A Travellerspoint blog


Medellin, Colombia

(LP) Land of The Eternal Spring ... and parties

sunny 25 °C

It was a toss up between going back to Camila's lovely apartment in Bogota or going to Medellin, which is where her and her flat mates are from. After some raving reports from them and other travellers of the city, particularly it's nightlife, knowing that we had the wildlife and history rich Galapagos coming up, we figured 'why not'.

Medellin is known as 'The Land of the Eternal Spring' as it is about level with Bogota but it is in a bowl completely surrounded by mountains giving it a lovely climate all year round. I guess the most surprising thing about it is how much of a middle class Columbia's got. The houses are lovely, the streets are clean and tree lined. The restaurants are modern, WiFi is everywhere as are coffee houses, the Cuisine is as diverse as any European city and the shops are all interior design and little boutiques.

Medellin's history is that of the Pablo Escabar 1980's drug lords Era, I guess kind of glamorous in a Scarface kind of way. Although this is very much a thing of the past and Piasco's are extremely proud of their region and will not be associated that out-of-date reputation, which is actually really hard to imagine looking at it now. I guess the only thing that hints at it, other than large properties and lots of swimming pools, is some of the women; the fake boobs and bums, Gucci glasses and high heels does still sort of echo a Notorious BIG video. Just a little bit.

So, we arrived, pretty exhausted from our trip down in what was closer to a fridge on wheels than a bus, I would use a butchers delivery van if it were not for the gangster association, but you get the idea. It was about a 16hour journey which, despite the subzero temperatures, we slept most of the way. I woke up in the morning and got off at a toilet stop only to find Claire and Kathryn looking remarkably like a couple of hostages, dead hostages, both sitting in exactly thew same position, dressed in black, with their scarves over their heads. DSC00362.jpg It was nearly the end of me whilst I was fumbling around for my camera, I simultaneously choked on my apple and fell down the steps of the bus. Bearing in mind the reputation that Colombia has for bus hi-jacking, what was most hilarious was that Claire and Kathryn were in the front two seats so everyone boarding the bus must of thought they were boarding a crime scene, or just that those gringos are just very strange. So despite nearly losing a few toes to frost bite, and an incident involving a herd of cattle and a bus hurtling towards them, at what can only be described as an unreasonable speed - we arrived safely in Medellin.

Usual palava with the booking not being logged but we got into a dorm none-the-less and I quite literally passed out on my top bunk. Claire tried to revive me with a cup of tea, which I accepted with promises of getting up, only to wake up a few hours later with my index finger still hooked round my now cold cup of tea, most skillfully balanced against the wooden slats keeping me in, having not spilled a drop, a skill I seem to lack when conscious. We had opted out of the nights entertainment, me by narcoleptic default, as we had plans the next day. Claire and Kathryn retired after a few drinks only to be kept up all night by the party outside our window. I obviously slept through it all and woke up bright and breezy for the days activities ... paragliding!

After a hell raising journey up the mountain we were about to jump off of, we scaled the steps to the runway (slope), no small feat considering the challenges of altitude on the slightly-less-than-fit. Claire, obviously, was first up, and with 5 minutes she and I were harnessed up to an instructor and a large multi-stringed kite, at which point my legs went a little bit like jelly watching all the paragliders circling over head. DSC01096.jpg I was busy filming Claire take off with her expert looking flying partner, all suited and booted in a flash jump suit when I noted my guys lack of paragliding attire and distinct lack of years. Lost in my jelly world, I was completely oblivious to the fact that he was talking to me and not the guy helping strap me up, and the garbled Spanish in my ear became a single comprehendable command- "RUN!" That was it, I was off.

It took a while for me to relax into it and accept that the wind won't just stop blowing, and that there was very little I could do about the fact that I was a few hundred feet up flying over mountains, waterfalls and a truly beautiful city and began to appreciate exactly how cool what I was doing was. I still however could not speak and my words frustratingly came out in a nervous giggle. Claire meanwhile was circling about up with the Gods and I completely lost sight of her. I began to love it and not want to go down, partly because I couldn't get my head round the idea landing safely. Descending was the best bit cause you go down in a corkscrew which beats any ride I've been on. What I thought was Claire landing just ahead of me turned out to be Kathryn. I, it turned out, had a double flight and Claire, flying so high up had landed back where we had taken off and Kathryn had her flight too. We landed very smoothly with expert precision on a patch of grass in the middle of the city, which just goes to show you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. Getting back up the mountain from the other side of the city was as eventful as any journey in Sur America involving 5 attempts at a steep hill and (we think) getting struck by lightening. We arrive back at the top to find a rained on, slightly worried older sister who had last seen me 2 1/2hrs ago in mid air with what looked to be a teenage skateboarder. Kathryn obviously wanted to become a paraglider and started enquiring about night flights. DSC01109.jpg

We get back to the hostel pumped full of adrenalin and hit the Cuba Libras and pool table in high spirits. We had a really cool group of people in the hostel and we all went out to a club together and had another splendid evening, followed by a Sunday spent by the pool with a much needed video and takeaway night. DSC01136.jpg

We really liked Medellin and could have easily stayed their longer but Ecuador was a-calling so on Tues we left for Quito. Getting out of Colombia was quite a commotion. Admittedly we had cut our arrival to the airport a little fine, but before you even checked in the unpacked your bags in full public view. I was first and the security guard seemed more interested in what books I had (I had got a 'a little' over excited in a book shop the day before). Kathryn received a half hearted search. Claire, however, being her usual jovial self, had her upbeat mood returned with every lotion and potion being sniffed, every compartment searched and was asked quite frankly "if she'd been drinking?". It was 4pm. This kind of thing continued all through the airport which, despite it's comedy value, shows the dedication that Colombia has to changing it's image and eradicating its troubled past.

Before I go, I can't express enough how unbelievably warm, friendly and hospitable we found the Colombians to be. We could list so many examples because the kindness of complete strangers here is just astounding. E.g. Claire got chatting with the guy fixing the computer at the hostel as, after much deliberation, we decided to get a lap to between us (and haven't looked back). Anyway, not only does he tell her everything she needs to know, he insisted on taking us after he'd finished work to the electrical center and traipsed around a dozen shops with us for 3 hours trying to get us the best deal and best lap top for our budget and genuinely wanted absolutely nothing in return. He even delivered us back in a taxi. So very very sweet. Anyway, I think I have bored you enough.

One country down and we loved every minute. All Hail Colombia.

Love Love Love x x x


Posted by Peacocks 18:03 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Taganga, Colombia

(CP) Our first taste of the rainforest....

semi-overcast 28 °C

We left Cartagena on the 24th October and travelled north to a small fisherman's village called Taganga... and have pretty much been here ever since! 10 days later and we are promising to leave tomorrow, which seems to be the same promise from everyone we meet who get stuck here.
How can i explain the place... A quiet town on the Caribbean coast with a small beach, few restaurants, a couple of bars that open when they feel like it and then El Garaje, an outside bar / club that plays a mix of local and western music to suit the mad diversity of drinkers.
Doesn´t sound like much but its like we are on holiday, dare i admit that travelling is not all hard work! The food has been amazing fresh fish, salads and chicken and beef to die for. Needless to say, we are heading in the wrong direction for our Rio bodies come February.
We are staying in Casa Filippe. http://www.lacasadefelipe.com/indexeng.html. Have a look at the website and you´ll get an idea of why we can´t leave. Obviously this is the 1st time we are out of a main city so we´ve taken time out to unwind from the hectic life in London with the help of numerous hammocks. ( if i can get in one before Laura takes ownership for the night!!)
We went on a 3 day trip to Parque Nacional Tayrona, a vast national park with beautiful beaches along the coast and rainforest inland. A few of the beaches have campsites where you can stay in a tent or rent one of the 30 hammocks they have hanging under a thatched shelter with a restaurant. To get there you take a 40 min boat ride which is meant to be relatively stress free other than the occasional choppy wave or the risk of an engine packing up. We entailed both but i think our group should take responsibility for this, you are advised to leave before 1pm as in the afternoons it gets stormy but we were a little behind schedule (no surprises there, with Laura and i in tow..) and far too busy making sure we had enough supplies of Rum, Coke, Limes, red wine followed by an after thought of water and crackers. When we finally head off its 2.30pm and it is indeed stormy. Lets just say jumping the waves was fun for the 1st 10 mins but after that we had a sore bums, everyone was soaked and then of course the engine gave up. Thankfully they managed to get it started again and we made it to Finca El Paraiso before the rain hit. It is as beautiful as you imagine and a world away from home, my only complaint other that the hundreds of Mosquito's was that i had barley been there 30 mins before my flip flops were stolen... my only pair!!! This seemed a good enough reason along with our adventurous boat trip to have our 1st glass of wine for the evening, followed by drinking all of our 3 day supplies and passing out in a hammock alongside 20 or so others. The following day we nursed hangovers on the beach and took a walk round to the next beach along. Unfortunately from 5pm it didn't stop raining until the next morning and with only the occasional beer from the restaurant we did not sleep so well so decided to head back the next day. The rest of them took the boat back but Laura, Jill and I choose to walk back and see a bit more of the park. What we thought was a 45 minute walk actually took over 3 hours and my bare feet and I were pretty knackered by the end but was definitely worth it!!
We went to pick Kathryn up from Santa Marta on Saturday, she has settled in nicely and enjoying some sun. Laura and Kathryn went diving yesterday, Laura took her advanced so is over the moon and although Kathryn could only do a mini dive she loves it so much she has now decided to become a Marine Biologist. I´ve had a cold so haven´t been able to go but will save myself for the Galapagos.
P.S We have already adopted our first stray dog, named Gismo. He follows us everywhere and sleeps outside our room. Laura´s convinced we´ll have a Noah´s Arch ship ready to send back home by the end of our trip......


Posted by Peacocks 09:21 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Cartagena, Colombia

(LP) Sun, Sea, Hammocks and Cuba Libras (rum, coke and lime)...

sunny 30 °C

Cartagena is a beautiful walled city up in the north of Colombia. It is really charming colonial town that oozes history with a really Caribbean feel, it reminds me a little bit of Cuba. cartagena_087.jpg The colours are bright, the food is fried, the alcohol is sweet, and the dancing is sexual and it´s all to the beat of a Caribbean drum. The women all wear incredibly tight clothes and the men stare. The cobbled streets are lined with people selling hand made jewelry and all the old buildings are gorgeous, it´s very "Pirates of the Carribean". That said, it is beautiful place with a dark side. Definitely somewhere you need to be aware of the fact that you are a tourist, and some people do just see you as an opportunity so you just need to keep your wits about you and not flash your cash, or camera, in public too much.

It is one of those places that you get the most from just wondering around and soaking it up. We took a trip to a mud volcano, which is exactly that. Really weird sensation and lots of giggles as you're massaged and pushed around whilst you float in a bottomless pit of dense mud. You then go into the lagoon where your bikini is whipped off you quicker than you can say "Cuba Libra", and washed all over by women waiting in there for you. clare_303.jpg

We also took a day trip to Playa Blanca which is absolutely beautiful. Just as we pulled up, the heavens opened accompanied by pink fork lightening and some pretty awesome thunder. Taking shelter and eating our Fried Fish, Coconut Rice and Planata, the local dish, we got bombarded by lookie lookie men and women. Then, quickly as the rain comes it goes, as do the "lookie lookies", and we got some sunshine, white sands and turquoise waters.clare_381.jpg

I think for us, the best thing for us about Cartagena was the people we met there with whom we've been traveling ever since. The usual debauchery of drinking games ,playing cards and exchanging stories which is as much a part of traveling as the places you visit. Introducing Lacey, Jill, Ronan, Ian, Mike and Clive.clare_368.jpg


Posted by Peacocks 16:24 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Bogota, Colombia

(LP) Easing ourselves in gently ...

semi-overcast 18 °C

Well , we're here! The departure day was a little less stressful for me as I had a mobile phone, a chauffeur and a gorgeous little puppy on my lap, yet Claire still made it to the airport before me, in the face of difficulty, despite my very best Red Herring.

We wanted to use this blog for our own records but also for those who want to know, not only that we're still alive, but a little bit about the places we're so lucky to be seeing and experiencing. So I'm gonna try, probably in vain, to let you know the more interesting bits of what we've been up to and also give you some kind of idea of what these places are like as, despite our bestist photographic efforts, there is still a limit on what can be shown in a 2D image.

So, Colombia. Well I guess the first thing is that the violent and dangerous image that the country is burdened with completely overshadows what the country has to offer. That's not to say it is completely unfounded, but it is improving so rapidly that, at this rate, soon it will be a thing of the past. We were lucky enough to get the chance to immerse ourselves in "proper Colombian life" as we stayed at my friend Camila's apartment. Camila is a Colombian that I met in Cambodia, much to the amusement of the Miami airport official who was trying to distinguish whether we were at all suspicious and exactly what our business in "The United States of America" was. Such a relief to get out of MIA and into Colombia where everyone has a smile on their face and will chat endlessly to you despite you not understanding 90% of what is said.

Like any city there are all different faces to Bogota. We stayed in Camila's apartment that was just lovely. It's got massive windows, hammocks, it's really colourful and full of art and pot plants. This is in the Student-ish area where there are nearly 20 different universities so it has got a really young vibe to it. Everyone is always out on the streets, especially at night and it feels like a gig has just turned out or something. It's a really cool buzz and it pervades the whole city. There is another area with all cobbled streets built on the side of mountains so you can get out of breath pretty easily because of the altitude (2600m above sea level).

We took a cable car at a 90 degree angle up to a church that over looks the city which is just beautiful. There we were, both still heavily caffeine dependent so sipping on a "Cafe con Leche", in the most peaceful place imaginable. All you can hear is the wind and the sound of running water, your surrounded by flowers and 'reasonably' tasteful religious statues whilst massive birds of pray circle above your head. I had one of many moments of 'if anyone asks me why I love to travel so much', that's why.

There are also really cosmopolitan areas for wine-ing and dining so as a city as a whole it's got loads to offer. We saw a Flamenco show courtesy of Camila's lovely housemate Clara followed by a night a heavy drinking and rambunctious dancing. The Colombians, it seems, will give anyone a run for there money on the partying front. Not to be shown up, Claire and I got fully involved and all in all had a tremendous evening.

The next day, all a little hungover, in truely hospitaliable coloumbian style we got invited to Camila's friends, from the night before, for a birthday BBQ celebration. Marcel is Argentinian and we had the most amazing traditional food of Argentinian beef, salsas and fish. All just placed on chopping boards and passed around. It is such a nice way to eat compared to our Barbies with everyone's plates piled high! Natalie, his sister, boyfriend is a singer and after a steady flow of red wine he started to sing and play the guitar while they all joined in. I don't know how to make the distinction clear between that and the drunken SingStar image I might be creating, but it is such pure and earnest happiness. I can't imagine Claire and Jimmy sharing a microphone whilst I sit on the sofa and join in. Manela is an artist and she paints these beautiful doll paintings, Camila has a couple in her apartment. Well, Claire was expressing how much she liked one of them and they gave it her as a gift, a keepsake so that we'll remember our time there. It was, is, the most special gift, and it left us both a little bit speechless at their generosity.

Claire has been nagging me to do my bit as she is already for her next installment, but this is the problem, once I start "gassing" or "shitting on" as our lovely new Irish Amiga's would say, I don't really know where to stop. So I'll leave it there for Bogota, as a first stop it was fantastic and we really eased ourselves into the traveling life gently. We could have stayed longer but the Bogota chill was getting to us a bit so we boarded a bus, which was more like a load of beds on wheels, and headed to the Caribbean coast for some Sun, Sea and Rum.


Posted by Peacocks 10:57 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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