A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Flemings2

Farewell Colombia

The last full day has arrived. We were picked up early morning and driven by 4x4 just over one hour to a small village, where we caught a boat transfer. The driving part was interesting. For about two kilometres we bounced along a deep sand track on the edge of the ocean, with the waves lapping into the ruts. I couldn't believe this was actually the way to the village!

The final destination was Isla Baru, which isn't really an island but more of a remote peninsula. Once there we spent the day on a 'private' beach at an eco resort. A nice fish lunch included, it was a great, relaxing day. The facility was rustic but nice. When the time came for the reverse trip, due to a delay with the vehicle we had to spend an extra hour or so there - life is rough. Guess I can think of worse places to be stranded. ๐ŸŒด๐Ÿ˜Ž

On the one hand, it's hard to believe it's our last night in Colombia. On the other, we've packed so many wonderful things in that it feels like it's been a month or more. It's been a great trip in a great country. We've had a lot of great experiences and the best part was the friendly people that we met.

Colombia has proven to be everything we hoped it would be. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds. Everyone in the tourism business that we talked to remarked on how unusually busy it is this year - definitely a reflection of the fact that word is getting out that it's once again a great destination. There's still a way to go and the political front is a little shaky at times, but hopefully the road ahead will continue to improve for this beautiful country and the beautiful people who call it home.

Time now to return to the cold north, now that the snow back home has melted, with a short stopover in San Francisco. Thanks for following along; besos y abrazos to all!

School kids at the village of the boat launch:

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The beach scene on Baru:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:22 Comments (1)

Delightful Cartagena

The morning was spent at the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the old fortress originally from the 1500's that overlooks the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a must when in Cartagena. Definitely hot in the glaring sun, but have to admit not as bad as I thought it would be. We could at least find some shady spots and there was a bit of a breeze. Nothing like our long ago memories of dripping-with-sweat Bangkok, so this was a pleasant surprise.

The afternoon was just spent wandering, and chilling at the small rooftop plunge pool at our hotel. Actually feels like the adventure has turned to vacation.

Something to be said for being in the right place at the right time though. In our wanderings, I was relaxing on one side of a small leafy plaza while Don went to get a picture. He was just outside what is apparently the best hotel in Cartagena when he spotted some sort of elderly dignitary being escorted to a car by someone in uniform. Don's best guess, an old military general. Unfortunately he didn't get a picture of him (and his wife) because he found out just as the entourage left that it was none other than Fernando Botero himself, the famous artist/sculptor!!! ๐ŸŽจ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Quintessential Cartagena:

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At El Castillo:

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Posted by Flemings2 17:04 Comments (1)

Cartagena Here We Come!

Fire up the air con...

We managed to squeak in a trip on the Metro again this morning. Did I mention that in 2013 Medellin won the award for most innovative city in the world? The Metro here is very modern, fast, and efficient. We took the gondola that goes up the mountain, gracefully gliding over barrios (neighbourhoods) that not long ago were war zones, enjoying incredible views of the city.

We've now successfully experienced the two largest cities, Bogota, and Medellin, without giving papaya....Do you know what that means? Neither did we. However we have learned this important phrase, which basically means "don't make yourself a target". We have wonderful memories of all of our stops in Colombia and are preparing for the final days in steamy Cartagena.

But first, a driver picked us up for the trip to the airport in Medellin. Albeiro loved his tunes. He had the tinny speakers cranked full blast, drumming along on the steering wheel and practically danced in his seat as we jetted down the highway. Very funny guy.

And now here we are in Cartagena - PARTY CITY!! Absolutely beautiful though. Arrived to a lively wedding procession out in the street. What a great introduction to this interesting city.

Don enjoying the Metro Cable:

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The big wedding celebration:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:22 Comments (1)

Last Day in Medellin

Our final full day in Medellin was a great one. Well not actually IN Medellin. We were picked up by our guide for the day, Alejandro. He was fantastic. He whisked us off through the city and out into the countryside, taking about 2 hours to reach El Penol, a great chunk of rock projecting up into the sky. There we climbed over 700 steps to reach the viewpoint at the top where we could look over a vast number of 'islands', actually the tops of hills left when valleys were flooded by the building of a dam, back in 1978 to 1982, displacing a whole community. As a result it has become a recreational playground for the wealthy, including in the old days, Pablo Escobar. In fact, if you want, you can take a boat tour that takes you by the ruins of his old mansion.

After descending we went to the nearby village of Guatape, a beautiful little touristic village that has an amazing claim to fame. The residents, for decades, have used painted cement to make something called zocalos on all of the buildings. The more elaborate ones are 3-D. An interesting history behind them too, but rather than describe them, best to show them in pictures.

El Penol:

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The view from above:

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Alejandro by one of the zocalos:

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Street in Guatape:

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Zocalo:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:41 Comments (2)

Bicycles and More

Today we did another bike tour, this time with BiciTour Bike Tours of Medellin. It was just us, our guide Carlos, and a guide-in-training, Daniela. Negotiating through Victoria traffic by bicycle is nothing compared to this. Felt we really accomplished something by the end, including a lung-busting climb (at least for me) up a mountain for the view at the end. A fun way to see the city for sure...and not just the tourist areas. After the cycle, once we/I caught our breath, we tried our hand at the very modern metro system, to go to a plaza in the old quarter where Fernando Botero (remember him from the museum in Bogota?) contributed a significant number of his larger-than-life bronze sculptures. Quite a happening place, although about 5 pm a small street vendor took the opportunity to warn us not to be there after 6 pm, after which he quickly packed up and left. The reputation of this area is infamous.

However, being very cognizant of our belongings and surroundings, nothing untoward happened. Times are changing, mostly for the better. There is a lot of police presence, and we have heard several not very nice stories, but the people have been kind to us (for example, we asked a business man for directions to the plaza, and he didn't just point us there, he interrupted his day to actually accompany us there). The important thing seems to be awareness and not making yourself a target.

After the big hill ride - look and feel like I've been through the wringer ๐Ÿšด๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ณ:

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The Botero statues:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:05 Comments (4)

Medellin, Back to City Life

Here we are in Medellin. Much warmer than other places we've been, but not as hot as what is coming. Just getting our bearings today.

Interesting people here...

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Posted by Flemings2 15:49 Comments (1)

Final Day in La Zona Cafetera

Getting back to our room last night we found that the owner had left the windows open and the light on for us. Nice, however the result...the large biodiversity of the insect world was apparent. I had to use a stuffed toy kitty as a bug swatter. They flew, crawled and dropped everywhere. Must have been one of every kind! We managed to clear most of them though. Oh wait, I shouldn't use the 'Royal We'. Don swept up while I hid ๐Ÿ˜ฌ (But I won't complain, considering all the snow back home!)

Speaking of our room, this is probably the most kitschy I've seen. So small you can brush your teeth while on the toilet. There is so much phoofy decoration the lid of the toilet won't stay up.

We enjoyed the morning outing that involved an old wooden cable car that runs over a canyon. Thank goodness the cables looked new. The afternoon was again spent wandering around and soaking up the flavour of this colourful small town.

Tomorrow we leave the area, heading to the big city of Medellin.

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Posted by Flemings2 17:13 Comments (4)

North to Jardin

Another travel day. The 'highway' became more like a single track 4x4 road for the first bit. Stunning scenery as we wound our way down into valleys and over the mountains without another car in sight. Got through our first police road checkpoint and made it to our next stop of Jardin in about 4.5 hours. This is a very colourful town with a beautiful church as its centrepiece.

In the late afternoon we stopped in at the Gallito de Roca Preserve, reserve for the endangered Andean 'Cock of the Rock' bird. This is the national bird of Peru. It is mating season here in Colombia and at specific hours of the day you can see the flashing red males gather at the preserve to challenge each other. They remind us of parrots but are a different genus. They put on quite a show.

Don and our driver, Jose, at a trout farm lunch stop:

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A Cock of the Rock:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:22 Comments (3)

Time to Chill...

Having already experienced the wonderful wax palms in Salento area, and two coffee farm tours, it doesn't leave much to do in little Salamina except relax, wander around and get into the vibe of the place. Had a great walk to a viewpoint, then spent the rest of the day people watching and hanging out with the locals in the main plaza.

This picture shows Don having breakfast at our lovely boutique hotel La Casa de Lola Garcia. Lots of character. (Sitting in the courtyard this evening as I write this, listening to music from the 20's. Unique and colourful atmosphere.)

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Posted by Flemings2 16:04 Comments (4)

Onward to Salamina

Today was a transfer day. Our driver from Colombia Eco Travel, Jose, picked us up again in the morning and drove us about 3 hours north to the little puebla of Salamina.

What a wonderful little town. Similar to Salento but back in time about 15 years. Lots of cobblestone streets and colourfully painted houses. The people are also very friendly. Looking forward to more exploration tomorrow.

Scenes from Salamina:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:17 Comments (4)

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