My Trip To Colombia

I left for Colombia December 14th; I found some really good ticket prices via Spirit Air, and had wanted to go there for a long time. But the strain of blogging has at times worn me out on other trips, so I decided this time to take the trip off; no worries about blogging.

To make a long story short, I spent five weeks there. Colombia is safe for tourists – except for two places, one mentioned in a story to come next week, and the other is Bogota, where armed stickups in broad daylight are common. I personally met two people who had it happen to them during my 5 days in Bogota, a city which I decidedly did not like.

The rest of Colombia is pretty cool. Cartagena was my favorite city, about the only classic colonial city that has ever actually felt classic and colonial and relatively untouristed. I mean, it is a tourist trap, but its not as developed as Puerto Vallarta or even Cuenca, Ecuador. Well, I liked it.

I next went to Capurgana, a beach village accessible only by boat on the border with Panama; spent a week there and loved it. I may blog a story or two about that later. Then I flew to Medellin, which was so-so; then I went south to Santa Rosa de Cabal, famous for hot springs, and spent a pleasant week there. ThenĀ  I went to Armenia (the town, not the country – now Ive been to both!) and went to the butterflyery (thats the literal translation).Got rained out and saw no butterflies.

Then to Bogota, where I had to cool my heels while I waited on a plane for about 5 days, then to my real destination, the Amazon. The Amazon did not disappoint, it was great, by far the highlight of the trip.

Colombia is safe. I saw no narcs, was hassled by no federales, had no close brushes with death due to drive-by-shootings. I didnt go looking for trouble, but none came looking for me, either, and thats all I ask.

Overall, I found Colombia itself to be unremarkable. Not unsafe, the people were pleasant, the scenery nice, but nothing in Colombia made me say ok, I HAVE to go back here – except the Amazon, and thats not really Colombia per se. I think if I were to return to the Amazon, Id fly to Peru and hit their Amazon – they have a lot more of it, and its easier to get to.

Plus, the Peruvian food is better. So far, everyone I know who has been to both places agrees. Colombian food is well, awful. It is bland, tough, and repetitive. Their primary meal, for both lunch and dinner, is called a Bandeja. This means a large plate with rice, fried green plantains, a piece of tough chicken, beef, or pork, and perhaps a small raw, dressingless cabbage salad and/or a soup. The soup was the only part of the meal I liked, so I wound up eating a LOT of soup in Colombia. They have this EVERY DAY, TWICE, in every part of the country where I was. Breakfast is usually scrambled eggs and coffee and a thick, chewy, homemade tortilla.

Now if you go to the large cities like Medellin and want to drop 12-15$ on a meal, you can find food as good as anywhere else; the exception is Bogota, where I never really found good food. Maybe it was there and I missed it, I dont know, but I had horrible times eating in Bogota.I recall being overjoyed when I found a vegetarian restaurant owned by Hari Krishnas and when my order came it was YELLOW! Sweet, wonderful curry and SPICES! At that, it was only marginal, but compared to what Id been eating it was wonderful.

There were some highlights foodwise; they eat hot chocolate with most meals, and all breakfasts. I got rather hooked on that. They put cheese in it in some places, which I did not get hooked on.

They had lots of juice stands all over, so I ate a lot of milkshake smoothies. They did this thing called an Arepa in some cities, notably Cartagena, which was essentially grits formed into a patty and fried. Sometimes with cheese in the middle, sometimes with honey and butter on top. Those were good, when I could get them. In other places, an Arepa was a fat chewy corn tortilla.

Hmm. I think those are actually all the highlights of the food after five weeks in Colombia. My best meals of the trip were the two days I spent in the Peruvian Amazon. Colombians are very sensitive to spice. I made some homemade ginger tea once, and nearly gagged my hosts when they tried it. Way too spicy, they said. I was so desperate for spice when I finally got back to the USA, I thought I would die. I still havent gotten over it.

But I dont mean to disparage Colombia. It really was a nice place. I talked to hundreds of other travelers though, and I found a pattern which never failed; everyone who had never been to Latin America before – those to whom Colombia was the first time – thought it was amazing.

Anyone who had been ANYWHERE else in Latin America before this trip said Colombia was so-so. Unremarkable, just like I thought. Nice, pretty, but unmemorable and with lousy food. It lacks the natural wonders of Costa Rica, the great foods of Mexico, Guatemala or El Salvador, the archeological diversity of Peru it just isnt amazing. Its fine. But I was very happy to leave after five weeks.

I do have some very nice pictures Ill post of my travels in Colombia eventually.

Posted on February 28th, 2011 by Natnee and filed under Colombia | No Comments »

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