We had a couple of nights in Bogota before the flight that we’d booked to Quito, Ecuador. We got back to our hotel and the staff were all pleased to see us. In many ways it is the closest to a homecoming that we’ll get in the next 6 months so it was nice to back somewhere that we knew. Having had a brief taste of home with our Indian food in Salento and still craving spice, we had dinner that evening at an Indian in Usaquen. Although it was not a cheap meal it was as good as a curry back home and a welcome change!
Our journey to Cartagena was on a tourist transfer bus that picked us up from La Brisa Loca, made a couple of quick stops then headed to Cartagena. Looking out of our windows on the journey we saw our first taste of poor rural Colombia. There were miles and miles of simple, often unfinished, terracotta brick or concrete box houses with corrugated tin roofs on small, sometimes rubbish strewn, plots opening onto unpaved roads. Some of these were more elaborate, plastered and painted at the front, with additional sections, front walls and gardens, but many were basic 5m by 3m boxes that had obviously been put up purely to provide a roof over the owners heads.
In many ways rural Colombia reminded me of Africa, and shows that in a country that in many ways seems very developed that there is still a population living in very real poverty and a high level of wealth inequality between the cities and the countryside. At the other end of the spectrum Colombia’s cities have been a surprise, offering a similar variety of quality products and services that you would find in any European city. From the food we’ve eaten, especially in the more locally orientated restaurants in Bogota, it is clear that Colombia has a large and culturally astute middle class. On one of our first days in Bogota an old Colombian lady had told us (when we told her where we came from) that Europe was the first world and that Colombia was a third world country. We were puzzled by this comment at the time but while we still don’t necessarily agree with her, we can at least start to see where she was coming from.
We arrived in Cartagena from the east which took us past the airport and pretty much straight into the historic centre. We were dropped off at El Genoves, our hostel for the first night.
As Alex described in her previous post we went to Santa Marta with the aim of visiting the Parque Nacional Tayrona. We didn’t really go into this adventure knowing much about the park but it featured in “The Gringo Trail” by Mark Mann, one of the books I read before heading out here, so we thought we go and have a look for ourselves!
After a long sleepless night we headed over to the market to catch our bus. We did have the option of a door to door transfer with our hostel for the equivalent of £4 each but we opted to pay just over £1 for the local bus. It wasn’t really about the money though as we really wanted to see the journey from a more local perspective.
Motivation aside we wound our way through the market area looking for the intersection of Calle 11 and Carrera 11. It all started to feel just a little less salubrious around us and all of a sudden none of the streets were labelled. To cut a long story short we eventually managed to overshoot our destination by a street and by the time we got to the bus we were sweaty and exhausted. Luckily we had a 40 minute bus ride to recover so we set off and kept our eyes peeled for our stop. As it happened our stop was impossible to miss due to the obvious park entrance, the conductor shouting Parque Tayrona at us and all the other Gringos getting off the bus with us.
Hi Guys, Alex here, I (well Chris) thought it was about time that I wrote a post so I’m going to cover Santa Marta and Chris will be back to cover Tayrona National Park.
Santa Marta is a city on the Northern Caribbean coast of Colombia, it’s mostly a stop off point for travellers visiting Tayrona but is also a huge holiday destination in it’s own right for many Colombian tourists.
We arrived into the tiny Santa Marta airport right next to the sea and were met by a wall of heat and humidity when stepping off the plane. We grabbed a taxi and headed to our hostel. Along the way the streets looked far more colourful and vibrant than in Bogota with lots of people selling things on the street and a much more casual dress code!
Our first day in Colombia started slowly. There were a few things bits of admin we needed to urgently sort out that we just hadn’t had time to do in the UK. The other important thing to do was to work out what we’d be doing after Bogota. We were now three nights away from having nothing booked and having no idea what we were doing next. We did some research and came up with a draft itinerary for Columbia:
Bogota (4 nights)
Tayrona National Park for a night or two exploring and sleeping in a hammock
Cartagena via another night in Santa Marta
Pereira (in the coffee growing region)
Back to Bogota