It’s been an incredible five months in Colombia, exploring this vast and diverse country. While we haven’t had much time to film all our travels, Punta Gallinas holds a special place in our hearts. Located in La Guajira, this region is known for its indigenous communities and vast desert landscapes.
In this video, we share our experiences navigating the challenging terrains, encountering indigenous families requesting small donations, and the unexpected encounters along the way. We even had a nerve-wracking encounter with locals upon arriving at Punta Gallinas.
Watch the video here:
Challenging the Impossible: Navigating Punta Gallinas Without a Guide
Many people told us it was impossible to reach this remote destination without a tour guide. But we are not the kind of travelers who simply follow the crowd. That’s why we wanted to see if we could navigate the challenging terrains ourselves.
With Google Maps and Maps.me as our virtual guides, we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. The journey began with the realization that Punta Gallinas was not easily accessible. We found ourselves driving through dried-out riverbeds, a common sight in this arid region. The mud was unforgiving, testing our vehicle’s capabilities and our determination to reach our destination.
Cultural Connections: Indigenous Families in Punta Gallinas
Along the way, we encountered indigenous families who had set up makeshift rope stations across the roads. We had heard before that they would request small donations from passing vehicles as a way to assert their ownership of the land. However, we had been warned not to give them money, as it could create an expectation among others. Instead, we came up with a unique solution – we bought 30 packs of Cheetos and 12 small water bottles to distribute as gifts. It was a small gesture, but it seemed to appease the families and allowed us to continue our journey.
From Confusion to Wonder: Unexpected Twists and Breathtaking Landscapes Along the Road
The empty road comes with its fair share of challenges. Our chosen route, while less frequented by other overlanders, proved to be more time-consuming than expected. Google Maps and Maps.me provided conflicting information, leaving us unsure of the actual duration of the trip (4 hours vs. …40 hours!?) What was supposed to be a four-hour drive turned into an eight-hour adventure of perseverance and resilience.
The diverse landscapes and ever-changing scenery kept us captivated throughout the journey. From the coastal beauty of Cabo de La Vela to the barren desert landscapes leading up to Punta Gallinas, every moment was a testament to the raw and untamed beauty of La Guajira. Our 25-year-old Toyota Prado, a trusted companion, powered through the challenging terrains, proving its worth and reliability.
Arriving at the Northernmost Point at Full Moon
As the sun began to set, we finally arrived at Punta Gallinas.
It was an awe-inspiring sight. Standing on the northernmost point of continental South America, we marveled at the vastness of the sea stretching before us.
The lighthouse in the distance and the moon added a touch of mystique to the already enchanting landscape. We had accomplished our goal of reaching another one of the four extreme points of South America.
The Unforeseen Encounter: A Mysterious Situation with Locals in the Darkness
However, our arrival at Punta Gallinas was not without its share of suspense. The previous night, we had decided to camp in the area, but a surprising encounter with locals led us to seek alternative accommodation in the nearby village. Five guys on two motorcycles armed with a Kalashnikov must have seen us from the distance. They approached us without lights on, so we just heard some noise but weren’t really sure what it was. Their engine sound mixed with the strong wind and ocean waves was hard to decipher. They asked us what we were doing there as they were trying to keep people “from the other side away.” (If you have any info about what they could have meant with that, let me know!) We decided to drive into the village to find a place to sleep there. Knowing that some guys from the community now knew that there were two gringos camping on the beach, we didn’t trust the situation anymore.
When they saw that we were driving away from the beach, they were trying to “escort” us to the village. All for a price of course. When it was time to split ways, they asked us for a small donation for their “preciosas” (girlfriends.) We offered him a pack of Cheetos (they sure came in handy!) which he accepted but did not look happy at all!
Although the interaction turned out to be harmless, it reminded us of the importance of being cautious and respectful while exploring unfamiliar territories.
Embracing the Beauty of Punta Gallinas in Daylight
The following morning, we returned to Punta Gallinas to truly appreciate its beauty in daylight. The rugged cliffs, the turquoise waters, and the endless stretches of desert sands seemed even more mesmerizing. We were grateful for the opportunity to witness this incredible place in all its glory.
Reflecting on our adventure, we pondered whether our decision to explore Punta Gallinas independently, without a guide, was the right one. While it may not be the most convenient or popular choice, it allowed us to immerse ourselves in the rawness of the experience. We understood that for those seeking comfort and ease, organized tours might be a better option. However, for us, the sense of accomplishment and the freedom to create our own journey made it worthwhile.
Meet…the Pee-nomenal Trio of Punta Gallinas
One more encounter with local people I didn’t want to keep from you! I call them the Pee-nomenal Trio. We met another group of three guys on a tiny motorcycle, this time on our way back down South.
They took us over on the tiny road and then suddenly stopped and jumped off the bike. They signaled us that everything was fine and we continued driving. The same thing happened another time, and another. The third time that their motorcycle broke down just in front of us, we stopped and pulled the window down. They told us they needed gasolina. We told them that we don’t think it’s gasolina they need because their bike broke down a couple of times already and always started again. They were trying to convince us they needed gasolina or…come on, at least some money for gasolina!
How we got out of this situation…
We stayed calm and polite but we knew something was weirdly off. The thing about people in South America is they usually treat your car like their own. They lean onto your car and into the windows and having their hands inside. (Note to self: Don’t pull the windows all the way down.) Their next suggestion was for them to come with us in our car to go to the next village so they can get gasolina there. Our car is completely filled, even the rear bench. But if you ever saw Latin Style transportation, you know that people always find a way to sit in or on your vehicle.
Either way, we politely declined and offered to tell someone in the next village that they needed help. After 10 or 15 minutes of conversation, we continued driving and were relieved we had gotten out of this situation. And guess what, looking through my rear mirror I watched them jump right back on their bike and continue chasing us. They tried to cut us on a tiny road and…of course, their bike stopped again! This time we ignored them and continued driving a bit faster, which was very difficult on these bumpy paths.
One last time they took us over and pulled the same trick (it never gets old!) While one dude waved at us, the other guy (the driver) jumped off the bike and immediately pulled down his pants and started peeing! In simple terms, I’m pretty sure this guy was “marking” his territory. Since he didn’t get any money out of us, at least he wanted to show us that this is his land! Way to go!
Our Conclusion: Uncharted Paths and Unforgettable Rewards
Driving back from Punta Gallinas, we couldn’t help but feel a mix of exhaustion and satisfaction. Our adventure had tested our limits, pushed us out of our comfort zones, and rewarded us with memories that will last a lifetime. The journey back to civilization was a time for reflection, gratitude, and anticipation of the next adventure that awaited us.
In conclusion, if you’re a fellow adventurer who thrives on challenges and seeks to experience the road less traveled, I wholeheartedly recommend embarking on your own journey to Punta Gallinas. While the road may be long and the conditions demanding, the rewards are immeasurable. Witnessing the untouched beauty of this remote corner of South America and the satisfaction of conquering the obstacles along the way will stay with you forever.
If you’re curious to see our adventure come to life, I invite you to watch our YouTube video:
If you want to know more about life as a perpetual traveler, feel free to contact me!
PS: This blog is a sneak peek into my upcoming book about my three years of non-stop travel through Latin America. Know a publisher interested in such stories? Reach out here!
📩 Email: Alexandra@AlexandraAllover.com
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