On a clear day the snow-streaked peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta can be seen from the city of Santa Marta. This cordillera is the highest coastal range on the planet and only 45 kilometers (27 miles) from the sea. Its three crown jewels are Pico CristĂłbal ColĂłn (5,775 m. / 18,942 ft.), Pico BolĂvar (5,775 m. / 18,942 ft.) and Pico Codazzi (5,375 m. / 17,630 ft.).
Much of the areaâ€”383,000 hectares (946,413 ac) of itâ€”are protected lands, the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, spread out between Magdelena, Guajira and Cesar Departments. It is the birthplace of 30 rivers. Wildlife like jaguar, mountain tapir, condor, pĂˇramo deer, paujil and mountain parrot inhabit the forests. About 30,000 people of the Arhuaco, Kogi, Kankuamo and Wiwa indigenous nations also call this home.
Public transportation for various villages on the northern slopes of the range leaves from Santa Martaâ€™s market area on Calle 11.
For information on independent drivers to the San Lorenzo research station, visit the National Park office in Santa Marta. Some tour operators in Santa Marta and Taganga offer excursions into this part of the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Also, it may be possible to find a guide in Palomino to take you there.
The Southern sector of the park is accessible from Valledupar, where several indigenous villages are easily reached.
Entry fee into the national park is: Foreigners $10.50; Colombians: adults $4.50, children $2.25; persons under 5 years old or over 65 years, free.
Lodging in the cabin-dormitories costs: low season $13 per person per night; high season $18.
Relative price: Mid-Range
Travel Skills: beginner/easy.
You Need to Bring:
Bring along insect repellant and mosquito net; a yellow fever shot is necessary. Food and water (or water purification drops, or filter). If planning to cook in the cabin-dormitory kitchen, bring along propane gas or your own campstove (all other utensils are provided).
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...