Eliza’s Arrival & Our trip to Riohacha, Mayapo, & Camarones

Posted on 10/08/2012


Here is update number 2 about the past month 🙂

I officially got back to Colombia on July 15th, started back to work on Monday, July 16th, and my friend Eliza,from Cyprus, arrived to Barranquilla on Wednesday, July 18th to visit for about 3 weeks. For those of you who don’t know, Eliza and I completely our master’s degree together at the University of Leeds, and became good friends during our studies. Before Ele and I left England, Eliza promised she would visit us in Colombia in the next year or two—who’d a thunk she’d really make it all the way to Colombia…?

Well, she did.

Me and Eliza with all the Cypriot goodies she brought me and Ele 🙂

She arrived at a good time, because the weekend after she got here was a 3 day weekend, and we decided to visit a friend in Riohacha (about 5 hours northeast of Barranquilla) and give Eliza the chance to see la Guajira (the department beside ours). la Guajira is a beautiful department–it is divded between dense forests and mountains, and deserts and beautiful beaches, and is the ancestral land for one of the most well-known indigenous groups in Colombia, los Wayuu.


Our trip to la Guajira started out a bit hairy… We planned to leave Barranquilla at 6:30pm/7pm and catch a bus to Riohacha, arriving therea round midnight. Well, when we got to the bus station, we were quickly informed that the next bus did not leave until 10:30pm. Fantastic! So, we spent 4 hours in a Colombia fast food chain and then boarded our semi-overnight bus to Riohacha. We officially arrived to Riohacha at 3:30am, and our friend Nyne was kind enough to come pick us up and take us to her apartment where we quickly found our beds and went to sleep…BUT, not for long. Nyne woke us up around 8am and told us we were heading to a nearby beach, Mayapo. Although I was beyond exhausted (I had not even recuperated from my trip back from Alabama, much less my overnight bus ride), I was able to hoist myself out of bed and put on my beach gear.

Mayapo turned out to be an incredibly beautiful beach. Although the water was not 100% transparent, it was an amazing shade of turqoisey blue and just the right temperature to make you feel refreshed in the intense heat of la Guajira. It was nice to spend a whole day at the beach… I was able to catch a few Zs, enjoyed a nice swim in the ocean (Carribean Sea to be specific), and ate an amazing dish of red snapper with coconut rice and plantains. This was how we celebrated Colombian Independence Day (July 20th).

the beach in Mayapo

Waiting on our lunch

The next day, Saturday, we had a lazy morning before headed out to look at some mochilas–a very traditional type of bag made by the Wayuu. Nyne’s cousin took us to someone he knew that sells mochilas at a discount-like price. Although they weren’t the best quality mochilas, Eliza found 2 that she was happy with, and I bought one for myself. Post-mochila buying, we headed out with Nyne to observe her work. Nyne works with the Education Ministry here in Colombia. Her job entails observing and reporting on how Spanish (literacy) classes in rural areas are going and making sure professors are showing up for the classes they are teaching. This time, Nyne had to go to a REALLY small pueblito about 2 hours outside Riohacha up in the mountains, called Guillermina. I think the best part of going with Nyne was getting to see the beautiful landscape of lower Guajira. It was a landscape full of mountains, grazing cows, and small communities…

landscape of lower Guajira

Almost to Guillermina

Eliza & Santiago observing Nyne at work

On Sunday, Ele, Eliza, and I decided to take an adventurous trip to a small town called Camarones (Shrimps) to a national park–los Flamencos. What I was most excited about was being able to see flamingos who permanentely live on the lake in this small beach town and feed off the shrimp there, hence the name of the town. We arrived around 10am, and quickly paid a Wayuu man to take us out on the lake and find the flamingos. After about 15 minutes on the lake, Gabriel told us that you have to come around 6am/7am to really see the flamingos that normally number around 5,000! He said they normally fly out around 8am, because people starting shrimping. So, I was sad that we missed the big flamingo gathering, but happy to see 3 loner flamingos that stayed behind, and also super pumped that we got to see Gabriel’s ranchería (the Wayuus’ typical house unit), and get an inside look at how the Wayuu live.

catching shrimp

I know it’s blurry, but it’s the best pic. of the 3 flamingos I could get!

Gabriel’s ranchería (the wood is from dead cacti)

beach in Camarones

Me, Luis Angel (left), and Fabian (right)

After our lake and ranchería tour, we headed back to the beach part of the town, swam in the ocean for a while, had a great lunch, and then hung out with two Wayuu boys–Luis Angel and Fabian, until our taxi showed up at 4:30pm. Although we missed the great flamingo show, we were able to see some pretty amazing things and I am glad we decided to make the trip to Camarones.

Our last day in Riohacha, Monday, I had to work. As I have mentioned before, I am co-organizing a biannual event called the CLIL Symposium. We are working really hard to promote the event, so I took the day in Riohacha to visit some bilingual schools and language centers in univeristies.

piece of truth from la Universidad de la Guajira

If you want to know more about the event, check out the website:  2012 CLIL Symposium. And here is the image for this year:

After my CLIL visits were over, we ate lunch with Nyne and hopped on a bus back to Barranquilla…

And, that’s a wrap for our trip to la Guajira. In my next post, I will tell y’all about our weekend trip to Medellín and the rest of Eliza’s time in Colombia. Until then… Chao!

Posted in: Colombia, Travels