La Guajira, Colombia

Overview

Thanks to other fellow travelers, we first heard of La Guajira, a department of Colombia located in the northeast part of the country and bordering Venezuela. From Palomino (and also from Santa Marta) you can only make it to Cabo de la Vela with public transportation. As we wanted to go further, we booked a three-day tour that began and ended in Rioacha.

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A different landscape

We stopped in Uribia, the last town providing fuel and water. From then on, the landscape changed drastically: we left the mountains and jungle behind to find salt lakes, cactus fields and sand dunes instead. 

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We spent our first evening in Cabo de la Vela, a perfect spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers. The following morning, we drove through sand dunes melting in the Caribbean sea and eventually reached Punta Gallinas, the most northern point of South America.

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An inconvenient truth

The beauty of the landscapes we saw in La Guajira is undeniable, yet we were shocked to witness the amount of plastic flying around. This vast land is inhabited by an indigenous community, the Wayuu, who - in spite of their miserable condition - are determined to stay and fight for their land.

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Each time a car enters "their territory", children and women block the path with a rope they will only let go in exchange for water or sweets. Problem is, all that comes into massive layers of plastic that will inevitably end up in the sea.

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This status quo could improve significantly if the government reached an agreement with the Wayuu: investments on basic needs and education on the one hand and willingness to collaborate on the other. But unfortunately this is not happening at the moment. 

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As tourists, the only thing we can do to mitigate this problem is to reduce the amount of plastic brought into the land of the Wayuu. For instance, buying fruit or getting rid of plastic wraps before giving out sweets. When visiting La Guajira, please consider the consequences of your actions.

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