When we started our trip (1,5 year ago) we didn’t even think about going to Colombia, way to dangerous! But, while travelling through Central America, we heard so many good stories, that when we were in Panama, there was no doubt anymore. We were going to Colombia. And we are VERY glad we did. We almost stayed 3 months in Colombia, we walked through the jungle (Ciudad Perdida, see the picture on the left), partied with Carnaval, relaxed on the beach and much more, but above all, we met VERY, VERY friendly people. Incredible, how friendly and warm the Colombians are. In this article, you can see our route through Colombia, read about what happend and jump to the pictures of our photoalbum.
Underneath you see our route. We entered the 29th of January 2006 by plane from Panama City. We left the 17th of April 2006 to Ecuador. All the pictures of Colombia you can see here. In “The best of BasEnEelco” you find a selection of the best pictures of Colombia. Tip: You can start slideshows of whole albums, including sub-albums, saves you a lot of clicking!
Cartagena, pearl on the Caribean coast
Touristy, but beautiful. A colonial town according all traditions. Including cathedral, citywall, romantic streets, etc. Hard to describe, so here is the photoalbum of Cartagena.
Special is the citypark ‘Parque del Centenario’. Although the park itself is not that special, the more the animals are. Enormous iguanas and sloths in the trees. They just life there, in the “wild”, it’s not a Zoo! A homeless (also living there) pointed us on them. According to him there were more than 20 sloths!
A jump in a mud vulcano
We´ve all ready climbed a lot of vulcanos, but never jumped into one. This time we did jump in. We jumped in the mud vulcano Totumo. You float and bubble, together with about 20 other people. I (Eelco) tried to go all under, which was not such a good idea. Mud in eyes and mouth is not really a very comfortable feeling. See the pictures of this daytrip in the album of the mud vulcano.
STOP! Hammock time!
Close to Cartagena is Playa Blanca, meaning white beach. And there is no better name. A white beach with a clear blue sea. A good climate and a cool breeze against the mosquitos and sandflies, a paradise! A Frenchman has a camping annex hostel (named Wittenberg, really French), but you can also rent a hammock. And that’s what we did, together with 2 Israelian guys. The first day we didn’t even come out of our hammock, great! Relaxed! The day after we´ve been a bit more active, swimming, frisbeeing, eating ceviche (shrimp-cocktails) and having a massage. Very stressfull, you can understand that! We were so busy with doing nothing, that we forgot to take more pictures. The ones we have are in the Playa Blanca album.
The walk to the Ciudad Perdida
An absolute hightlight of Colombia for us was our trip to “Ciudad Perdida”, meaning the lost city. Ciudad Perdida is a ruin of an ancient Indian city in the jungle of Colombia. The first stones are from around 500 AD. Till ’72 the site was unknown, but treasure hunters discovered it. To get there you walk for 3 days through jungle, crossing rivers, climbing rocks and the last part a stairs of 1200 steps. We spend one day (2 nights) on the site and walked back in 2 days. And it was great! We were lucky with the weater, almost totally dry. And this made the trekking not as hard as it could have been with rain. And with a full moon we sat on top of ancient ruines in the middle of the jungle.
A special excursion, a visit to a cocaine factory
The guides already pointed us on the coca-plants on the way to Ciudad Perdida. And as a special side-trip, we could visit a cocaine factory. We already had heard about it, but it´s still remarkable that this illegal activity is so openly advertised. The farmer who does the show earns more money now with tourists then with producing cocaine. Every tourist pays 7 dollar to see the whole proces. Very interesting to see how many chemicals are used: Petrol, “the stuff you use to unblock your sink”, aceton, mercury and several others. The farmers themselves can’t buy all this, so the drugsmaffia delivers it to them. The result of the whole process was a white substance which only needed one more step, aceton, to be called cocaine. But it could already be consumed, so we put it on our teeth and tongue, which gives a funny feeling. Your teeth get very smooth and your tongue numb.
Visiting the Kogi indians
Also on the route to the Ciudad was a village of Kogi Indians. It was again a weird feeling, this culture-clash. They live so different, so uncomplicated. But with it’s own problems. A guy had cut his arm, but left it untreated. His whole arm was swolllen. We had 2 Swiss doctors in the group. According to them it was a very serious case. He could die, or at least loose his arm. They treated it, and we collected money to pay his transport and hospital.
8 times through a river and 1200 steps up
The third day we had to cross the same river 8 times, and at the end we had to climb 1200 small, tiny steps to get to the site. The site exists of big round plateaus. They were the graves, but they also lived on top of it. How and what exactly is not totally clear. And the Indians who live here don’t allow more excavations. So probably we will never know more about them. We spend one day and two nights at the site. A luxury, to have the site for just a group of 20 people. Enjoy with us the photoalbum of the Ciudad Perdida.
Relaxing in Parque Tayrona and Taganga
After the Ciudad Perdida we treated ourself with some more hammock-time in Parque Tayrona. A beautiful park with gorgeous beaches. We spend some relaxed days there with some friends we met in Playa Blanca and Ciudad Perdida. See the pictures in the photoalbum of Tayrona.
After the park we planned to go to Taganga for two days to go diving. But at the end we stayed for 10 days and did not dive. We heard that the diving was not great, so although cheap, still a lot of money. But the hostel Casa Felipe we stayed in was so relaxed, so nice, and the people we met there were so great that we stayed much longer then planned. We cooked, partied, talked, played with Lori and Bruno (yes we met them again), Rachel and Kylian from Switserland and Sander and Mapis from Bogotá. A great time we had. See the pictures in the photoalbum of Taganga.
Carnaval in Barranquilla
With our friends from Taganga we went to Barranquilla, to celebrate the carnaval. A crazy party where everybody is throwing foam and maizena to the others. To see the parade we almost bought a ticket for seats in the shade. But we wanted to check if the tickets were real. The police saw that and took the tickets from the vendor, because they were free tickets you got with Maggi products. They gave us the tickets, so we had free seats with a good view. After the parade we went to the parties on the streets and pubs. A great party, but at about 9 it got a bit rough, a bit aggressive. So we decided to back to home. See the photoalbum of the Carnaval of Barranquilla.
Visiting colonial towns
Going south from Taganga heading to Bogotá we visited several beautiful, colonial towns. The first was Giron, a quiet little town, now a part of Bucaramanga. In Bucaramanga we ate the famous fried ants but we were not thrilled. In San Gil we visited a very special park with lots of hairy trees. In the small mountain village of Barichara (see picture on the right) we had a room in the hostel of two old ladies. Unfortunately, the matresses were as old as they were….. From Barichara leaves a historic walkingpath to Guane. Halfway lives an old lady who sells drinks. We sat there, and had a nice chat with a guy who was having a beer. He was her drinksupplier. He carried the drinks on his back (no car) to her house and earned a bear. After the heat of Guane we had some very cold days in Tunja. Cold, but worth going for some unbeliefable ceilings of colonial houses and churches. The ceilings of the curches were of gold, the ceilings of the houses were painted. Both contained a mixture of catolic, indigenous and other motives. Amazing to see, there were even Greek and African motives. From Tunja we did a short visit to Villa de Leyva. A highlight according to the Lonely Planet, and indeed it was beautiful. But too touristy, too plastic, too Disney for our taste. So after a short walk, we fled back to Tunja, where we were the only tourists in town.
An example of the hospitality of Colombia
To get off the Gringo trail, we visisted Socorro. Not mentioned in guidebooks, so no other tourists. And that is an amazing experience because of all the attention you get, locals and local television station. We found a very nice hostel, not very cheap, but good value. And the first evening we met Heriberto and Theresa with their kids and their friend Ned. And that meeting grew out to a very nice friendship. The next days we spend almost totally together, talking, dancing and eating. Although not rich, they invited us to go to a restaurant, and have a BBQ with them. They even offered us the bedroom of their children, and then their kids would move in with mum and dad. We had a very great time with them and it was sad to leave them. They’ve given Colombia an even warmer place in our hart! See the Socorro photoalbum.
Dutch hospitality in Bogotá
We had met them in Taganga, Sander from Holland and his Colombian girlfriend Maria-Paula (Mapis for friends). And they had invited us to stay with them in Bogotá, which we did. In total we stayed there for 3 weeks. It was a nice combination of Dutch and Colombian ambiance. We met her family, made Dutch food (bitterballen, to be exact) and had a very good time together. See the fotos in this subalbum of Bogotá for the crazy time with Sander and Mapis. See the photoalbum of Bogotá itself for all Bogotá site seeing-pictures.
With Ana to Villavicencia
Sander and Mapis are exporting old VW-busses to Europe and the USA. To pick up one of these old busses Sander had to go to Villavicencia. We decided to combine it with a weekend trip. For the trip, Sander had lend an old Toyota with numberplate “ANA 318”, so we went out with Ana. Well, the theme of the weekend can be shown with one picture, here on the right. From the start till the end we had troubles with Ana. The picture on the right is taken on the way back, only 2 Km from home. We managed to get away from there, with the help of a mechanic who passed by on his bike. But 500 meters from home Ana gave up for the last time. This time we phoned Mapis her dad, who came to tow us home. We’ve had a lot of fun, although in a different way then planned….. Have a laugh as well with the photoalbum of Villavicencia.
Museo Del Oro and Botero
One of the important and must-see musea in Bogotá is the Museo del Oro (Gold museum) with a lot of beautiful golden items of the Pre-Hispanic period. Wandering around that museum you can understand the gold-fever that the Spaniards got, arriving here and seeing these Indian people with their golden jewellery . For the Indians it often had a religious function, but for the Spaniards it was money….. heaps of money! See the photoalbum of the Museo Del Oro.
Looking for the gold ourselves in El Dorado
The big myth of El Dorado is caused by the lake of Guatavita. The Spaniards saw here the Muiscas-Indians throwing gold in the lake. The Muiscas saw the gold as belongings of the gods, and returned it to them by offerings. The Spaniards looked at it a different way, and had no thought about throwing it in the lake! Untill today, the gold of El Dorado has not been found. The lake is more then 200 meter deep, so if there is gold, it will be lying there for a couple of years more. We walked in the area of the lake, see the pictures in the album of Guatavita.
An other important museum in Bogotá is the ‘Donación Botero’, filled with paintings and statues of the most famous Colombian artiest Fernando Botero. All his subjects have round figures, even the animals and the fruit. Very funny is his version of the Mona Lisa, ofcourse a bit fat as well. See the potoalbum of the Botero museum. Later in Medellín (where he was born) we saw more of him, in a museum, but also outside in a park. There are a lot of big statues, like the one here on the right. Nice, filled bottoms!
Catedral de Sal
Just outside Bogotá is a still working saltmine. In the mine, they constructed a cathedral. An impressive site, with hallways, chapels and statues. See here the pictures.
A visit to Pablo Escobars properties
3 hours driving from Medellín, just outside the village Doradal, are the enormous real-estate properties of the now dead drugking Pablo Escobar. He died in 1993 during his arrest. He was born in Medellín, started as car thief and became one of the richest people on earth. The property, called Haciena Nápoles, is about 5000 hectare. He had his house there with swimmingpool and landingplace for his helicopter, several houses for friends, but also an arena, and a zoo with elefants, zebra’s etc. Hacienda Nápoles is totally destroyed but you can just enter it and walk around, look at his bathroom, his old cars and toys. The swimmingpool and the tiles of the bathroom are still looking good, the house needs “some” work. Later we saw a documentary about Pablo, with images of how the Hacienda looked in his time. We took some pictures and added them to our own pictures of Hacienda Nápoles.
Mystique moments in Valle de Cocora
We’ve been suprised by Colombia before, but this time we were stunned. Near the village Salento you can find a forest of enormous wax-palm trees. The tree can get up to 60 meter high and 200 years old. We did a day-hike in the area. In the morning we had some sunshine and were happy. But in the afternoon the clouds came in and a small drizzle started. But that made the site even more impressive. Giant trees were surounded by mist. The way back took long, mainly because of the amount of oohhh’s and aahhhh’s that escaped our mouths by watching the view. We took a lot of pictures, but made a selection for our fotoalbum of Valle de Cocora/Salento.
With a cheesefarmer through the desert Tatacoa
We wanted to go to the Tatacoa desert near Villavieja. There we met Pablo, who invited us to go with him on tour through the desert the next day. He was going to tour through the whole desert, collecting milk for his cheese factory. And we could also sleep in his factory were he made the cheese. We went with him and saw, smelled and tasted there how they made cheese. Very good taste! Mjummie! Sleeping was harder, it was very hot in the factory.
We would leave the next morning at 6. We were ready, but the truck wasn’t. We had a Ana rememberence. Finally, at 10 we left. But after 20 minutes the noice under the car got very loud and a wheel rolled of the car. Of course impossible to repair there, so we walked 2 hours to the first farm to call. Pablo did have a mobile, and there was connection, but he had no minutes left…. And we found out that at the farm they also had no minutes. So we hitchhiked back with a small pickup, standing next to 2 shitting cows. Pablo was going to organize another car. But that took till 5 o´clock. Just enough time left to do a quick visit. A short visit, but we were stunned again by Colombia. From the back of a apple-green Jeep we saw a beautiful and varied desert passing by. If we would have known this we would have planned some more days. But now our visa was running out, so after another night (this time with Olga and Lux, almost family of Pablo, in a much cooler house) we left Villavieja with its desert and its friendly, heartly people. See the pictures in the photoalbum of Villavieja.
With the motorbike-train through the jungle
In the old days, there was a train to San Cipriano. But this train has gone, and there are also no roads. So the people of the village constructed their own solution for it. A motorbike on a car with small weels, over the rails. Incredible fast and funny! See the photoalbum of San Cipriano, with movies!!
Old tombs with statues in in San Agustin
In San Agustin they found tombs with statues of faces, warriors and more. They’re from the Indians who lived here before the Spaniards came. See the photoalbum of San Agustin.
Tombs under the earth in Tierradentro
Beautifully painted tombs can be visited in Tierradentro. It’s located in a beautiful area, very suitable for walking… and for getting lost. To visit the furthest tombs, I lost the way, ended up with Indigenious people with mad dogs, but found the way back together with two Colombian tourists who were also lost. Stroll around in the photoalbum of Tierradentro.
Impressive Gothic church in Las Lajas
A lot of years ago Maria appeared here to a girl who couldn’t speak or hear. After their meeting the girl could hear and speak. To honour this wonder, they built a very impressive cathedral here in a beautiful gorge. We went there on Easter Sunday, so it was crowded with Colombian tourist, we didn’t see any other foreigners. See the photoalbum of Las Lajas.
End of almost 3 months Colombia
Again, it took us longer to visit a country than we thought. Colombia almost took us 3 months, but it was worth every minute! Colombia is a country to recommend, a beautiful country with incredible friendly people. The bad image of this country is absolutely not deserved. There are some dangerous parts, but these can be easily avoided. And then there is still enough to enjoy.