Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The reunion with an old friend was just as exciting as I had anticipated. Some friends of Roland made us a delicious dinner at his hostel, Jaguar Azul and afterward we swung in the hammocks, catching up and picking up right where we left off two years ago.

The next morning turned out to be one of my favorite mornings that I've ever experienced. I woke up to a tap on the door of my private room. It was Roland delivering a hot cup of locally grown and roasted coffee from the nearby Kogui tribe (So local you could walk there!). He was on his way out for the morning, and left me with my delicious cup o' joe and the morning songbirds gracing me with their presence. I sat on the patio in the sun, enjoying the surroundings of this peaceful place that Roland calls home. The hostel is simple and humble, with just two private rooms and two dorms. There is an open-air kitchen and covered common area with a few hammocks hanging in lieu of furniture. Surrounding the hostel are tall trees and vibrant green brush.
My quarters ("para la princesa")

Palomino is a small, relatively "undiscovered" town, with a population of roughly 4000. It's a beach town, yet the Sierra Nevada mountains and exotic jungle reach all the way to the ocean, along with 2 rivers: Lagarto and Palomino. Roland's hostel, Jaguar Azul is sandwiched between the two ecosystems, about a mile and a half from the beach and on the way up high into the Sierra Nevada Mountains where native tribes live. His hostel is in the town proper, where most of the locals live.
As the caffeine kicked in, I decided to put on my running shoes and go exploring. I headed down the dirt road that the moto-taxi had brought me in on, past simple homes, a few tiny tiendas selling fruit, veggies, eggs and some canned goods, and a field with sheep roaming. A woman was hanging laundry out to dry, a couple of men were chatting jovially outside of a tienda, and a few small children were chasing each other, darting up and down the dirt road. With each step and every new observation I was falling more and more in love.  It was evident that people here were friendly and laid back. As I approached the main highway that the bus came in on, I noticed a few artists painting a mural on a wall across from the gas station.

Street in Palomino, where the locals live

These clever guys made a guitar out of a piece of driftwood

Artists painting a mural across from the gas station
I crossed the road and headed down another dirt road, in the direction of what I knew would eventually lead to the Caribbean Ocean. The narrow road followed green fields, trees and marshland, and after about a mile the road turned to sand. Farmland was replaced with bright colors of hostels and tiki bars and the end of the road opened up to the palm-lined beach. It looked like it could be a post-card with "Paradise" written in fancy font across the sky. I slowed my pace and took off my shoes to feel the sand under my feet. It was more beautiful and more peaceful than I had expected, with just a handful of hostels and a sign or two advertising things like "Morning yoga and meditation" and "fresh fruit juices".  I was keenly aware that I had left the village where the locals live and entered "gringo-landia", but it wasn't over-the-top or crowded, so I didn't' mind at all. There were just a few people walking along the shore in front of the hostels, and beyond that it was desolate.

I stashed my shoes under a huge, pillow-sized leaf next to a log and continued my run along the coastline. The hostels quickly disappeared behind me as I splashed my feet in the water, trotting along the horizon with infinite water to my left and dense trees to my right. Eventually, the beach and River Lagarto intersect and the river spills into the ocean. It was quite the contrast to look north and see vast ocean, and then turn inland to see a wide river and dense forest.

The intersection of river and ocean creates a diverse ecosystem in Palomino

Rio Lagarto

Eventually, I made my way back to "gringo-landia" beach as the sun was rising higher and heating things up. I was glad that I brought some pesos with me so I could treat myself to fresh coconut water, which a woman sliced open for me with her machete and a smile.

I paid 4000 pesos ($2), which Roland later informed me was overpriced. But hey, sometimes it's worth splurging $2 for a refreshing drink in the perfect moment that comes with an incredible view.

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