At the northernmost point of Colombia – and South America to be precise – where La Guajira cascades into the Caribbean, are the sand dunes of Taroa and lighthouse of Punta Gallinas. In this unforgiving environment where cacti struggle for survival, a Wayúu family stop to take a rest before reaching their ranchería – name given to the indigenous dwelling places of this department.

Punta Gallinas is so remote that just getting there is an endurance in all-terrain driving through some of Colombia’s most stunning landscapes. A recent trip to Alto Guajira with adventure tour operator Kaishi Travel, and experienced guides for maneuvering barren lakebeds where traces of human existence are as elusive as rain, we came upon this poignant vignette of life in the desert.

Many Wayúu still depend on mules to haul water from wells, but a younger generation trust their bicycles that can equally carry supplies and are less temperamental than a beast of burden. Scenes like this one, are commonplace across La Guajira, and for outsiders, a reminder that in many parts of the world, time isn’t just measured in days, but by the distance traveled, whether with tracks or hooves in the sand.

Photo: Richard Emblin