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Published: November 8th 2007
Our morning in Tayrona Park
We arrived in Santa Rosa, Peru to finish off our time in Peru. It was not much of a town. Dirt roads, small huts, and dirty. Luckily, we only had to go through a quick customs line and we were off on a 3 minute boat ride into Leticia, Colombia. In this region 3 countries come together. To the west is Peru. Northeast is Colombia. Southeast is Brazil. From the water you can see all three. When we landed in Colombia, we knew instantly that we were in a different country. Unlike Peru, Colombia has money and it is apparent. The streets were paved and there were stores for companies such as Puma and Nike in buildings that looked as though they would last through an Earthquake (sorry to all those whos lives were lost in the recent Peruvian Earthquake). It was a surprise considering that Leticia is a small city with only 30,000 people. To the south of Leticia is Tabatinga, Brazil. Because of the close proximity, there is not a customs check and the people are free to walk in between the two. This convenience allowed Natalie and I to ¨tour¨Brazil for 45 minutes the next day to purchase
View from Above
In the mountains above Bogota
some AMAZING sandals that ALL Australians wear, but pay $25 for. We found them and paid only $3 because Havaiana is a Brazilian company. In all honesty, the sandals are nothing to get too excited about. I would rather wear a comfortable set of Rainbows than these rubber things.
Anyway, we did not do much in this town because it was only a jumping point to Bogota. We were lucky enough to see a nice big bar fight that night though. It lasted for a 5-10 minutes with guys and girls involved. Very exciting! It made our nerves relax when the police actually showed up to stop it. In the morning we bought our plane tickets and flew to Bogota.
Bogota has been the biggest surprise of my trip. Not only is it incredibly large (more than 7 million people), but it has so much wealth flowing through it that its hard to describe. Streets were clean, toilet paper in public bathrooms, people dressed up in suits, and young adults going to college. It is so amazing and I fell in love with the city immediately. We met up with one of Jeff´s friends Angie while we were
there. We were lucky enough to have her show us some of the REALLY nice areas. The first night, after dinner with her and her parents, she showed us around a cool area and took us to an Indian cafe. The coffee there is more expensive than the coffee at home. $4 for a cup. Unreal. I have been used to eating meals for $1 everyday in Peru. Although it was expensive, the place was very fun and the service was great. The next place Angie showed us was the shopping part of the town called Zone T. Designer clothes and expensive food. I did not care for the shopping part, but the girls loved it. I just enjoyed the tasty Mexican food we ate. Bogota is the first place on my trip that I have been able to find tacos. The craving was almost too much to take, but Bogota serves up some quality mexican food (and all others foods as well). During our time in Bogota, Natalie and basically did a lot of wandering of the streets. We found cool shops and small streets to drink coffee and/or eat some awesome ice cream. There are two big chains
in Colombia that we have seen everywhere. 1. Juan Valdez Cafe is the Starbucks of Colombia, but with quality coffee. 2. Crepes and Waffles is a upper class ice cream parlor that serves a variety of ice creams, coffees, foods, and salads, along with great places to sit around and relax. We have made sure to visit all that we have come across, and usually more than once.
In Bogota, everything seems safe as could be anywhere else. We had no problems while in the city. It was not until after an event that we found out we almost got scammed. It included a fake police officer in street clothes, a fake Venezuelan, two tourists, and hopefully lots of money. They did not get any money from us, but proved to be a rather convincing act. Anyway, it was listed in our hostel as the first most common crime committed on unsuspecting tourists. The other event that we hoped to take part in, but were not lucky enough to witness live was a Colombia VS. Sao Paulo Brazil Football (Soccer) match. It was the quarterfinal game for the South American Cup and it was being played in Bogota. Tickets
Reflecting on the View
a small cove 20 minutes from Taganga by foot.
were expensive and we couldn
t go. Watching it on TV was just as good...right? Well it was okay because Natalie was sick and I had an ear problem that was hurting really badly. Other than a cable car that we road up in the mountains with to view the city of Bogota, we did not do much else. The entire time there was fantastic.
NEXT Stop: Santa Marta, Taganga, and Tayrona
We took an 18 hour bus ride to Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast and then a quick 20 minute bus ride into the fishing village of Taganga. From above, the water in the cove of Taganga looks amazing. Blues, greens, a little brown, but thats normal. Up close, its a little different. Trash and pollution from the boats. It was too much for us to want to enjoy a swim which was a total bummer and not what we expected. With some help of a fellow Americano from Florida, we found a one room place to sleep with a cool window (see the pictures- its the one with a lifesaver window) Next, we went hunting for SCUBA diving companies to get our PADI certifications with.
There is a recommended place called Poseidon that looked very professional and had a practice pool. We opted to go with a cheaper company that did all of their dives in Tayrona National Park and had a hut that we could sleep in for free during our few days of the course. We were sold, even though the owner of the company looked like he had just finished snorting a lot of cocaine with the way he was shaking. Our course included 6 dives (2 extra if you pass the final exam with 100%) and to pass the certification exam you take 4 quizzes and watch 5 videos. During the first dive, Natalie almost freaked out and quit, but our instructor did his job quite well and calmed her down. It may have been easier on her nerves if we had been in a pool, but instead we were about 9 feet down on the ocean floor. On our second dive the first day, we were already going down 65 feet, which is deeper than any non certified diver is supposed to go. It was very fun, but questionable as to how our company was running business. Whatever, its not like we were putting our lives in danger.... Although we planned to stay in the owners hut in Tayrona, the waves were too big for us to enter the rocky beach, so we headed back to Taganga. On day two, we were back down to 30 feet or so doing all of our practice exercises. Ex. taking off your mask, sharing air with your buddy, balancing techniques. We were blessed to see a 4-5 foot shark sleeping in a little hole on our 4th dive which helped make the experience more exciting because the visibility was very limited (only 20 feet or so). Day 3 was only fun dives because we finished our final exam and did all of the learning exercises. They were fun, but the pain in my ear had return at this point and was making me a little scared to put much pressure on my head. All turned out well and our course was over...or so we thought. When we got back, the cocaine shivering manager did not have any of the paperwork done. He hadn´t picked up our photos, graded our tests, filled out the forms, or retrieved our log books. Instead he sat on his butt all day doing nothing. There were almost no people in Taganga, and Natalie and I were the only people in the course by day 3. At first it was not much cause for concern because we could pick up the contents the next morning instead. Unlucky for us, the tweaker was not anywhere to be found, nor any of our paperwork. Natalie was able to talk to him on the phone, but he hung up on her more or less at one point and told us to be at the dive shop later in the day. We were getting annoyed at this point because we were heading out to Santa Marta that day and into Tayrona the next. My ear at this point was in so much pain as well, that I needed to see a doctor in the other town. We left Taganga, and returned later to meet the guy. Of course he wasn´t there. His nose bleed became too much so he went to the hospital or something. An hour later when we returned as we were told, again no paperwork other than the certification information. Great we had our papers, but no picture and someone other than our dive instructor signed it claiming to be our instructor. At this point we were becoming furious and we were not sure whether or not our course had been fully legit. Upon searching online for the company, we found out that only Poseidon is a certified company, making us very nervous. In the morning we headed back to the dive shop to surprise them and get all the details and paperwork that we needed. Before going in though, we stopped at Poseidon to ask about our company, Nautilus. It turns out the papers are actual certification papers, but the persons name is incorrect. Instead of working for Nautilus, our ïnstructor¨that signed the papers worked at Poseidon. At first, we thought the papers and been forged because the entire Poseidon company had come to look at what we all discovered including the guy who ¨signed¨our papers. He played dumb and this company seemed very interested that a competitor was cheating the business by forging PADI instructors names and certification #s on their students papers. Next, we headed to Nautilus to talk to the manager and show him what we found out- hopefully to get a refund. He was nervous as soon as we showed up. 1st. he came right out and told me that I deserved 2 free dives for my 100% on the test. 2nd, he kept trying to talk, really really fast ,but this time we would get the final word. We let him know we knew all about his little scam and that we were sick of his lies. We had found out he was not the owner of the company, didnt own the hut, and that his cousin was not actually his cousin. The jerk lied to us the whole time. He decided to call his ¨cousin¨ aka the instructor who signed our papers. It turns our the guy actually did sign the forms. He was taking kickbacks from this company to sign the forms because he was one of the only instructors in the area certified through PADI. He was just trying to make more money, as he kept this entire company afloat. He went through the information we had learned in the course to make sure we had learned it (we had) then he took us to a beautiful compound on the other side of Santa Marta to go through our Log Books to ¨log¨our dives. We were just happy that our certifications were real. None of this information would have come about if the Manager, not owner, had not lied to us about everything. We may have also help shut the company down because there is no way Poseidon is going to let any of this slide (they sell the books, certification papers, and log books to all of the other dive companies in the area) In the end we were trained well and deserve our certifications. The situation had been fixed and we could now head off to Tayrona for a couple of days.
Our walk into Tayrona started off wonderfully. The rain caused so much mud that we were up to our mid calves. It was so much fun to walk through barefoot and have the mud squish between our toes. It truly felt like being a little kid and doing something I shouldn´t. I love being rebellious. The walk was not too long, only an hour through the jungle. When we reached our first destination we just melted. The beautiful beach of Arrecifes was a site we had not seen in a while. For me, not since Costa Rica and it was the first of its kind for Natalie in South America (the Australians are harder to impress when it comes to beaches....theirs are just perfect according to them). We just hung out on this beach for the day and walked around looking for others. The walk on the beach was made difficult by huge boulders that were stacked in many areas. We did come across a 5 star looking hotel in one place. It had 14 huts, all with ocean views, great restaurant, and many other attractions. It looked like the perfect romantic getaway. During the evening, we had some time to catch up on our journals and relax in our hammocks. At least until the huge toads came out to play. There were tons of them and actually hard to catch. We spent some time catching them and taking photos. In the morning, we woke up for a great sunrise over the ocean and then packed up our stuff to go on another hour hike down the beach. This time, our destination was Cabo San Juan. A place well known and recommended by travelers. It was a beach that consisted of two small coves with clear blue/green water. In between the coves was a mound of boulders and dirt. On top was a gazebo type structure where you could hang up your hammocks and sleep for the evening. After about 100 photos and a swim in the water, we decided to leave. The place was too crowded for our liking and we would save some money by heading back into Santa Marta. Our decision was one of the best we had made thus far. While walking out we passed about 100 people walking in. It turns out it was Saturday and Colombia had a 3 day weekend for a holiday. The night before, we could only see 2 other people in our area. The night before, it did not rain, and a lot of the mud had dried up making our walk back easy. All in all, the Tayrona visit was fantastic and the beaches were gorgeous. Well worth the trip for anywhere travelling nearby.
Random Note: The picture of the guy and girl that I have is of the man we met from Florida. (Burt and Gina)It turns out he married this Colombian girl a few weeks before. They met 2 years ago. He does not speak a word of spanish, she understands a decent amount of english, but does not speak it. He is not loaded with money and plans to open a hostel in Taganga on his property. He is a nice guy, but still not sure how he got the most beautiful girl I have seen on my trip to marry him. Hes 40-45 years old and shes somewhere between 20-25. Lucky man. We spent a lot of time hanging out with them cooking on his bbq and I had to get a picture of them to show all of you.
The picture of the two young girls is of Burt´s neighbors. The little black girl is adorable and normally doesnt pose for pictures, but the other girl wanted to pose, so she got in on the action as well.
Check out the photos!
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