A Travellerspoint blog

Carribean coast, Taganga and The Lost City

sunny 30 °C

That same day we were off to Santa Marta. The 13 hours trip turned up to be a 22 hour trip: we got stuck in the highway for 5 hours in the middle of the night because a bridge fell off; it tore down from the heavy rain that had been affecting Colombia for the last three months or so. This bridge connected the cities in the coast with inland, so we had to take a detour that delayed the trip 3 extra hours. After an exhausting bus ride we were in Taranga, Santa Marta.
The first thing that chocked us was the heat. After having been in cold places for so long we were amazed at the heat even in the night. We just decided to chill out, swim a bit and relax. The Carribean water is really salty and warm, it just felt so good swimming around, especially since you float without making any real effort. The place is pretty gringo, but we did not really mind it, it was just too damn nice being in a warm place. We did not really go out party, but had a few drinks. We ran into the Swedish guy that we had met in Popayan and a few others.
After a few days of serious chill, we decided to go and do the Lost City Trekk. We had quite a good group of mixed nationalities, though not nearly as good group dynamics as when we did the crossing over the salt flats between Chile and Bolivia. Most of the other people were just travelling for a few weeks, and for some this was the first trek that they had ever done in their lives, so many found it really hard. We had hear that it should be pretty tough, but too be honest we were even a bit bored as we walked too short the first three days. It was pretty steap and extremely muddy, but we reached the camps at lunch time and were not really sure what to do with the rest of the day.
The camps were pretty basic, some days we would sleep in hammock, which was a bit different, but ok. However, they really spoiled us with the food. Each group had one chef with them and they had placed fruit in loads of places along the path. We definitely never went hungry.
The scenary got better and better the closer we got to the Lost city and on the final morning we crossed some amazing water falls and saw some amazing jungle. We also had to cross over a few rivers, a few of the were pretty strong and we had to hold on to a rope and form a chain so that no one got swept away with the river. One of the rivers was so big that we had to cross over on some sort of cage attached to a rope, hanging about 10 meters above the water. When one of the girls were crossing a dog jumped on to the cage. However, in the middle of the river, the cage thing started to move a lot and the dog suddantely fell down. It was so unfortunate that the dog fell on some rocks and died directly. Everyone was pretty chocked and did not know if we should laugh or what.
Finally after 3 and a half days of trekking we finally reached the stone steps leading up to the lost city. The steps seemed to never end, but I was really making a dash for it to manage to see the place by myself. I made it up the 700 high stone steps or so first of all and had a good 5 minutes by myself. Everyone had talked the actual place down a lot, saying that its only the walk that is nice, but that the city itself was not much to see, so when we saw the place we were really amazed how big it was. It may not be as impressive as Machu Picchu, but there were no tourbusses loaded with tourist, no shops selling icecreams, no maps, nothing, only us in the city.
One of our guides was the original tour guide. He had been with the group that got kidnapped by the guirilla (or paramilitaries) a few years back and had even gotten some fame from it. His dad was a graverobber (this sounds so much worse then it was as it was simply poor people trying to survive). However, when things got violent between the treasure hunters, it was him who went to the authorities to inform about the discovery of the lost city. After this the government came with military and experts to try to preserve what was left. Our guide knew absolutely everything about the place and told us so many crazy things. Actually one of the craziest things was that apparentely several of the other guides in other groups were ex-paramilitaries, so he was trying not to talk too much and too loud about the kidnapping that he went though.
After a few hours in the lost city we started going back. In the evening all of us stayed up celebrating and having a good time. A guy from another group told everyone that he could smell cards and basically say if a card was Hart just by sniffing it. He really put on a show and everyone was screaming each time he got it right. I have to say that he sort of fell for it too, but started to be extremely suspichious when it went too far and he said that he could also hear what card it was. Thinking back we were all pretty stupid, but everyone sort of pushed eachother too believe it. What we did not know was that the person who sort of pushed us the most by screaming and agreing that the cards did smell a bit different with the colors, was in on the trick as well. We later found out that he had been told quickly in Swiss-german that he should kick him on the leg different ways depending on the cards… Ok so it was not real, but what a showman and what an actor. All hats off!
The last day was a long day and everyone was pretty tired from the night before too. We had decided to do the trek in 5 days instead of 6, so the last day was a full 8 hours trek. After a long walk, we had to sit 3 hours in a car that first got stuck in mud twice, and later leaked in rain. We finally came back wet and freezing, but very happy with the experience.

View of Taganga beach

View of Taganga beach

Playa Grande near Taganga

Playa Grande near Taganga


View of the landscape, Lost City trekk

View of the landscape, Lost City trekk

Henrik taking a bath in the river jacuzzi

Henrik taking a bath in the river jacuzzi

Laura obviously could not stay away from hugging the local native kids

Laura obviously could not stay away from hugging the local native kids

Some local native kids coming to check out the gringos passing by

Some local native kids coming to check out the gringos passing by

Laura crossing over a river in the cage thingy

Laura crossing over a river in the cage thingy

This may not look powerfull, but we had to form a chain so that people would not get swept away by the river

This may not look powerfull, but we had to form a chain so that people would not get swept away by the river

The last steps leading up to the Lost City

The last steps leading up to the Lost City

Henrik posing up in downtown Lost City

Henrik posing up in downtown Lost City

Laura posing around in Cuidad Perdida

Laura posing around in Cuidad Perdida

Platforms in the lost city

Platforms in the lost city

City central in the Lost City

City central in the Lost City

Henrik crossing a small waterfall along the trail

Henrik crossing a small waterfall along the trail

There are loads of military in the area now to ensure tourist safety...me posing up here with one of them...even got to hold the gun before

There are loads of military in the area now to ensure tourist safety...me posing up here with one of them...even got to hold the gun before

The card smeller...now able to hear what cards there are

The card smeller...now able to hear what cards there are

One of the main platforms in the Lost City

One of the main platforms in the Lost City

Posted by hmontonen 10:48 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Medellín, Colombia

Medellín and surroundings

sunny 25 °C

We got into Medellin very early in the morning. We had booked two dorms in the place; however, they had made a mistake with the reservations and the dorms were fully booked. They offered a double room with en-suite bathroom for the same price! We couldn’t be happier with our spacious and comfy room, after a 6 hours overnight bus. Moreover, the hostel Casa Del Sol www.hostalcasadelsol.com was really cool, probably one of the best ones we have stayed in our whole trip. Friendly and very helpful staff, large common areas, fully equipped and new kitchen, ping-pong table, roof top area. We highly recommend it.
After leaving our things in the room, we went for breakfast, went back to the hostel, slept a little bit and decided to go into town to explore the city. I wouldn’t say Medellin is a must do in Colombia but it is a fine city to stroll around, with loads of shops and some interesting exhibitions to see. It is fun to walk around its plazas and do people watching; a funny one was a group of locals taking part of a strange betting game. Basically they had a put 10 buckets on the ground that people would put money on. Then they had a hamster (or similar to a hamster) that they let go on the ground about 10 meters away from these buckets. The hamster thingy would then go into one of these buckets and the people who had put money on that bucket won. What a crazy game!
Medellin would definitely be a good place to live: it has the best weather in Colombia: mild temperatures and mostly sunny everyday makes it a pleasant place to live. And on top of that, Medellin has friendly people and loads of culture.
We also went to El Poblado, which is known as the “gringo” area, where all the hostels are. Loads of cheesy and expensive bars are the offer in the area. The people here are pretty shallow: posh Colombians, silicon everywhere and old men with the most gorgeous and young women. We really disliked the area; luckily, we were staying in a separate area far out from there.
The next day we visited an interactive museum where you could experience earthquake movements, sense tectonic plaques moving, learn about the origin of the Earth, be part of a science experiment. It was fantastic…
We also met a really friendly group of Swedes who we run into later, when we went visiting a peculiar rock formation El Peñol outside Medellin. We went all five together: they were really young but very mindful and sensible guys. We really had fun with them. And the rock was awesome: we went up its 600 stairs to see the view of the area: the area was full of gorgeous lakes of what it looked like a peninsula. It actually looked a lot like Sweden. The granite rock was an outstanding formation unique in the surrounding area.
That same day we were off to Santa Marta. The 13 hours trip turned up to be a 22 hour trip: we got stuck in the highway for 5 hours in the middle of the night because a bridge fell off; it tore down from the heavy rain that had been affecting Colombia for the last three months or so. This bridge connected the cities in the coast with inland, so we had to take a detour that delayed the trip 3 extra hours. After an exhausting bus ride we were in Taranga, Santa Marta.
Fancy wallpaper In hostel Casa del Sol, Medellin

Fancy wallpaper In hostel Casa del Sol, Medellin

Who is fastest: an elephant or me...or the turle

Who is fastest: an elephant or me...or the turle

Towards El Peñol, crazy rock formation

Towards El Peñol, crazy rock formation

Granite rock, El Peñol

Granite rock, El Peñol

Us and the cool landscape of El Peñol

Us and the cool landscape of El Peñol

Cool landscape from the top of the rock

Cool landscape from the top of the rock

Henrik messing about for the photo

Henrik messing about for the photo

View of one of the lakes, El Peñol, Medellín

View of one of the lakes, El Peñol, Medellín

]

Posted by hmontonen 07:18 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Salento

rain 15 °C

We decided to skip Cali and go directly to the Coffee region further north. Loads of people recommend Salento, a little village set in lush green hills. It sounded quite a lot like Baños in Ecuador. When we arrived we went to a hostel called “Plantage house”. Lonely Planet has basically made it sound like this is the reason why you should come to Salento. Unfortunately the place does really not live up to the expectations. It’s not a terrible place; it’s just that it’s not much more than ok. Some things are wrong in Lonely Planet too, except it being more expensive, very basic, it does not have Wi-Fi, and you pay to use a slow Internet on the only computer they have (ok we skipped paying them). We met other guests calling it “Lying Planet”. Anyway don´t believe the hype, there are loads of other nice hostels in Salento.
Anyway, a great thing about staying in Plantage House was that we ran info Sarah, the Kiwi girl that I volunteered with in Ecuador. Really good to see her again, and I have forgotten how friendly and nice she is. Unfortunaly she was leaving that evening, but we got to hang out for a few hours to catch up with each other. Also I am sure that our paths will cross a few times in Colombia as she is also going north.
Salento is a great little place to hang out in. The village did remind us quite a bit about Baños, but both the actual village and the surroundings are much prettier. The village is full of these old colorful timber houses and as far as you can see there are green hills surrounding the village. The only negative thing about the place is that it almost constantly rains. We were speaking to a young guy that works in the hostel and we asked him if he likes Salento. He basically told us that he can’t stand it as it has been raining almost nonstop for the 10 years he had lived there.

On the second day we went for a hike in the area to see the famous gigantic wax palm trees. The path was so muddy though that it was almost impossible to walk. After walking 1 hour we had walked 1 ½ km. Many times it was knee deep mud and it was raining a lot. We had rented wellies from the hostel and we had full raingear on but still we were so wet and dirty after a while. The landscape got better and better and luckily so did the path. We saw a few waterfalls and had to cross a few rivers. Finally we came up to some garden where they had loads of hummingbirds (kollibris). We got some strange hot drink made on a type of sugarcane mix thing called “Panela”. This we learned is a very typical drink in Colombia that they eat with a big piece of cheese. Weird, but at least it warmed us up a bit.
We met a friendly girl that joined our hike to the top of the hills. Unfortunately the rain blocked the view a bit, but we got to see loads of those wax palms. They are funny looking trees. About 70 meters high (some grow up to 90 meters high) of which the first 69 is just a thin stick. Almost looks like the tree should break or bend.

When we got back muddy, wet and hungry we went to the supermarket. We could hardly believe our eyes, but there were our old friends from Luz Del Mundo, Nassim and Dan. So weird, but good to see them again. We thought that they had left South America by now or at least we did not think that we would see them again. In the evening we went out for a few drinks and managed to catch up a bit on what’s been happening the last few months.

The next day we went on a coffee tour with Nas, Dan and the girl we met on the hike. The tour was nothing special, but it was great to hang out with our old friends again. Unfortunately they will be travelling quite different from us, so this was probably the last time we run into them in South America. After wasting so many days on travelling during the day we decided to take a night bus north to Medellin even though it was only 6 hours.

Rivercrossing

Rivercrossing

Waterfall along the path

Waterfall along the path

Laura crossing a river on some slippery loggs

Laura crossing a river on some slippery loggs

Hummingbirds in the air...apparently their main cause of death is heartattack...or someone told me so at least

Hummingbirds in the air...apparently their main cause of death is heartattack...or someone told me so at least

Getting a shot when hummingbirds are sitting still isnt easy, getting two sitting still is damn near impossible

Getting a shot when hummingbirds are sitting still isnt easy, getting two sitting still is damn near impossible

Wax palm tree and view of the valley

Wax palm tree and view of the valley

The highest wax palm trees grow up to 90 meters

The highest wax palm trees grow up to 90 meters

Wax palm trees in the mist

Wax palm trees in the mist

Coffee bush

Coffee bush

First time we´ve seen pineapple outside a shop, I actually thought they would grow on trees

First time we´ve seen pineapple outside a shop, I actually thought they would grow on trees

Saying farwell to our old Luz del Mundo friends Dan and Nas

Saying farwell to our old Luz del Mundo friends Dan and Nas

Henrik posing on main street

Henrik posing on main street

There are loads of cowboys in Salento, though we did not see any indians

There are loads of cowboys in Salento, though we did not see any indians

Posted by hmontonen 22:01 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Popayan crossing over to Colombia

overcast 21 °C

After 1 ½ month in Ecuador we were finally leaving. We had to leave really early as the first stretch in Colombia is supposedly still not very safe its recommended that you do it during the day. After a few hours on a bus, a short taxi trip and a long wait at the boarder we were walking into Colombia. We know that things have changed and that it is now considered a safe country, but its still felt pretty exiting being in Colombia after the reputation it used to have.

It did not take very long before the scenery to change a lot from Ecuador. Soon our minibus was driving up and down green covered mountains. The scenery was amazing; sometimes the road would be curving next to a 1000 meter cliff with rivers and waterfall. We met some really nice Colombians on the bus, who told us that it’s been raining much more this year than normal and we noticed that the road was in a very bad condition. Saw loads of landslides and big rocks that had fallen down on the road. It was one of the worst roads we´ve been on so far probably similar to the worst roads in Bolivia. In addition, they would either play some terrible music really loud or put on some horrible (and much to Laura´s annoyment very sexist) standup show. In the end the trip took about twice the time we had been told when buying the tickets. The only positive thing we can say about is that the Colombians are the friendliest people we have ever come across. We got invited to stay with the two guys that we met on the bus if we wanted.

Tired after a long bus journey we took a taxi from the station. However, we had to stop and take out money on the way. The taxi driver thought he could charge us double the fare for this and we had a big fight outside the hostel, being called load of names. Ok so there are assholes in every country, perhaps they are fewer here anyway.

It was nice to stay in a backpacker place again after having stayed in more locally owned places. Straight away we met people and it was a lot due to this that we enjoyed our time in Popayan so much. In addition to chatting to loads of people in the hostel we got to know a friendly Swedish guy and a funny English guy that we went out for drinks with. There is not really so much to do in Popayan, but it’s a nice little city to wonder around in. Most of the city is colonial style, however we wondered off a bit from the center and were shocked how run down and poor it was just a few 100 meters away. Suppose that it will take a while before the country can really be fixed and be completely safe.
A weird thing in Colombia is that anything sold in a real container e.g. a tetra pack, glass jar; plastic bottle etc is very expensive. Instead you have to buy things in plastic bags if don’t want to pay a fortune for a bottle of water. How the hell do you drink a 5 liter plastic bag or even keep it when it can’t be closed or anything? The same with milk, yogurt or other things that you want to put in the fridge? Oh well at least the beers are sold as usual, abide a bit on the expensive side.

We took a short trip to a nearby village to visit the hot springs. This was by far the prettiest setting and the coolest pools. There were 5-6 different pools, two being connected by a 60 meter long water slide, set in a landscape similar to Switzerland with waterfalls coming down from the mountains. Unfortunately we only realized on the way out that there was also a mud pool, but it was a great place anyway. Also again we were pleasantly surprised how friendly the Colombians were. People would come up to us in the pools and as us where we were from and talk about this and that. It’s horrible, but many times I still have the European mindset when random people come up and talk to me. I just can’t help thinking “ok this person will ask for money, try to sell me drugs or the person is drunk”. I would love if people could be like this at home, but most people would probably just try to ignore you if you did this and think like me or worse. Suppose I have to try it when I get back at least.

Laura being a tourist in front of one of the old churches in town

Laura being a tourist in front of one of the old churches in town

The old bridge might not be that long, but crossing it is like going to a different country, poverty and pretty scary neighbourhoods

The old bridge might not be that long, but crossing it is like going to a different country, poverty and pretty scary neighbourhoods

Henrik hiding in the bush in front of the cathedral

Henrik hiding in the bush in front of the cathedral

How cool were these hot springs, there was even a long waterslide

How cool were these hot springs, there was even a long waterslide

The view from one of the hot spring pools

The view from one of the hot spring pools

Posted by hmontonen 21:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Otavalo a short stopover before leaving Ecuador

semi-overcast 15 °C

After a week of surfing we left Montañita with a bad hangover, but with great memories. We took yet another overnight bus heading north. As the first stretch in Colombia is a bit dangerous we decided to stop over in Otavalo in the north of Ecuador to then travel this dangerous stretch during the day. Otavalo is famous for having what is considered the largest handcraft market in South America. Unfortunately this is only on Saturdays. Still there was loads of handicrafts stands everywhere. I managed to buy some cheap juggling balls. We had expected a very traditional village, but the place was actually considerable modern and even had some trendy bars, restaurants and shops (well trendy in Ecuadorian standard).

We were suppose to only stay one night and then head up to Colombia, but Laura had to hand in one of her assignments for school so we had to stay for another night. The first day I wandered around the streets a bit by myself. There were some interesting market stalls, but nothing really special. Great place to shop for souvenirs though.

The second day, after Laura handed in her assignment, we decided to go for an excursion. After a pretty hard climb we were out in the countryside. The nature was nothing special, but we went to visit a bird sanctuary that was pretty nice. Especially cool was the flight demonstration that they put on. The birds would fly and catch food thrown in the air. Sometimes they would fly away for a few minutes and come back in crazy speed and land on this buys hand. Laura got to hold the smallest bird that they had for a bit.
After the show we tried to walk some strange shortcut to this waterfall. However, the path was really difficult to follow and there were loads of crossroads. It was raining and it started to get dark so we were rushing down the steep mountain through this forest. Quite a mission, but luckily we Swedes are born with a GPS and we came out of the forest at the perfect spot. We missed the waterfall, but at least we did not have to sleep in a forest, though we were completely soaked when we got back to the hostel.

Laura againt the american eagle

Laura againt the american eagle

White owl...remember Harry Potter?

White owl...remember Harry Potter?

Laura got to hold the small bird

Laura got to hold the small bird

Posted by hmontonen 20:33 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 54) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »