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Colombia travel info
Kind of travel:
alone in a fully independent travel
8th- 22nd August 2008
I need a visa?
No, as for all the South American countries your passport is
comfortable long distance buses connects all the main cities,
minibuses get almost everywhere otherwise replaced by funny
speed boats; domestic flights seem a good option as well, but
forget railways :-(
definitely colder than I thought. In Bogota' I even wished I
had a pair of gloves, while northward of Mompos gets warmer
till Cartagena where's even too hot. Medellin wins for the best
the hostels in Bogota' (Platypus)
and in Medellin (Palm
Tree) are among the best I've ever seen (dorm: 7€);
17€ in Villa De Leyva since cheap places were full-booked,
while El Refugio in Rio Claro is a relaxing great place into
the Botero-characterized Medellin with its funiculars and the
Claro valley with the super-cool 3h adventure in the cave;
on top of everything, in any bus terminal you'll feel at ease.
What I disliked:
I found Bogota' anonymous, I hated the freezing air-condition
in the buses and overall part of the country is off-limit, particularly
the Pacific coast and the area bordering with Panama
medium expensive: my daily budget turned out 37€/ day:
sleeping is the main expense (10- 20$), but also long distance
buses aren't for free, although the service satisfying.
I had no hassles, but I generally never felt relaxed so I stayed
particularly on guard: my impression at the end was Colombia
isn't 100% safe (more
a warm sweater, thick long pair of pants, a handy spanish dictionary
and a flash lamp to swim in the darkness of the Rio Claro cave
IMPRESSIONS ABOUT COLOMBIA
Colombia has nice mountains, the seaside very
exotic, many towns are particularly colourful, means of transport
comfortable, generally the country is clean
, so in theory
there's everything to enjoy the country.
Yes, but something didn't work. In particular two elements didn't
help: my huge expectations and the feeling of always being unsafe.
All the times I heard about Colombia it got described as a heaven,
but at the end nothing really impressed me, while on the other
hand so many people warned me about the risks that, although
nothing happened to me, I never lowered the guard and consequently
I didn't feel free to wander around the country as I like.
I'm not discouraging you to go, but, since there'r many travels
that excite me, there'r as well some in which something didn't
click, and I don't want to be afraid to tell.
TRAVEL IN COLOMBIA
Bogotá from Milan, with a stop-over in Madrid, I immediately
realised packaging my rucksack I had underrated the coldness
(in fact the following morning at first I wished I had a pair
of warm long pants). I took a taxi from the airport to the nice
Platypus hostel (6$) where I settled in a 4 bed room for 10$.
The hostel is comfortable but, as most of all the other places
in Colombia, I felt in a kind of prison: to access the building
you have to pass a double door (like in a jewellery) and signs
everywhere warn you not to walk outside in the evening, if you
wanna move around, taxis are a must.
In the quick stroll I had in the morning Bogotá didn't
excited me, while I got surprised seeing how tidy and calm was
the bus terminal that typically is the shittiest place!
At midday I was already on a bus heading to Tunja (4h), where
in turn I changed to reach Villa De Leyva (45min). It's a cute
2100m high village characterised by cobblestone streets and
white housing. Luckily by chance I turned there before the kite
festival, so the skyline was full of colourful kites, nevertheless
I found Villa De Leyva a little too touristy and a-kinda-of-fake
for the Colombian standards.
The interesting part was to rent a bike and cycling few hours
- El Infiernito: a strange place characterised by penis-like
rocks with a lot of white dressed guys dancing (and smoking
- El Fosil: a house built over a huge 7m long lizard fossil
- Granja De Avestruces: an ostriches farm where you can both
play with the animals and taste an ostrich steak, ostrich-egg
The same day in 5h by minibus I reached San Gil, where I settled
in a cheap place (10$ for a double) having the usual grilled
chicken with potatoes dinner. The following day I had a daytrip
to one of the most beautiful colonial town of Colombia: Barichara.
The town is a kind of movie set characterized by hilly cobblestone
street, white façades and green windows, the whole plunged
in the fog under the daily light rain. Then before the sunset
I pulled into the big town of Bucamaranga 85h from San Gil),
where I had hard times to find a cheap accommodation, so I ended
up sleeping in a kind of brothel. In the evening I had a walk
to eat something but I felt so unsafe I ran (running physically)
back to the brothel.
In the morning I started the Bucaramanga- Mompos leg, definitely
the most adventurous part of my Colombian travel:.
Leaving Bucaramanga at 8.00am I was sure to reach Mompos by
the sunset, but
The minibus was comfortable and for the first 5h the road was
even tarred, thus an easy travel. In El Burro everything turned
tougher: the super-bumpy dirty road let a max speed of 15km/h,
so after two jumping hours some passenger got sick and the girl
right next to me (CHE CULO!) puked on the seat twice!
Finally the bus stopped and everybody got off: I was happy to
be in Mompos, when, instead of a town, I saw the road ending
and the minibus being loaded on a kind of rusty ferry. It took
a lot before this rusty stuff began floating downstream till
reaching again a dirty road where unloading the minibus that
proceed jumping again for 40min, when it stopped for a breakdown
Luckily it got fixed quickly and I happily pulled into a town
sure to be in Mompos. I turned strongly disappointed founding
out it was El Banco, still far from my destination. Moved by
pity, the bus driver took me to his accommodation, a very cheap
guesthouse in the outskirt of the town. In the early morning
I was at the harbour to get the 4WD for the left 2h drive. Mompos
itself is cute but nothing so special, or at least not as cool
as the travel to get there. I poked around few hours and then,
first by moped (1h), then by fast boat (30min) and finally by
shared taxi (3h) I reached Cartagena.
Here despite the town being very picturesque, the hotness was
unbearable. The first day I hung around taking picture of the
colourful facades and the second one I went to Rosario island
by a boat daytrip tour visiting the nice aquarium and the typical
white sand beaches of the Caribbean sea. After 2 days I was
fed up of feeling sticky and headed southward to Medellin by
a 13h night bus ride. Definitely not a pleasant night since
inside the bus the temperature was freezing, the ceiling was
dripping (right over me) for the heavy rain and at the end I
felt sick due to the numerous hairpin bends.
On the other hand I got enthusiastic of Medellin!
In particular I enjoyed the Chicago-like underground, the Botero
sculptures spread everywhere, and the funicular lines working
as metro to reach to steep parts of the town.
I wouldn't say the town is safe but I felt at ease, or at least
more than I felt in Cartagena.
The following day I visited El-Penol, a funny panettone-like
rocky mountain you can climb up to admire the wonderful green
lake spotted area. In the afternoon I walked to Guatape festival
where, hung on a trolley, I launched from a '100m high and 1km
long' funicular cable: SUPER GREAT!!
On the way from Medellin to Bogota' I stopped in Rio Claro valley
(4h from Medellin, 5h from Bogota'), a wild green area used
to be off-limit due to the guerrilla, but now enough safe to
I settled in a nice hut-like guesthouse treated like a king
but the keeper. Honestly I didn't expected so supercool the
3h cave trip I had with a local guy. With my flash lamp and
wearing the swimming suit we entered a narrow cave (less then
1m in some part) dug by the river. Sometimes the water is so
deep that it's necessary to swim and in few point you have to
dive in the dark water trusting the guy there's no sharpen stalagmites
ready to sting you like a giros kebab.
The last day settled in Bogota' I had a daytrip to Zipaquira',
a salt mine area where a huuuuge underground salt cathedral
(for more than 8.000 people) has been dug in the rocks.
Although I missed, you can reach the cathedral (2h from Bogota')
also by a colourful steam train leaving twice per week, it's
a unique chance since the only passenger train of the whole