We are Cartagena bound
Very Joan Wilder
The Colombian Adventure continues!! After Cali we decided to spend a few days in the country - coffee country that is, in a tiny town called Salento in the Zona Cafeteria (Coffee Zone). The town was darling with bright buildings painted in contrasting colors, surrounded by lush green hills covered in coffee plantations and wax palms. We had a great hike through the countryside with a lovely Swiss couple we met at our hostel, made even better by the gum boots we rented before we set out through the mud (having learned our lesson in Pasto). We also had an impromptu training session with the Ventanilla youth running league, who fell into step with us one day as we were out for a run! We had a great workout with the 10 and 11 year olds and their friendly, motivating coach. It was a truly unique experience!!
Next we headed for the big city of Bogota. Beautiful, safe,
filled with history and culture Bogota has all the all the modern amenities and a very cosmopolitan feel. We launched into a culture glut here, in two short days visiting the Modern Art Museum, Gold Museum, Francisco Botero Museum (look him up!) and the Police Museum which houses, among other things, the stained roof tile on which Pablo Escobar bled to death. Other highlights of Bogota included a city tour of the Candalaria (the older part of town) led by two handsome and informative tourism police officers and a ride on the gondola up the hill overseeing all of Bogota. Our brief stay here was definitely a highlight of the country!
Invigorated by the capital city, we began our move to the coast, stopping in a few colonial towns along the way. Villa de Leyva is a picturesque little village with a (comically huge) cobblestone main plaza. We spent a fun day in the hot sun riding rented bikes through the countryside to the area´s two main attractions: El Infiernito archaelogical park and el Fósil. The first is a huge field filled with dozens of 3000 year old sculptures of, well, penises. They were constructed by the Muisca Indian tribe as a religious offering to bring fertility to the soil. El Fósil is the enormous fossil, almost fully intact, of a Kronosaurus dinasaur (an early relative of the crocodile) which was unearthed in the area. The most thrilling part of the bike ride was on the way home, when we found ourselves surrounded by about 200 horseback riders out for a social (and boozy!) Saturday afternoon ride. Genuinely nice folks, they teased us about our bikes and offered us whiskey!
Next stop was San Gil, where we spent a pleasant day at El Pescaderito swimming hole, with crystal river pools and natural rock water slides. We also explored the Parque El Gallineral Botanical Gardens, filled with enormous trees dripping in silvery moss and home to a giant natural swimming pool.
Finally we arrived at the Caribbean coast. We spent a phenomenal 3 days in Taganga, a tiny seaside town famous for having the cheapest (but quality!) scuba diving in the world. We haven't scuba dived since our Belize honeymoon, but after a bit of a nervous start we were back in the wonderful underwater world, communing with the tropical fishes. We even braved a night dive during which we saw a blowfish (puffed up and trying to get out of our way) and glowing, bioluminescent plankton. Truly awesome.
Our final destination in Colombia - in South America in fact - was Cartagena. It´s a beautiful city with areas reminiscent of Havana, Cuba (crumbling facades, bright peeling paint). The Old City is just divine - charming balconies brimming with flowers, fancy boutiques and restaurants, and a huge stone fortress wall surrounding the whole neighborhood. We spent 3 lazy days here, enjoying the International Film Festival, strolling the old town, waiting out the rain, and organizing our next step - a 5 day sail off the continent to Panama. The open seas await!
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