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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

I ♥ Colombia


And its people. Passionately.
There are so many bad stories about Colombia travelling around.
Even the locals would shrug and say: ‘Thank you! We are very glad that you feel so welcome in our country!’ [and they genuinely mean it] ‘But it’s different than in Europe, there’s much more violence.’ [not even Europe is what it once was, but this is another story]

I went to Colombia with my heart open, trusting in what I felt. And only that.

From the first steps I’d set on Colombian soil, Cartagena, that is, I only came across smiles. Taxi drivers that wouldn’t overcharge us. Strangers who’d use their own car to get us to the right accommodation [even though they had space out for rent, too]. These were all around midnight, for you to get an idea.
Old Town
Over the following two days, Marcel and I practically felt part of the community in the residential complex, some 15 minutes away from Old Town. Birds humming, mango trees along the road, more Dacia Logans than back home in Romania, a supermarket (with an ATM inside!) only 5 minutes by foot, old ladies instructing me to use aloe vera for my sun-burnt skin. 
Urbanización La Española
Joy was heightened, as I discovered a cake shop only 2 houses away from where we were staying and Marcel got hooked on street-corner asado.
Time has a flow of its own in Getsemani
Coffee-related stories got us closer to a visionary café owner in Getsemani. Sadly, it was time to go.
@Cafe del Mural

Minca delighted us with talks under the stars, as two friends from Barranquilla – one being our surf trainer – met again.
Sapote @Daniel's Guesthouse

Close to Tayrona Natural Park, the vibe intensified, finding a balance between party mood and the very laid-back atmosphere of the Caribbean shores. Which I didn’t mind, by the way – as the control freak that I admit to be –, but embraced it. The landscape and the beaches are the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life and I am hanging on to their sweet memory in my soul.
Mata de Platano Beach

Medellín was said to blow our mind in terms of friendliness. We did feel it, sometimes from the part of other nations around Latin America, but to me something was lacking. So, I started missing my coastal days.
Charming Be Okay Hostel and its terrace

It was probably the only low hit during our Colombian time. Soon, Guatapé pumped me up with so much light, brightness, patience – from the seller of meringues welcoming us to the village to the owners of the souvenir shops, surely the most beautiful handmade items I saw in Colombia! All defined by munching out-of-the-oven pan de queso.
An entire world seen through one pastry

The spectacular road south, to Rio Claro, dotted with can’t-keep-my-eyes-off-the-window views, was cut short. For us and all those travelling down that route to Bogotá. A cistern transporting LPG had turned over. That meant lockdown… for 18 hours. The people were not mad, they were acting in a very relaxed manner, even in the morning when the water supplies of the restaurant we’d flock around had gone out. There was a certain charm in all of us watching football, eating together, hoping for good news… from our driver, a very hard-working and funny guy, who had hooked up with a girl from our group. There were animals suffering from thirst and lack of motion, children overfilled with energy, some people who needed to be at work first thing in the morning, others having the cold, and us… only 10 km away from our accommodation. Two hours after sunrise – when no one expected it anymore and we had gone to search for water at another restaurant along the road –, we heard the bike riders pass honking, so we hurried back and were soon on our way, with cheerful music and smiles. We parted as a great family, everybody shaking our hand and wishing us well.
The first few hours under lockdown

At first reticent, the staff at Rio Claro Reserva Natural warmed up to us. Marcel got his squirrel-bitten finger bandaged, I got my boarding pass printed without charge. We both got tons of fun ziplining over the greenish river with two very entertaining guys working in the complex.
Trekking to Las Dantas

Even waiting for the bus to Doradal was a new opportunity to exchange ideas and share a taxi – in the end – with a local farmer, in our attempt to reach the bus stop to Bogotá. Like in all big cities, there was a lingering danger in the air, especially as we arrived after sunset. We had been warned about the coldness of the capital’s inhabitants. However, slaloming through dodgy faces led us straight to two tall guys who paid the beggars that were harassing us and called our host for the night, by consequently making sure that ‘Doña Olivia’ and ‘Don Marcel’ would be in safe hands.
Graffiti-filled La Candelaria

By flying to San Andrés, off the Nicaraguan coast, we found yet another side of Colombia. While we had gone back to the Caribbean ways, we stumbled upon many bilinguals living their lives just as seen in the movies. Lazy street traffic and local grocery stores, children on their bicycles and free offers to ride into town… a relaxed feel of a different identity, yet the last official ‘bit’ of Colombia we were bidding farewell. I didn’t want to go.
On the way to Rocky Cay

And you know what? You, Colombians, are still not aware that you are rightfully amongst the kindest and most welcoming nations on the Globe.
You are special.