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September 10, 2007

Colombia Pt 1

Sex Drugs and Football

I´m starting to dread writing these things now. I think I´ve forgotten how not to make thing sound uninteresting.My travel journal entries sound boorish, impersonal and threadbare. Despite intentions otherwise they limp badly between unoppinated and being beaten into a travel checklist. They arent even half acceptable generic travel articles which I used to be good at.

so it´s late now in this sad little internet cafe on Gringo street in Quito and I have to be up early for my first of many spanish lessons. I ´m a little worried. languages were never my forte. Amazing how far miming and weak smilies accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders can get you. At any rate, South America so far has been beautiful. Colombia in particular is a country of passion, where friends, soccer and pushup lo-cut tops are revered and food is deep fried, even if you´re eating cereal. It´s a country where people are imensely friendly and any kind of weird association with it being a dangerous place (along the gringo trail at least, )just makes it less over run and the people more insistent to welcome you to a country they are very proud of. There´s more to colombia than Coke, FARC and gabriel garcia marquez, but i´ll deal with them later on too.


Bogota was an interesting though somewhat grey city we never really got the chance to explore. Thanks to many of the travel frightened people we met in New york we were filled with horror stories of the certain muggings, kidnappings and knifings we were surely in for once touching down in South america. This was of course as far from the truth as could possibly be. In fact Colombia turned out to be one of the safest countries you could visit as long as you used your head. But it meant we didnt venture very far into the night the first few days. Compounding thngs, most people start their S American journeys in Argentina and head northwards and so everybody has a horror story of some kind by the time they hit Colombia and Juliet was ravenous for them. She got very nervous, yet like a cankersore kept prodding.

Old Skool bowling! Villa de leyva
We wandered around the old district, went bowling at a non-automated bowling alley (!), looked at a lot of Fat people Botero paintings (yay!) and when we got bored we headed North to a Villa De Leyva, a little colonial town that looks so similar to a quaint 1700s mexican setting that even film crews had turned up to pay homage. And throughout our 2 day stay we were subjected to men in ragged blue coats and fake muskets storming the main church while fake cannon fire kept the whole town up all night. The town with its cobblestone alleyways and whitewash was very pretty but at the same time very boring, so we rented some horses and rode out to a pre inca astronomy site and a very bad winery for some of the worst tasting I had every experienced. Colombian wine is not something to be taken lightly or... perhaps even at all.
Barichara church
So we headed north to a superquaint yet busy little town called San Gil and camped down there for one of our most fun weeks in Colombia. We got on Famously well with the Australian owner and hence spent nights plotting RISK maneouvers and world domination or drinking with locals in the square. Colombians are a friendly people but San Gil locals took it to a new level. With pushup bras and slick moustaches they would come stumbling over to pour bottles of a horrid aniseed drink down our gringo throats and wrap their arms around everyone and we would fall about grinning and laughing about what I dont know as my spanish was non existent. During the day we managed some spectacular walks up to some amazing waterfalls or basked in the botanical gardens by the river which were drenched in spanish moss and fell about into the river. We also did some grade 4 rafting and paragliding over tabbaco plantation which i managed to crash into when i landed. The local night clubs also proved incredibly hideous and Juliet and I got staggeringly drunk and while the place was overflowing with people a weird couple tried some seedy dance moves on us and then tried to suggest we go back to their house. After a trip to the nearby quaint colonial town of Barricharra we were itchy for the carribean and the warmth.
Tobacco Farmer, Santander
By this time I was beginning to tire of every meal consisting of fried stuffs. Colombians deep fry everything. They also like to dress in particulary skimpy clothes which can sometimes result in some obscene fashion statements with tummys and asses falling out and over too tight 80s pants and boob tubes. I never quite understood the esteem that colombian girls were held by foreignors..The gringos we would meet would fall overthemselves describing how hot the girls from Cali and Medellin were, but I never got it. It´s certainly the centre of silicon injections and plastic surgery spruce ups but I was never enamored. We arrived at the gravel beach fishing village of Taganga and were shocked at the amount of gringos holed up there. Particulary Israelis. Israelis I learnt are pack animals. They gather in large groups and crowd a place and suddently, bam! they are all gone. A group of 40 or so people leaving at once. It´s weird. Anyway this crummy little beach community was a dive and a half and crowed with these weird backpackers professing the beauty of the beaches and laying about for weeks on ended smoking and snorting too many drugs. I immediately head into the jungle with a couple of friends to hike to the Lost city of the Tayoronas while Juliet stayed behind to do the Dive course I had given her for her birthday. The lost city was a three day hike away through thick jungle mountains, across a mulitude of rivers and amongst a mess of mosquitoes. It was a awesome trip and the city of stone terraces hidden in the jungle is huge. Apparently ridge top city was only discovered as recently as the 70s when word got out of a lot of murders happenning up in the mountains near Santa Marta and a lot of gold began coming onto the black market. The local Tayrona people had secretly worshiped there since the city was abandoned and were anxious to protect the sacred gold relics hidden in the stone platforms that grave robbers had got wind of. Up at the city the Mosquitoes were positvely violent and many came down with more bites than skin.
Child of the Tayronas

Juliet and I tried our luck in Tayrona national park where the beach was fronted by forest but it was crowed with backpackers and we didnt like the scene very much. We headed back to Santa Marta and bused it further west to possibily the most beautiful city in S America ; Cartahenga. As the prinicpal port for shipping Spains plundered treasures back to the old world , it propsered and the result id this beautiful colonial city with boganvillia strewn balconies shadowing bustling cobblestone alleyways. Here we strolled the old town, celebrated Juliets birthday in Cuban bars, visited a mud volcano and stayed at nearby white beach for a couple nights where we ate too much lobster and drank too much free beer

Mud Volcano Cartagena

Books Read: Don Quixote, Vanishing Point
Music: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible, The Ponys, Mount Eerie

Posted by alex at September 10, 2007 9:13 AM

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