A Travellerspoint blog

October 2012

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.


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!


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!


Posted by TheNomadWay.com 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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.


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..!


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.


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!

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 20:38 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

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!)


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)


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

Colombia - San Agustin

26 °C

Colombia - San Agustin the most significant archeological sites in Colombia...can´t pass that by! We arrived after a 5 hour bus ride on a winding unsealed road...we won't go into detail about the number of people vomiting out of the bus windows.

Not only are there numerous sites of carved stone statues dating back thousands of years, the setting is beautiful, very much worth the trip. San Agustin really is another piece of paradice; lush vegetation, surrounded by coffee plantations and fruit/veg farms. We enjoyed some stunning, (and sweaty) walks through the countryside, taking in the views and statues along the way.


The carved stone statues were placed over toombs and have been discovered and restored over recent years. Our favourite was La Chaquira, which is the only stone not to have been moved from its original place, and sits facing out across a breath-taking valley. We stayed in eco-friendly buildings at Casa de la Francois, which was a short walk from town and felt like a retreat, complete with hammocks we were surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful views.


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

Colombia - Popayan

25 °C

After our stop over we braved the winding road and 8hr bus journey to Popayan. We chose to travel during the day as the road is dangerous at night due to guerilla presence. Our bus was searched by police several times during out trip. My favourite being when a policeman jumped onto the bus to check ID´s and balanced the barrel of his giant shotgun perfectly on Paul´s knee!

Popayan was lovely, a clean city centre, with whitewashed colonial buildings, and at our hostel (Park Life) we had a room overlooking the buzzing central plaza. Paul and Pete (a fellow Aussie) had the AFL Grand Final up on the hostel TV, and with a supply of cold 'Poker' (Colombian beer) began to teach a group of Europeans, Americans and anyone else who would listen, about a 'real' sport...


The three boys Paul, Pete and Stefan, went on a daytrip to the Purace National Park, where they encountered gurgling sulphur hot springs, kilometres of walking through rainforest and paramo landscapes at 4000m altitude, and eventually thumbed ride back to town... managing to persuade the driver he could fit another 3 men into the back of his already overflowing pickup truck (11 in total).


We also experienced our first earthquake in Popayan. Whilst sitting in the hostel mid-morning enjoying a nice cup of coffee, everything started to rock. It lasted for about a minute with wall and light hangings just holding on! Paul, just out of the shower, was faced with the dilemma of whether it was worse to run outside into the plaza in his towel or stay inside and get dressed.. Luckily there was no damage caused, but a reminder they can happen at any time! Loving the warmer weather and the constant availability of tasty coffee in Colombia!

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

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