The last beach that we encounted on our trek through Tyrona
The town of Taganga from a trail that makes its way to Playa Grande.
Local fish for sale. This kettle of fish was in a wheel burrow being walked to different restaurants that buy the fish as they come in from the sea.
As I rolled into Taganga, Colombia I spotted a couple of folks of the caucasion persuasion standing in front of a dive shop. I stopped and inquired about accomidations and also what the diving course was all about. In the minutes that followed I had a place to stay and a spot booked on a boat for the morning out to a dive location with a diving instructor named Chopper.
I checked into Villa Esther which was run by an 81 year old man that looked like he was pushing 65 at the maximum. Although he was kind of slow when making his way around the hostal guest house he was definately fast at adding charges to my daily bill. Unknown to me there was an Israile hostal right next door that pumped techno music all night beginning at 11pm and playing well into the wee hours of the morning.
I had booked my SCUBA diving instruction through Aquantis, a reputable dive shop in the centre of town. I was pretty excited to recieve instruction and get into the deep blue sea. Chopper began with several basic SCUBA diving exercises at a beach some 15 minutes boat ride into Parque Nacional Tyrona. Several exercises were given which included mask clearing and what to do when running out of air for example. Anyhow, I seemed to really enjoy the diving experience, so much so, that I proceeded to dive 30 times in a row and attain a level of Rescue Diver which complements my EMT training.
The under water environment was a laugh and a half. Actually in my advanced diver course my instructor brough me and my dive buddy Eric from Sweden down to 30 meters where nitrogen narcosis becomes apparent in most people. Eric and I were given simple math problems and also asked to spell the USA presidents name backwards. I forgot to multiply when asked to multiply and Eric amazingly was able to spell George Washington backwards. Unfortunately Obama was the name that we were looking for and we all had a good laugh at 4 Atm pressure 30 meters below the sea. We ascended up to 20 meters where the nitrogen narcosis wore off and I reflected at how dangerous Nitrogen Narcosis really could be and how it alters your state of consiousness. In some people the Narcosis causes feelings of contentment and a disregard for safety. Some people have taken their dive gear off and drown as they were completely intoxicated and happy. Infact I read that the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis is also described as the "martini effect". Meaning that at 12 meters one is influenced similarily to intoxicating effect of one martini, at 30 meters its equivalent to 3 martini's and so on.
After finishing my Open Water, Advance Diver, and then my Rescue Diver I almost considered continuing on to become a Dive Master. I considered scrapping my plans to ride through Central America and just stay in Taganga for another month and a half to complete the apprenticeship and complete 40- 60 further dives. Alas, with much contemplating I barely made the decision to continue on and perhaps do the Dive masters in another year.
On my last 2 day's in Taganga I met 3 American folks that convinced me to accompany them on a hike into the Parque Nacional Tyrona. I was hesitant but I was easily convinced since I heard alot of positive feed back from other folks that went into the park. I was in the company of Michelle from Florida, Maurice from NY and Matt from Hawaii. Together we hopped into a cab and proceeded to the park gate. From here it was an easy hike through the jungle for about 1.5 hours until we came across the first of several beaches that had accomidations that ranged from tents, hammocks, to lockable rooms. Most people opted for the hammocks to take advantage of the sea breeze, but the trade off was the carniverous mosquito population that gorged themselves on the unsuspecting sleepers.
The first beach that we encounted was stunning. The Caribbean Sea was a colorful splash of aqua green and aqua blue with foamy white waves rolling into soft light brown sandy beaches held in place by towering palm trees. As we contined walking I kept thinking how surreal the surroundings were and how I would'nt appreciate this environment until sometime later. We eventually made our way to the last beach in the park that had a great area for swimming behind a corral reef. We all chilled out at this beach for a couple of hours before making our way back out. On returning to the exit we stopped in at one last beach which was one of the most stunning places I've ever been. Here I rented a mask and snorkle from a woman standing under a palm tree. The reef was shallow and had a variety of fish inhabitants and a decient array of corrals. I managed to pop a few under water pics of some interesting christmas tree worms and one of a sea snail common to this region.
The time had come to leave and we headed back to the park gate to rendevous our cab which were arranged prior to pick us up. That evening after hiking we decided to head into Santa Marta and cap the day off with dinner and a few drinks. Here, Maurice befriended a 15 year old kid who looked 10 years old because he was stunted in his grown from huffing gasoline and being malnurished. Maurice brought the young fellow to a grocery store and bought him some juice and a few other items that the young fellow wanted. We thought of giving the kid a ride back to his shanty town but the grocery store owner strongly persuaded us not to go there after dark. We said good bye to the happy young lad and he took off into the night. I mentioned to Maurice that he had a big heart and was very generous. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a person that is born into a cycle of povery and has limited chance for success.
We all returned back to Taganga and capped the night off with relaxing around Maurice and Matt's pool at their hostal. The evening was great and I was counting my blessings to be so fortunate.
In the morning I open up my e-mail to find a note from a captain regarding a boat to Panama. Apparently there wouldn't be another boat for a while that could accomidate a motorcycle so in a split decision I weighed the pro's and con's and decided that I'd finish what I started and continue on with my Moto to Cartegena and load my bike onto a 45 foot catamiran and sail north ward along the Caribbean Coast to Panama.