TOPO Hiking

La Piedra Tortuga, Cabo de la Vela, Alta Guajira

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In the far north of Colombia, in Wayuu territory, the small village of Cabo de la Vela, isolated after miles of desert, seems a little out of time. The proposed route explores the Caribbean coast with an off-trail itinerary that climbs up to the Pilon de Azucar via the Piedra Tortuga, a kind of rocky dome, like a gigantic turtle stepping forward to enter the water. The views from the top of the cliffs are spectacular, and you can access tiny, unspoilt beaches. In the air, birds of prey keep an eye on what's happening on the ground, and on the ground, particularly on the cliff faces, iguanas like the arm, hunt what they can find in this ocean of stone.

Technical summary

Departure point: Cabo de la Vela, ALta Guajira, Colombia
Type of route: coastal hike
Distance: 14 km
Cumulative elevation gain: +125 m
Cumulative negative elevation gain: -125 m
Estimated total time: 4h to 5h
■ Min and max altitude: 0 m / 125 m
Marking: off-trail itinerary to be improvised without too much difficulty along the coast.
Equipment: none
Equipment required: none

Difficulty: just a few more aerial passages

Access to the place

An adventure in itself! You can get there from Santa Marta by taking the first bus to Riohacha (3h30, bus stop in front of the mercado publico). After that, there are no buses at present. Take shared cars. First take Riohacha to Uribia (20,000 pesos, 1h15), then Uribia to Cabo de la Vela in a 4x4 or van, depending on availability (1h15, 40,000 pesos).

Map & topo

The route is approximate as there is no path and the GPS track has not been recorded. Voir en plein écran

Itinerary description

Course

From the village, follow the main track north along the bay until you reach the end. After the last dwellings, you come to the Cape of Cabo de la Vela, a small mound with a cross planted on its summit. Start the route along the coast.

From the cross, the idea is to improvise an off-trail route to follow the coast as closely as possible. The route will be undulating, with more aerial passages on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean. There are few landmarks to really know where you are, apart from the passage to the lighthouse in the first part, and then to the parking area for access to the Piedra Tortuga.

After the Piedra Tortuga, on which you can climb, continue along the cliffs as far as you can, which is not always possible as you sometimes have to go back a little inside. Further on, before the Cueva del Diablo, the path drops down to water level and small beaches are accessible. Then it gradually climbs back up and, looking carefully, you find what I think is the Cueva del Diablo, a hole in the cliff giving (very steep) access to the sea. Continue for this time on a more aerial ridge that runs alongside the sea above.

Before arriving at Pilon de Azucar, you'll find yourself at a kind of summit of the ridge, from where the view of the coast is spectacular (see sunset photos). The Pilon de Azucar can be reached and climbed from even further away, but it's a more popular spot and can be reached by 4x4.

From this vantage point, descend to the side opposite the sea, in the direction of a large white salt marsh that can be seen, to find at the bottom the path that leads from the village to the Pilon de Azucar. Then simply retrace your steps in a straight line back to the starting point, either on the trail or on the small side paths that are easy to find.

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