Gazing at Pilón de Azúcar from the Beach in Colombia


Mar 21, 2018

Ariel Quintana


How the Photo was Taken

This photo was taken on a Panasonic dmc-TS25 and was not altered.


Photo Location

Since moving to Colombia three months ago to work as an English teacher and freelance photographer in Santa Marta, the desert in La Guajira, a department in the northwest corner of the country, has provided the most stunning views. I took the photo from the beaches of Pilón de Azúcar just outside of Cabo de la Vela, a town known for its kite surfing, on August 19, 2017 at 3:47 pm. The few that take on the adventure to South America’s northernmost point, known as Punta Gallinas, are rewarded with phenomenal views of the golden desert and mini mountains rolling into the Caribbean Sea. I took the photo from the beach, capturing tourists climbing to the top of Pilón de Azúcar for a view of the vast horizon. Behind me shallow caves had been hollowed out and offered a similar coloring and texture to the hill and ridges in the distance. The location is extremely remote, hours outside of Uribia, La Guajira’s largest town and the “Indigenous Capital of Colombia,” and even further from the next city, Riohacha. For that reason, the trip is physically taxing, with hours of driving through unpaved desert roads and often times uncomfortable sleeping conditions. My driver and guide was fearless, relentlessly attacking the nonexistent roads like a New York City taxi driver with a brief opening on a busy street. At one point I asked him point blank, “How do you know where we’re going?” He responded with a knowing grin and pointed to his head. The trip can be done without guides but takes orders of magnitude longer, because the best maps are imprinted in the brains of the locals. Although I idealized it prior to the trip, sleeping in hammocks with an ocean breeze does not offer a restful night’s sleep. The second I started to drift off, a neighbor would inevitably sway their hammock just enough to brush my elbow. Sleeping was not the refreshing part of the trip. It’s the beaches like this one that have the truly rejuvenating impact on travelers. The excitement from seeing a new landscape like this one was difficult to contain, as tourists audibly gasped when stepping out of their 4x4 SUVs at each new location. Pilón de Azúcar was the first beach stop on the tour and served as the turning point for the trip. Before arriving to the location, the tour guide had driven hours from the nearest city of Riohacha, and we had been forced to wait for a few hours for fellow comrades. As we waited in the town of Uribia, locals came in flocks to ask for money or to purchase their crafts. Exhausted by the travels and interactions from earlier in the morning, I cannot perfectly summarize my emotions once we had finally made the stop at Pilón de Azúcar. Rejuvenated, relaxed and relieved by the fact that trip was beginning to live up to the stories that I had heard, all seem like a good starting point. I hope that others can look at this picture and feel some of those emotions too.


About the Author

Ariel Quintana

Ariel Quintana enjoys photography and travel in Latin America. Originally from the United States, she is currently teaching English in Colombia.

Website : https://www.instagram.com/mermaid414/



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