Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Colombia, where everyone is a millonario

I made it back to La Hesperia from Colombia with a few bug bites, but no kidnappings, muggings or trouble with drug cartels or paramilitary groups. I think the bites were worth this spot.

With my visa problems finally solved after a fifth trip to the Ecuadorian consulate, I went straight for gorgeous Tayrona National Park where lush jungle meets the Caribbean Sea.

I was fortunate to find a pack of crackers and some cans of tuna somebody had left in my locker. In the park food costs 3 to 4 times what it does pretty much anywhere else in the country because it has to all be brought in by horse along well worn (and fertilized trails).

While trekking the coastal trails that turned from jungle to beach and back again I encountered several groups of these critically endangered Cotton-top Tamarins.

You can see where the name comes from. I happened to have studied this same species at the Providence Zoo for an animal behavior class a few years ago. To see them in the wild was an awesome surprise.

From the park I went back to Santa Marta, an old charming colonial city that lives in the tourist shadow of nearby Cartagena.

This is where most of the tourists brave enough to come to Colombia spend their time and its no wonder why. The city is a working exhibit in colonial architecture and surrounded by 12 kilometers of ramparts that afford views of city, sea and sound. I spent a full day wandering the maze of narrow streets drinking cheap and ubiquitous freshly squeezed fruit juices.

I was sad to leave the coast and sadder that I missed Colombia’s coffee region, but also looking forward to getting back to La Hesperia. Also another chance to spend some time in Bogota was nothing sneeze at.

For a city that’s probably just before Baghdad on many-a-person’s list of places to visit, it really deserves a second though. Everything is cheap, public transport, though perhaps a bit too “exciting” at times for some, makes getting around a snap, and the people quite friendly for such a dense city.

I rode the Teleferico up one of the nearby mountains my last morning and discovered its just too big to take in with one photo.

One final note: the Bogota futbol team I watched play earlier is called millonarios. But 1 million Colombian pesos is only 500 US dollars, so their name would really translate into something like thousandaires.

Go to Colombia and you´ll instantly be a millionaire!

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