Colombia, Spain · 18 Days · 13 Moments · July 2017

Aarohi's adventure in Colombia

20 July 2017

Day 94- as we really didn't like Medellin, we decided to fly straight to Cartagena today

19 July 2017

As twilight approached, we took the cable car, over the shanty towns from the affluent neighbourhood. Like many cities, Medellin is a contrast of the very rich and the very poor. The view from the top was nice with the city all lit up by the time we started back down. We met up with Jen for dinner but had a huge faff about where to go. The original restaurant she wanted to go to had nothing veggie, the second restaurant was closed so we ended up in essentially a chicken shop. But her and Austin got to try a bandeja paisa (local speciality) which is basically every type of meat imaginable, fried and served with chips, eggs and rice. It was a stupidly large amount of food but Austin took it as a challenge and had to finish the plate. Boys. We decided to go to a local salsa club after dinner but Jen wanted to go back to her hostel first so Austin and I went to a really nice wine bar in the meantime. The club was amazing!! Brilliant music​, dancing and energy-we had the BEST time

12 July 2017

Day 93- omg, Colombians love music WAY TOO MUCH! The driver had it on constantly, through the whole night. We didn't really sleep much so we're very relieved when the hostel let us check in early at 6am! We slept for a couple of hours and then headed out to explore Medellin. And were completely disappointed. I'm not sure what I was expecting but Medellin is dirty, full of street drinkers and hookers. We even got told by a local to not have our phones out in public. We tried to go on a walking tour but the guide didn't turn up! So we did our own tour, going to see the cathedral (most number of bricks in a building in the world, has 1.1million!), the cultural palace and the Botero plaza with lots of the artist's chunky, curvy statues. This slightly improved my opinion of the city but not enough to make either of us want to stay long! We stopped for tea at the oldest tea salon in Medellin and had some amazing chocolates which was the best bit so far lol.
Day 92- after a slightly later start than anticipated,we made it to the main square to catch a Willy Jeep (actual name) to Valle de Cocora which has the tallest palm trees in the world (up to 80m!) The Jeep was supposed to hold 8 passengers, our driver crammed in 13 people. Classic Colombia. We reached in 25min and started our hike. It's so beautiful- rolling hills, greenery and intermittently dotted around, these insanely tall palms. Honestly, I couldn't believe the size of them when I first saw them! The hike was a gentle incline through cloudforest until you reached Acaime which is a bird reserve with lots of hummingbirds. So stunning, with their vivid blues, greens and pinks. I could have watched them all day but we eventually hiked back to catch another overcrowded Jeep back to town (14 people) We just had enough time for a quick dinner (yummy brownie and ice cream dessert) before catching the bus back to Armenia to get the night bus to Medellin.

11 July 2017

Day 91- we set off early for a tour of Finca Don Eduardo (Finca=coffee farm) It's owned by an English guy called Tim(middle name Edward) who runs the tours too. He showed us around the farm where they grow fruit as well as coffee and gave us a wonderfully detailed explanation about all the steps to involved in growing and processing coffee, especially in Colombia. He was very passionate about his work and coffee in general and so interesting to listen to! Once he'd shown us everything, we roasted and ground some coffee to taste- absolutely delicious! We grabbed some lunch and then explored Salento. It's such a cute town! Colorful buildings,palm trees, lots of coffee shops- really nice. There's a viewpoint overlooking the city and the surrounding valley that we walked up to- so beautiful. Afterwards, we walked back to the plantation and watched the sunset over the valley with a glass of wine, surrounded by the glow of fireflies as the evening darkened. Ended with a curry, what better?
There was a food truck area near our hostel which was so cute- fairy lights, open fire and lots of food options! Not featuring eggs, rice or beans which I've eaten A LOT of recently. We also tried some Colombian gin- muy rico! I made friends with an adorable dog who snuggled up to me and fell asleep- no room left for Austin! It was a nice way to end a long day and I'm looking forward to exploring Salento and the coffee plantations tomorrow.

9 July 2017

Day 90- after an unexpectedly chilly night, we set off early to catch the 6am bus to Popayan as we wanted to reach Salento that day. This bus was much nicer- bigger, cleaner, with a sane number of people on it and we made it to Popayan in decent time. Sadly the bus to Cali was a familiar nightmare- stank of vomit, overcrowded again and massively late. We didn't get to Cali until 3pm and I was so hangry by this point, having not eaten all day. Austin said he's never seen me eat so much so quickly lol. From Cali, it was a clean bus to Armenia on paved roads- you can really see that the money in Colombia is in the north, it's so much more developed. And our last bus of the day was from Armenia to Salento. Total travel time of 15hrs but we made it in the end! And we were very lucky with our connections as we didn't wait more than 15min for any bus despite no planning. Our hostel is on a 100yr old working coffee plantation- really beautiful.
Well, we obviously had to go! We'd missed the chiva(aka party bus)so we had to sort out our own transport. The man from our hostel(nicest guy ever!)tried really hard to find a car that could give us a lift but no luck.So we decided to take a mototaxi instead. Aka a motorbike. We had to insist on helmets and the look on Austin's face was priceless!He wasn't impressed with me lol. Jenny and I shared one and Austin had one by himself. It was a crazy bumped ride, holding on for dear life but we made it and in all in one piece! The festival was great- dancing, music, beer, random meat-on-a-stick and we were the only tourists there. After a while, there was some activity on stage and it turned out that we were actually at the Miss Inza contest lol!! The evening became quite surreal, with the contestants dancing and answering questions ("World Peace") but was really fun and we ended with some yummy pizza and a ride back to the village on the roof of the chiva (this time Jenny not impressed!)

5 July 2017

Day 89- early start today as we wanted to try and cover most of the park. Tierradentro is the site of burial crypts from a pre Columbian civilization (650AD) that we know barely anything about. They dug these caves of varying sizes, some beautifully painted or decorated with carvings and each cave contains several niches- one niche per family, several generations within each niche. Their burial ritual was to first bury their dead in a shallow grave, then exhume the bones once the corpse had decayed and place the bones in urns within the family crypt. The caves were really cool to see, varying sizes and with some lovely decorations. There are several sites scattered across the park and the scenery as you walk in between the sites is beautiful- lush, green and hilly with lots of coffee plants! We stopped for lunch in the village of San Andres just in time- it started pouring with rain after 2 min! The loveliest lady served us and told us about a fiesta happening in Inca (nearby town).

4 July 2017

Day 88- as it was Sunday, our hostel wouldn't provide breakfast (only in south America!) and most places were closed in town so we didn't get to the bus station until late morning, trying to get to San Agustin(national archaeological park)Turns out that there is a festival there this weekend and all buses are sold out. Ditto for taxis. We met 2 French guys and bumped into Jen also trying to get there with no luck. So we changed plans and all headed to Tierradentro (similar archaeological park). Omg, the bus getting there was an experience. We were all squashed onto tiny seats to start off with and the driver was determined to pick up EVERY single person on the way despite there being no room. It took 5hrs for a 110km journey due to the ancient bus(the crunch of the gears was horrific), the sheer number of people packed onto the bus and the appalling road condition. It was pitch black when we got dropped off at the roadside, having to walk the last 2km but we made it safely

2 July 2017

We finished at the hill where they've built a mini version of the city down to the clock tower and the stolen fountain(stolen from a nearby town by some pranksters and never returned lol)and then climbed it in time to see a spectacular sunset. Austin and I headed back to the hostel, got dressed up (best as we could!) and went to a really nice Arabic restaurant for dinner- they had hummus, falafel and scrummy lemonade with orange blossom! Afterwards, we went to a local club for some salsa(we are in Colombia after all). They had a tiny drinks menu(just beer and vodka) but very sweetly agreed to get us a bottle of wine from the hotel next door. The guys serving us couldn't have been more than 19(they still had braces!) but looked so pleased when they came back with the wine. Then realised there was no corkscrew. After some faffing, they found one but they didn't know how to use it lol. They hid in a cupboard and I swear were YouTubing how to open a wine bottle. Couldn't​ make it up!
Day 87- we decided to stay an extra day in Popayan so we could explore it and to give ourselves a break from rushing around. It's a really pretty colonial city, all painted white. We had a lazy start, went to a veggie restaurant for lunch (some good food finally!) and mooched about until 4pm when we went on a walking tour. Our guide was a lovely university student doing the tours to practise his English. He introduced us to empanadas and tamales de pipian- the local delicacy of potatoes with peanuts, chilli and garlic fried or boiled respectively. Yummy! I can see why it's a UNESCO city of gastronomy. He also explained why the city is white (painted with chalk to kill niguas (?fleas) who'd infested the city. Now repainted every year at Easter) He showed​ us the clock tower in the square (which has IIII instead of IV for number 4- new design in the 1700s from a UK clock maker to make the clock symmetrical), the oldest tree in city (a cork tree rumoured to cure hangovers with it's bark.
Day 86-we headed to Las Lajas after breakfast(BEST scrambled eggs I've ever had) It's a church built where a deaf-mute girl, sheltering with her mother from a storm supposedly saw the Virgin Mary and was cured. The walk to the church is windy meaning you can't see it until the last second but the impact is stunning when you finally do. Its beautiful, like something from LOTR, perched on the edge of an amazingly steep canyon over a rushing river, with waterfalls. The grey and white colour scheme makes it look like a gingerbread castle with icing- gorgeous. We walked around and then climbed the hill to get a better view before heading back to Ipiales to catch our bus to Popayan. It wasn't the best introduction to Colombian buses- smelly, hot, full of loud music and loud passengers and SO slow!It took 9hrs to cover the 300km journey. We finally reached and went out for a late dinner, after which Austin treated me to a brownie and we played Jenga- it felt like​ a proper date after so long