You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Columbia’ category.

Ok, the first thing that you need to know about our stay in Bogota is that our B&B was on a street flanked by two bread shops or panaderias, one on each side. I called them “dueling panaderias” because every time you walked down the street it seemed  like they would try to outdo each other by wafting the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread your way. Think of that classic cartoon with visible smells floating through the air and someone following that smell as if they were floating. Yeah, that was me.

The second is that the city has some amazing museums and most of them are cheap if not free! This includes what we came to call the trifecta of museums: a complex of three connecting building housing Museo Botero, Museo de Arte del Banco de la Republica and Casa de Moneda. Fernando Botero is one of Columbia’s most famous artists. He has a distinct style:

Botera's Mona Lisa Photo by Nellu

The third thing about our time in Bogota: we got back on the bike. The top tour in the city according to TripAdvisor is Mike’s Bogota Bike Tours. And considering the city has a reputation for being considerably more dangerous than most of its South American counterparts (muggings, car bombs, active revolutionary groups), we thought touring with a chaperone was a good way to go. It turned out these bikes were much more comfortable and suited to cruising than the ones we had in Chilean wine country.

Photo by Mike from Bogota Bike Tours

And it was so much more than a bike tour. You can never discount the kind of off-the-cuff color that you get from an ex-pat like Mike. First, we headed down to Bolivar Square where the more culinary adventurous of the two of us (Nellu) was brave enough to try the roasted fire ants they sold as street snacks. He swore he even liked it.

Next up, we got to see the informal emerald trading that happens right on the street. We visited smoothie stand where the secret ingredient to the mix (which of course they swear is natural Viagra) was a live small crab. They throw it right into the blender. I did get up the courage to try it although I had to fight back the image I had in my mind of the little jar of crabs.

Photo by Nellu

Mike took us to the fruit stand where we tried all kinds of native fruits. (I just kept thinking that we should really do this in the states. We’ve got great access to all kinds of produce from around the world. I swear that I will be more adventurous when it comes to bringing some of the crazier looking ones home.) We went to the cemetery and we even got to run around the city’s prominent bull fighting ring. Apparently when it comes to bull fighting, Columbia is right up there with Spain and Mexico.

But I have to say, the best thing about Bogota was our unofficial tour guide, Beth. We went to grade school together and hadn’t spent much time with each other in the last 15 years. But she took us into her circle of friends and showed us the best of what the city had to offer. It was also nice to see, especially on a trip like the one we are embarking on, that your roots have just as much to offer in terms of enriching your life as your wings.

Beth applauds one of the performers at Andres Carne de Res in Bogota Photo by Nellu

~ Molly

Advertisements

The quintessential shot of Park Tayrona from El Cabo beach

I know at one point I swore I wouldn’t post any more gratuitous beach video but the scene I posted on Ipanema is my highest watched video to date and this post was specifically requested by my long-time friend Eric.

Tayrona National Park lies on northern curve of Columbia’s Caribbean coast right at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. As a national park, its remained relatively untouched by development aside from a few expensive ecohabs and small campsites. It’s about 5 hours or so east of Cartagena. We took a van to a bus to a walk to a short hitchhike to get the park and the trailhead. We then hiked for about two hours. The hike itself is gorgeous as you weave through the jungle between rocks, over bridges, under branches and across the beach.

Here’s what was waiting for us:

.

.

We hiked all the way to the farthest beach, El Cabo, for the evening. We rented hammocks for the night and slept in the campsite there. One piece of advice for future travelers though, ask for the hammocks in the hammock house by the ocean pictured above (I believe they call them the upper hammocks). I imagine they fill up quickly but they don’t seem to offer them unless you ask. We ended up staying in the lower hammocks. They’re right next to the campground which means you have to contend with other people’s music (even before 7am) and the sound of the generator for part of the night and of course mosquitos. If you have any questions,  please don’t hesitate to email us at lifeofftrack@gmail.com.

~ Molly

It’s hard not to fall in love with Cartagena, especially when views like this greet you every time you walk outside.

The view from our apartment building's balcony.

Even before we left, the city had taken on a charm that others in South America hadn’t yet. When I was getting together our South American flights prior to our departure from New York, the woman at American Airlines asked in a generous Southern accent, “Cartagena!? Why would you want to go there? Have you been watching Romancing the Stone?” We hadn’t but we quickly got it up on Netflix just for kicks.

And once we arrived in Cartagena, I started to research how much it would cost to fly direct from New York because I wanted to tell our friends they had to visit. It’s one of those cities where you just want to sit at the cute cafes all day, drinking frosty drinks and people watching. We stayed in a studio apartment inside the old, walled city that we found through airbnb.com. It was perfect – and by perfect I mean the right location, big enough with a kitchenette, and a killer air-conditioning unit.

The wall that surrounds the old city looking out to the Caribbean Sea.

It’s also right on the coast of the Caribbean, which gives the town its seaside resort feel. A wall designed to protect this port town surrounds the old city adding to its appeal. Inside the walled city are narrow, winding roads and old colonial buildings with balconies and plants spilling out the windows and doors. On many of the doors, there were beautiful, decorative door knockers.

For a slideshow of the Cartagena door knockers, please visit randombutbeautiful.com.

We went to a few museums in Cartagena, one church and old fort. But my favorite place in the city was the rooftop bar at the Small Luxury Hotel where we could get drinks and watch the sunset over the ocean.

Our favorite spot in Cartagena

Then there was the mud volcano. The legend of Volcan de Lodo El Totumo says that this particular volcano used to spew hot ash and lava but then a priest sprinkled holy water into its mouth and it turned into mud – a soft, cool, and allegedly healing mud as a matter of fact. The whole operation feels like a few locals got together and said, “Hey, we have this hill with a hole. Why don’t we fill it with the mud and charge tourists to bathe in it.” But all cynicism aside, who doesn’t want to commemorate their trip with a picture of themselves covered mud?

~ Molly

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Nellu's Flickr Page

Advertisements