A Travellerspoint blog

Brazil - Rio de Janeiro

35 °C

Wow what a city, Rio de Janeiro tops our list of big South American cities, by a long way! Beautiful beaches, mountains, rainforest, friendly people and a great vibe. We met up with some friends here who lined us up with some accommodation in a shared house with them (thanks to airbnb.com). Much more reasonable rates for a private room compared to hostel rates, which are starting to get a little crazy now before they peak for Christmas, NYE and Carnival. It was great to catch up with James and Fleur who we met in Bolivia about 6 months ago.

We had a week in Rio, and filled in our time very easily. We headed up to Christ the Redeemer for a spectacular view across the city. Also spent afternoons on Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, with a freshly made Caipirinha cocktail in hand of course. Friday night in Lapa was a fantastic atmosphere, people milling throughout the streets, music coming from some talented live street bands, and many little street vendors selling varieties of the famous caiprina drink. We met up with some of our French housemates and our night disappeared into the crowd of Rio's young hipsters, old men serenading on guitars and bars lining the streets.

The city centre reminded us of a mix between Buenos Aires' large looming buildings, and Melbourne’s small laneways filled with tables and chairs. Quite a contrast to the coastal suburbs of the city. The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil was holding a French impressionists exhibition we spend an afternoon visiting. Lucy of course found an excuse to purchase a pair of Brazilian made Havaiana sandals in one of the shops dedicated to the endless varieties of patterns and colours!

On Sunday night we headed to the Sambodromo, where the main Carnivale parade is held in February. Here there were schools practicing their parades and generally having a fiesta. It was great to see, and gave us an idea of what it would be like during Carnival.

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A favela tour showed us a contrasting poorer side to the city. We wound our way through make-shift houses, laneways, staircases, open sewers and local people who seem to be able to navigate the favela maze, which an outsider would quickly become lost in. Rocinha, Rio's largest favela is home to 100,000 people and this is only one of 700 others in the city.

Finally we made it up to Sugarloaf on our last night, as the weather improved and the clouds parted. We walked up to the first cable car station, which was a great walk through lush rainforest like scenery, with little monkeys running through the trees above our heads. We then caught the cable car up to Sugarloaf ($26 Reals instead of R$53) and then stayed up there to watch sunset, and then the city light up in the dark, a beautiful sight. Then the cable car was free all the way back down after 7pm. We tore ourselves away from the astonishing view and caught the last cable car down at 9pm.

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Brazil - Manaus

34 °C

We disembarked our river boat, our home for the last four days, and with all our belongings accounted for walked into Manaus. We arrived at our accommodation with our faces matching the colour of tomatoes. It was hot, especially trekking across a concrete jungle in the heat of the day!! We cooled off and went for a wander in the more pleasant temperature of the evening. Manuas is a big city, home 1.6 million people. Pretty incredible, considering the entire city has been erected in the middle of the jungle. Ford even produces cars there!

Most areas felt fairly sketchy, however the central square of Praça São Sebastião was a nice area to visit after the sun was down. We also enjoyed a trip to the Municipal Park of Mindú, a little wildlife/nature park in the city, with lots of leafy trees to cool off under!

As Brazil is so big and our time is running low, we opted to take a flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro, 4 hours of flying, cutting out several days on buses.

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The Mighty Amazon River, Leticia to Manaus

33 °C

Neighbouring Leticia is the town of Tabatinga in Brazil where all river boats leave from. After jumping on board to buy our tickets, it was nice to see that the boat was new and slightly more impressive than we had expected! After purchasing our hammocks, ropes, containers for meal times, drinking water and sacks for our belongings, we were ready for the 4 day 3 night ride down the mighty Amazon river to Manaus.

On the morning of the boat ride we piled all our things into a tiny tuktuk and visited immigration in Brazil and got stamped in. After a thorough search of all our bags and a pat down we were free to board, and managed to score a nice spot (not too close to the toilets!) with a group of other travellers on the second level, avoiding the engine noise of the bottom level and the scorching heat of the top level!

We quickly strung up our hammocks to avoid losing our spot to one of the other 400 hammock bearing people on board. Over the next 4 days we had plenty of time to relax, read, play cards enjoy the red sunsets and rest up in our comfy hammocks. Mealtime involved heading into the cafeteria to load up on rice, noodles and meat, and as we had containers it was easy to take our meals out onto the deck and eat in the breeze. The showers, toilets and sinks run off riverwater, which got somewhat muddier when the boat was running in shallow water! The breeze made it easy to sleep, and the hammocks were surprisingly comfortable, a lot better than some of the hostel beds we’ve been faced with over the last few months. We even managed to spot some of the pink Amazon dolphins.

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We were both amazed by the vastness of the river which encompasses 20% of the Earth's fresh water, we knew it was big, but it was just so wide and continued at this width for the entire 4 days. We only travelled down 1,100km of it´s massive 6,400km length and in the wet season, it can reach widths of 48km!

As there were local Brazilians bunked in around us, we managed to practice some Portuguese, which is similar to Spanish, but with completely different pronunciation. There were people constantly getting on and off the boat at the stops along the way, and we kept a close eye on our luggage as it's well known for things to go missing on these boats. We even had to stop people from stringing their hammocks up above our heads on one stop in the middle of the night!

On day 4 we were itching to get back on land and finally saw the city of Manaus looming on the banks of the river. To reach Manaus we crossed `Meeting of Waters` where the Rio Negro, a river with dark (almost black coloured) water, and the sandy-coloured Amazon River meet and run side by side without mixing for 6 km!

Tips for fellow river boaters: We recommend doing the ride down stream, from Leticia/Tabatinga (Colombia/Brazil border) to Manaus (Brazil) as it only takes 4 days on the boat as opposed to around 6 days up stream in the other direction. Boat schedules can vary, for the latest info contact a hostel in the town you’re planning on leaving from. Go for hammocks as opposed to private cabins, apart from being a lot cheaper the breeze was cool at night, and the cabins can get hot as they don’t always have working air con/ventilation, and it`s a lot easier to meet people. Our boat company Oliveira was great, our boat was new and kept clean throughout the trip. Take some of your own food and snacks on board, especially fruit and veg. And as we mentioned, it's handy to have a container for your food, so you can eat outside but not essential. When you buy your tickets you should get a chance to check out the boat and ask any questions you have.

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Colombia - Leticia

35 °C

Flying down to Leticia in the south east corner of Colombia, a town deep in the Amazon jungle, inaccessible by road, we were hit like a wall by the heat and humidity (and some tropical storms!). It´s a small town that borders the less pleasant Brazilian town of Tabatinga with loads of motor bikes and friendly people.

We only had a couple of days, so Paul made the most of it by doing a trip with Juan, a local guy who lives in an off tributary of the actual Amazon....in a small hut on the water with his family. They live without electricity and are fully self sufficient, eating jungle plants (jungle potato, pineapple, tomatoes), and fish they catch. The trip involved exploring the area in a small wooden and leaky boat, with a number of landings to see massive trees with branches that re-reed themselves into the ground and grow new trunks, strangling any other trees in its path! Tree iguanas, monkey´s, all sorts of birds were abundant and a highlight was the `Casa de Anaconda` an area where Anacondas live. This time of year only the small ones are there (4 metres long), even so we have to be quick as it was dangerous in the small boat we were in. Juan claims to have seen an Anaconda over 10 metres long with a head as wide as he is demonstrating below! Scary stuff.

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Colombia - Medellin

29 °C

Known as South America's most up and coming city, including an overhead metro system, Medellin is pretty impressive, with perfect 'springtime' weather year round to top it off. However, as in many big cities, Medellin comes with more than it's fair share of homelesness and violence, and we paid a visit to Pablo Escobar's house. A famous Colombian drug lord who was shot in his hideout in 1993 during the time when Medellin was one of the most dangerous cities in the world!

The Wandering Paisa was a great hostel. We visited the Zona Rosa where most of the other hostels are locted, in a nice district full of bamboo, boutique shops and restaurants. A night out to remember not too far from there was at Dulce Jesus Mio (My Sweet Jesus), a theatrical, bizarre, neon light discotheque. All the staff were dressed up in different outfits, with live music, dancing and sparkelers when midnights strikes (after a countdown of course) with all the locals getting right into it, jumping up on stage. We also had endless supplies of popcorn and other nibbles on our table and soup appeared at one stage of the night...and if you do make it to Dulce Jesus Mio, a visit to the bathroom is a must - to check out the crazy sculptured sinks and toilets, we'll leave it at that!

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The city centre has a few nice plazas, such as Plaza Berrio and the nearby plaza full of entertaining sculptures by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Plaza Cisneros (Plaza of Lights) is another that is full of three hundred giant poles that light up during the night. There were also other festive and impressive Christmas lights dotted throughout the city.

The metro made it super easy to travel, and included in the price of one ticket is a ride on a cable car halfway up the valleyside, travelling over some of the poorer neighbourhoods and slum areas, (who the cable car has been supplied for to make transport easier) with a view down over Medellin up the top. We've never visited a city before which uses cable cars on their public transport route, and on the weekend it was nice to see lots of local families and children enjoying the ride.

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Colombia - Cartagena

33 °C

We've been hanging out for some wamer weather, after months of travel through mountainous, high altitude terrain. You can't get much hotter than Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, it's the sort of place where a siesta is mandatory. The gorgeous walled in colonial centre sits surrounded by water, and is perfect for wandering through the old narrow streets, and finding shady spots in the many plazas. Luckily on our first day, the sun stayed behind the clouds allowing us to explore and walk around the old town on top of the wall, without melting! In the cooler evening, we enjoyed a nice dinner at La Cocina de Carmela, I (Lucy) recommend the vegetarian plate full of all their tasty sides!

Cartagena is the most visited destination in Colombia, with the largest number of tourists we've seen in months. Therefore there are lots of people targeting tourists, constantly trying to speak to you in the streets, sell you things or take you to 'their bar'. This can get pretty annoying, but the charm of the city fortunately pulls through, and we enjoyed a few days here. One nice character of the town are the men who wander the streets with baskets full of thermoses, offering cafesitos small coffees and aromaticas herbal teas (with lots of sugar), in thimble-sized cups, perfect for sipping on the go.

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Something we definately hadn't done before was swim in a mud volcano. The Volcán Totumo is about an hour from Cartagena, and is actually only a mound 15m tall, but over 2,300m deep. Luckily you float, so there's no risk of ending up a few hundred metres underground! So we jumped on into the soft clay like substance which makes you feel almost weightless once you're in...a very strange sensation. After soaking, floating, and absorbing all the natural minerals the mud supposedly contains, we waddled to the nearby river to have a swim and wash off the thick clay. Definately worth a visit if you're in the area.

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Colombia - Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park

We've made it to the Caribbean coast, a big landmark for us as we have just crossed the entire continent of South America by land. From the icy southern tip of Ushuaia in Argentina, to the northern coast of Colombia. That's a lot of hours clocked up on busses over 10 months of travel!

You can't visit Santa Marta without going into Tayrona Natonal Park, and the Dreamer Hostel is set up perfectly for exactly that. The bus leaves from around the corner, and there's a pool at the hostel to help cool down in the sweltering heat. We spent two nights, three days at Park Tayrona. After catching the bus out to the eastern end of the Park (don't forget your passport for entry) there is an hour of walking through lush rainforest full of lizards and leaf cutter ants running around. And I think Paul would've rather not spotted the bright green snake he saw slithering away from him! The next hour or so of walking is along the coast, through little coves, over boulders and around plam trees. Eventually we arrived in Playa San Juan - magical! Lush covered boulders lining the edges of two beachs, framing the clear blue water and we dived straight in. No amount of description will do it justice, so check out the photos, or even better...go!

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Unfortunately we were a little late arriving and ended up in tents (instead of hammocks). We weren't aware how bad this could get until it started to rain and we had to pull a big tarp over the top. As it was so humid, imagine a sauna, or something a little hotter..we resorted to sicking out heads out of the tent to cool down in the rain.

We spent the day on the beach and in the water, and admiring the fantastic setting we found ourselves in. In the middle of the two beaches there is a small island upon which a hut is perched and where, thank goodness, we managed to score ourselves a hammock for our second night. Who would've thought a hammock would be so comfortable, it was the best nights sleep I've had in ages, and with a nice breeze all night we didn't need mosquito nets. In the moonlight we could see out over the water and could hear the soothing crashing of waves just below us. When morning came we watched sunrise over the water without moving! Ahhhhh.

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There's a boat you can catch back to Santa Marta at 4pm from playa San Juan which takes an hour and a half and is 45,000 COL for anyone contemplating the trip, you buy it a couple of hours beforehand on the beach. We chose to walk back before the heat of the day and we enjoyed a nice cool shower when we made it back to the hostel.

After, for the mostpart, a relaxing few days we returned to Santa Marta. The town itself is smallish and quite nice, however it's beach is next to a shipping port. We went into Taganga for dinner, which was originally a small fishing town only ten minutes away, and has been hit by tourism! It'a good spot for some tasty fish, and to hang out among tourists as there are hostels and party spots lining the beach. In contrast Bahia Concha was a nice day trip from Santa Marta if your after a more appealing beach to swim in. It sits inside the west end of Tayrona Park, and feels like your in the Caribbean, with white sand and blue water...and many toters walking along the beach with a smorgers board of snacks, ceviche and drinks on offer.

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Colombia - San Gil

San Gil is a small town nestled in a valley on the bank of Rio Fonce, offering an array of adventure sports, and the climate is near perfect! We went white water rafting, where we managed to 'accidentally' fall into the cool water several times, and swam down some of the more gentle rapids.

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Then I couldn't pass up the opportunity to paraglide over the spectacular Chicamocha canyon. After waiting for the clouds to lift, my instructor and literally ran over the cliff edge into the canyon....and we were airborne! Up in the air for around 25 minutes was plenty of time, and the company Paravolar located in the San Gil plaza were very professional and offer a video included for COL150,000. After all the excitement of paragliding, Paul couldn't miss out so and decided it was time to try out a zip line offered in Chicamocha Park, around 1000m long with nice views of the canyon.

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We stayed at Le Papillon Hostel, which was nice and small, great rooms, suprisingly cheap and a nice place to hang out. The Swiss owners were so friendly and shared their home baked bread and pizza with us. Also worth a visit is El Mana for a set lunch at 10,000 a piece (about $5) you get a fabulous 3 course meal, with extras and silver service (Colombian style)! Barichara and Guane are two small completely colonial towns about an hour from San Gil, with white buildings, cobbled streets and painted wooden shutters. So gorgeous, a visit here made us feel like we'd stepped back in time for the afternoon.

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Colombia - Villa de Leyva

25 °C

A beautiful whitewashed colonial town, full of mystique and unchanged since the 15th centry, with cobblestone streets and a giant central plaza, we don´t get this sort of thing in Australia! Arriving on the weekend, the town was full of Bogotan people getting away from the city for the long weekend, which gave the small town a fantastic buzz. The beauty of Villa De Leyva made it easy to fill in a day just wandering around exploring the streets and poking our heads into the numerous small doorways which lead into courtyards, filled with restaurants or boutique tourist shops.

One evening we had a nice dinner in Plaza Guaca, one of the many restaurant filled courtyards. We sat on a candle lit terrace overlooking a courtyard, with live music playing in the background, casting a fantastic intimate atmosphere coupled with great service, food and wine. If your saving up for a special dinner, this is the place to have one! After we´d overloaded on food we stumbled out to Plaza Mayor, the large cobblestone plaza in the centre of town. It sits on a slope and has steps lining highest side, where people make theselves at home with litre sized cups of beer or a bottle of Aguardiente (a local spirit translating to firewater) to chat, sing or play music and while the night away, while looking down across the plaza.

To explore the surrounding windswept countryside we decided to hire bikes. We rode down the small country roads, which was mostly downhill on our way out, with great views and after about 12km we arrived at the scenic winery, Ain-Karim, which sits at the base of sloping farm land. After a wine tour and a glass of reserve cab sav, we were sitting enjoying a cheese platter when I got a tap on my shoulder form a friendly Bogotan couple who gave us half a bottle of wine they couldn´t finish because they had to drive! This really gives you an idea of the friendliness and generosity of the Colombian people, so thank you Diego and Angelica! Just as we pried ourselves away from the lovely setting of the winery and picked up our bikes for the uphill slog, we discovered Paul's tyre was flat. So we were driven back into town in a 1974 Jeep, nice.

Farm-style El Solar was a great place to stay, you couldn't find a frendlier owner "mi casa es su casa!".

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Ecuador - Guayaquil

29 °C

We only had a day stop over in Guayaquil, a big city near the coast in Ecuador, on our way back from the Galapagos Islands. At sea level, Guayaquil is a lot warmer than most other plaes in Ecuador, and we enjoyed the nice humid change. After spending the night at Hostal Murali just near the airport we caught a bus into the city. The city centre has a fantastic Malecon walk between the large sprawling river front and the city. It runs for a few kilometres with little commercial centres, restaurants, gardens and lookout pioints dotted along it. If your stuck at the airport, which is the main transit airport for the Galapagos Islands, it´s definately worth a trip into town for a nice walk and some fresh air before your connecting flight.

At the northen end of the Malecon sits Santa Ana, a hilltop covered with beautiful, colorful ramshackle houses. A (sweaty) climb to the top gave us spectacular views across the city and Guayas river. Definately another worthwhile visit during your time in this city, and a nice way to finish off the day before catching our flight back to Colombia.

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Ecuador - Galapagos Islands

26 °C

Ok we apoloigise in advance if we start to ramble and sound like a bird watcher dressed in khaki, but after a trip to the enchanting Galapagos archipelago we guarantee you'll be doing the same. The Galapagos consists of a cluster of islands 1000km away from the mainland, created from molten lava that's leaked from the earths crust, and filled with volcanoes and animals which migrated to the islands over time. Nowdays there are small townships on a few of the islands, supporting tourism.

One fantastic part of the islands is that the animals are fearless of humans, as the islands are for the most part uninhabited which means the animals don't run away at the sight of humans, and you get to see them in their natural habitat. To maintain this environment the Galapagos National Park, and passionate guides, enforce strict rules about keeping a distance of 2 metres and definately no touching of the animals.

We were super lucky to snag a last minute cruise on The Seaman II, a luxury catamaran! Our six days aboard will never be forgotten, the service and food was outstanding as was the breath taking scenery on the west coast of Isabella. We snorkelled and swam with many animals such as giant sea turtles, rays, sea lions and beautiful fish every day. Paul was even lucky enough to see a white tipped reef shark! We saw abundant bird life, blue footed boobys, (and yes all jokes aside, they're blue feet are awesome), pelicans, frigates and many more I don't quite recall the names of! Dramatic volcanic landscapes, where cactuses have managed to root themselves in the desolate rock. Beautiful sunsets, dolphins, marine iguanas and giant tortoises. A red beach and a black beach, resulting from different parts of volcanic eruptions. All this was topped off when Paul celebrated his Birthday aboard with our fantastic guide and group of 16 people!

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Either side of our cruise we spent a few days on Santa Cruz Isand, in the guesthouse Los Amigos, with a friendly owner, two gorgeous huskies, a kitchen, and everything we needed. If you're in Santa Cruz it's a crime not to visit stunning Tortuga Bay. After a walk through dry bush land you arrive at a pristine white beach, with marine iguanas stretching themselves out to dry everywhere, we had to be careful not to stand on one! On a trip to the highlands, in the centre of the island we walked through some giant lava tunnels, gouged out by molten lava thousands of years ago. And no trip is complete without spending a couple of hours at one of the giant tortoise sanctuaries. The massive tortoises which can weigh up to 250kg roam through the grounds munching on grass, and no matter how many you see, they are still amazing creatures to watch. After this we rode bikes downhill into the town of Puerto Ayora!

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To reach San Cristobal Island in the east of the archipelago, we caught a speedboat which cut through the waves and had us there in two hours. Another beautiful place to explore. We were stunned by the amount of sea lions making themselves at home along the shoreline along which the main street of town runs. They were lying under and on benches, not flinching at the human passers by, except the odd growl when someone got too close, I suppose thats how they got their name! We walked out to Los Lobos Bay, where there are yet more sea lions, and we even spotted some baby sea lions, very cute. The interpretation centre is also worth a visit on San Cristobal Island, well set up with succinct information. And the walks nearby are great, with animals appearing everywhere we looked!

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What we didn't really realise before arriving is that there is so much to do on the Islands on your own and it can be very affordable. We easily filled in a few days in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands. There is also a market on each island selling fruit and veg, many corner stores and a supermarket, and the prices were very reasonable. So go on, no more excuses even if your on a budget....book a flight this place is a must see!

We've uploaded more photos at: http://www.thenomadway.com/galapagos-islands-ecuador.php

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New Travel Symbols App, by The Nomad Way

Simplify Travel by Speaking a Universal Language with our new App!

We've been busy whilst exploring South America and are now excited to let everyone know that we have launched an app for iPhone and Android!

After travelling, you realise pretty quickly that one of the key frustrations is the language barrier..."how do I say that?" has got to be one of the most common sayings amongst travellers. Whilst travelling through multiple countries, you can't know every language. We used to take images of everyday items on our phone to help with words we didn't know or didn't have time to learn to assist with communication.

Well we have decided to expand on this idea and turn it into a functional mobile app for all travellers called 'Travel Symbols'. This unique app contains hundreds of searchable travel-specific symbols, divided into various categories. Users simply open a symbol and show their phone to the local person from whom they are seeking assistance. The symbols are recognised worldwide, so can be used in any country, any language, anywhere and with anyone.

Travel Symbols will enable travellers to make the most of their overseas adventures by cutting down language barriers. The app enables communication easily, anywhere, by anyone. There are no pronunciation issues - the person you are communicating with doesn't even need to be literate. Simple, fast and unlike many translation apps, no internet connection is needed.

The app is available to download in Apple's App store and Google's Play store. Check out the video below, we hope you like it. Spread the word and live life, The Nomad Way.

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Colombia - Bogota

18 °C

After our time in small, sleepy Salento, it was a bit of a shock arriving in the big city of Bogota. It probably didn't help that our bus arrived at 3 in the morning, in the rain, and with a population of around 8 million, it's pretty big. The city itself is a little more worn than other South American cities, and being at an altitude of 2,625m (I thought we'd finished with cities at altitude!!) it's cold, and raining the majority of the time during this time of year. The Candaleria is the old part of town and a nice area to stay (we stayed at the very nice Alegria's Hostel), the buildings have a nice character, and there are lots of uni students buzzing around. The nearby Monserrate cable car gave us a perspective of just how big this place is. It stretches up the green mountain bordering the east side of the city, giving great views out across the metropolis.

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We popped into the 'Museo de Oro' (Gold Museum), which was great, full of gold artefacts dating back hundreds of years and houses more gold than any other museum in the world. We aso visited the Mueso Botero, which is a free art museum which houses a few pieces by Picasso and Monet, along with many by Botero.

Our favourite time in Bogota was a Sunday. The main Avenue in the city centre, which stretches for several kilometres, is closed off to traffic, and every one flocks out into the street and walks, jogs or rides along. We hired bikes and checked out the street vendors along the way, sampling an interesting fruit salad and cheese combo, and some corn on the cob, and for a change the sun was shining. It's a really nice family day, and such a great idea because cities are so often quiet and rarely used on a Sunday...come on Australia!

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We visited the nearby 'Underground Salt Cathedral' at Zipaquirá, a daytrip from the Bogota. It was formed within an old salt mine, a large complex of tunnels stretching for a square kilometre. It started off as a mine which has been transformed into a holy place, with giant rooms in the middle for congregations of up to 8,000 people, which sits 180m underground. The walls have natural deposits of salt, so crystals are visible through the walls whole place. Paul loved it, but for me I prefer the traditional Cathedral, out in the open air, which doesn't lead you underground leaving you wondering if you're ever going to see daylight again!

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Colombia - Salento (Coffee Heaven)

25 °C

Salento sits just outside of Armenia, in the Zona Cafetera. It has a quaint small town feel, gorgeous green surroundings, pleasant walks and coffee plantations galore! We walked through nearby farmland, with views out across the rolling hills and banana trees. Along the way we visited two coffee fincas (farms), Don Elias and El Ocaso, where we were shown the process from growing to coffee plants, picking the beans, to roasting and then most importantly, sampling a coffee at the end. All the producers we visited specialise in Organic coffee, and most of them produce on a relatively small scale.

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A highlight for us was organising a day visit to Finca SachaMama (meaning mother of the forest). Run by a delightful family of four (Pedro, his wife and two daughters) who live a couple of hours walk out of Salento. We were met half way by Pedro, the owner and led down into a large valley where we followed a winding river into their gorgeous porperty.

Here we learnt about the ´libre´ way in which their coffee is grown, amongst all the other plants on their property. Their focus is on nature and restoring their property to it´s natural environment, re-growing native species of trees, encouraging many birds back into the area, which we were able to see first hand. Humming birds even flying through their house! For them the environment comes first, then their production of coffee, which is of course organic. We had a lovely lunch with the family, and then learnt about the coffee they process. It is produced on a small scale, and only sold on their farm to people who come through. At the end we helped prepare and roast their coffee beans, and straight out of the roaster we ground the coffee, and drank a cup...can´t get much fresher than that..!

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Thinking it couldn't get much better, we headed to the Valley de Cocoura just out of Salento. Another area with absolutely breath-taking scenery. We walked for about six hours, which involved a climb up to a little farmhouse, surrounded by hummingbirds. The admission (a whole $2) included a big bowl of hot chocolate and a hunk of cheese for the hungry hikers. After this we climbed higher, and as the clouds rolled in we found ourselves surrounded by mist! Just as the sun began to creep out from behind the clouds we arrived in the valley of wax palms. Giant 80m tall palm trees stretching out across the rolling green hillsides, a magical sight.

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Needless to say we absolutely loved our time in Salento, and when we weren´t out walking we had a great place to relax at La Floresta Hostel, run by the friendliest family, who offered us fresh cups of coffee all day long!

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Colombia - Cali

30 °C

Big, bustling, hot and loud....Cali was our first big Colombian city, and it was great. We actually felt like we were in a different part of the world unlike other relaxed South American cities where we don´t always feel that far from home. It felt sketchy, there were people shouting, selling fruit and juices on the side of the street, open air bars and cafes on every corner. No shortage of quality coffee in this part of the world! Everyone we encountered was friendly, and trying to help, by telling us to watch our bags (i didn´t think we stood out that much!)

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We joined in on some salsa classes in the hostel (Iguana) then tried out some moves on a night out on the town... Cali is known as the salsa capital of Colombia, before they learn how to walk, they learn how to dance. They are very proud and rightly so, they are extremely good dancers. We were lucky enough to be taken out by a local man and salsa expert, who showed us some great clubs that play classic salsa music where we experienced the lifeblood of Cali. We settled in had a drink - which consisted of a bottle of rum on the table, and a shot glass each. With that down the hatch we braved the floor, surrounded by rhythmic Afro-Colombians, we were never going to blend in. All the same it was a great night, and a little better after being taken for a spin by a local or two!

We had a great time, apart from the walk to the bus station...In the centre of town Paul thought it would be a good idea to fall over, head first and found himself pinned down under his big backpack! (I was laughing too hard to help)

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 17:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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