Day 141: Este es Colombia / That’s Colombia

Family reunion

After 124 days of travelling with old and new friends, I was about to be matched with two very special travel partners: my parents. Somehow we’ve managed each summer to spend some time together abroad, from family holidays on the beach in France for my first birthday till spending a couple of days together on the Croatian island of Krk last summer. In the last couple of years it hasn’t always been easy to align four independent and slightly stubborn people and there was almost always one day of the holiday together where we’d get into a conflict about where to eat, who should do the dishes or something else stupid.

This time we would spend almost three full weeks together, more than we’ve ever done before and since I’d been travelling by myself for a while now, this could turn out to be a very stressful time and we all were a bit afraid how this trip would turn out. Only time would tell …

Together again after 124 days 🙂

The long anticipated moment of the reunion kinda went wrong, when I went looking for them in the airport of Cali as a surprise and never found them there. Apparently their flight had landed early and since me being at the airport was a surprise, they had taken a taxi to their hotel. After a while I realised they weren’t going to show up any more, so I went and found them in their hotel. The reunion was great and my slightly emotional mum had some tears flowing over here cheeks. After trying to catch up, which isn’t easy after four months; we were ready for our trip through Colombia.

The dangerous city

We had met up in Cali, which was a good meeting point for me coming from the Galápagos and them landing in Bogotá. We were lodged in the old part of town: San Antonio, which had a very nice vibe around it. We were however immediately warned about the dangers about walking into the wrong area. When going for a couple of blocks at night, it was definitely better to take a taxi. I had travelled throughout a couple of big cities in South-America and this was the first time people were getting me scared.

Salsa class

In those first two days, we ended up having a good time. We did some serious hiking around the city and went for a challenging introductory salsa class (Cali is the most known salsa city of Colombia). And although nothing serious happened (I did get attacked by a cow, taken up by the horns and thrown two metres further), we had this creepy, unsafe feeling over us all the time.

Pero, este es Colombia / But, that’s Colombia

The zona cafetera

Next stop on the trip was a beautiful finca in the coffee growing region. This area, four hours North of Cali, grows some of the best coffee in the world. We were located on a beautiful finca that had amazing views and generous hosts taking care of us. Four days of complete relaxation in an amazing environment made us feel more at home again. We did some day trips to the thermal baths and the Valle de Cocora. We felt like we were in paradise.

Valle de Cocora

Este tambiĂ©n es Colombia / That’s also Colombia

A vibrant city

Next stop was Medellin, city of the eternal spring. This city always has been full of people who want to take their life in their own hands and make the best of it (Pablo Escobar might be one of the less fine examples here). They take great pride in their city, their metro line, the never-ending nightlife in the zona rosa and Botero, the incredible local artist. We stayed in Hostal Casa del Sol, which was a great experience for my parents since they wanted to know how I was travelling. Colombia might be the country of plastic surgery, but the company of young people around them was more than enough to make them feel young again as well.

Pablo Escobar

Este es Colombia / That’s Colombia

Colonial grandeur

Cartagena de las Indias was the mayor connection point for the Spanish empire in to South America from 1525 till 1822. Millions of African slaves were brought in to work on the plantations and mines, whilst valuable metals were collected here to be shipped back to Spain. Hence this city has been attacked several times by pirates throughout its history, which only ended by the construction of the impregnable fortress of San Felipe.

After a mudbath in the volcano of Totumo

Nowadays the city consists out of three big parts: the beautiful walled historic city centre, the highrisers of Bocagrande and the poor slums outside of town. We had a wonderful time in the city with great seafood, lovely walks through the old town, intriguing mud baths and steaming salsa parties at night.

Este es Colombia / That’s Colombia

Old Indian tracks in the Sierra Nevada

Before settling for some relaxation on the Caribbean beaches, we went out to discover the finca of our host in Santa Marta. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has long been off the tourist track because of para military activity in the area, during recent years the Colombian government however has reached an agreement with these groups and touristic initiatives are slowly developing in this area.

We set off in the back of an old dodge truck towards Finca Entre Rios, which was located out of Santa Marta, after an hour over very bumpy roads. In the last part, the driver had to cross a river to get to our location. Here however, things went awry and the truck got stuck in the water. Trying to get it out before the afternoon rains and rising water would block it completely, everybody joined in to try and pull the truck out. But even with the help of the neighbours and landrover, the truck didn’t move an inch. It wasn’t until a tow truck arrived late at night that they were able to pull it out.

Trying to get the truck out

And one of the neighbours put in perspective by saying:

Este es Colombia / That’s Colombia

Beautiful paradise

By then goodbye had crept closer by, so we decided to spend the ultimate days relaxing on the beaches of Parque Tayrona. This privately owned park collects some of the best beaches of the Caribbean coast. Whilst snorkeling in water that has bath water temperature, you can look into the cloud forest that goes up the steep hills along the water. Because of the recent rain falls we had to plough through some muddy pools to get to our location, but once we got there the reward was amazing. The beaches were picture perfect.

Paradise

Accommodation in this area is pretty basic, unless you reserve the 200$-a-night ecocabins month in advance. So we had to rent ourselves some hammocks to sleep in each night. It’s definitely an acquired skill to sleep in one of these, but in the end we managed quite fine. An amazing end to a very good trip.

It's hammock time

Este es Colombia / That’s Colombia

Cities that can be vibrant or dangerous, rich in colonial history or bustling with energy; people who are always relaxed and loving what they are doing; from the glowing hills of the Zona Cafetera over the impressive mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the wonderful beaches of Tayrona. All of it is Colombia and we have enjoyed it incredibly.

I want to thank my parents for a great time together. It was an absolute pleasure seeing them again and the travelling together went like a dream. Saying goodbye this afternoon was a bit of a sad moment, but we’re looking forward to the moment we’re seeing each other again and in the mean time we’re cherishing these memories.

I can only hope all of you are enjoying your summer holidays just as much.

Take care,

David


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