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Published: January 26th 2016
First off apologies it´s taken over 2 weeks to get this done, backpackers don´t rely on PCs the way they used to, so finding somewhere with a computer and good enough internet connection is tricky. Also, apologies for any poor spelling, everything is in Spanish, so I have no spellchecker.
After leaving Nottingham on Thursday night for an over night bus to the airport, an entire day of planes on Friday including a 2 hour delay on the final flight from Bogata the 29 hour journey to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast finished. We were greeted at the airport by a very organised official taxi rank and rapidly wisked to our hostel by a very polite and helpful taxi driver who even returned Chris´s small rucksack which he left in the taxi.
After a decent night sleep we found Cartagena to be a beutifully maintained old port town filled with colonial builds with flower filled balconies. It was a lovely relaxed town to start our trip, spending a couple of days wondering about in the less hot parts of the day and watching the sun set over the sea in the evening.
Our next step was a bus
ride to Santa Marta further along the coast, to arrange a hike in the Colombian jungle to see an abandoned pre colonial city. Santa Marta is much more of a working city and chock-a-block with Colombian tourists, partially because we were slap bang in the middle of Colomian tourist period. After taking some advise and talking to a couple of tour companies we decided to do te 4 day trek through the Colobian jundle to ´Ciudad Perdida´ and headed off the next morning.
It was hot and hard; hotter and harder than we had prepared ourselves for and for the first two days we suffered, trekking up the long steep hils in the blazing equatorial sun, 8-10 hours a day, but always treated to a swim in a jungle lagoon at the end of the day to cool off. To our suprise we were consistantly given huge quantities of really good food whenever we had a break or reached the end of a day. On the third day we reached our furthest point, the lost city which had always been known to the local Indians but had been kept secret from the conquering Spanish. There we met with the
headman of the Koguis tribe who more-or-less still control the lost city and have an active and (seemingly) happy presense all along the 40km route. On our last day we returned the way we came (downhill mostly this time) and returned to civilisation filthy and tired, but pleased with ourselves.
Next stop was Mompos - once a busy river port but forgotten when the river changed course and more or less unchanged since it was built by the Spanish in the 1700s. We spent our two evenings there with a Colombian who spoke fluent English - Mateo - and spent an unfair amount of time grilling him about Colombian recent history, culture and attitudes. As a backpacker it´s impossible to get under the skin of a country unless you speak the language fluently (we speak well enough to order food in a restaurat and book a bus journey) so it was great to have someone to quiz, Colombians generally speak little or no English so we´re happy to have learnt the Spanish we have. We were lucky enough to do a boat tour of the wetlands - Mompos is on an island in hundreds of square miles of the
The headman of the indiginous people who own ´Ciudad Perdida´
stuff - and it was utterly gorgous. We saw a huge variety of birds and got to watch the sun go down over banana plantations after swimming in the warm water.
We hung out there for a few days before heading to a town with a more interesting name than it´s contents deserve - Bacaramanga - where the most exciting thing we could find to do in the evening was watch the new star wars film (1 pound fifty each, can´t compain) before heading to a far more worthwhile place, ´La Mesa De Los Santos´ to go climbing.
The most interesting places are usually those most difficult to get to, and it was the case with ´Los Santos´we got a local bus out to almost the end of the line, got off on a bend and were left with barely a building in view except our hostel and a climbing wall with some of the best routes in South America. It was fantastic to be away from the cities, spending time with like minded people and great climbing. Definitely a highlight of the trip so far.
Over the years we´ve got all kinds of modes of transport
but to get from Los Santos we had to get two local buses, get off at an adventure park then get a cable car into a valley and up the otherside, getting off at an adventure park on the otherside. It was a crazy way to get from one town to another but probably the most beautiful form of transport I´ve ever taken with views up and down the valley that looksed like it had been carved out of sand and stone.
Where we are now, San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia so we decided we couldn´t let this opportunity pass without going class IV white water rafting. Although Alice wouldn´t put it as strongly as me, it was amazing. It has the same thing I love about climbing outdoors, doing something slightly scary and fantastic somewhere really beautiful and remote. Park of the enjoyment was getting out the boat during the slow white-water free sections and slowly drifting down the river watching the wildlife and scenery slowly drift by.
Over the next few days we will make our way to a volunteering project we are doing just on the otherside of the capital, Bogota, where
we will be helping a community construct a house in the hills.
So far Colombia has been amazing. The weather is great, the people are kind and helpful and the country is incredibly diverse and beautiful. Bring on the rest of the trip!
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