The further north I went in South America the more talk I heard about Colombia. Nobody had a bad word to say about the country that has a reputation for being extremely dangerous and fuelled by cocaine. To be honest, I didn’t know too much about the country before I ventured there, but this was now my second visit and once again it seemed like the perfect way to end my time on the wonderful continent that is South America.
On my first trip I hit the major cities in Bogotá, San Gil, Medellin, Santa Marta and Cartagena and I was amazed by how civilized and European the country was. It was immaculately clean and the architecture in Bogotá and Cartagena in particular, was stunning. This time around I went back to all of the aforementioned places with the exception of San Gil because it was Victoria’s first time in Colombia, but as we entered overland from Ecuador in the south, I got to visit a few places I had previously missed.
We spent the first week-and-a-half with a French couple whom we met at the border and ended up travelling with as we shared some unforgettable experiences in Las Lajas, Popayán, San Agustín, Cali and Salento. I was blown away by the cathedral at Las Lajas, which is nestled at the bottom of a valley with a river passing below its arches. I took salsa classes in Cali and drank some of the finest coffee Colombia has to offer in Salento before bidding au revoir to our travel buddies as Victoria and I headed to La Macarena to visit the World’s Most Beautiful River in Caño Cristales.
Caño Cristales is also known as the River of Five Colours with different shades of pinks, purples, greens, yellows and blues visible for only six months of the year, due to the plant that resides in the river. We hiked through the jungle to see the colours and experience an area that only recently became open to the public because it’s situated in the middle of guerrilla territory. It was a nice experience, and one I would recommend, but I ended up changing our flights to leave La Macarena early after two full and tiresome days being more than enough time to see it all.
The Five Senses of Colombia
Colombia looks like sunrise. I was sleeping snugly in my hammock in Tayrona National Park but Victoria woke me up so I could see sunrise. It was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and I suppose I’ll forgive her for the 5am wakeup!
Colombia smells like salty air. The Caribbean coast of Colombia has some pristine beaches and there’s nothing quite like sleeping in a hammock just metres from the beach with a nice sea breeze on your face.
Colombia feels like bed bugs. I’ve only had them a few times during my trip, but it wasn’t a very nice end to my time in South America. I was covered in bites and suitably unimpressed, but it’s part and parcel of backpacking and staying in hostels.
Colombia tastes like coffee. Coffee is one of Colombia’s major exports and being able to visit a plantation in Salento and see the full process from plant to cup was very interesting. Strong and black was the MO.
Colombia sounds like ‘a la orden’. No, not because they couldn’t pronounce my name properly, but because in Spanish it means ‘at your service’ and was their way of inviting you to purchase something. They shouted this everywhere!