Colombia - the only danger is not wanting to leave!
We have spent five weeks in Colombia now - already a week longer than planned, and we're not done yet…we might already be behind schedule, but hey - that's what backpacking is all about! Every place we've been has been a pleasant surprise, such is the beauty of travelling in a country whose sights are not widely known and tourism is still in its infancy.
Bus journeys here are a still something of a novelty for us after travelling in Africa - the bus stations here are like airports, with little kiosks for each company, frequent intercity connections, clear prices, air conditioning and even our very own reclining seats! Our first time was slightly bewildering - what no touts, no scams, no fake tickets? And we even left two minutes ahead of schedule…we couldn't quite believe it!
From Bogota we travelled north to pretty San Gil, a lovely little town surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery and sleepy villages like Barichara, where you can literally step back in time. On to the Carribean coast, we explored the beaches around Santa Marta and had a fun night out on the town for our first taste of South American nightlife, dancing to a local 'Reggaeton' band and trying to fit in with the trendy locals (I failed, Yem always looks cool).
The walled colonial city of Cartagena was a real highlight of our time on the coast, even if the humidity and heat there have the capacity to send a usually sane woman slightly deranged! Cartagena is a place of such beauty that I meandered through its narrow streets in a dreamlike state, marvelling at the flower-drenched balconies and vivid colours. We got to see a fabulous fashion show, and danced the night away at a free outdoor concert, where the locals proved they knew how to party and downed shots of rum.
We found Medellin to be a city with attitude, having undergone something of a transformation in recent years. Once famed for its violent drugs cartel and local-boy-gone-bad, Pablo Escobar, the city now boasts a transport system to rival any European city, with its squeaky clean Metro lines that integrate seamlessly with a number of cable car routes serving the poorer hillside neighbourhoods. We enjoyed the voluptuous bronze sculptures of local hero Fernando Botero that adorn the city, awesome graffiti art, and the immaculate Botanical Gardens, one of a number of carefully-designed green spaces created in recent years.
We're now in Manizales, capital of the 'Zona Cafetera' or coffee-growing region. With 360 degree views of glorious mountains and an altitude of over 2000 metres, it's a spectacular spot where you can visit the plantations that produce the world's best coffee beans, for export to the US, Italy and other caffeine-hungry nations! After four espressos this morning, I am officially buzzing….
From here, we're heading to south, with a few more stops before the border with Ecuador…thanks to everyone who recommended we include Colombia in our trip, we wouldn't have wanted to miss this!
Hasta luego muchachos!
Soph & Yem xx