The More Forgotten Forgotten Choco Coast


[In October 2011 I stumbled onto a travel writing contest while rather randomly perusing one of my favorite papers, Britain's The Guardian. It struck me that I might conveniently rework some of the stuff I had recently written about Colombia on my webpage: Would it fit into one of their six categories? Hmm. Although it didn't particularly fit into any of them, I ultimately decided that their "The Big Adventure" category seemed best suited. Sort of, anyway. More importantly, I figured that a very limiting 500 words ought to be a good challenge to my otherwise typically-hindered diarrhea of the typing finger. The following is the admittedly mixed result, even as I'd shortly find that a purported ability to write can't be matched by any alleged capacity to read: The contest was only for U.K. residents. Here it is anyway...]




Colombia's lately been "in", with merit. Barriers lowered by increased safety (caveats notwithstanding), its other destination qualities never left: gorgeous, balmy locales; genuine, warm people; indigenous culture; original, native musics; an insane fruit variety; arguably the planet's greatest biodiversity. Sold yet?

Its remote-enough Chocoano Caribbean Coast having charmed me, its alluring, remoter-still Chocoano PACIFIC Coast begged similar submission. It, however, hasn't seen the emerging gravy train of well-heeled (even backpacker), "gringo" tourists. Blame it on guerrillas; Point fingers at (often non-existent) roads, potentially linking Colombia's general population; Look to almost silent skies. On all three accounts, this outlier scores. But the planet's supposedly rainiest place DOES sport spectacularly rugged, jungly terrain abutting the ocean's lapping lip. Wow.

Fortunately, access exists beyond an overnight, south-linking cargo hell-boat - or sailing in somehow from the pirate-and-revolutionaries-infested north. The coastal hamlets of Nuqui and Bahia Solano maintain regular (if puny) Medellín flights, allowing an infrequent tourist (me!) a fortnight's exploration. Maybe this explained the guy handing out aguardiente shots after takeoff; Surely it accounted for locals assuming my Paisa (greater Medellín) origins in missing my otherwise-unmistakable Gringo-sity.

They - descendants of slaves abandoned to this most lonely of Pacific coasts - find instead the day's catch of plentiful, tasty fish more interesting. Or maybe they ponder that aforementioned scenery, a juxtaposition completed by wartime VietNam-esque, (technically) "militarized" beaches. I'd wisely question venturing much inland: Faraway glances and trailing smiles to the topic suggested... avoidance. Happily, only shoreline offerings were my goal: Mistiming typical draws of seasonal humpback whale calving and turtle nesting merely further insisted tramping the massive, NON-migratory beaches.

I'd walk them all, initially basing myself within Termales's village charm to inspect glittering, two-tone sands oddly suggesting boreal patterns, locals gathering shellfish by Arusi Point, and Guachalito's rustic, driftwood-littered wonderland. All screamed likely movie backdrop futures, with idyllic, lush islets created tidally along the strands.

Next came Nuqui's "urbanity", a "bustling" yet charming hub: Imagine almost nonexistent electricity, tidal flooding... and a daily-ish youth drum brigade. More beaches, too? Naturally, but with gunboats joining plentiful coconuts and bored, patrolling soldiers. Three days thus sufficed to demand northward motion, accomplished by skiff-bouncing over deceptively-calm waves, El Valle-bound.

There Hotel Valle allowed sanctuary for exploration, its house lizard joining me in balcony-spying inbound fish hauls - plus ANOTHER island's creation sequence enactment offshore. Indigenous folk, with ubiquitous machetes, continue living traditionally here, too: Iguanas seen shoulder-draped might be pot-bound. Contrarily, on weekends the NON-indigenous majority take to swilling booze... at practically the most stunningly-set seaside bar imaginable, allowing literally existential views of black rock islets... alongside ear-splitting, salsa-tinged music.

Lastly beckoned Bahia Solano, bumpily reached via the coast's "only" road. Hosting the largest population, it's nonetheless another sleepy, tumbledown village... with waterfalls abounding. A river trails mysteriously inland; The over-sized, dilapidated remains of Pablo Escobar's centrally-located, once-opulent hotel also begs query. And yes, one could traipse even MORE forgotten sands - while updating locals curious about our otherly world far, far away.

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