I was hanging on for dear life to the outside of the Willy, the famous World War 2 jeep that ferries backpackers to Valle de Corcora in Colombia.
What a thrill! It’s by far the best way to travel the dusty, bumpy road to the National Park and visit the Cloud Forest, the Hummingbird Sanctuary and of course the Wax Palms, Colombia´s national trees.
Inside, the Willy was full to the brim, so there was standing room only on the tailgate. I squeezed aboard next to Josh from New Zealand and Polly from England who were travelling from Mexico to Argentina; the opposite direction to us,so we had plenty to talk about.
For forty minutes the jeep bumped along the track,passing coffee plantations and cowboy-hatted campesinos on horses. Moustachioed farmers mopped their brows with ponchos while chopping with machetes in the fields.
Wind whistled through our hair as Polly and Josh told me all about Nicaragua and Costa Rica and picked my brain about Argentina and Bolivia.
Inside the jeep, Darragh was the centre of attention ,fielding questions about his schooling in Buenos Aires and his bus trips in Patagonia.
Polly asked me about our plans, so I told her that we were going to the Caribbean Coast to relax for a week in Santa Marta before travelling to Cartagena and then on to Panama.Her eyes lit up with excitement and she told me about the wonderful catamaran, her friend sailed on from Panama to Cartagena. A five day trip, two days on the open sea with the rest visiting the San Blas Islands.
‘You gotta go!’she said, ‘But do your research. There are a lot of dodgy ,cranky sea captains out there and some of the boats are really old. I read about one boat that ended up on the reeks last month. The passengers were saved but lost everything’
‘Or,of course, you could fly to Aruba or Curaçao and fly to Panama from there`
She had me at the mention of Curaçao; Darragh, Nan and I had just read Theodore Taylor’s´The Cay’ and loved it, despite the shipwreck.
‘Yeah, I’ll check it out’ I said.
‘No seriously you gotta do it, it’s a chance of a life time. Take the catamaran, Pirates of the Caribbean stuff’
The Willy ground to a halt and we could see the tall, thin Wax Palms on the hills high above us, we said goodbye to Polly and company and trekked up the valley through the cloud forest to see the glorious trees and the bird sanctuary.
There were lots of humming birds, seven different varieties, constantly on go and impossible to photograph. Nan and Darragh waited patiently with their cameras, while I sat on a rock, my head buzzing with Polly´s words .
The adrenaline from the Willy was still rushing through my veins.
Pirates of the Caribbean!