Browse Category

South America

Colombia’s Caribbean coastline – Tayrona

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.

Tayrona

 

Colorful Cartagena

It’s easy to get lost within this city’s walls. There is a maze of cosy, colorful and narrow streets. But there is a huge difference of being lost and simply not just know where you are going. Being lost looking for your path to your destination can be stressful and negative, while not just know where you are going, is to me, the straight opposite; relaxing and a feeling of total freedom.

This city on the Colombian Caribbean coast is called the Miami of Colombia. I guess the reason is because Miami also has a lot of colorful buildings in the Art Deco district and they are both coastal with skyscrapers and beaches. Comparing the beaches will be as comparing wine and water – in Miami they are big, white and with really nice water. Here they are small, dark and really murky water. I guess Uncle Sam still is big brother, not very surprising.

I spent 3 days here and that’s more than enough. Strolling around the old city is nice and I used the opportunity of exercising at some good gyms. Usually I prefer working out outdoors but it’s just to hot and humid here to do that.

If I should sum up this city, it would be like some women are; beautiful, hot and pretty boring. Now heading on further up north east on the Colombian  coast in search of some paradise beaches.

Cartagena

This coffee is actually my cup of tea – the Coffee Region of Colombia

Coffee is usually not my cup of tea. I don’t drink it very often and when I do it’s usually for the social part of it. That didn’t stop me being really excited going to the so called Coffee Region of Colombia. After a rough start with a 8 hour bus ride on the curviest roads I’ve ever witnessed (motion sickness <3) it was a relief to finally arrive these Jurassic Park like landscapes being as green as my face was when arriving.

The small and very picturesque town of Salento is the centre for everything here; hiking, coffee tours, mountain biking, paragliding and something for everyone from adrenaline junkies to old couples. After spending 4 days in Medellín blowing my nose and killing time it was a blessing to finally be out hiking in the fresh air and some scenic mountain areas full of life. For example the world’s tallest palm trees and humming birds. It’s an extremely green area and that’s not without a reason; it rains. Every day. Or every afternoon luckily enough for us so we could go hiking in the first part of the day.

Colombia is a poor country. They are also the third biggest producer of coffee in the world. A visit to a coffee farm really opened my eyes for how long time and hard work it takes to produce a cup of coffee. The whole process takes three years until it’s on Starbucks – where you order it in 3 minutes for about 4-8 bucks depending on the type and the size I guess. Perhaps you think these premium coffee shops are expensive but keep in mind that if a worker at a coffee farm works 12 hours in a day – his/her salary still won’t be enough to buy one single cup of coffee in a western country. Worth remembering next time you go to Kaffebrenneriet or Starbucks.

It was nice to be back in the nature and first of all having my health back. I knew it from before but you can never remain yourself too many times how important the health is. Health is more important than wealth. Next up is the Caribbean coast line of Colombia where I’ll have to face one thing I really like and one thing I really dislike: crystal clear water and super high humidity!

Coffee Region