When asked to imagine the typical countryside of Colombia few would picture a vast and brutal desert similar to that of the Australian Outback. La Guajira is a department (state) of Colombia located on the Caribean coast that boasts salt, stars, and rough roads that will leave travelers exausted and enamoured with the adventure that is La Guajira.
La Guajira has two main destinations, Cabo De La Vela and Puntos Galinas and a trip to both is required to fully enjoy this odity of a desert. First you must take a collectivo out to Uribe which is the Wayuu nation Capital more or less. The Wayuu are the local indigenous group who live like modern Colombians in Uribe and in a more traditional livelihood further out in the desert. Once arriving in Uribe you need to ask around for a 4×4 transport because the roads are really rough. I was lucked enough to get a guy by the name of Alfonso who drove like a bat out of hell with a laugh as loud as his engine.
The first stop on the trip is in Cabo De La Vela, a rural town with little to do other than swim and kite surf which was also the landing site of the first explorers to South America. Amenities are basic; there exists little power and sleeping in a hammock under the stars will likely be your accommodation for the night. Go for a swim, soak up the sun and go for a hike in the neighboring hills.
While the views are pleasant it is a stark contrast to the rest of Colombia. The poverty of the Wayuu is extreme and saddening and many struggle with Spanish and live in shanty huts. People will likely beg for water/food and money and in all honesty you really should give them something. What is a meer 1,000 COP and some water to someone who is on vacation… anyway… the next stop will be in Puntos Gallinas the most northern part of South America.
After an early morning drive and a boat ride you will arrive in Puntos Gallinas in enough time to check out where the sand dunes meet the ocean. Truly the nicest and most dramatic beach I have ever seen. Relax in a hammock durrning the night and observe the Milky Way floating above your head. Speaking of the Milky Way, Alfonso was kind enough to share a bit of a silly story about the Wayuu. The Wayuu nation is a part of Venuzela and Colombia and is the reason you will likely only drink Venezuelan beer there. The close connection means that smuggling is easy and common. When I think smuggling I think guns and drugs however, Alfonso surprised me when he said it was more common to smuggle commercial goods like MilkyWay candy bars and other food items.
After returning the next day to Uribe with only one car fire and minor bruises from rally car driving we made our way back to Riohacha, ending our trip. All in all a trip out the desert is one you won’t forget so if you have time give it a go