English pirates, Dutch smugglers and Spanish pearl hunters have all tried to conquer the Guajira Peninsula – a vast swath of barren sea and sand that is Colombia's northernmost point – but none were able to overcome the indigenous Wayuu people, who wisely traded with, or waged war upon, the invaders. The Wayuu's complex and autonomous political and economic structures meant they were ready to mount a staunch defense of their lands – on horseback and with firearms.
Even today, this is a diesel-and-dust landscape with more than a whiff of Mad Max–like lawlessness. Sadly, the roadsides around the small towns in the west are littered with rubbish – indeed, the symbol of modern-day Guajira might well be a plastic bag caught in a leafless bush. Fortunately, as you head east the litter fades away until you fall upon the end-of-the-world paradise of Punta Gallinas, an immaculate collision of desert dunes and crashing waves.