PARADISE (PARAISO)! We found it. A beach oasis that represents the most popular word in Sth America “tranquil.”
Los Angeles (“the angels” in Spanish) is a campground on the Caribbean coast in Colombia. I am not going to reveal its exact location, as it is a hidden gem that needs protecting.
We had first heard about this beach location in June in Cusco, Peru. Cristian and Claudia our friends from Chile had recommended the location to us. We always knew we were headed there, and were desperate for some beach time and a vacation from our vacation. We had been moving every 1-3 days during our 12 months of travel and we just needed to stop.
From San Gil, we did 2 long days of travel, stopping overnight in a hostel to break up the journey. The terrain and the climate began to change as we headed towards the coast. We welcomed the warmer weather.
Our expectations were high so when approaching the Los Angeles, we prepared ourselves for possible disappointment. After driving down the driveway with bananas and tropical fruits growing either side we came to our first view of the beach and the campground. Perfect! Think of an image of a tropical beach with coconut palms, green grass, blue skies and a beautiful beach and you have it.
A family of 9, 8 brothers and one sister own the property. The property has been in the family for 4 generations. Up until 8 years ago, it was a working finca (farm) producing tropical fruits. At that point the family converted part of the property to a campground and tourist facility. They have several accommodation options from a private villa, to rooms, to hammock areas and camping. The accommodations are nestled amongst the trees with plenty of open spaces. They have a restaurant for meals and also do fresh fruit smoothies.
We set up our camp on the grassy area amongst the coconut palms. Not directly under obviously knowing the damage that a falling coconut can do.
After a few days we quickly established a flexible routine. This actually felt good after having not an ounce of routine for the past 11 months.
My day would start with completing exercises and a walk on the beach. Mike would begin with drinking a cup of coffee watching the waves rolling in. Whilst Keira watched a movie in the tent, her daily treat. We spent our days taking walks on the beach, sun baking, reading, making sand castles, swimming and playing in the waves, socializing with friends and fellow travelers, and generally relaxing. Every 5-7 days we would venture either 45 mins into Santa Marta for supplies or take a short bus ride to another village to collect basics, fresh fruits and vegetables. Several times we had fresh fish, which we bought from Los Cocos the fishing village on the next beach.
Of course there are always chores to do like washing clothes, cooking, washing dishes and daily organizing. On weekdays, Keira and I also spend 1-2 hours each day completing some schoolwork.
The difference being that our tent is our bedroom, our living room is the great outdoors, our kitchen on a folding table under an awning, and our classroom a table in the restaurant or the sand on the beach. This can be challenging at times but we have now got use to this life.
Privacy is a bit lacking in this situation. We were often the topic of interest for fellow travelers and Colombians, as they watched us going about our lives. People are fascinated by our story, and the set up of the vehicle. There are so many photos of Priscilla and us out there. We wished we had charged for each one. It would have funded our trip.
MORNING ROUTINES- OUR LIVING ROOM/GYM
BEACH TIME- OUR BACKYARD
On our second day at Los Angeles, Alex arrived. They were all staying at another hostel further down the beach. After seeing Los Angeles he collected Dayci and Aubrie, and moved down there with us.
Susanne and 2 of her friends Mario and Valeska arrived too, so for a couple of weeks we had our own community. Each night Mike made meals for us all, with everyone sharing the assistant chef role, and dishwashing duties.
Dayci plays guitar and both Aubrie and Dayci sing, so we sat on the beach a few nights listening to some songs they had composed.
We took a few excursions during our time there. We went to Tayrona National Park for a day trip and ventured 5 hours further north along the coast to Cabo de La Vela. See separate blogs for photos on these adventures.
We had spent 14 days at Los Angeles when we went to Cabo de La Vela. After 2 nights in Cabo, we decided to return back down the coast. We stopped at several other beach locations but they just didn’t meet the standards of Los Angeles, so we returned again.
At various points throughout this time we said goodbye to our friends. Alex returned to Germany for a visit and will return to Colombia in a few months to resume his travels again. Aubrie and Dayci set off to continue their exploration of Colombia and to do some more volunteer work. We said goodbye to Valeska and Mario in Cabo de La vela, as they stayed on to kite surf. Susanne also stayed in Cabo but returned to Los Angeles for Mike’s birthday. It was hard to say good-bye to everyone as we had a wonderful connection. And in the absence of your biological family, you become each other’s family for a while. Saying good-bye we made promises to keep in touch and to see each other again. And I think we will.
Another wonderful thing about Los Angeles was meeting Luis, Fabianna, and Miranda, a Colombian family also camping. They had been living there in their tent for 3 months. Luis and Fabianna are artists, using recycled plastics and items from nature to create mobiles, statues, and maracas, which decorate the property and add a uniqueness to the site. They also have painted murals around the campground. Most of the supplies they use are found washed up on the beach or in the waste products of the campground itself.
Miranda (aged 3 1/3) and Keira quickly became friends, playing with each other everyday. Both being only children Miranda and Keira, often acted just like sisters, with the ups and downs of a close relationship. The language barrier was a challenge at times. Keira worked really hard to learn new words and phrases to communicate better. Her Spanish improved remarkably through her play with Miranda, some of the other children, and through her interactions with Fabianna and Luis. She now assists me with pronunciations of words, and interpreting what people say.
The other member of our family whilst at Los Anegeles was a shaggy dog called Luna. She is the sweetest dog we have ever met. She would visit us at various points throughout the day for a belly rub and a snuggle. Her eyes had such depth and although quite young, she was an old soul with a big heart.
We would have loved to take her with us, but she has an amazing life in paradise. We will miss her!
LUIS AND FABIANNA'S ARTWORK
Being rainy season, we had a few big storms come through. The rain was torrential and would last for 4-5 hours. Several times we had a small river form behind our car and we had several items wash away, only to find them in the little creek the following morning. With the rains, came the toads and the crabs. Mike and Keira would go on crab and toad hunts on these nights, getting wet but having fun. Keira was in her element.
Other animals we encountered whilst there, were several varities of crabs, iguana, geckos, squirrels (they would jump between the palm trees), white cranes, pelicans, and parrots to name a few. Mike also saw an ocelot in the trees on a stormy night.
The next beach around was beautiful . The crocodiles thought so too as they inhabit a pond area where the river meets the ocean, Needless to say we did not swim there.
THE RIVER BEACH- SITINGS OF CROCODILES
Halloween made it to Los Angeles, with Keira and I decorating the car and our friends helping us to create a Halloween atmosphere. Miranda and Keira dressed up as fairy princesses in Keira’s dresses and wings. And with a little help from fellow campers, friends and staff, the girls were able to trick and treat throughout the campground. Keira was really thoughtful and gave Miranda the fairy outfit to keep.
We celebrated Mike’s birthday on November 18th. Keira and I decorated the car with balloons and signs, and we had a little party with music and even a birthday cake.
SLEEPING IN HAMMOCKS
The last 4 nights at Los Angeles we packed up the tent, wanting to keep it dry for the time period of shipping. We moved to the hammock area, sleeping in our own hammocks with mosquito nets for 4 nights. It took a little getting use to, but it was wonderful to be in the open with the fresh sea breezes.
We kept thinking we would leave Los Angeles and go and explore somewhere else but our “maybe tomorrow” turned into another 17 days. It was hard to leave Paradise.
And we left on the last possible day that we could. The family all came out to say goodbye. We had definitely become a part of their small community whilst there. We swapped emails and made promises to return one day. And I hope we do.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Mosquito repellent/sunscreen/mosquito nets, and a local remedy of garlic and limon to cure stomach problems
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- everything; Keira- having Miranda to play with/playing on the beach; Riss- spending time on the beach, the ocean is in my blood and I feel so invigorated and at home when by the coast.
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-trying to get work done in paradise; Keira- sometimes it is hard when I don’t know how to say something in Spanish/saying good-bye to my friends and Luna; Riss- leaving Los Angeles
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-,fresh fish from the local fisherman; Keira-fresh coconuts/smoothies/brownies; Riss- fresh coconuts to drink and eat each day; using fresh coconut to make our own coconut milk and coconut rice/Mike’s meals
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Los Angeles
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.