I doubt pictures of Playa Brava, located in Parque Tayrona, would appear in glossy travel brochures. The sand certainly isn’t pure white and the beach is littered with natural debris. The waves are rough with a strong under current and the only accommodation found on the beach has a sense of abandonment to it!

Yet I loved the place. Santa Marta was a long way away, if only metaphorically.

For three days straight I lay in a hammock and read The Visitor by Lee Child, captivated by Jack Reacher’s every movement. When I felt my back become stiff which had suggested I had spent too long in the hammock, I got up and walked along the beach and jumped into the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.  Little crabs would surface, pop their heads up, check the coast was clear and then scuttle away. One afternoon, I watched a man throw out his fishing net in search of dinner, a task that must have tested his patience. His first 20 throws or so yielded just a couple of fish. But then he struck lucky with one particular throw and picked out at least 30 fish which he gave to his friend to look after in a yellow plastic bag. I headed back to my hammock, intrigued to find out whether Jack Reacher had discovered who had killed Alison Lamarr. Dusk meant dinner, a delicious, hearty meal cooked by the owner, Nurys, who said I reminded her of her son because of the way I spoke slowly! Darkness meant bed time – there was no electricity on the beach – and I lay in my newly purchased tent, slightly scared, as a storm approached and thunder and lightning rumbled, rattled and crackled all around me.

One morning, I decided to take a break from lying in a hammock and accompanied Lucas and Samantha to a nearby waterfall. Lucas was a modern day Che from Argentina except that he had no motorbike. Samantha was a brazilian chica from Sao Paolo. They had met whilst Lucas was working in Brazil, fallen in love with one another and had decided to travel though South America together. The waterfall was supposedly 20 minutes away from the beach. We followed a stream, ducking under overhanging branches and hopping from rock to rock, avoiding the spiders – perhaps poisonous perhaps not – who were clinging to the dry surfaces. It was a long 20 minutes – stopping every time my flip flops came apart certainly didn’t help us – but eventually we reached the waterfall, about 30 metres in height, with water thundering down from off the cliff above. I manoeuvred my way in over the slippery rocks and dived in under the falling water. It was surprisingly calm. Then I lifted my head and it felt like I was on the receiving end of thousands of machine gun bullets, each one hitting me as hard as the previous one.  A trip to go and see a waterfall doesn’t normally excite me. I’ve been lucky enough to see waterfalls before and they all look the same to me although some are taller than others. But I felt like an explorer of old uncovering a secret when I stood in front of this particular one. I didn’t have to pay to enter and see it, nor were there a host of vendors on site pestering me by trying to sell waterproofs and umbrellas. And, when it came to taking a photo, the resulting image was not one filled with hundreds of unknown faces in the background!

Hiking into and out of Playa Brava was also a great adventure. Along steep trails I walked, through cloud forest, pretending I was Ed Stafford trekking the length of the Amazon River. I walked into countless spider’s webs, barely visible to the eye, and black butterflies, with a dash of red and tiny white dots covering their wings, fluttered around me. I met Pepe, a nine year old boy from the Tayrona indigenous group. Like everyone from this indigenous group, even the women, his hair was long and jet black. He wore a white, long-sleeved and baggy shirt and white trousers, tucked into his wellies, with a mochilla tipica hanging off his shoulder and a machete at his left hand side. He pointed out a snake  to me – a dead one though – its body wrapped around a thin, low-lying branch of a tree. “Was this a poisonous one?” I asked him. “Yes” he replied, with a slight grin on his face, “you would only have 20 minutes to live if it bit you.” I couldn’t tell if he was pulling my leg or not.

On my way out I passed through El Pueblito, a settlement  of some 250 terraces which between 450 and 1,600 AD were inhabited by approximately 2,000 people. But today, just rings of stones lie on the ground, its former glories long gone. I moved briskly towards the park’s exit, stepping from boulder to boulder, but hoping I wouldn’t fall down a gap a la James Franco in 127 Hours! I reached the well known beaches of Cabo San Juan and La Piscina and yes, they were beautiful but they were full of Colombian’s enjoying a weekend break before Christmas.

Traffic. Cars, taxis, buses and motorbikes impatiently honking their horns. Rubbish on the streets. Reggaeton music in the air, it was a Saturday night after all. I had returned to Santa Marta and Playa Brava seemed a long way away, if only metaphorically.

To see my photos, check out this link – http://www.flickr.com/photos/68130795@N03/sets/72157628485232789/show/