After a horrible (why didn’t I pick a seat a bit further away from the vomiting lady) and exhausting busride I finally arrived in Colombia. There were several reasons to look forward to this new part of the trip: the fact that everybody I met was screaming out loud how wonderful the country is not in the least. Moreover, the planned encounter with Roy, a good friend from back home and the perspective to go diving/hiking in the Caribbean made me a happy man. The next few paragraphs summarize my personal Colombian highlights.
El capital de la Salsa
In Cali, it’s all about rhythmically moving your feet, hips and whatever other body parts to the beat. The city is packed with “salsathecas” and everybody, no matter how young or old, is able to dance. The type of Salsa is “basic”, since most of the locals learned to dance on the streets. All sounds very tempting, and the perfect opportunity to approve my lack of skills. Excited and with lots of enthousiasm I put on my “dancing shoes” and arranged clases with Ximena, the personification of salsa. 10 hours later, I got the very basic move going. At night, we hit several salsa clubs in order to put into practice our poor abilities. With on the background 10 Colombian girls shaking their heads in disbelief, the dancing improved slightly. Pretty sure that an extra 100 hours of dancing school would have enabled me to impress some of the beautiful Caleñas. Unfortunately we had to get going again
Sipping coffee in Salento
We decided to make a stopover in Salento, a small village in the middle of the “zona cafetera”, the main coffee producing region in the country. We learned all about the coffee production process while visiting a “finca” (farm), saw pineapples growing and played hide-and-seek in a bamboo forest before starting a one-day hike through the marvellous “Valle de Cocora”. The perfect way to relax previous to our trip towards Bogotá.
Qué alegria, la Candelaria!
When arriving in Bogotá, I had a bit of a double feeling. Afer the city vibes of Cali and having enjoyed the nature around Salento I did not really feel like settling in a busy and crowded place again. In addition, one of the main reasons for halting in the capital was to pick up my passport at the Belgian embassey. After struggling with South American administration for several months, it would be a great relieve to finally get hold of the important document again.
But as always you live the greatest experiences when expectations are low. We settled in “La Candelaria“, the historical centre of the city. The neighborhood is packed with universities, libraries and several museums. The architectural style of the houses is stunning. But what caught my eye the most is the wonderful street art. For more pictures, click here.
Rafting rumble in San Gil
San Gil is referred to as the adventure capital of Colombia. And as we were passing by whilst working our way up towards the Caribbean, the call for adventure made us stay the night, planning a wild rafting trip the day after.
The Suarez river is one of the wildest in Colombia and perfectly fit for thrillseekers of all sorts and kinds. The rapids (or high current parts of a river) go up to class 5+, the highest level for commercial rafting. And well… an adrenaline rush of more or less 2 hours later, we found out why!
Sleep with the fish
During the last 5 months I went hiking through some of the most wonderful landscapes, got my Spanish at a next level, learned how to surf, dance salsa and many things more. But the most exciting discovery undoubtedly was the magical underwater world.
After having followed three days of courses and several dives, I got my open water diving certificate in the small and touristy city of Taganga. Allthough the visibility under water is not the best and the corals aren’t the most colourful, I experienced how relaxing and special diving is. As soon as you go under, your muscles relax and you feel like entering a whole new world. Waiting for the boat to drop you off at the diving area while being tailed by 5 dolphins, jumping in the water and seeing “nemo” accompanied by an enormous seaturtle, getting an underwater picture taken together with a good friend paying you a visit in Colombia… Once again one of those moments where you realise that it could have been worse! ( For more pictures, click here).
In search for Ciudad Perdida
Ciudad Perdida or “the lost city” is Colombia’s number one archeological site, located in Sierra Nevada. The only way for tourists to get on site is by doing a hike (4-5-6 days) through dense and rainy jungle.
A few keywords describing the way up there: wet, mud, mosquito bites and rewarding. While trying to cross the river, slipping on another rock, falling down and wetting my shoes (again) in the meanwhile scratching one of the 30 bites on my left calf… Quite a few times I was wondering why on earth I was walking towards Ciudad Perdida. Upon arrival at the lost city, the answer appeared to be quite easy and straightforward. Allthough built 800 years before Machu Picchu, the construction is spectacular, the scenery breathtaking. On top of that, the way to get there is adventurous and the amount of people checking out the monument ridicously low!
My time in South America is slowly coming to an end. Allthough the last 5 months were the best I had in my entire life, I am looking forward to the next part of the trip. After all, San Francisco, the Burning Man festival and New Zealand aren’t the worst of places… Anyways, more on all this in the next update!
Hear you later!