I’ve mentioned in multiple blog posts previously how amazing the fruit was in Colombia. Seriously, I miss it. And the sugarcane juice, and the coconut lemonade…. mmmm… ok I digress. Walking around the colorful streets of Cartagena it’s hard to miss the equally colorful fruit ladies. The women in color blocked mumus walked around carrying fruit baskets on their heads selling mangos, coconuts, and pineapple to tourists and locals in the historic quarter of the city. The people in Cartagena, and really all over Colombia, are really friendly and happy. Despite Colombia’s history of violence and corruption, the people are positive and love to celebrate. This painting is exactly how I remember Cartagena - colorful, full of fruit and joyful!
Dubbed the adventure capital of Colombia, San Gil is the place to go if you want an adrenaline rush. From white water rafting to hang gliding, this town has it all. We woke up early the morning of James’ birthday and met up with everyone who would be rafting with us. After a 30 minute drive, we parked and carried the rafts down to the river and got briefed on what to expect. The only time I’d been rafting previously was down a lazy river, so this was my first experience in class 5 rapids.
After doing a few drills on how to row and climb back into the raft we set off down the river. It was such an adrenaline rush navigating through the rocks and rapids. At one point we were pushed up against a massive rock and nearly tipped over. Our guide Ariel wasn't exactly the calm confident leader you would want for a situation like that, however were able to make it around at the last minute.
About halfway down the river we stopped and had a snack break of fresh pineapple and watermelon. (Colombia has the best fruit!) On we continued working as a unit to make our way down the river.
Since it was James’ birthday Ariel had him sit at the very front and hang on for his life while we went through a few of the rapids. Holding onto a rope as if he was riding a bull, James was thrilled and made it through without falling off.
When it was a bit calmer we all jumped and did flips off the raft into the river and swam and floated down the river on our backs. Upon finishing we enjoyed a massive lunch and beer by the river celebrating James and the amazing day we had. White water rafting in San Gil was one of the highlights of our time in Colombia!
While traveling through Colombia, my boyfriend and I spent a few days at Finca San Pedro in Sogamoso on our way from Salento to San Gil. Snuggled in the Andes mountains the Ffinca was quiet, relaxing and surrounded by beautiful landscape. One of the highlights in this area is a hike to the Páramo de Ocetá. This Páramo is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world and boasts plants only found in this kind of high altitude microclimate. We woke up early on a cold drizzly day and caught the bus to a tiny town called Mongui to meet up with our guide, Maria. Over coffee and arepas, she mapped out the route we would be taking to see the Páramo. The plan was to start the hike in a smaller town called Mongua, pass by la Laguna Negra (Black Lagoon), climb to the highest point of the Páramo and then descend back into Monguí. After breakfast we were dropped off in Mongua and started the hike up a dirt road.
As we walked, Maria told us about the Muisca people that inhabit the area and their history. We passed by farmers and locals walking down the road and received many confused looks. Tourism has begun to grow in the adorable town of Mongui, however very few tourists have come to Mongua to-date. As we climbed in elevation, we saw less and less farms and more plants that are indigenous to the Páramo.
The trail to Laguna Negra was wet and muddy but pretty easy. We walked around the lagoon and stopped above it to admire a small waterfall and the deep dark color of the lagoon. The black water was a sharp contrast against the low white mist that hung over the lake. The rain came down harder as we continued up the mountain and our trail got more and more saturated and eventually turned into a small river.
Though it was pouring and frigid out, it was impossible not to admire the incredibly beautiful landscape and vegetation that surrounded us. Between the rain and the cold temperature our legs were soaked and numb. I could have run up that mountain because I literally couldn’t feel anything. From the top we looked down at where the lagoon used to be - now a thick white blanket of mist. We walked along the ridge for a while through a sea of frailejón (plants that look like they’re from a Dr. Seuss book). We started our descent sloshing through the knee high river formerly known as our trail, both of us grateful to have a guide, otherwise we would be completely lost. The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur as we sloshed through the Páramo.
After seven hours of hiking we were back on a dirt road and had Mongui in site. The sun was finally out and warming up our soaked, numb bodies. We passed by a house on the outskirts of town were a group of Colombians were having a BBQ in the yard. One of them recognized Maria and they all came over to greet us. They were visiting Mongui from Bogota for the long weekend. As we chat they offered us a shot of whiskey, the perfect way to commemorate the hike we had just accomplished. We hugged our new friends goodbye and made our way into town, ready to peel off our wet clothes and enjoy a hot shower and large meal.
This was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever done, but so rewarding and worth every minute. One of my best travel memories!
One of my favorite memories from Colombia was playing with the neighborhood kids in Comuna Trece - a slum in Medellin. What was once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country is now an area frequented by tourists. Over the past decade the government has worked hard to recover from years of violence and clean up the slums. In 2011 they built an outdoor escalator system to help the residents of this area climb up and down the steep hillside more easily. After finishing the
of Medellin (which I highly recommend!), my friends Kent, Aaron, my boyfriend James and I hopped on the metro to Comuna Trece.
Looking Down at the Escalators
View from the Top
We rode the chain of 6 escalators to the top, checked out the colorful graffiti, and took in the view of Medellin. After walking around a bit we stumbled upon an outdoor slide where two little boys were playing. Immediately, my friend Kent ran to the top and went down the slide with the boys. They thought we were crazy, but after a few rides they were begging us to slide down with them. A group of little girls joined us and we all took turns sliding down together.
Playing on the Slide
After snapping a few pictures I began recording the rides on my iPhone in slow motion. I showed it to the kids and they thought it was the most amazing thing ever. They begged me to record them and then laughed hysterically at themselves. Anytime we spoke in English, one of the boys, Armando, would ask me to translate everything we said.. he didn’t like to feel left out. He told us about how he wanted to be an opera singer someday, and he and the guys bonded over video games. We stayed and played with these kids for hours until they were called home. I recorded so many slow mo videos my phone ran out of storage. It was so much fun being silly and feeling young on something as simple as a slide.