everything they say about Colombia is true

Colombia Travel Blog

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cartagena

South America. Finally here and so excited.

Columbia is not really what i expected, sure there is jungle, cocaine, and military everywhere, also great boobs (plastic surgery capital) but it is civilisation and almost feels like home in some cities! It is expensive, and i can buy Guess, Esprit, and McDonalds. Oh and where are the druglords and guerillas/FARC? yet to meet any. 

We sailed into Columbia and headed to Cartagena for Christmas. Cartagena is a beautiful colonial town, surrounded by an old fort and on the Carribean. The town has been restored and is beautiful, the balconies overflow with boganvillias, and the town is all decorated for Christmas and full of richer Columbians and foreigners.

trying to salsa
And the street hustlers are out in full force selling hats, handicrafts, chiclets (gum) cocaine, paintings, or dancing or doing magic tricks. I have to admit it is strange seeing the locals on holidays, and so many of them on holidays, as throughout central america it was rare to see the locals on vacations and enjoying the sights of their own countries.

I am still travelling with Mike a boyfriend from home and 11 other people from the sailing trip from Panama. So christmas is a big fun affair, but more about paying more than $2 for a meal (splurge!!) and big nights out. Partying til 5am a few nights in a row, trying to salsa, playig music in the plaza, going to clubs and pubs. But christmas felt very unchristmassy, though it is a big family celebration in Catholic Columbia, but there was no turkey, tree or family.

the mud volcano
All about fun instead.

To add to my volcano experiences (already toasted marshmallows on lava, boarded down a volcano, swam in the crater lakes, climbed volcanoes...) we went to a mud volcano. Instead of spewing lava and rocks, this volcano is only 15m tall and slowly oozes warm mud from about 500m deep. So we climbed the volcano in bikinis, and slowly lowered ouselves into the mud. They have massuers in the mud that lay you back - you float so well! - and push you around where they want, cover you tip to toe in mud and massage you, front and back at once. Awesome massage and so weird having it floating there. Then they push you away through the other people who float aside for you. The mud is so thick i had trouble getting my legs under the surface. It was cool experience, though i was not glowing from the mudbath as hoped.

taganga
And it took forever to get out of my ears! icky

After Christmas Mike and i head to Taganga, a little carribean beach side town. The national park behind is very different and dry, full of cacti, but still very beautiful. We go on a couple of dives which are good, and i have never seen so many moray eels in the one place! Then laze on the beach, and party through the night in Santa Marta before Mike flies home the following day.   :(

I headed to Tyrona National Park for a couple of days which is beautiful, relaxed place, sleeping in a hammock, laying on the beach, hiking through jungle, and swimming in the ocean.

lost city trek
Just what i need to restore myself before NYE.

NYE is with a bunch of Aussies, British and others at a beach party in Taganga. Amanda (Aussie chica from the sailing trip) and about 15 others head to a dance party for electronica music, firedancing shows, chilling on tree limbs and dancing in the sand under the stars with a hundred other columbians and backpackers. Awesome night! Feliz Año Nuevo 2008 !

Amanda and i suck it up, put our hangovers aside, pack our bags, lace our shoes and head off on a gruelling 6 day hike in search of the Lost City, Indiana Jones style (where movie was inspired). The hike to Ciudad Perdida was hard, but definitely worth it. We started at 500m and finished at about 2300m.

Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
We hiked through ankle deep mud, combatted mosquitoes every step of the way, slept in hammocks, waded through rivers (up to 9 in one day), walked beside the Tyronians (indiginous group), climbed over trees and boulders, and had a great time.

The Tyronians live here as farmers and porters for the treks. They wear white dirty clothes which they make, the men wear cowboy style hats, the boys bags across their shoulders and the women wear beads around their necks. They live simply in mud huts with thatched roofs, grow their own food and keep pigs and chickens. It is very sparsely populated and it is amazing to walk along a jungle trail and then come across a home

It took 2 1/2 days to get to Ciudad Perdida and then we climbed up 1200 ancient stone stairs from the river to the ruins.

playing with loaded guns
The lost city was found only in the 1970's and it is mainly the foundations and terraces of the massive city. The Tyronians were wiped out by the Spaniard in the 15th century, but had a king, a drainage system in the city, they studied the stars, had schools, architects, and artisans. Their homes were made of wood though so nothing remains. But the constructed and well designed area of the city covers most of the mountain, and we sould easily get lost here.

At the ruins, and everywhere i have been so far, is the military. Some more serious than others. When we arrived at the lost city the bored young army guys waved to us from the top of the hill and then did some pushups trying to entice us up. lol. We held their guns, and when i smiled sweetly i also sat in the driver seat of the helicopter then in the back as the gunner and played with the loaded gun.

the cocaine factory
So maybe not so worried about the blonde young lass as a security threat? They are mainly here i think as 3 years ago a group of backpackers were taken hostage by the guerrillas hiding in the area. (teehee one of the reactions from the backpacker hostages was 'awesome we got to see so much!' - typical attitude).

Cocaine in Columbia. Well it is definitely here. Supposedly the locals only pay about $1 per gram. On the Cuidad Perdida trek we went on a tour of the 'cocaine factory'. Paid our $10 and followed a dodgy looking local down a jungle path where he collected a couple of buckets from here, a bag from there and led us across a stream into the clearing. It was not in a building nor a permanent structure which made sense, but something dismantled when not being used. He had some coca leaves and let us through the process until base was made.

amanda, emelee, laura and me
The process started by grinding the leaves under dirty shoes into the ground. The process involved gasoline, sulphur, iodine, sodium, caustic acid, nail polish remover, .... and there was a spider web in the bucket he used, plus the dirt ground in.

Then to Medellin with Amanda for civilisation!!! It feels like Sydney or somewhere here, and would be the first place i could maybe live. There is a great cafe culture, nightlife and shopping. You can buy Guess, Esprit or McDonalds. And i think the first city i have been here with a train. The locals are more fashionable, well educated and some are pretty hot. And lots of fake boobs. Medellin is also where Pablo Escobar lived and worked, making the city the centre of Columbia's drugtrade.

medellin godito
Now it feels safe and it is hard to picture the dangerous and drug infested past as we walk down the riverfront after dark. It feels safer than many places i have visited so far.

We move to the 'party hostel' after a couple of lazy days and follow with even lazier days after being up til 6am in the morning enjoying the fiesta. Dance most of the night in the clubs and bars, then chill with the other backpackers for hours, and then share our pain and sympathise with each other the next day. But we did explore a little, i can tell you about the shopping malls anyway.... lol. We also went to a waterslide park and explored the city. There is one square here full of fat statues - gorditas and gorditos (fatties). The most famous artist and sculpture of Columbia created every artwork with fat people or animals.

salento, hiking
So there is a 3m high bronze statue, wider than tall, but with a little penis the size of my thumb, where the bronze had been touched and rubbed so many times by the public that it was gold.

Now for some detox we head to Zona Cafetera, the centre of Columbia's coffee region. With beautiful hills covered in coffee plants, a few palm trees and old plantation homes. We tour a coffee farm and most of the work is done manually except for removing the seed from the skin. So the process is basically: pick, soak, dry, dehusk, dry/bake, dehusk again (2 layers), then roast, then grind, then drink. Exhausting - dont waste a bean!

Then Zach (kiwi) and i head to Salento region where we stayed in a 20 year old farmhouse to relaxed.

bogota
We went on a hike through cloud forest where you see tall palm trees towering above the rainforest. It is crazy, we are over 2500m and it is cold and wet and muddy, but the palm trees thrive. We cross over rickety bridges, past fast rivers, through ankle deep mud, and to a finca where there are dozens of hummingbirds darting to and fro, and for some well-deserved hot chocolate with cheese. weird but good.

Then last stop in Columbia is Bogota. It is actually  cool city with lots to do, and massive. About 8million people in one valley high in the mountains. We id some usual sightseeing - up a cable car for an awesome view of the city, wandering around seeing the beautiful colonial buildings and squares, and to the police museum. This is actually quite a cool museum and has a whole floor given to Pablo Escobar, including his shirt with bullet wholes and blood stains, his guns and photos of most of the cartel either dead or arrested.

the pussy guns
 Tho according to our police guide the chase only lasted about 50 days instead of 399. Then up to the gun room with uzis, colts and nazi guns from WW2, and my personal favourite, the `pussy guns` - 2 little guns the size of your palm that they found in a lady´s pussy when she tried to smuggle them in to her boyfriend in prison. not one but two!

Then another massive night out to farewell colombia and all the fun here, dancing and playing til all hours. Love you Zach!

 

 

boxer01 says:
Hi Im traveling to Columbia soon, can you recommend a party hostel to stay in meddilin??
Posted on: Dec 03, 2010
ali13ali13 says:
What a place! I did most of you what you did, and loved every minute of it. I highly recommend Colombia as a backpacking destination.
Posted on: Apr 08, 2008
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cartagena
cartagena
trying to salsa
trying to salsa
the mud volcano
the mud volcano
taganga
taganga
lost city trek
lost city trek
Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)
playing with loaded guns
playing with loaded guns
the cocaine factory
the cocaine factory
amanda, emelee, laura and me
amanda, emelee, laura and me
medellin godito
medellin godito
salento, hiking
salento, hiking
bogota
bogota
the pussy guns
the pussy guns
the mud volcano
the mud volcano
mike and me
mike and me
sunset over taganga
sunset over taganga
tyrona national park
tyrona national park
the NYE party. instant friends
the NYE party. instant friends
a young indiginous girl
a young indiginous girl
a lodge we stayed in
a lodge we stayed in
lost city trek
lost city trek
tyronians village
tyronian's village
trekking - just for fun. 
zach ne…
trekking - just for fun. zach n…
locked away... at least they did n…
locked away... at least they did …
amanda, me, zach and lizz
amanda, me, zach and lizz