Adios Colombia

One country down, five to go. 

It seems like I flew into Colombia yesterday. Actually, it was just under a week ago. While it seems a little unfair not to give this country a little more time – it really has charmed me – there are other countries (Peru, Chile, Argentina) that I look forward to even more. 

More so, I want to be strategic with my time. Simply due to the fact that this is my first destination, I feel the need to work ahead of the pace I should. I could get sick or stranded, or find some place I really love and stay for longer. I could meet some cool folks going some place I hadn’t planned, or learn about somewhere I have to backtrack to. In any case, I’ve worked my way south with the above in mind, and tomorrow I have a long travel day to get to Ecuador. 

In particular I’ll regret missing several places. In the north, I would have loved to see the Caribbean city of Cartagena and nearby Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. To the south, I had planned on stargazing in Desierto de la Tatcoa and checking out ancient ruins in San Agustin. However the bus times didn’t make sense at the time. I have good reason to return now, and as consolation, I’m bound to see ruins, beaches, deserts and nature in my upcoming destinations. 

I was truly surprised by Colombia and would honsetly recomend it. Despite the repuation it once had, I found it to be a beautiful, friendly place with clean cities, nice museums and a vibrant culture.. The tourist industry is well developed and not once did I feel threatened (if you don’t count the bus rides). From the research I’ve done, I actually expect Ecuador to be a little sketchier than Colombia.  

So I emphasize, it is with regret but a good conscience that I leave you, Colombia. You will be missed.

Now a review of my last couple of days.

From Bogota, I traveled to Cali. The second largest city in the country, it might as well as be called the vivacious little brother to the capitol. According to sources and first-hand experience, there is no Colombian city so proud as Cali. You hear salsa music blaring everywhere you go. The people like to eat out, socialize and simply be Caleños. 

While my attempt to visit a salsa club was rained out (literally). I had a beautiful day walking around the city. I visited several hillside parks where I later found the locals come to at night to hang out, drink beer, walk their dogs, and even slackline! I got lost walking through some upscale neigborhoods and then some ramshakle ones. 

While it was off my map, I had the general idea that if I went in the right direction, I could find the city’s much talked about zoo, which I did. While I think a lot of people my age find the zoo a pretty lame activity, I don’t really tire of seeing cool animals. This zoo was very nice, with spacious and realistic exhibits, and I had a fun time reading the signs and learning all the animal’s names in Spanish. It was also funny seeing American deer in a zoo when I’m used to them frolicing through my parents’ back yard every day. 

I did some more city wandering, following the pretty Rio Cali into the center of town. While I didn’t see everything there is to see, I got a good taste and have found peace with the reality that it’s impossible to see it all. I would like to note, my hostel, the Tostaky Cafe, is a must for anyone staying in Cali. Thanks to its French owners, the food is great (crepes for breakfast, ratatouie for dinner) and the vibe is very chill. Overlooking one of the parks, its patio is a perfect place to sip coffee/beer and skype home. 

I headed out early this morning on a three-hour bus ride to Popayan. Cali was a little warm for my tastes so I was happy to once again climb in elevation. With are mere 200,000 residents (compared to Bogota’s 7.4 million and Cali’s 2.5 million), this historic little town is a colonial gem, also called Ciudad Blanco (according to my taxi driver) because every building is painted white. 

For this reason, the whole inner city is a sight in itself, a time machine back to the days when the Spaniards were in charge. I’m not sure if the locals feel the same way about it. Several old churches are scattered thougout town. There are two unusual stone bridges, built right next to each other, and neither look particulalry useful – nice pictures though. The smaller one dates back to 1713, while the larger one was built 160 years later.

Looking over town is El Morro de Tulcan, a hill said to be the sight of a pre-Columbian pyramid (looks like a hill to me). I hiked up El Morro to check out the colonial monument at the top and soak in the views. While the hike was not all that strenuous, I rewarded myself with a beer a the bottom (the lady selling them from her cart looked like she’d be really disapointed if I did’t).

Popayan is supposed to have several cheap vegetarian restaurants, and I meant to try one. Instead I stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant that I couldn’t turn down. You can take the boy out of Colorado, but you can’t take Colorado out of the boy. My burrito was a little different than what I’m used to at home, but there was something so comforting about eating salsa while listening to mariachi music and looking at pictures of Poncho Villa.

With many bus hours ahead of me, I’m not out of Colombia yet, but my mind is starting to look ahead of my next destination, wherever that turns out to be.

Sept. 25, 2013  10:34 p.m.  Hostel Trail, Popayan, Colombia









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