In South America and especially Colombia everything takes a lot of time, even the smallest and simplest tasks. I thought that after 3 months of traveling here I had become immune – but think again. The line in the supermarket, which would take 2 minutes in Europe / America, literally takes 20 minutes here and I’m NOT kidding and it’s not a one-time occasion either. I’ve taken 3 flights in Colombia (they are super cheap) and to board a flight in Colombia can probably be compared to when the whole animal kingdom boarded Noah’s Arch – but add that they had been drinking for a week without sleeping. It’s a CHAOS! On all 3 flights people were already sitting in my seat – I mean why do you sit down in an other person’s seat? And I don’t even want to mention how long time it takes for the people to stow their luggage and get in place. It’s the slowest country I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a lot of countries.
Just to assure you, I’m not the only one with this impression – pretty much every traveler I’ve met share this point. The reason I bring it up is because after 2 weeks in Colombia I’m really fed up with waiting and the only way to get the frustration out is to talk about it. Of course it’s a cultural difference that people here are a little more relaxed, which can be good. Still I ask myself: why is it like this? Well, I haven’t got the answer but I have a few theories and one is that it is a poor country, which affects that the systems being used sometimes are not up to date. Poverty also comes hand in hand with lower levels of education. Yet I don’t think it’s just this, I think people in general here also are lazy (sorry if offending anyone). And if a lot of people are lazy, it’s not strange that it’s poor here – it’s a never-ending spiral if you ask me.
Anyway, done with getting my frustration out. My last stop in Colombia was supposed to be the most beautiful; Tayrona National Park. A 6 hours bus ride took us (me and two British girls and a guy from Australia) to the town Santa Marta, which is a good place to start your adventure in Tayrona. We stayed in Dreamers Hostel, which was a very suitable name because it was a fantastic place with nice staff, good vibes, food and facilities. The highlight of the visit to Tayrona should be the remote beach Cabo San Juan, which you have to hike four hours through the jungle to get too. It’s easy to believe that a place so remote will not be very touristic and also it should be really beautiful when people say it’s really worth the hike. Do I even need to tell you I was wrong? It was somehow super packed with people and not nice at all! It simply just was a small dirty beach full of people and really murky water – luckily there was another beach before this one that was beautiful that we spent some time on. I learned two things from this:
1. Considering how many and how often people travel nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to find places without crowds.
2. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet about places. Way too many people are “yes” people saying everything is fantastic and amazing. But when you say that everything is amazing, in the end nothing is, because how are you going to separate the good from the bad when you only use superlatives?
So, summing up my time in Colombia I have to be honest and say I’m a little disappointed. I guess you wonder why. First of all it was the end of the rain season so it was very humid and often rainy in the late afternoon and evenings. Secondly none of the places really were amazing (in contrast to many of the other places in South America). Salento and the Coffee Region was nice, but that’s pretty much it. Last but not least I had heard so many good stories from other backpackers of how nice Colombia is and that I was going to love it. This of course means I had very high expectations going here, so maybe that’s the main reason I’m disappointed. The higher the expectations, the higher the risk of being disappointed. I guess the best way to travel (or to live life) is to let every situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be.
Now it’s time for my last stop on the South American continent; Panama.