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Published: October 3rd 2005
The salsa capital of the world. And so...I left Bogota on a bus to Medellin for reasons I now can't remember.
It's a good job I wasn't there for the weekend because I can't salsa.
I spent three days in Medellin with 3 friends I met on the bus - they were going to Medellin for a 10 day book fair, and have promised to show me further around Bogota upon my return there. I went to see my mate Patrick at the Casa Kiwi before he left for Quito with his bad back, and I did very little else in those three days.
*** Before I forget, I have to give special mention to something here that really unhinges me about Colombia - apart from uncomfortable pillows everywhere. It's the shop assistants. Every clothes shop you enter an assistant will pounce on you immediately and follow you all around the place just staring at you idioticly and recommending hideous clothing items... I always tell them I am just looking and not buying and they always continue to follow me around like a lapdog! I find it excruciating and infuriating and just want to slap them across their beautiful Colombian faces - but of course I wouldn't. I just had to share that with you. La Zona
The coffee zone or La Zona Caftetera
is an area of land set between the critical coffee-growing altitudes of 1000m and 2000m, 5 hours south of Medellin. I stayed there at a place called Plantation House for 3 or 4 days and the weather was lovely and the scenery gorgeous. Salento is a small town of 4000 people where swarms of rich Colombians head for the weekend to party, chill out, eat and bring their noisy kids. At the same time there was some kind of mountain biking competition going on - so it was pretty busy there. At the hostel I got talking to the owner, Tim, and some other travellers about the different ways I could spend longer in Colombia other than with a tourist visa... And now I have some interesting ideas and information to go on with for the future! I also met a funny Swiss guy there who had also come across the weedy little man from the Backpackers Hostel in Caracas, Venezuela. Oh, how we laughed at the little fella and his milk-bottle glasses and hunched-frame. He's a legend in his own underpants, that one.
On my last
night there, a few us from the hostel went to play a game called ´Tejo'. It is a game that basically revolves around two teams throwing a weight (similar to the old fashioned weighing-scale weights) into a square tray filled with clay. In the centre of the clay is a circle surrounded by 4 fire-crackers that explode loudly when impacted. You throw from a distance of about 5 metres to about 15 metres (if you are really good at it!). Needless to say, my team lost about 20-12 because we had two girls who couldn't reach the target and yet another very tall Dutch guy who, it seems, couldn't see the target. I scored a few points but couldn't keep up with their 3 or 4 Tejo assassins. I have been invited to another game when I return to Bogotà with Mario and his mates... It is really a drinking game because you don't pay to play - you just have to buy beer and get sloshed! Cali
I came here for a few days straight from the coffee zone and headed for the Calidad House Hostel which, I was told by the owner of Plantation House
in Salento, was a bit of a party hostel with pictures of footballers and naked women on the walls and should be avoided (I thought to myself...Jesus man, as if I would avoid it? ). But, a party
hostel? after booking in, it transpired I was the only traveller there amongst 20 or 30 other empty beds! Although, I must admit it was strange and at the same time liberating to have a full hostel to myself, the hammock, the TV, the kitchen, the shower, the peace and the quiet. There are two big, fat, ugly and lazy dogs that also live there and do nothing
but sleep all day. The Colombian fella that works there is also a bit odd too. He´ll say next to nothing to you, avoid eye-contact and make strange noises when you are not in the room. There being only three humans in the hostel at the time, you could hear almost everything that goes on in the empty building. And this guy liked to make strange noises to his dogs... A kind of whimpering almost. Maybe it is just his way of showing them affection in this white-walled, sanitised hostel?
The town of Salento in the coffee-growing zone of Colombia.
for Cali itself? Morrissey couldn't have coined it better... ''The rain falls hard on a humdrum town''
There 's not much there really. It's reasonably warm and slightly humid all day, and has a town centre. That's all really. Although I was only there during the week I suppose it comes alive on the weekend because, apparently, it really is the
salsa capital of the world. Back to Bogota
Well friends, family and random readers... I am now back in cold, cold Bogota. On my second day here I got talking to 3 English lads who had just arrived the night before in the Platypus hostel. We had wanted to go and watch some football at the stadium, but, it had been drizzling for a few hours and we didn't fancy getting soaked. So, we decided to seek out a pub for a few beers to pass the afternoon away. I knew the streets a bit better so guided us to the only one I could find open, a few streets downhill
from the hostel, a place called Mi Candelaria. Soon after cracking open the first beers, a torrential thunderstorm started outside with some of the
The table at the Calidad Hostel
A British-themed hostel, vile but true.
heaviest rain I have seen since Guatemala with booming thunder to match it. Now...I hadn't noticed the pub was effectively situated in a ditch, for want of a better word, with sloping streets on all sides of us. So, naturally, as soon as the drains couldn't cope with the volume of water - the ditch
started to collect water. Within 10 minutes the pub was flooded with about 10 inches of water and we were trapped standing on the tables! The electricity cut out and the music was over. I don't know which was worse. Every time a car passed outside a wave of water would come flooding in, and the owner who looked remarkably like Elvis Costello would shake his head in disbelief and come a little bit closer to crying at the damage being done.
Luckily, after an hour, the rain eased off, the basement filled up with the surplus water and the police came to unblock the drains - but what a drag, we only wanted a beer. That's Locombia for you!
Last friday I visited La Zona Rosa in Bogota. This is where all the main nightlife, rich Colombians, trendies and wannabies
A god of Colombian football
The man with the hair. Valderrama.
At the Hostal Calidad, Cali.
are and I finally found somewhere where they serve beer in a PINT glass! Yes, it's true, I was so happy, like being home again on the mad & bad streets of Wales. I still haven't seen anywhere serving cider and it's incredibly difficult finding a good cup of tea. It's always super-sweet coffee. Yesterday I paid a brief visit to a mountain look-out called Monserrate high above Bogotà, an expensive cable car journey takes you the top of a mountain for a vast view of the sprawling, smog-bound Bogotà. Not overly impressive for the price.
After much soul-searching and logical thinking, I have decided to leave Colombia very soon for Ecuador, a 26 hour bus journey from Bogota! Well, I may just chicken-out and do a half and half trip of 12 hours each to the border? I planned on renewing my visa here for another month, but, I am sure I am going to return in the future at some point and so will do all the other things I missed when I return and it'll give me more time in Peru and Chile later on. I have said my goodbyes to some great friends I
Great sporting moments. A genius at his peak.
have made in Bogotà and have recieved the wonderful ''our doors are always open & this is your second home ''
speeches from them. I leave with a heavy heart and doubt very much whether I´ll meet people so friendly on the rest of my travels, time will tell.
Vive Colombia. Jamie,
The Platypus Hostel,
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