Hey Locombia, where's all the Gringos?

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, January 15, 2005

"I'm talking to you, yes you Esteve! Colombia (aka Locombia, the mad country), why the heck do you want to go there?"

I guess it warrants a question or two. It's definitively not the safest country around, with all it's guerillas, paramilitaries, street gangs, drug cartels and bandits. Kidnapping, murder, bus hold-ups, armed robbery and common thievery is part of daily life here. But it affects very few, and many areas are considered more or less safe. The violent crimes are performed by a tiny part of the population, like in most other countries. The common Colombian however is of course not part of this. They are considered an easy going and extremely friendly people. Add to that stunning and some of the most varied scenery there is, a few fabulous archeological sites, and some of the best preserved colonial cities around. As a guy, I must also say that the women around here are out of this world. Unbelievably beautiful. I'm sure you have seen some of them in different beauty pageants, like the Miss World finals. They usually end up at the other end of the scale from Norway, when we compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. More or less top of the list that is. Warrants a visit if you ask me.

Before I left Seattle I had already decided to go to Colombia, at least Cartagena on the Carribean coast, the colonial city legendary for it's history and beauty. I've read so much positive things about Colombia, very different from all the scary stories you hear in the media. And the travelers I met in Central America, who had already been there, all raved about it. "You have to go, it's absolutely amazing." "It's my favorite country in the world." "Don't even consider spending less than three weeks. Promise?" I had heard and read many similar stories before. Colombia being many peoples favorite Latin American country. At least usually one of top three, often shared with Bolivia and Argentina (after the economic crash a few years back.) Do people like it just because it got fewer tourists and is considered dangerous (yes, there's quite a few people out there who purposedly only travel to danger spots, I'm not one of them.) or is it really that great? All this wet my appetite of course, so I had to go there and see for myself.

So I am here now in Cartagena de Indias, with Lisa, Ben and Steve (we are still travelling together since Bocas del Toro in Panama.) And all I can say is that it is truly stunning. The old historic part of town is easily one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, if not the most beautiful. No wonder it's a World Heritage Site. It's also high season, but there's very few Gringos (I use the word Gringo a lot, and by using it I incorrectly refer to the common Western tourist and not only people from the US) around. Almost all tourists are local Colombians or visitors from neighboring Latin American countries. Except for all the cruise ships that come here, with all their blue haired ladies sweeping through the old town in a couple of hours, probably spending more money than my budget for the entire trip. "Oh my god, what a lovely tablecloth. It will go perfectly with the xxx (replace xxx with any random useless street vendor souvenir) I just bought." Sorry, that's not a nice thing to write, he he he he.

If Cartagena was located in any other Latin American country I am sure it would be flooded with Western tourists. I'm just happy it's located where it is. If you haven't been, definitively add it to your list.
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