My last Colombiaventura entry left off at Zapaquira. Here’s a summary of the rest of the trip…
I parted ways with my friends and set off for Villa de Leyva on my own. It’s a small colonial town a few hours north of Bogota. I met some Dutch girls in the hostel that I hung out with. We picnicked by a waterfall, ate lots of feijoas (my new favorite fruit) and lounged around the quiet town. I went off on my own one afternoon on a walk through the countryside to get to an archaeological park called El Infiernito.
From Villa de Leyva I went to Manizales, one of the three cities that makes up the coffee triangle. I climbed up to 103 meters inside the tower of a gothic cathedral, went to the botanic gardens, visited a museum of Pre-Colombian pottery, got a tour of the volcano observatory and went on a day trip to Parque Nacional Los Nevados. There were spectacular view from all over the city since it’s situated on top of a mountain range. I spent one day in Salento – a small pueblo in the coffee zone. I found it to be super touristy and full of gringos and while everyone else I’ve talked to loved it, I wasn’t really into it. From Salento I took a trip by Jeep to El Valle del Cocora to see the wax palm trees – the national tree of Colombia.
For Christmas I headed to Cali, the salsa capital of the world. On Christmas day the salsa festival began. I spent Christmas day sitting in a tree for 6 hours in order to get a good view of Salsodromo – a giant salsa parade. I also spent lots of time at the Encuentro de Colectionistas – this was an outdoor stage where record collectors from all over the world would play salsa records from their collection and then a live salsa orchestra would play at the end of the night. Many friends from Bucaramanga were in Cali also and we went out for lots of salsa dancing. I spent a lot of time in San Antonio – the historic part of Cali. The city was so charming. There were also trips to Caliwood – an amazing museum of cinematography – and the zoo. For New Year’s Eve I went with an Irish co-worker and his Irish friend up to San Cipriano. San Cipriano is a small pueblo in the jungle near Buenaventura. The only means to arrive at the pueblo is with a brujita – a wooden platform with seats that runs on the old train tracks and is propelled by a motorcycle mounted on one side. There’s a nature preserve where we spent New Year’s Day bathing in waterfalls.
From Cali I bussed up to Medellin. I went on a day trip to the famous rock in Guatape and then flew out to Choco. Choco is located on the Pacific coast. I flew into a small town called Bahia Solano and from there it was a 40-minute car ride to a small pueblo on the beach called El Valle. I stayed right on the beach in the Humpback – a super environmentally friendly hostel with very charming decor. There was a group of friends from Cali staying at the hostel as well and I tagged along with them for a few day trips. Our first trip was to Utria National Park which we got to by speed boat. We went on a walk through the jungle, swam down to check out a rusty old sunken boat in the bay, relaxed on the beach and I got to go snorkeling for the first time. Our other day trip took us to Cascada El Tigre where we spent the afternoon in different swimming holes. Unfortunately we got caught in a rain storm on the way back and had a slightly scary ride through the choppy ocean waves in our little speed boat. I got to do lots of swimming in the ocean and ate plenty of fried fish.
I returned to Medellin and stayed there for awhile, awaiting the arrive of my Denver friends Tyler and Lindsay. I felt as if I did about all there was to do in the city: yoga class in the botanic gardens, trip to a pine forest up above the city called Parque Arvi (two times), salsa dancing in a dark, sweaty basement at Tibiri, many rides on the metrocable, admiring lots of Botero statues and paintings, tango museum, house museum of the famous painter Pedro Nel Gomez, lots of amazing food and some reading time in one of Medellin’s renowned libraries. My friends and I all went on a walking tour of the city as well which was incredibly interesting. Medellin has a very violent past but has made large strides to transform the city. Our tour guide talked a lot about democratic architecture – the idea of developing a sense of pride in the city and reclaiming a violent past through architecture. For example an old brick building that was once incredibly dangerous and filled with drug dealers is now the office of the department of education. Architecturally stunning libraries have been built all over the city. A cable car system was built in the neighborhood that was once the worst and now is a lovely, calm, vibrant place to take a walk. The most moving part of the tour was at the end when we stopped by two sculptures of birds sitting side by side. One statue was blown up by a bomb in 1995 and killed around 30 people who happened to be nearby at the market. The city was planning to remove the ruined sculpture, but the creator Fernando Botero asked them to keep it as a reminder of the attack. He then constructed a new sculpture to be placed next to it as a symbol of hope and peace. I enjoyed Medellin immensely.
You can see all the pictures from this part of my trip on Flickr.