It’s funny how 7 weeks can seem like all the time in the world when you travel like most people, to see stuff, take a photo and move on, while 7 months doesn’t even begin to cover it when you start living somewhere, submerging yourself in the places you come by. A country can be fantastic in both ways though. You can’t be equally invested everywhere you go, and that was the case for me with Colombia. Usually I would take my time when traveling, easily staying a week in one place before moving on, and if it’s a place I really like, at least a month. Because of the previously explained situation, time was nolonger a luxury when crossing Colombia so now I was down to two or three days at each spot before moving on. Basically traveling at high speed.
A 30h plus buss ride took me from Mompiche to Quito, across the border and north, past Calí and to Salento, a little village in the Colombian mountains. This village is popular for two things mainly, the idyllic, picturesque architecture and the proximity to Valle de Cocora, home to the tallest palm trees in the world. But after doing some heavy sweating on the coast, all I could think about was how incredibly cold it was here. So not loving the altitude as I basically spent the first day in bed shivering because of the bus’ aircon induced fever. Day two had me heading right for the palm tree valley though along with the other tourists.
Now, being an independent soul, I didn’t really notice where all the other tourists went when getting of the jeeps, so I made my way along a trail into the forest. In the beginning it seemed like this was the way to go, lots of people riding horses and stuff, but after 30 mins it seemed like I was the only one around. Personally I thought it was a bit weird that they would make tourists go this far to see the great palm tree forest, but after a while I came across some locals who could explain that no, this was the trail for the waterfall. Looking up the mountain side and the trail basically ascending a continuous 50 degrees as far as I could see, my reaction was something like “Hell no!”. I mean, being Norwegian and all, if that waterfall isn’t on pinterest its going to be a disappointment. Now, where was that freakin palm tree forest?
On my way back, I saw an old lady coming down the hill right before the trail started. Seems like I hadn’t seen the forest for all the trees. The great palm tree forest was right at the beginning of the trail! To my defence though, you did have to turn off the trail and onto a private property. Anyways, awesome photos were produced.
Valle de Cocora
Medellin is basically just a big city without very distinct districts from what I could see. But the most popular place to stay is in El Poblado outside the original centre. A charming almost residential neighbourhood with loads of pubs and nightclubs and tattoo shops. Ergo a perfect place for party-keen backpackers. And lets be honest, that’s why probably around 60-70% of backpackers make it to Colombia and Medellín, the party. Or what helps you party to be exact. This was Escobar’s hood after all. I almost got a tattoo I’ve been thinking about for a while, but pussied out when I had to go alone. (So there will be a follow up here in the close future.)
If I had organized everything a little better I would have arranged for a paintball match in one of Escobar’s old villas, which sounded awesome! But Instead I only had time for a daytrip to Guatapé to climb the instagram-rock like everyone else.
I did however also have time for some cultural input and the free walking tour was very much worth the time. The guide’s elaborate storytelling helped the understanding of both the country and the city’s state of mind. In a land filled with contrasts after several decades with civil war, this city has become a shining beacon, at least within public transportation, if that’s your passion
As flights in Colombia are supercheap, I quickly flew to Cartagena for some Caribbean ocean time. Cartagena was the first capital of Colombia and it must be the spot that gets the most tourists on a daily basis. Hordes of cruise tourists, American mostly, segwayed their way through the narrow streets of the colonial old city centre to my amusement. The historical centre truly is a beautiful place though, I think I found my dream home at least three times. Of course that is not the real city, it is growing outside the old town, engulfing it in highrises.
And then for the Caribbean dream. Who doesn’t dream about getting back to basics and simply enjoying the sun and bright, turquoise waters? Though cold, waking up in a hammock directly on the beach was quite the experience. But not one you need to have again and again. After two night I had problems knowing what to do with myself. I mean, no wifi, no lights, hardly any electricity, and when it was this cold at night, no sleep. After all, the post card paradise had to step aside for the all serviced hostel resort. I know, not very backpackery of me.
You know how everyone goes to Tayrona National park? Well, the plan was that so would I, but I ended up being to busy doing nothing. All those people, all that walking, nope I wasn’t really up for it. Also, from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s just like the beaches I’m traveling to in Brazil, and they’re empty. So I hang out at the hostel resort in Palomino beach for a couple of nights instead. Doesn’t really make for good blogging material, since lounging isn’t really that exciting, just amazing!
Playa Blanca and Palomino beach