PALOMINO – Take Me to the River, Drop Me in the Water

Slowly we’re approaching the end of our trip. At the beginning you count the past days and you’re happy to still have so much time ahead. And then it’s almost half, exactly half, more than half…and if you are having a really good time, you quit counting and you’re only enjoying knowing neither what day nor which date it is; you’re floating in time.

Way better than ‘wet’n’wild’: Tubing down river Palomino 

And floating is what we did today. Not only in time but on a long and windig river here in Palomino where we arrived this morning.

Palomino is a slightly shabby village between a road and a nice stretch of beach, frequented mainly by the hippieish backpacker crowd. Thus there are many, many hostels – and if this is still too bourgeois for you, you can rent only a hammock for a handful of dollars.

Colombian “Natty Dreadlocks” selling jewelry on the beach. 

You can hear the late Bob Marley at every corner. Rasta culture rules. It’s amazing how the relatively small island of Jamaica enriched hippiebackpackertourism all over the world. Even in Bali and Thailand I saw beach boys imitating the half asleep, “philosophical” (rather confusion than confucius) attitude. Although supposedly Jamaican at heart, their bodies remained Asian and they have straight hair and cannot grow dread locks. So they wear their hair long – problem solved, chick magnet just the same.

So anyway, we didn’t come here to listen to the “rivers of babylon”, we came here to float down river Palomino. Because since yesterday it was drizzling and the sky was covered, we decided to do it right away. Floating two hours in the glistening sun might be hard for us Northerners, anyway.

Everybody in Palomino seems to be in the tubing business, there is a pile of lorry inner tubes in front of basically every house.
For a couple of pesos the owner hands you a tube and hires a young man on a motorbike for you and off you go.
It’s not very handy to carry a huge tube while riding a bike. Therefore they invented the technique of sliding the tube over both riders.

What an air bag!

You get into the river somewhere in the jungle, the bike gets you there approximately half way – more interesting in the rain: a roiling river of mud, deep puddles, slippery rocks. Our protective suits consisted of no hard hats but shorts and a tank top; we were going to get wet after all. I wonder in how far the tube would absorb a fall. Would we just bounce off the rock’n’roll downhill tubed to our driver?
Anyway, faith and the drivers were kind and we arrived safely at the pretty tight jungle trail and were from here on our own.

Marching half an hour on a very narrow, very steep and very slippery mud trail carrying a huge tube in the pouring rain does not sound that great, I guess. But besides the fact that I ruined my flip flops from all the flipping and flopping in the mud, I actually enjoyed the beauty of the sumptuous forest a lot.

First we had to carry the tube all the way up…
…and then all the way down. 

Once at the river shore, you make yourself comfortable in the tube, you wiggle and giggle and shriek – that’s not the official, necessary part of the program, but everybody does – and off you float.

Hang in there! Floating down rio Palomino. 

It’s great fun, but don’t think that you can just hang in there and let the mighty river do all the work! If you do that, you end up against rocks and in the bushes. There were co-tubers floating from bush to bush, but that’s only fun for others, and while the water has a suspicious appearance, at the shores it’s plain disgusting. I know that because I got there twice.
So what you have to do is to observe the course of the river and the rapids and navigate with your arms as quick and frantic as you can.

But there are also long smooth parts where you can relax and appreciate the mighty jungle with its numberless species of majestic trees. You can watch colorful birds sitting on branches above your head, from time to time diving to get something out of the water (so there is something in the water, that’s attractive to birds?!? My butt is hanging in this water…). It’s just so, so beautiful!
If you worry about safety: The danger, that you capsize because your bottom touches ground is in many parts bigger than drowning.
After approximately two hours – depending on your navigation skills – the fun is over and you reach the beach, i. e. a sandbank separating the river from the ocean.

Tubing was wet, the ocean is wild.

Slowly we’re aproaching the end of our trip. And today’s tubing was one of its highlights.

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Another day, the same bus – we were going from the El Zaino entrance of the Parque Tayrona to Palomino.

Take me to the river.

The former fishermen’s village Palomino is located about 50 km further east so that the bus takes you there in about an hour. The is sort of booming; because it has one of Colombia’s nicest beaches and a river with a major fun factor.

Palomino is a slightly shabby village between a road and a nice stretch of beach, home to about 4,000 people and frequented mainly by the hippie-ish backpacker crowd. Thus there are many, many hostels – and if this is still too bourgeois for you, you can rent only a hammock for a handful of dollars.

Colombian “Natty Dreadlocks” selling jewelry on the beach. 

You can hear the late Bob Marley at every corner. Rasta culture rules. It’s amazing how the relatively small island of Jamaica enriched hippiebackpackertourism all over the world.

So anyway, we didn’t come here to listen to the Rivers of Babylon, we came here to float down river Palomino. Although the village is mainly a beach location, it is at the same time on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Colombia, world’s highest coastal peak. Therefore, there is not only the ocean, there is also a river.

The good people of Palomino found a way to turn this river into a stream of gold: They offer floating down in lorry tires – great fun for young and old.

Everybody seems to be in the tubing business, there is a pile of lorry inner tubes in front of basically every house.

For a couple of pesos the owner hands you a tube and hires a young man on a motorbike for you and off you go.
It’s not very handy to carry a huge tube while riding a bike. Therefore they invented the technique of sliding the tube over both riders.

Safety first: What an airbag!

You get into the river somewhere in the jungle, the bike gets you there approximately halfway, then you have to walk for about half an hour on a very narrow and very steep mud trail.

Carrying the tire through the rainforest.

Once you get to the river shore, you make yourself comfortable in the tube, you wiggle and giggle and shriek – that’s not the official part of the program, but everybody does – and off you float.

Hang in there! Floating down rio Palomino

It’s great fun, but don’t think that you can just hang in there and let the mighty river do all the work! If you do that, you end up against rocks and in the bushes. There were co-tubers floating from bush to bush, but that’s only fun for others, and while the water has a suspicious appearance, at the shores it’s plain disgusting. I know that because I got there twice.
So what you have to do is to observe the course of the river and the rapids and navigate with your arms as quick and frantic as you can.

But there are also long smooth parts where you can relax and appreciate the mighty jungle with its numberless species of majestic trees. You can watch colorful birds sitting on branches above your head, from time to time diving to get something out of the water; which means there is something in the water, that’s attractive to birds. My butt is hanging in this water…
Anyway, it’s so beautiful and relaxing.
If you worry about safety: The danger, that you capsize because your bottom touches ground is in many parts bigger than drowning.
After approximately two hours – depending on your navigation skills – the fun is over and you reach the beach, i. e. a sandbank separating the river from the ocean.

The tubing was wet, the ocean is wild.

There you can just leave the tire and jump into the crashing waves that are rather for surfers than for swimmers.
However, the beach of Palomino was my favorite in Colombia so spending at least two days here is absolutely worth it.

Places to sleep and places to eat:

Along the main dust street stretching about one mile from the principal road Troncal del Caribe to the beach are many guesthouses, cabanas, hostels, and nicer hotels to choose from.

Many of them have an adjacent restaurant and since it’s a bit hippie-ish, it’s easy to get vegetarian or even vegan food here.

Important to know:

There is no bank or ATM in Palomino. Best you bring enough pesos for your stay. You can also change US Dollars at some of the guest houses and restaurants, but you’ll probably get a worse exchange rate; which shouldn’t be that dramatic since you probably won’t need to change large amounts.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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