Random Colombian observations.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, February 3, 2005

I have made my way a couple of hours south of Cali. I'm in PopayŠn, apparently one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Colombia. With all it's churches, museums and whitewashed buildings. It's peaceful, friendly and clean, but there's not much to write home about. Although it's quite lively during the day, it seems dead quiet at night, with pretty much empty streets. I stroll down to what Lonely Planet calls the Zona Rosa (the party district), but to me it looks more like Zona Dull. All I manage to find is three empty bars, all showing a football match between Colombia and Argentina. It's midweek, but still something must be wrong. This isn't the Colombia I've learned to know. I sit down at a restaurant and ask to see the menu. "Hey Gringo, this is a furniture store, not a restaurant." "Oh, I'll have a deckchair in sweet plum sauce then, hey make that medium rare!" That's about as crazy as it gets here in PopayŠn my friends.

I try to write a blog entry more or less for every major place I visit or stay for a few days. In other words, places I intended to visit or went to with a purpose. And since I don't have much more to say about PopayŠn, what about some very random observations I have made so far in Colombia. After all I have been here for 23 days or so and are no longer a rookie.

- There's always a bus going where you are going and when you are going (well, this is almost true when you consider the previous blog entry.) This is also true for most of the other countries I've been to so far on this trip. Except for Costa Rica, where you often had to wait around for hours or had to do big detours.

- Traffic doesn't stop for pedestrians, so watch it. I guess this isn't a Colombian phenomena.

- The common Colombian strongly wants peace. No wonder.

- Simon Bolivar is huge.

- In general the country seems very developed, similar to Costa Rica and Panama. Of course there's many poor areas as well.

- Every local will tell you that the road you plan to travel is dangerous. That it is infested with guerillas, paramilitaries and bandits, even if it turns out to be as peaceful as the Elverum to Oslo road back home. Most roads are packed with soldiers though, and it makes me feel more safe.

- There's some seriously rich people around, and some seriously poor. Again, not a Colombian phenomena.

- There's very few backpackers or other Western tourists around. It makes travel a bit more challenging and often much more rewarding.

- Huge price differences. Go to the restaurant across the road, and you may find drinks and food just as filling at one-tenth of the price.

- Not a very important observation, but lots of people in their twenties or thirties got braces, while very few kids got them. I find this a bit strange, and different from other countries I've been. I don't know the cause, other than it maybe being money related. If you have a theory, post it in the guestbook.

- Cellphones are in. The same goes for nose and boob jobs in certain cities.

- Most people dress very nice. This goes for Latin America in general.

- Street vendors won't hassle you, outside Cartagena that is.

- You see quite a few very old men with some seriously beautiful girlfriends half their age. My theory is that the guy is either loaded or the girl is just very close to her grandfather. Do you want to ask the audience or call a friend?

- In a way the countryside is considered more dangerous than the big cities. I think this is pretty unique for Colombia.

- There's football (that's proper football, not American, he he) on TV every day.

- You find some of the most friendly and helpful people you can ever imagine.

So I was partly wrong about Zona Dull. I go there again the next day (Thursday) and this time the place is boiling. I end up watching my first fight on the trip so far, between a bunch of teenagers. I dance Salsa although I got no clue whatsoever. I also meet seven crazy, but very friendly, Colombians. We all go to an after party far out in the countryside and end up drinking Aguardiente, the Colombian anis tasting "burning water", until seven in the morning.
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