Day 3, country 1, 180km
With Nelson safely out of the port, stocked up with groceries and snacks, it was time to head to the beach to get sorted out. When all the stuff that is normally on the roof, is inside the truck, the back is basically full and not easily usable. The drive to Tayrona National part is to the east of Cartagena and follows a series of narrow spits along the coast rather like the Florida Keys. with joining bridges and water on both sides for many miles, so its a very nice drive and I stop to take a few pictures on the way. Traffic here is pretty easy, not European in discipline but not the full on contact sport of India.
My plan is to stop at a place called Casa Grande just outside the Tayrona National Park, a beach camping spot well known to Overlanders. I hope to to meet my friends Debbie and Gary, if they can get their land rover running in Santa Marta with the new parts I have brought them. I arrived at the beach and it was just as I had hoped from the research, very open campsite with nice shade and a lovely unspoilt beach. The only downside to this spot is that beach is steeply shelved and can be dangerous for swimming if there are big waves, but a nearby river compensates nicely.
As my friends have not yet arrived due to an electrical problem, I set about unloading the truck onto the ground and use my new found Spanish skills to ask for help to get the big awkward roof box up on to the roof rack. I am realising that the investment in Spanish lessons was really a necessity as here, and in other places, there is no english spoken at all by the staff or the other campers. Hopefully this will give me the encouragement to keep on with my lessons and practice through necessity every day!
Just before I left I got into that phase where I was just throwing things into the truck in big Ikea bags and thinking I can sort it out when I get there! I was very relieved when the customs guys decided that it was too wet and they did not need to inspect the contents of my car!
Finally Gary and Debbie turned, up still nursing a problem with their split charge system, which we were able to resolve the next morning with my multi meter and some thoughtful cups of coffee… My Vladimir Putin pose is driven by the heat, my skin is covered in sweat, not any desire to show off my wobbly tummy. There was a nice shower just behind the truck which was used multiple times each day just to cool down briefly.
It is nice to get all the gear on Nelson and to have the chance to sleep “in my own bed” for a change. In the morning I wake up around 7am and open up the bug screen to this view and the sound of the crashing waves, a few minute later I am in the sea for a fresh dip while the kettle is working away for my coffee, at this point the temperature is already warm…
I bought some nice sandals, featured above beside my new best friend, with magnetic clips so they are quick to put on. Shoes are a big consumer of space in a truck, my trusty Goretex TNF Heghogs plus a good set of sandals are all I need for a six month trip and perch on a bungie cord on the back door neatly out of the way. Unfortunately the new sandals lasted exactly one day as this dog, while waiting for treats from the dinner table, must have taken a liking to my discarded sandal and chewed the buckle right off it – so first kit damage of the trip and I am on the look out for a pair of crocs or flip flops now
One thing which is not good about the beach life is that it is very hot, typically 32oC which is not a bad temperature in itself if its dry, but by the coast it is about 80 or 90 percent humidity and then it all gets to be a bit of a drippy mess, specially if there is no wind at all, as there was when I was there. The only antidote to the heat is to have a fan, I have two in the front of the truck and one in the back and they are demountable so its possible to position them for maximum effect (as you can see above while I am reading). The new battery system in Nelson is strong enough to run two fans all night and the fridge blasting away without running out of power before the solar kicks in again in the morning.
Sleeping involves being up in the roof bed, all the windows open (with the mozzie screens on) and one fan on each side of me about knee height keeping front and back cool. The fans are quiet but have a nice comforting background hum that masks small sounds outside and lulls me into a good sleep.
On the second evening the weather changes rapidly, torrential rain as I have only before seen in the Asian monsoon pours down. Thankfully I have my awning up and I was at the car having just returned from a near by river swim, so I was able to stay mostly dry by lowering the uprights to create a slope on the roof. My friends who were still at the river with purses, passports and phones were all completely soaked through as if they had stood in the shower for 45 minutes ! The rain came with a pretty good lighting storm that lasted for three hours but at least it had a cooling effect which was much needed.
Next step is to make the hot run south over the plains to the mountains and hopefully some cooler weather