Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Columbia has been given a Bad Rap cuz it’s a Great Country

It seems a lot of people who’ve never been to Columbia figure it’s full of Drug Cartels and dangerous! Yeah it’s probably got some Drugs and can be dangerous in the wrong places but so can all countires!

The Columbia I saw for about a month was a beautiful fun country with nice friendly people. I never saw, experienced or felt any danger while I was in Columbia. I don’t speak Spanish so I couldn’t relate to the people very well. But a lot of people who knew some English would try to help me if I was stuck in a situation.

A person can’t drive to Columbia from Panama because of a jungle waste land between the two called Darian Gap. So I got to Columbia by travelling with a Panamaian villager and his small boat from Panama on the Pacific side. He dropped us off at a small village with no roads. So we had to catch a freighter which brings goods to them every 2 wks. So it took us 36 hrs to get to Buenaventura in western Columbia. That entire trip from Panama to Columbia had to be one of most awesome adventures I’ve experienced.

Since it was pouring rain and late at night we travelled 2 hrs to Cali as one of the guys on boat let us stay at his home. But we couldn’t get an entry stamp on our passport in Cali so we had to return the next day to Buenaventura to get our entry stamp to Columbia.

Then I split with my travelling buddy and took a 24 hr bus trip thru coffee plantations to the city of Cartagena. I found Cartagena on the Caribbean side of Columbia to be a real crazy and beautiful city. It’s an old city built as a fortress against pirates and invaders in the 1500’s. The old city of Cartagena still has the wall and the buildings are really picturesque. I must have spent a day walking around the old town which I never do.

Cartagena is also a great gathering place for travellers arriving and leaving South America! No one comes to Columbia from the Pacific side except adventurers like my friend and I.

So as you can imagine the party scene is quite good in Cartagena. So I met a lot of old friends I met travelling in Central America and met new ones! I found the hostel appropriately called Hostel Holiday as a great place.

I’m not one to suntan on the beach so didn’t actually make it to one! I did go with a bunch of people to this Volcano Mud place. It’s a big hole in I think a man built volcan with real volcano mud. All we did was climb into the Mud bath and goof around. The mud was so thick a person would just float on top and couldn’t sink. Then after playing around in the mud we all went down to the lake and washed and swam around.. This was followed by a trip to the actual beach and had a great fish lunch.

So after doing as much damage to Cartagena as we could my Dutch friend Snake and I left the city. We went to a small chilled village called Taganga. Taganga is a beautiful relaxed place with a lovely location by beaches and a 10 min ride from a city called Santa Marta. Now if I thought Cartagena was a great party town well it was nothing compared to Taganga!

We went to Taganga to go on the Trek to the Lost City. The Lost City is an ancient city which was only discovered by tomb robbers in 1973. These so-called Tomb Robbers were greedy and ended up stealing & killing each other. This continued until one of the Tomb Robbers told the government. Then it was refurbished and opened to the public in 1978 or so as a National Park.

The government also made sure that there was a entry fee to enter the Park. Plus we needed a guide to make it to the Lost City. There were a few tour companies selling the 6 day trek to the Lost City for approximately$200. This included places to stay and food for the trip.

The trip Snake and I booked was suppose to be for 5 people and 6 days. But the other 3 people didn’t show up so we were suppose to join a group from another company. However they had started the day before. So they put us on a Chicken Bus (noisy loudly painted buses that the locals take as it seems to stop every 100 m to pick or let off passengers) to get to the mtns. Then they put us on trail bikes to take the 40 min ride up the mtn to the start of the hike. All the other people go up the mtn in 4X4’s which take a hr and are bumpy as hell (we had to take one back down and it’s the pits to ride). But the trail bikes were a gas as we’d go up real bumpy and rutted roads and thru streams.

The trip was advertised to have English speaking guides but of course guess what we got.
But the guy was really nice and friendly however he didn’t seem to be in the best shape when going up steep hills! It seemed like Snake and I were ahead of him on steep grades and would have to wait for him at times.

The trek was a muddy, rutted trail up a few steep graded trails or in some cases no trail.
We crossed a few rivers and streams. At first we would step on rocks to cross the streams. Or we would remove our shoes to cross. Finally we just walked thru them in our hiking shoes.

The trek was advertised as muddy when it rains and it always rains. So u can imagine the shape of the trail. When it rained the water came down the trail as a stream and ended up as a mud bath in places. So we discovered that it wasn’t the Lost City itself that was fun but the hike up to it!

We managed to do 2 days of hiking in 1 day even after starting the hike at noon. Wbat we missed out was a hike to a waterfall (but we saw plenty of them and actually some paths turned into waterfalls). Also for $10 we could go on a tour of a Cocaine factory! However we didn’t have $10 and the tour was only actually the first part of the process. But other people said it’s good to see cuz if u ever thought of doing coc u wouldn’t after visiting a factory cuz of the ingredients they put in Coc!

At the 2nd night hut we met up with 4 others who we joined and they were fun people from Swizerland and France.

The last day up to the Lost City took us up a 1000 steep rock steps that had hardly any room to step. A girl in a group ahead of us fell on the steps and ended up falling and hurting her back! They had to take her out in a helicopter after it stopped raining 3 days later! So we had to be careful walking up the steps.

The Lost City always seems to be shrouded in mist and seems like a part of a Indy Jones
Movie. We spent one night up on top and tho most people said it was cold but we didn’t find it cold! My problem was that I fell crossing a stream and my sleeping bag and clothes got wet! But luckily my camera was OK!

The hike back down it started to really rain and the trails became a shitty mud bath or river and it was hard to find our footing, well worse than going up! But we made it down in 2 days so in all it took us 2 up and 2 down so 4 days! The other 4 took 5 days to hike it.

All in all the trek was more about the hike and endurance than seeing the Lost City! The views and scenery were amazing and something from an Indy Jones movie!

There were other activities to do around Taganga but they mostly meant going to a beach and suntanning. So we gave those a pass as there were beautiful beaches all over!

Took me 12 days by villagers boats to get to Columbia but found it all and all to be an awesome country!