We’ve touched down in Columbia! First things first…Let’s get some cocaine!
Only joking (we can wait until tomorrow) We landed at 7.30pm and decided to get the hell out of Bogota because for the next week or so it’s going to be raining!
After our time in Mexico we weren’t quite ready to leave the sunshine and we had heard Bogota didn’t really have the weather or much else to offer so we decided to jump on another plane up north to Barriquilla where it was a steady 32 degrees!
Turns out in Colombia we are millionaires! Before I started ordering Ferrari’s and Speed Boats I checked the exchange rate and realised its 3708 Colombian Pesos to £1 😫
You’d have to be Carol Vorderman to work out how much an apple costs here..
The cab drivers here seem to have no actual driving ability or any regard for safety – me and jay have been bouncing around the back of cabs like tennis balls in a tumble dryer.
So turns out Barriquilla is a bit of a bore, it’s dirty and there isn’t really much to do, they are currently having carnival here which is pretty much a watered-down version of the one in Rio so we’re catching a bus to the Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta which costs 40,000 pesos which I thought was a rip off but Vorderman assured me it was only about £10.
Also Im disappointed I haven’t seen Shakira or Pablo Escobar yet.. Il let you know if I do 😜 adios.
We arrived in Santa Marta and headed straight for The Dreamer Hostel. We were greeted by a lovely guy on reception called Diego and felt so welcome. After a tough time going through customs in Bogota being served by who I can only describe as the meanest man I’ve ever met, my excitement about Colombia diminished some what, so I was glad we had at least picked a nice friendly hostel.
We chilled at the hostel when we arrived and got chatting to some people hanging at the bar and finding out what there was to do around santa marta. G was invited to play footie with others from the hostel out on the pitch in the square which is a regular thing against the little Colombian kids that live nearby. The girls all went out to watch the boys play and got a little taster of how into footie this country is. They bloody love it!
The next day we hung at the hostel and got to know the backpackers. It was a lovely mix of nationalities from holland to Germany…Japan and Canada and lots more im sure. Later that day three girls walked through with their bags. Newbies!!! We got chatting at the bar and found out they were Cleo, Carla and Frankie from Basingstoke. After about all of five minutes we all, (G included) fell head over heels in love. And here we are almost a week later, stronger than ever and at a new hostel in Palomino right on the beach.
We spent a few days together at the first dreamer where we were dragged against our will on to the ‘Chiva bus’ which Is an all you can drink bus journey around town and then to a bar on the beach. Well, needless to say it was a horrific experience but very very funny. We all piled on to the back of this bus with a sound system that would rival fabrics! Two minutes in im doing the universal hand sign for ‘turn it down a bit’ to the driver. God I must be getting old.
Whilst at the hostel we all booked on to go to Minca which is a about 40 mins from Santa marta in the mountains where there are some waterfalls and a coffee farm. We had heard different views on minca bad and good so we thought we should check it out ourselves. To be honest we were all a little disappointed as it was a bit of a muddy site and the water was the coldest I have ever felt. We all had a little dip and then climbed up a hill to some more falls and then headed to the coffee farm.
Now I really am not into coffee at all so this really wasn’t my bag but if you are into that stuff I guess it may be worth a look. I felt like a naughty school girl on a school trip, hanging behind and giggling and whispering to Carla-who like me had little to no interest in coffee beans. We found great amusement in proceeding to ask if ‘anyone had ever fallen in?’ When being shown deep holes or wells for the coffee.
After a few days at the dreamer in Santa marta we decided to go check out the new dreamer hostel in palomino about an hours drive. It is the same chain of hostel but right on the beach. When we arrived in the town we all jumped on individual taxi mopeds which was so fun. They drop you right to the hostel. I felt like I had seen a lot more of Columbia by this time and had started to adjust to my surroundings. It really is a beautiful country and the beaches are stunning in parts.
The sea is very rough in most places and as G will explain can be absolutely terrifying.
So today I nearly drowned.. But i’ll get to that later.
Our day started off brilliantly we had decided that the 6 of us were going to go tubing, to get there we had to get on the back of a motorbike for about 20 minutes off-road and uphill on some pretty sketchy terrain, annoyingly we then had a 25 minute near on vertical climb to get to the start of the river, jay and the girls spent the entire time huffing and puffing but Me and Jez are pretty much professional climbers so we made mince meat of it.
After reaching the top of what Jay described as ‘Mount Fuji’ it was finally our time to sit on our asses and float down the river, two locals kindly donated us a big Bob Marley joint and sent us on our way.
I’d definitely recommend going tubing if you ever happen to be passing through Palomino at any point in the future, it’s like sitting on a river in Jurassic Park – minus the dinosaurs. the jungle is beautiful and the river is pretty calm apart from a few bends and small rapids.
It all went swimmingly until a machete wielding maniac started following us down the side of the river, Jay and two of the other girls were ahead of the rest of us and by the time we got there they were pretty shook up.
Turns out he was just a weirdo and not a mass murderer as they had presumed and we floated off on our tubes to safety, Jay still thinks of the rest of us hadn’t rocked up when we did that they would have been in some trouble.
So that was sticky situation number 1 which conveniently brings me onto sticky situation 2, when we got back to the hostel we decided to take a walk to the beach and we saw this sign..
In hind-site I really wish I had taken it more seriously. The girls were laying on the beach and me and Jez decided to go for a swim, we got about 20 metres out and shit started getting serious, the current started pulling us out further and further into the big waves, Jeremy has 15 years surfing experience on his side and managed to get into shallower water, I however was being battered by the big waves and getting taken under literally every 2 seconds so gasping for air and swallowing sea water I desperately tried to signal to the girls on shore, I knew I didn’t have long before I was really fucked! Luckily somebody on land found a life jacket so he ran in and swam out to try and help, I knew I only had to hold on that long.
He got out to me but the current was still too strong to get out so we were definitely not in the clear and both of us were now being bashed around and taken under . Jay then saw somebody with a surfboard and screamed at her to help, when she finally got over to us and I finally got a chance to breath for the first time in what seemed about 10 minutes, The 3 of us still struggled to get in and when we did the guy in the life jacket collapsed on the beach, Jay was crying her eyes out screaming on the beach, it makes you realise how easily something fun can get seriously out of control in a heartbeat, I think another minute out there and I definitely would not be here writing this, I 100% thought i was going to die and if those two people hadn’t been walking past at that exact time I probably would have and 2 really would have become Juan.
So if you ever see a sign like that, take it seriously. (Coming from a Sign Maker)
P.s fuck you Poseidon you watery bastard.
So G has explained the sea incident and to be honest it’s not something I can yet really think about in a serious way without balling my eyes out. All I will say is it was without a doubt the most horrifying experience of my life and I would not wish it on anyone. Standing on the shore watching the person you love most in the world, alone and struggling to breathe. So exhausted that their arms stop waving for help, and when you can’t get to them you feel so helpless. If Jez hadn’t had hold of me for dear life there is not doubt I would have been swimming in like a maniac to try and save him. I know I would have failed and made it worse for both of us but still. It’s impossible not to have that instinct. I didn’t think it was possible but I feel like I love G even more now and can’t stop looking at him and just balling my eyes out.
Please learn from this people. That is one thing I hope that come from what happened to us x
After two nights at the palomino dreamer and once I had got over the horrific sea incident we headed to Tayrona National Park. This is a protected park that covers most of the north east coast of Columbia. I had heard such great things about this place so was so excited when everyone agreed it would be best to stay over so we got to spend some real time at this place and see as much as we could. It is know for stunning beaches, diverse wildlife and being different in terms of type of forest and jungle from one side to the other.
The park only allows you to sleep in a hammock or camp so we decided to camp along with Carla and Frankie, Cleo being cleo obviously wanted to sleep in a hammock, proper at one with nature that one. At any given opportunity Cleo is trying to shake a coconut off a tree and hack into it-usually to no avail. G however has started foraging with her and was mucho successful!
So we arrived to the park and jumped on some horses for the 45 minute journey up to where we were camping. It was very basic but it was two minutes from the beach and that was what we were there for. We spent the day walking long distances and stumbling upon lagoons, white sand beaches, huge rocks that really made it look like something out of Jurassic Park. G was like mowgli from the jungle book climbing up them all in about 60 seconds.
One minute he would be standing next to me and the next he is shouting down at me from about 100 foot up. Like I need another bloody heart attack! We all had this joke after G’s drowning incident about how I am not even gonna let him in a swimming pool with a wave machine and I Carla finished it off with “and if you think you’re having a bath you can fuck off”. That just about sums up how I am feeling about letting G do anything remotely dangerous. We got in the sea yesterday and I was treating him like a two year old. “Now stay where I can see you”
Back to tayrona, the evening wasn’t great and we all had a little moan about how horrendous the food was and how it would have been great to just go for the day but we sucked it up and just got an early night. I popped a sleeping pill as I knew I was getting zero sleep in our pokey one man tent for two!
In the morning we all woke up to blue sky and a lovely (well best we had had) breakfast of almost a chocolate croissant and a fresh orange juice. To be honest I was just happy to taste something a little different. The food is something I am really struggling with here in Colombia. The menu in pretty much every food establishment has the same meals; Carbonara, meat fajita, pizza, rice with chicken or rice with chips. I am trying not to let it bother me but to those of you reading this that know me…SEND HELP aka a roast dinner or a wagamamma.
We spent the day lazing in the sun and taking in the scenery. Swimming in the sea was great as it is a lot calmer here than on the normal coast back in palomino, so I let G in without armbands. It was a big risk but hey…I’m a risky bastard.
Such a risky bastard in fact that whilst on the beach a long way from civilisation (of the horrible toilets back at camp) I decided to take my self off into the rocks to see a man about a dog. It turns out he didn’t have a dog…but I had a log. Too much information?
Clearly A Natural..
When it was time to go we decided to walk back instead of jump on the horses. Partly to take in more of the views but also because I think we all felt lucky to have survived on the horses on the way in and didn’t wanna get too cocky. Talking of cocks you should have seen Frankie’s horse. Actually whilst we are back on the horses- Cleo’s horse was infront of mine and at one point it decided to back up Onto my knee lift it’s tail and fart. It was the loudest most powerful thing I’ve ever felt I thought it had blown my kneecaps off. Imagine that.
Oh and heres an ant colony we found hard at work, crazy little bastards.
After Jays botched knee realignment surgery we were ready to go to Cartagena, which we now know is the hottest place on the planet, so we decided to get a hostel without air conditioning to really test the strength of our relationship.
We stayed at Media Luna Hostel which is a short walk from the centre of town and pretty much spent the last three days peeling ourselves off of the furniture and trying to stand in the right spot in the room to catch the Draught from the fan. Me and jay had a constant battle for who got to sleep on the outside of the single bed and not get stuck up against the sticky prison cell like wall. Rock-Paper-Scissors being the fairest way to settle it.
After We lost Frankie and carls to heathrow, Cleo g Libby (a girl we had met staying at media luna) and I all headed to playa blanca. I had heard a lot about this place on various blogs and from other travellers. Basically the beach in Cartagena is a city beach and pretty grimy. Playa blanca is about a 30 minute bus or boat away. Because I read about the boat I always pictured an island but it actually is just a long beach with wooden individual cabanas overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea.
Cartagena was way too humid for us so when we all jumped out the car at Blanca I was ecstatic to be greeted by the strong cool breeze. We walked up the beach until we found a cabana we liked. We paid £20 a night and had it for three nights. You can see what I mean in the pictures but anywhere else in the world you would be paying way over £100 a night to have the waves literally lapping at your door. It was quite basic but had everything you needed. The bed was the comfiest yet, it had a fan -not that you needed one with the sea breeze flowing through. It had mosquito nets covering the whole bed which meant I finally had the best sleep I have had since I came away. The shower situation was interesting as you got given a 5ltr bottle of water to wash with. I actually got quite into it and so did G. We showered together and every time had a right laugh just chucking it over eachother whilst trying to ensure we actually cleaned ourselves. I am thinking Of adopting this way of showering in oz 😉
G and I decided after Cartagena to have a bit of a detox so it was a lot of early nights and no beers for a few days which felt great.
My only downfall to P.Blanca was the food. Although I had some delicious fish it was all very samey and also it is known for not being very sanitary in terms of food which obviously doesn’t help. I’m sure it has nothing on India though and to be fair I didn’t get sick.
There was a guy that owned the cabanas next door to ours named Orlando who was 56 going-on 15 who loved playing frisbee and G joined him every day for about an hour at sunset.
Overall all we have had a lovely time here on Blanca and would recommend it if you are ever passing through cartegena. The water is one of the best I have swam in, a beautiful bluey green with just the right amount of waves. Calmer in the morning and then getting choppier in the afternoon when it can get really quite windy.
As I write this we are heading back to media luna hostel to gather our thoughts and work out how we are getting to our next stop…Medellin.
Hasta luego amigos
CARTAGENA PART 2
After Playa Blanca we made our way back to Cartagena to stay a night at another hostel called Mamallena Hostel which was opposite to the sweaty Media Luna In which we had stayed before, the rooms had air con and we got a double bed in dorm which was pretty sweet, also it was 20,000 pesos a night cheaper so we were kind of kicking ourselves that we never stayed there the first time round, Also it being a weeknight made us see the city in a whole new light.
We have been slightly off the blog radar since Cartagena due to having far too much fun.
We arrived in Medellin and I instantly warmed to the city. Driving in from the airport I enjoyed the beautiful lush green views of the valleys and mountains. The city of Medellin is in a bowl and you drive around and down into it. There are a number of cable cars to get you to each quarter of the city and they also have a metro system.
The first night at our hostel casa kiwi we met some young English guys and ended up out on the town with them. The city has loads of bars and clubs and I didn’t once feel unsafe whilst walking around with lots of different nationalities into the early hours. We stayed in an area called el poblado which is known as the nicer part of town. It has lots of tree lined streets with lovely cafés and restaurants so I was in heaven. I even found the equivalent of a whole foods so that was me sorted for lunch.
With the limited time we spent in Medellin we made sure we did a whole tour of the city both by cable and the metro which was so fun and the weather was perfect for exploring.
Overall Medellin was an enjoyable city and I think one of which I could probably live if I was to choose.
We’re currently on a bus to Rio Claro, we’re finally leaving Guatape after staying 3 times longer than originally planned, it’s so easy to fall in love with Guatape, it is probably the nicest place we have stayed in Colombia, in fact it’s easily the nicest place so far, the views are breathtaking, tree topped mountains are surrounded by dozens of green lakes and in the distance you can see El Penõl towering over the landscape.
So we’ve left Colombia and now we’re in Brazil, Colombia is a really hard place to sum up but the best way i can describe it is like standing very close to a really big horse, the horse looks great, it’s really strong and beautiful but you never really feel too at ease, the horse could kick you at any moment, we were lucky the horse never kicked us..it took us on a great adventure and now we love Horses. Some people we met however did get kicked by a horse – and when i say kicked by a horse i mean robbed at gunpoint. so we’re counting ourselves lucky.
High Vibes and Low Sides – Our Top 5 Things In Colombia:
- Guatape- A great little lakeside town away from the crazyness of the city. Good for walks and spending time in the calm waters. Friendly people and one of our favourite places to eat. Look for the restaurant Don de Sam
- Rio Claro- Adventure packed crazyness but only if you do the cave tour. The rafting is fun but very chilled. If you’re lucky you may see some monkeys hanging in the trees above. We did!
- Tubing in Palomino- Even the moped ride to the river was a highlight. Very serene as we had this huge river all to ourselves. Great for bird watching and generally pretending your in Jurassic park.
- Salento – for me this is Colombia. It’s exactly what I had pictured before arriving, it took nearly 5 weeks of being here to finally see it but the picturesque landscapes and beautiful long hike made it worth it. Make sure you check it out.
- Playa Blanca- The colour of the sea here alone is knockout. I don’t know anywhere else you can get a wooden cabana two metres from the Caribbean Sea for about a tenner per person. Try and go on a weekday for pure chill out bliss vibes.
On the flip-side, 5 not so great things about Colombia:
1. The food. I mean it’s great if you want to eat the exact same meal for your entire trip, not so great if you actually have tastebuds. I’ve easily had some of the worst meals I’ve ever had over the last 5 weeks – And hot chocolate with cheese in?! That’s just stupid.
2. We thought safety should be on this list, not due to personal experience I may add however pretty much everyone we met either has or knew someone who has experienced dangerous crimes. We are talking made to empty out their bank accounts with guns and people being mugged at knifepoint. G and I really took care of each other and always had each others backs. We never went out with a bag, G always just kept a few small notes (enough for a drink and some food) and if we did take our phone or camera for pics one of us would take watch whilst the other one papped away. Never walk anywhere quiet or unlit alone and just generally stay with as many people as you can. I personally wouldn’t travel Colombia alone as a female and would no way in hell let my child. Don’t let it put you off going with a friend, partner or group though. You need to experience this stunning and diverse country.
3. The driving – it’s great if want constant near death experiences and high adrenaline rides home. The taxi drivers are constantly cutting each other up and overtaking on blind corners. No wonder all of the cars here have dents in them.
4. There are so many homeless in the cities of Colombia which is upsetting, we always kept our leftovers from every meal to give to somebody on the street on the way home. They really appreciate it and no food went to waste. The government need to do something about this as it is a really big problem.
5. Hot showers are very hard to come by here. You are sometimes blessed with one in a big city, but even then it will be a dribble. I think in 5 weeks I had one memorable hot powerful shower. To be fair in the hot parts of the country hot water isn’t that important but I did find you don’t get as clean in cold water. We pretty much stank the hole time. 😫