For my very first backpacking trip, I connected with a good friend (and seasoned traveller) to explore Colombia. I was in University at the time, getting my degree in Biology. I hadn’t even started to consider a career as a jewelry designer, although looking back… I think this experience may have ignited a flame.
I remember travelling through Colombia in snippets; it was so long ago that it’s difficult for me to come up with an exact timeline, but I do remember how I felt and the places that had the biggest impact on me. Bogotá and the Museum of Gold was definitely one, and another was the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Natural Park), located an hour outside of Santa Marta in Northern Colombia.
This 37,000 acre ecotourism park was established in 1964 to preserve the area’s history, beauty and cultural significance. It’s known for its tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, and impressive biodiversity.
After showing our passports (you need your passport to enter the park) and paying the entrance fee, we hiked to where we’d be spending the night. What I remember most about this walk, were the sounds. All around us we heard this loud and distinct flapping; this was not the sound of a flock of birds flying close overhead, it was the sound of a forest filled with giant grasshoppers. They were huge — all the insects we saw were massive — with beautiful tones underneath their wings. In University, I was fascinated by entomology (the study of insects). Once I realized what we were hearing, I started getting excited. This was such a different world from what I’d been used to, and I fell in love with it immediately.
I fell in love with the lush green trees that surrounded us, and the unique and spectacular creatures that made up the park’s ecosystem(s) — the tree ants, land crabs, snakes, metallic coloured beetles. I remember walking up to the Pueblito ruins (unfortunately, as of March 2019 these ruins have been closed to the public) and taking off my shoes so that I could feel the earth underneath my feet. This was the first time I’d been completely surrounded by nature. I was captivated.
The beaches in the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona deserve special mention. To this day, they stand out as some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen with crystal clear water and what I remember as flecks of gold seeming to sparkle with the waves. You can’t swim in all the beaches in the Park, but for the ones you can (La Piscina and Cabo San Juan de Guia) it is absolutely rejuvenating.
On that first night, after reaching our accommodations, we had three choices for where to sleep: we could rent a cabin or tent, or sleep right out in the open in a hammock. My friend opted for a tent. Being a frugal traveller, I obviously picked… sleeping in a hammock. All the electricity in the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona gets shut off at 11pm, meaning there’s no light pollution late at night. The sky is dark, and you can see the stars. I remember the feeling of the hammock’s sway, and listening to the crash of the ocean waves as I fell asleep.
Absolutely peaceful and serene, inside the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona I was surrounded by what I loved. Now, the jewelry that I design is inspired by nature, but back then a fire was just being ignited. I realized how much I wanted to explore the world I live in and move further and further outside of my comfort zone. I’m glad, as I’ve grown older, I’ve stayed true to the inspiration I found in that Park. I’m very grateful for this experience.