SANTUARIO DE LAS LAJAS, COLOMBIA
To be honest I dont know much about this place at all - so better off going to google if ya want a history lesson. But i knew there was a lord of the rings esque church built into a mountain in colombia and when we found out it was right on the Ecuador border it confirmed for us that we would take the slower bus transit from Salento to Quito while Nick decided to fly from Bogota to Quito (as he's already been this way before). Although the transit hasnt been the smoothest or most comfortable compared to others, this was a very impressive sight, even with barely any sleep. Im looking forward to finding out why this location in Colombia and when it was built, cos it's still in perfect condition. Had a few touch ups no doubt. Enjoy!
30 June 2016
CAT PARK, CALI
On our way to Quito from Salento we had an overnight stop in Cali, the home of Salsa. Our hostel provided free Salsa classes everyday at 10am, but there was no way i was prepared to try my hand at salsa that early in the day (or ever). We didnt try to see anything in Cali, but there was this rather strange cat park out the front of our hostel - so we made it a memory then got out of there onward to Ipiales on the night bus the following day.
28 June 2016
SALENTO-ING SOME MORE
Last full day in Salento for me and Ash (Nick staying on until the weekend) and after lunch we headed to a lookout point that the owner of a restaurant recommended to us, called Montiel. Twas a lovely walk and got some great photos, but the actual lookout point/cafe was closed dang nammit! We were itching to climb the fence cos we could see how amazing it was going to be from the middle of their property, but in the end we didnt hav the cahones. Other photos are from our second hostel here La Serrana, which is like a farm house hostel. Some elderly german couple are also here in some sort of bulldozer mixed RV vehicle which stands out just a little; looks to be more on the side of german efficiency than comfort.
27 June 2016
VALLE DE COCORA, SALENTO
The tourist highlight of Salento is Valle de Cocora, which is the idyllic valley of incredibly tall palm trees that don't seem to belong there. We decided to do the lazy version (although got up at 6.30 to do it so not entirely lazy) and walked only about 20 mins to get to the palm trees feom were the jeep dropped us. The long version takes you in the opposite direction around a hiking circuit which after around 4hrs brings you to the valley right at the end of the trail. We had brilliant weather and got a heap of photos. There's one in there where ashlee is standing at the base of an exceptionally tall palm and you can see just how big they really are. It was also super windy depending on where abouts in the valley you were standing, as you can see from the sideways palm leaves in some shots.
This was the only touristy thing we've done here (taking the time to relax more and passing on horse rides, waterfall visits and coffee farm tours) but glad it was.
25 June 2016
As i said, its been a real treat seeing some sunsets again, and here are a few shots. Last night's one was insane, all sorts of colours and orange rays and weird cloud colours, and there was a serious koala bear face at one point, as i hope u can see in the last photo.
So here's a collection of shots of surrounding mountains to Salento. The first few days here were pretty loudy and rainy, but we've been lucky with some great weather since then and some awesome sunsets too, which we've been getting real light on in colombia with the start of wet season and the all-day overcastness (surely a word) that entails. But bit further south in colombia and add some altitude and its a whole new climate ballgame. I was using a dooner the other night for like the first time in 6 months and it was heaven!
Here we are in Salento after 3 weeks of Medellin and its a big change in scenery and very welcomed from my end after the bustle of Medellin city life. Salento is about 7 hrs sth of Medellin, located smack bang in some incredible mountain ranges and at almost 2km altitude. Our first hostel was a really nice modern place called Luciernaga, and there are a couple of photos from the back and front or the hostel in here. Also there are photos of the town and a stair climb to a lookout point and a cross which is very popular on sundays we found out. Ive got too many photos of the scenery so will put them in a separate post 😊
22 June 2016
After cable-cars in the morning we headed to Parque Explorar in the afternoon, which is Medellin's version of science works. It was a pretty impressive set up, but probably targeting an audience 15 years younger than us, so not overly exciting. We were keen to get into this 360 degree interactive camera room and capture some Matrix-esque photos after hearig other friends did it when they went, but we failed to find it. Guess the spanish wasn't quite up to scratch.
This marked our final touristy activity for Medellin, and now it's two days later and me Nick and Ash are on the bus to Salento - a coffee farm region with an iconic cloud forest. Looking forward to spending some time out of the city again. But wow Medellin was awesome!
CABLE CARS, MEDELLIN
it only took us 2.5 weeks, but we finally got to the cable cars! And they were very impressive - incredible views of the city as we went up. They also provide an important transport connection between the poorer communities on the mountain slopes and the city centre. We continued on past these communities to the more touristy part of the cable cars which take you over the top of the Medellin mountain basin to get some great views of the National Parque Arvi. But we didn't get off to look around, cos we had a date with parque explorar next.
18 June 2016
Here are a few more snaps out and about in Medellin. Got our last hostel Poblado Park Hostel in here, with some pretty nifty tyre chairs. We finally got a hotdog from a serious street operation - it was intense. Had a very cosy dorm room at hostel lleras, which was also sooo loud on friday and saturday nights. The quarterfinal of the COPA was on while we were then and the town was off its tits after Colombia won. Shame they lost to Chile in the semis. Also there's some street art from near the hostel and my hair as become disgustingly long enough to make a ponytail, which is an interesting development that wont last long. But im surprised it didnt happen sooner given my last cut was over 6 months ago!
yesterday me nick and Sue from our hostel made our way by train and bus to the little town of Guatape which is locates on an amazing lake region as you can see by the photos. Theres also an ther-worldly rock where they have built a staircase up the side and 740 steps later you get to an incredible lookout point of the various lake appendages. Too good, and well worth the 3hr each way journey. We wanted to do paintballing in escobara burnt out mansion here also bit decided a 6.30am start was too early in the end, dang nammit. Anyway reckon this was probably second best scenery of the trip so far after volcan acatenango. Really beautiful
14 June 2016
One of the, if not the main, great things about Medellin has been the cosmopolitan tourist suburb of el poblado which does a whole range of cuisines, but ive still made sure to get a healthy dose of my hangover favorites as you can see. And they home deliver fast food here - heaven (although havent taken advantage yet). But we've had incredible burgers, thai, vegetarian pizzas, ribs and more. I'll miss that part the most as we head rural again.
11 June 2016
PARAGLIDING MEDELLIN P2
These photos were taken from Ash's go pro while she did her paragliding at the same time as me. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience that one (im sure Ash will try and make it more than once 😋)
Sorry mum!! But a big group of us went paragliding off the northern mountains of medellin last saturday and it was incredible! Absolutely shat myself the entire time, and me and Aah were the first two up, which i think saved me a lot of nervous waiting, but wow was it incredible seeing those views of medellin from the sky. More photos to come also. I dont think i managed to relax for the entire 20 minutes we were in the sky, and my instructor was really good, and his acrobatics in the air left my guts pretty churned back on terra firma. I cant tell you how glad i was to land back down safely hahha. I was almost too wobbly to stand back up.
10 June 2016
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!
A day after arriving in Medellin me and Ash celebrated our 1 year anniversary! The next weekend we went for an awesome meal at Kabuki japonese/peruvian restaurant to celebrate. Ash has turned me into someone who genuinely enjoys the taste of raw fish, i never would have thunk it!
9 June 2016
GRAFITI TOUR P3
And final photos from the day. We also took the medellin metro to get to Comuna 13 and we've used their train system a few times now and i have to say its awesome. Haven't waited longer than a couple of minutes every time to get a train, and super easy getting tickets. We finised our grafiti tour with some grafiti of our own - the guide said now that we've left our mark that we're officially part of the Comuna and we'll always be welcome...i do have a feeling they'll just paint over our marks in about 3 seconds, but still, not arf bad.
GRAFITI TOUR P2
More photos from the tour - although we definitely enjoyed the day i'd have to say the grafiti tour in cartagena was a lot more interesting in terms of the breadth of colombian history covered an variety of political and social issues reflected in the art. But we did get some aweeesome passionfruit (maracuya) ice creams for about 40c
Me and Ash went on a 4 hr grafiti tour of Comuna 13 in Medellin the other day where our tour guides took us through one of the poor suburbs of Medellin where there was a lot of conflict between the locals and the government back in 2002 and a lot of the street art reflects the conflict of the time. Another main attraction of the Comuna are the series of escalators that were constructed as part of an 'innovative medellin' initiative of the local government. Previously locals had to walk hundreds of stairs to and from work everyday. However the value of the escaltors is questioned by some based on their cost and how many locals actually benefit from them, part of the value though is in the tourist effect for the area. More pics to come
8 June 2016
PLAZA BOTERO, MEDELLIN
Me and Ash visited the famous plaza botero which is full of plus-sized sculptures, like around 30, and here's a selection of the best. Plus there was a sick looking castle like thing there. One of the more amusing aspects of the day was hiw many ppl use the statues to lean on and are completely oblivious to ppl taking photos. They didnt even look comfy to lean on
7 June 2016
Just a few morw photos of the surrounding area of el poblado in medellin. There are so many amazing views of the surrounding mountains and houses creeping up the mountainside but ye olde camera doesnt even come close to doing it justice.
6 June 2016
BLACK SHEEP, MEDELLIN
After months of travelling central america i didnt realise how much i could enjoy a city as i've always been pretty resistant to them as a holiday location. But medellin is different - the kind of city you could easily live in for a few months, and i guess its just nice having so many food and activity options so close, and nice comfortablw accomodation, in a city thats 1.5km above sea level so the climate is really quite moderate conpared to where we've been. Me and Ash were the first to fly in from santa marta on 4 june and we stayed at The Black Sheep hostel first up for 6 nights while we did another 3 days of spanish. The nearby mall Santa Fe was real impressive, and cant wait for somw maccas! 😋
1 June 2016
CASA ELEMENTO 2
more photos of this incredible place. Oh and the ride up the mountain was worse than i remembered, and luckily me and ash managed to get a jeep from Minca just by luck because otherwise it was going to be moto taxis in the rain and that woulf have been a borderline death wish. But we got up and down safe and sound in the end - you beaut!
CASA ELEMENTO, MINCA
And the final revisit for the nth colombian leg was taling ash to see one of the favourite places ive ever been - casa elemento. And in the year between visits a bit had changed: they've constructed three private cabanas which me and ash stayed in for two night, theres a new sky hammock swing which is insane, a whole bunch of decking and stairs under construction, a non functional climbing wall and ropes, a treehouse accomodation, and a new dorm room down the mountain (where we were on day 3). The same things i loved about the place were still there too - super relaxed vibe, easy to meet lots of great ppl, awesome food anf incredible scenery, even if it was a whole new ballgame with nightly electrical storms rather than clear sky sunsets. But so glad we came back. Also it was awesome bunping into claire, jo, colette, lee and giles again.
31 May 2016
YULUKA TAKE 2
After pushing real hard to get out of parque tayrona in time we decided to splurge a little for a night one more night in yuluka with a private cabana that was so nice! And it was awesome jumping in that icy pool and getting a couple more meals from their kitchen, geez they had some of the best mash ive ever had - no doubt it was probably clogging my arteries, but bloody worth it.
PARQUE TAYRONA PT2
This time around parque tayrona felt a very different experience. It was low season and the start of rainy season, so most ppl visiting were sth american travellers and only went in for a day trip rather than spending several nights on aurrounding beaches and in hammocks, and it was overcast all day. This was so different to the cues and partying and sunshine of the year before, and our initial hope to watch sunset there clearly wasnt going to happen with all the clouds around. So at around 3 me and ash looked at eachother and thought maybe we should bail on our tent booking (didnt get a refund) and quickly pack up and leave on the 2 hr hike out of the park and get back to yuluka for a nice sleep in comfort, so that's what we did. And we nailed the walk in an hr and a half, and got to the buses completely covered in sweat, but grateful to have avoided a rather hot and uncomfortable sleep on the beach in a tent.
So the point of staying at yuluka was it gave us a nearby base to go to parque tayrona from. So after a night there we packed our day packs and heading into the national park on our way to Cabo San Juan where i had visited with nick and 5 others the year before. And again we took the horses into the park (although last time admittedly i had a donkey). And it was great to see that after more than a year they still dont giv you any instructions for controlling your horse and they still just randomly walk off the path or piss bolt with no warming scaring the absolute shit out of us. Service 0; experience 10. But we got to the picturesque beach by about 10am and met up with a few friends and we heard we might be in with a great chance to score one of the hammocks on the point of the 2 beaches, but alas after a few hrs waiting around to check in all we could get was a tent for the night. More to come...
30 May 2016
YULUKA HOSTEL, TAYRONA
From Palomino me and Ash caught the public bus about an hour to Tayrona, just outside the national park entrance. Our friend Am recommended we stay at Yuluka Eco hostel which was such a good recommendation, such a nice place and gardens and ice cold pool and aircon in our dorm (only me and ash in an 8 person dorm, so good!). And the reception ppl were a couple from argentina so it was great speaking a little to them and hearing the argentinian accent again, even if it reminded me how much i dont understand when they speak 😋 the food at this place was also reallly good, and although i had a stomach bug (again!) we managed to find some freat vegeties and rice/mash options which were soo tasty. I also decided to finally take some real meds and try get my guts back in working order - ive now lost 7 kg on the trip so far, down to 65kg in total 😳 but a lot of that is also not exercising much
28 May 2016
PALOMINO TAKE 2
18 months later and i returned to palomino on the north easteen colombian coast with ash this time. It brough back some great memories from last year and so good to visit a place again and see how it is changing. It was also a very different vibe visiting during low season (rather than in january), and far more overcast on a daily basis, but we did get one amazing sunset at least 😊 me and ash went there on our own from cartagena while the others were in Minca, but crossed paths with most of them in palomino for a few nights. We stayed in finca escondida which was really nice cabanas but a bit expensive for what you got, and then in Cabañas Praba which was nice, apart from the bat in the roof, the frog in the toilet (never did get it out) and snake in the shower! 😣 haha but after 4 nights here we were onto parque tayrona
25 May 2016
CARTAGENA STREET ART PT2
some more snaps from the day. Oh and me and Ash went to the movies after this to see X-Men Apocalipsis, and it only cost 4,500 pesos each - that's like $2 aussie!! Holy sheert balls batman, will be doing that again no doubt
CARTAGENA STREET ART PT1
While in Cartagena was great to meet up with friends me and nick made in Argentina during soanish classes, and 2 of them, Am and Simi joined me and Ash for a street art tour. A belgian guy took the 2 hr tour and knew a shiiit load about the history of the art and town, so was great getting an in depth look into the politics and history of cartagena/colombia. Apparently the Bogota street art tour is even better (as our tour guide kept mentioning), so we've put that on the list too if we make it there. More photos in the next post.
24 May 2016
We disembarked our catamaran in the not so picturesque waters of Cartagena's port and made our way to Old Town Cartagena - and i was really happily surprised at what we found. Me and Ash opted for a private aircon hotel room this time next door to the rest of the gang, and we stayed 5 nights in Cartagena, a night longer than everyone else who left for north east coast before us. Old town has a heap of charm about it and some great architecture and narrow streets, juxtaposing the 'little miami' vibe of Bocagrande with the high rises on the peninsula, which we're told is primarily from drug money laundering. Some great food in Cartagena, and nice bars. But dont be fooled into thinking this is normal cartagena - only 80,000 locals live in old town/bocagrande, which is highly policed for tourists. The remaining millions live in the far more dangerous and extremely poor surrounding suburbs, so it wasn't true cartagena, but awesome nonetheless.