caribbean coast of Colombia about to embark on a journey most tourists will never even attempt. That is where my story begins. And hopefully, yours will too someday. I’ll never forget the first moment I set eyes on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. With its dense tropical rainforest and sprawling mountainscapes, this unique location on Earth gives a whole new meaning to the concept of being on top of the world. It fills you with a sense of awe that you simply can’t experience anywhere else or put into words for someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves for that matter. I even failed to effectively communicate what it inspired in me to the people I was actually traveling with, if that tells you anything.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria is a very isolated mountain range, making it a pristine ecotourist destination for the few brave travelers who venture there during any given year. And it’s one of the few places left on Earth where you can see firsthand the amalgamation of nature and indigenous people alike. As a matter of fact, this area is known for being very adventure travel-oriented—drawing in only those who seek out the wilder, more biodiverse regions of the world. And you simply cannot enter its higher elevations without receiving prior approval from one of the four indigenous groups in the region.
We chose to begin our journey well off the beaten path—entering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains and traveling deep into the jungle. This particular area falls under the jurisdiction of the Wiwa indigenous tribe. And they were kind enough to escort us to the Matuna Waterfall where we spent the entire day with them—leaning against large boulders by the river, swimming in the refreshing pool, and learning more about their way of life as the day wore on.
Small in stature, but big in heart, the Wiwa see themselves as protectors of the natural environment—a responsibility they never take lightly. They feel a very deep connection between the physical and spiritual world, and their entire lives are built around a rich culture that includes rituals, meditation, and song.
Rejecting the modern way of life, the Wiwa continue to live off the land as their ancestors once did before them, passing on their language and traditions from one generation to the next, while still embracing the tourists who travel onto their sacred lands. I also discovered along the way that they’re a very thoughtful people who understand the importance of family and developing a sense of community. And they’re easily recognizable if by nothing else than the loose white clothing and hats they wear on a daily basis.
Needless to say, my time with them was an eye-opening experience that will forever change the way I look at my own life and culture. And I will forever be grateful for the hospitality they extended to us while we were there.
Eventually, however, it was time to move on. So, we packed all of our gear back into our adventure travel packing cubes and set off on our next adventure.
Our next stop was Cabo San Juan Beach. Deep in the heart of Tayrona National Park—the most frequently visited national park in all of Colombia—Cabo San Juan Beach is only one of only three beaches in the area where swimming is actually allowed. And while it took us nearly two hours hiking through dense jungle and passing other beaches to get there, it was well worth all the extra effort.
Left entirely natural and undeveloped, Cabo San Juan Beach is exactly what you have in mind when you think of a tropical oasis. From the miles of fine, white sand to the crystal clear water, swaying palm trees, and mountain backdrop, you can easily fall in love with this place and never want to leave.
Just be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen in your travel packing organizers so that you can enjoy a nice, leisurely visit and never feel rushed into leaving too soon. I even packed a dive mask and underwater camera into mine and captured memories I never wanted to forget. With several different sizes available, it was easy to keep my gear organized and safe from the elements thanks to its rugged waterproof design. In fact, I’ll never leave on another adventure trip without mine from this point forward.
Saying that I enjoyed my time lying on the beach and exploring this breathtaking paradise would be quite an understatement. There’s just something about looking off into the distance and seeing the rock formations that tower over the crest of waves and feeling the gentle breeze as it blows across your skin that makes this picturesque location quite so impressive. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention just how smooth the fine sand feels under your feet as you walk along the beach.
But, alas, it came time once again to say goodbye to this beautiful backdrop and head off on our next journey. This time, our travels would take us up into the cloud forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Unlike the tropical rainforest environment located down below, the cloud forest is what you’ll find as you reach the much higher altitudes up in the mountains.
Hiking our way up the highest coastal mountain range in the world, we traversed almost 19,000 feet of elevation and found ourselves sitting only 30 miles away from the Caribbean Sea itself. After that, we were tired deep down into our bones and were more than thankful for the night we spent in a beautiful little cabin with scenic views of the Santa Marta cityscape and surrounding areas.
We pulled our mosquito repellent balm out of our travel gear organizers , applied a fresh coat to our exposed skin, then cuddled up on a huge net hammock as we watched the sunset off in the distance.
And before we drifted off to sleep that night, thinking about the next day’s adventures, my mind wandered off to all we had seen and done so far on this trip.
From dreams to reality, this adventure meant far more in my life than I had ever thought it would. The sights, the sounds, and all the people we met along the way will forever be ingrained in my memory. And I’ll never forget how tiring it actually is to hike through such a dense jungle environment only to feel so satisfied and elated from your exertion when you finally sit down to rest. What’s more important, this whole experience made me realize just how much the things you pack and the people you travel with really do influence the way you experience any adventure trip.
Because without the right gear—like clean drinking water, snacks, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a dive mask, an underwater camera, and waterproof adventure travel packing cubes—a trip to such an isolated location could have gone from bad to worse at any given moment. But instead, we got to enjoy the magic of every moment because we had planned so well ahead. And without the right travel companions, this trip could have been rife with complaining, exhaustion, and disappointment. But instead, it was exhilarating and made even better by the good company we kept.
So, plan ahead, pack smartly, and bring along the best companions you can find. It’s time to start out on your own adventure soon.
Comments will be approved before showing up.