A Travellerspoint blog

Colombia

Pasto

all seasons in one day

As I had missed Halim at the bus station his Colombian friend Cesar popped over to my hostel to see if I was ok which was sweet. He had also arranged for me to get on the correct bus to Pasto where Halim would be waiting for me. So I set off on another long arse bus journey. The only thing that I can remember that struck me on the bus journey was that the portion sizes of the lunches here are HUGE! I ended up asking for a doggy bag as there was no way I was gonna finish the meal. I did have an American guy who was very quite, who had to deal with long journey sickness we didn’t have much in common apart from our Spanish was not that great. I did practise my Spanish though on the bus journey as I was lucky to have a really nice old lady who had helped me by asking me questions and corrected my structure and pronunciations.
Arrived Pasto in the evening, in traffic and I was glad to see Halim at the bus station! We headed towards the Cesar’s aunts house as Halim was staying there. I was greeted by a healthy serving of dinner – I was still stuffed from lunch but knowing that the aunt was preparing the food just for you, you eat! I must have pilled on stones since leaving London hahahaha – all I seem to do at the moment is move from 1 place to another and eat like 4 or more times a day. Halim had left the next day to make his way towards Ecuador as he had a flight to catch for the Galapagos Islands. I didn’t want to outstay my stay at the aunts’ house so I thought I would stay for 1 night only and make my way towards the boarder. That afternoon after finished my lunch and watching Fantastic Four in English yay the aunt and her 10yr old nephew Kevin just told me that they were moving house – boy did that throw a spanner in the works as I didn’t know whether that was them saying you got to go – but through my broken Spanish they were happy for me to stay. So there I was helping this Colombian family move house after being in there house for not even 24hrs lol. The Colombian do not mess when they need something done. We had moved, settled in their new house by 10pm, had dinner and all rooms were ready for bed time.

During my stay at the Restrepo’s I had regular Spanish classes as no one spoke English lol. The aunt taught me some everyday Colombian dishes, we went shopping together just done normal everyday chores which was nice. The dad took me to his work place – at a military school yay men in uniform mmmm :o) and I was lucky to see a Colombian military wedding which took place in the evening. Maria-Luiz (the aunt) and Kevin took me to Laguna de la Cocha it is Colombian’s largest and one of most (in my opinion) beautiful lakes. It is surrounded by wooden houses painted in bright colours’ many of them were either budget hostels or restaurants serving fresh trout. We took a motor boat to take us around the lake and we also went on a little trek to see the lake from man-made view point. It was a nice day and nice of Maria-Luiz to take me here! She did not ask or want me to pay for anything during my stay and for this day trip! I spent some time with Maria best friend who had invited for an evening meal and some salsa, meringue and reggaeton dance classes all in Spanish!

After a few days at the Restrepo’s I decided to meet up with Alexander Barrera who is the vice president of Colombia CS. I stayed at his house for 1 day, 1 evening – he showed me around Pasto. I tried some amazing traditional ice-cream to me it was like a sorbet (no dairy) but tasted creamy. The way the ice-cream is made in a big steel bowl with another outer bowl filled with loads of ice. Both the bowls where being hand whisked with a metal spoon over and over again to produce this amazing non dairy ice-cream! Pasto is an area that not many in fact hardly anyone actually goes to see it only to get to Ipiales (the boarder crossing) but for me I had a great time there. Pasto has an really big and clean shopping malls, surrounded by huge mountains everything is modern but you can still see traditional clothing worn by the locals – just feels cosy.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:52 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Cali

overcast 29 °F

I am still trying to find an area where I feel more at home so I decided to leave Medellin and head towards the Salsa Capital Cali. Leo was sitting next to me during my 8/9hrs journey and half way through the night the bus had stopped for a break and he had introduced me to a typical paisa drink called Agua de Panela. This drink is basically unrefined sugar that is melted in hot water and is very good to warm you up. We got chatting and I found out that he works alongside a group of teenagers who have been involved in crime but want to make a change. So I was lucky enough to tag along in one of his workshops. So after checking in my hostel (by the way it was amazing, brand new, breakfast included, with a steam/sauna, hot showers and NO one there – felt so alone!) I had got a cab to the office and spent the whole day there at the workshop. It was more like a Spanish listening class for me but at the same time I met a lot of young and bright guys – overwhelming speeches that they gave, we had a sessions of mediating alongside debates overall is was a different experience that I did not see coming! After one night at this amazing hostel I decided that I need to move in to a hostel with more travellers so I went down town. During this time I was in touch we a CS (couch-surfer) who was planning to get to Ecuador. I wanted to go through the boarder crossing with someone as I heard stories how hard it can be. So my plan was to meet Halim at the bus station and travel with him – this did not happen as we couldn’t find each other :o( but I headed back to my new hostel and I was surrounded by really nice travellers who were also on CS. They were surprised and happy to see me again. Henry and Hench were the 2 main guys that I chilled with. That night we hit Tin Tin Deo and then to another Salsa club – this night was great. I got to chill with the locals and dance salsa. The clubbing vibe is SO diff to the UK as everyone has only one thing on their minds and that is dancing! No one was interested to get drunk (other than the travellers lol). In this hostel they had regular free yoga sessions and a gym on site happy days so I had taken some advantage of this plus Hence is a gym instructor :o)
Some of us from the hostel decided to go to a water theme park and I am glad that we did. This theme park was on a busy main road which and from the outside it did not look that interesting or fun. We were like the first 10 or so people to enter so none of the rides were open…Once changed in our swim suits we strolled around until the rides started to open. Our 1st one we hit was a little scary but what the hell I went. So it was basically a zip line where you’re hanging loose and at a point if you don’t let go handle bar will hit a stopper which forces you to jump in to the water – I screamed 1st time, the 2nd, 3rd time was great! Several rides were crazy water roller-coasters, extreme steep drops – loved it. The weather made it more fun as at one point it was pouring down with heavy rain. The only downside for this was the funfair was closed – we were told that we will get electrocuted.

During my trip here in Cali I have met some travellers who have become my friends and I am looking forward meeting them again! The annoying thing that I have experienced is that you met the most uplifting people during your trip but are going the opposite direction to you – it’s hard but I can say is that you will make your friendship work if you both keep in touch during your individual journey and who knows I may just meet some of them soon.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:48 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Medellin

sunny 26 °F

My next city was Medellin. I had left Cartagena early not knowing that they were celebrating their independence day but was planning to go to Medellin with 2 travel buddies who joined me. It was not even an hour in to our 12hr trek that the time belt had snapped…arrrggghhhh. The evening weather did not help either as it was hot, humid and infested with mosquitoes. We had no choice but to get out of the bus as it was too stuffy inside. The driver had semi fixed the time belt…well till the next toll charge spot. Once there we had to wait to get another bus which took about 2hrs aaaarrgghhhh the joys…well they do say ‘the backpackers experience’. So far I have met different people within the same continent but from different cities and they always have said that their city is better than the other lol…reminds me of London with the love hate relationships between east and west then you have north and south…but its funny when we all come together when faced against people outside London lol. This is exactly what had happened when I arrived in Medellin. I travelled with 2 Dutch people who stayed in Cartagena with me. So I met a local guy who was expressing his love for his city Medellin and why it was so much better than Cartagena and you know what I must admit that I do agree with him.

Just a little insight of Medellin’s history, well it is renowned for its cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar. This guy was so rich that he once offered to pay off Colombia’s foreign debt, and paid his hitmen US$1000 for every cop they killed. This is why we always had that thought of Colombia being so dangerous and to be honest I have not experienced any danger….yet.
Arriving in Medellin early morning I was surrounded by valleys of green mountains everyway but as you enter the Medellin it becomes a gleamingly, modern and forward looking metropolis in its centre. This city is extremely clean and not seeing a speck of dirt in sight, it puts London to shame! The one thing that I found very strange is that McDonalds here is SO expensive it’s a joke – there McFlurry was like £2.60! I know what you’re thinking! I stayed at the Black Sheep where I met another traveller who had made me see things in a different light and who had given me some advice as she has been travelling for over 5 years or so. I did check out Medellin with a Newcastalian chick who now works in Bogota with her b/f to Pueblito Paisa a replica of a typical Antioquian Village which was cool. On the way up there you would find a load of people exercising using outdoor equipments and from the top you can appreciate the whole of Medellin. I did go down to the city centre area where I found huge figurines of Nel Gomez work and the gigantic neo-romanesque Catedral Metropolitana.

I also went to Guatape and El Penol, which is a tiny getaway town for the locals. The area is an artificial lake, El Embalse del Penol that has many little islands scattered – emerald green lakes and valleys of different shades of green combined by blue skies just made it amazing. El Penol is a granite monolith which we climbed up to appreciate this view. We had built up an appetite so we ate a typical Paisa lunch which was rice (Arroz), Chicken (Pollo), Bean (Frijoles), Plantain and salsa. This was followed by a dessert which was milk and corn…weird but tasty as in you had to sprinkle some sugar bit like cornflakes and milk lol but with sweet corn….stuffed we headed back to the hostel to pack my stuff and make my way towards to Cali.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:42 Archived in Colombia Tagged medellin Comments (0)

Cartagena

sunny 35 °F

Cartagena is another beautiful colonial city which boasts a lot of different quarters. You have the amazing old city where we stayed, the warm tropical weather (as we are still on the Caribbean coast), the city centre areas where you have the 5 star hotels overlooking long stretches of wheatish brown sand, everything you would expect a city to have but you would see the traditional chivas buses or horse and carriages, the palanquin women in their bright traditional clothing. I went to a local bar where the locals hang out…a relaxed aura around the bar, salsa played loudly, locals dancing anyway they could find a place to boogie and some enjoying cold cerveza’s (beers). After our cool experience at the bar we were looking forward to our evening tour of the old city on the Chivas bus. The deal was you would pay 40,000 pesos on an 2hrs bus journey around key areas whilst a traditional music band are on board, you are also given 2 bottles of rum, coke and ice. Half way our drunken bus journey we stopped off at this place which overlooked the Caribbean coast where people were just dancing – reminded me of the t-mobile adverts lol. Here I was approached by loads of street sellers one who came to me with a baby sloth! Yes a sloth and just kind of gave him to me (obviously for some $$$ in return) – it was weird. Back on the bus we headed to a night club (Which was also included in the fare) – a good 1st day/night in Cartagena.
On the way back from the old town to our hostel (which was in the Getsemani area) me, Gillian and Mark well I was approached this guy who dressed up as a red Indian and he had literally got down on one knee and was declaring his love for me awww lol he was so excited to know that I was Indian and how he wanted to make his future wife…he did tell me that he looks better in his normal clothes bless. Waaayyyy to short for me

02.11.11 Cartagena / Mud bath
I went to Volcan de Lodo El Totumo aka the mud bath. It was funny coz it looked like a man made volcano but apparently gases from the ground come thru which gave it a nasty farty smell when bubbled lol…refer to the pictures. So it was a weird feeling. Standing up was a bit crazy as I couldn’t balance properly at times but when lying flat you would simply float and feel really light– weird feeling. If you can take a mud bath anywhere just try it. So we had a guy who would take pictures for us (which we had to pay), men who were in the baths were giving massages (which we had to pay for) and once out we had to bath ourselves well women were standing on the waiting line ready to pounce on us as we were approaching the lake as they also wanted to be paid for their services lol. In the evening we headed towards the old town to Café del Mar to see the sunset and it was not as nice as the day we had arrived but still strikingly beautiful. We had sat on the walls of the old town overlooking the Caribbean Sea…nothing but masses of water and never-ending skies. Cartagena old town was a small town that reminds me of Antigua and Granada very Colonial but has its own little swagger – music is very big here and everyone loves to dance everywhere and anyway. The weather during the days that I have been here has been amazing some of you may find it a bit too hot (35deg) but I loved it!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:09 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

South America Adventure Starts....in Colombia

sunny 27 °F

So after nearly 6weeks I have completed my 1st leg of Central America. The best places that I enjoyed were Oaxaca, Lanquin, Semuc Champey (Guatemala), Granada, Isle de Ometepe (Nicaragua), Panama City…oh yes Tulum! I was not impressed by Managua or Leon probably due to the rain.
I was picked up by this really nice Panamanian cab driver who loved my accent lol who had dropped me off to the airport and I was very upset that I was leaving so early…but onwards and upwards. Checked in, looked around, grabbed a coffee and I couldn’t resist but to buy myself an authentic Panamanian Jack hat! The flight was so quick that I didn’t even get to see the end of The Bad Teacher. I arrived in the cocaine country Colombia. Surprisingly I stayed in the airport most of the day because stupid me I didn’t do any research of what to do but I knew I had to get to Santa Marta to meet up with a volunteering group. Finally got to the bus station in Bogota and found my bus to Santa Marta and it should only take me 16hours. 24hrs later I got to Santa Marta where I was greeted by Bridgette and Cerys the girls from the volunteering group. Shattered, hungry and cold, I finally got to La Brisca…my hostel. I had dinner with some of the girls and was looking forward to my sleep but by now I was so wide awake. The currency is so weird I was told for one night at the hostel would cost me 15,000 pesos which obviously messed around with my head to say the least – it works out to be like £5.00.

Santa Marta has nothing to see apart from being a main hub for getting to and from local places. I also started to find out that the living cost here is pretty high. I went to the local supermarket to buy some essentials (eggs, cereal, tuna, crackers, soya) all came up to £7.00 compared to the 50p worth of fruit and veg that I got when I was in Nicaragua. At this point I decided to let the volunteering group that I can no longer take part as I had to pay for travel, accommodation and food and I felt I it was not practical to just do it for a week in a area where there is nothing to do. Street corners have the odd prostitutes, drunks and drug dealers. Finally, I met Jeten who is a New Zealander and we decided to travel to an area 600m above sea level to a place called Minca. We met a couple from bonny Scotland Gillian and Mark and walked around Mica and came across a several waterfalls weird and wonderful flowers, colourful birds and big butterflies.

Halloween was spent here in Mica and it was so cool to see how the 500 habitants celebrate. There was a small disco with children dressed up from soldiers to crocodiles, loud music and during our evening meal of Pizza we were approached by the kids singing a song which by the sounds of it was a how we say ‘Trick or Treat’. As the evening drew closer and the kids went home the adults came out in full costume glory. In Mexico they will be celebrating the day of the dead which is something I would have loved to have taken part in.
I have decided to stay another day here in Minca just to gather my thoughts and figure out what my next action plan is gonna be. Jeten left today but I will be travelling to Cartegena with Mark and Gillian.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:31 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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