They say paradise can be found in the most hard to reach, and off the beaten track kinds of places, and that to find paradise one needs to go out and find it, often going through treacherous terrain, and battling the elements that mother nature seemingly throws into any intrepid travelers direction. When Paradise is found any intrepid traveler will tell you that the challenge of finding it, and getting there was all worth it in the end as the rewards of paradise found are far greater than the challenges one has to endure.
Prana Pacifico in the Choco region of Colombia is one such place where I found paradise, and the journey there whilst being somewhat of a challenge for a city bloke like me was all worth it.
Our journey began when we arrived by taxi to the small regional airport in Medellin from where we had been staying in the weeks prior. Little did we know that our adventure would start by boarding a small light aircraft (Piper Chieftain) for the 40 minute flight to the coastal city of Nuqui, which according to some local friends has (in their words) been ‘largely forgotten’ about, and while it has been ‘forgotten’ they still acknowledge that it probably boasts some of the most beautiful scenary in all of Colombia, so of course with that in mind I had to go and see it for myself.
There’s an interesting irony in all of this, in that the beautiful area has and still is largely untouched, or unspoilt, without the built up resort style nature of a tropical getaway, yet at the same time the local populations are poor (by Colombian standards), and struggle day-to-day for the basics (fresh water, food, education, basic healthcare etc). What did this mean for me? I took a view that I would be there to see and enjoy paradise, whilst also remembering the harsh reality of where I was.
Our plane touched down at the small airport, after which we alighted from our plane, and were greeted by our warm, friendly and fun host, Linsay who greeted us with a smile that must have been infectious, as most locals I met had largely the same disposition when they met you, yet at times you noticed strain, pain, and a somewhat deep sadness on a lot of the locals faces when in private. The irony of course was that we were holidaying in what we perceived (at least visually) as paradise, yet the reality was a lot different for the people who lived in this paradise.
Getting to Prana Pacifico wouldn’t be as easy as simply dismebarking from a plane, getting a taxi to a local hotel or resort, and checking in, as we were to travel by boat for an hour to the bungalow style accomodation we were staying in on an island separated (at high tide) by a channel. The boat ride we were on was pleasant, and we were not just ferrying ourselves, we were also carrying supplies for the local villages, and friendly locals from the surrounding region. After stopping at a few beaches and helping to unload the boat, we were on our way to the island getaway we had come all this way to travel to.
Dissembarking from the boat onto the beach we found ourselves walking up a beach to a rocky walkway entrance marked by a pair of boardshorts wedged underneath two rocks. What seemed like ocean debris at first suddenly became apparent, and it was not hard to see why such a marker was necessary as the thick jungle vegetation made the rather narrow walkway hard to see from a distance, yet somewhat easier up close, and it was not hard to realise that on a moonless night a pair of boardies would be your best friend.
So up the rocky steps we walked from the beach, and into the lower walkway area of the island which also had a tropical shower surrounded by a bamboo fence, and a concrete hut which housed the islands generator, and our source of electricity for the duration of our stay. In front of the hut was an adjoining walkway which led to the northern side of the island, and a wooden jetty for which we could jump into the refreshing and calming waters of the Pacific. Our host, Linsey encouraged us to join her for a swim before climbing the 250 stairs we would need to take to get to our bungalows. So we undressed and I put on my boardies, and followed Linsey to the jumping spot. The northern side of the island was fairly rocky, and this marked where we could jump into the ocean bliss below.
After our relaxing swim we got out of the water and I wished I could have stayed in the water just that little bit longer, comparing it to not wanting to get out of a relaxing bath as a child as the calm and blissful waters radiated a silk-like feeling across my whole body. The suns warmth by that stage complimented this feeling as it gently warmed me up as I got out of the water – allowing me to drip-dry as we walked back up the steps to the stairs where we gathered our luggage and began the walk up the 250 wooden stairs to our bungalows.
Reaching the top of the stairs seemed like a good welcome to this paradise, as the calf and leg muscles got a good workout, our hard work payed off in immeasurable terms as we were welcomed with a stunning view of the bay (check name) and out across the coastline of the local region, and out to the Pacific. The view was comparable to what I’ve described as one of the most unspoiled ocean views I’ve ever seen in my life. Snapping back to reality we were shown to our bungalows which were wood paneled, and which housed a welcoming bed with mosquito nets draped over offering more comfort, and reminding me that when sleeping the mosquitoes from the jungle would be ever present. As I continued to look around the room in amazement I soon discovered that the walls ended towards the ceiling, and that airflow (due to humidity) would be necessary to enjoy this accommodation, and again reminding me that we were now in a tropical environment. The lack of windows was soon realised, but I quickly realised that the wall facing the walkway outside had an opening which I could open to allow for more ventilation and airflow from the tranquil surroundings of the beautiful jungle outside. As I began to unpack my bags I began to notice the sounds coming in through the wall opening from the jungle outside and it brought back memories of the rain-forest setting I had spent time growing up in as a teenager – Stanwell Park, and the natural surroundings which came alive in summer, and most particularly towards the twilight hour, reminding me that it was feeding time in the jungle, and as the sounds of monkies, crickets, cicada began to get stronger the sounds of the ocean too began as the waves crashed ashore on the rocks and beach below.
Part of going away to Prana Pacifico was to relax, and have some time out from the hustle and bustle that was Medellin. Prana Pacifico provided the perfect opportunity to relax. A short walk up the beach from where we were staying was a hot-spring, which provided us a couple of hours of relaxation in a jungle-like setting.
Part of the reason why I decided on visiting Choco Nuqui was to try the local cuisine consisting of mainly seafood, as well as locally grown produce. The cuisine when combined with the local scenery made for a great tropical experience. The lack of walls in this tropical region seemed to make sense as the humidity, and temperature were high on most days.
Quintessentially tropical ingredients are sourced and used in Choco cooking – including coconut, tuna, lemon etc, and most if not all dishes were dressed up with spice.
One such dining experience was a cooking class hosted by locals of the Choco region, about a half an hour walk up the beach from where we were staying – Prana Pacifico. The cooking class consisted of a mother and daughter preparing food in the local style.
Prana Pacifico was an adventure and experience I thoroughly enjoyed, and will never forget.