Hello again, Loyal Reader. The month of April flew by in no time; I have some blog entries to catch up on. If all goes well, I’ll be posting twice-weekly for at least a little while, to add more content to GringoPotpourri and to keep my rabid fans sated. 🙂
I have finally made some sense of my six memory cards worth of Colombia pics. Something like 5,000 images, all told. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook can see a sampling of roughly 100 pics from Bogotá, Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Ciudad Perdida, but I’ve also posted a few more pics below. First, though: some final thoughts and observations about Colombia, no longer Gran Colombia in name but one of the grandest places I’ve yet visited.
Breaking it down (and in no particular order of importance):
- Colombia is a Pepsi country. Pepsi is the dominant soft drink, with Coke a distant second. That said, I was surprised to see Coca-Cola for sale at the camps along the Ciudad Perdida trail.
- Hormigas culonas – fat-bottomed ants – are a delicious delicacy, although they have nothing on Mexico’s popcorn-like chapulines (fried grasshoppers).
- Although I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in my Bogotá entry, it bears repeating: I have never tasted such good coffee in my life. Even in a hot city such as Cartagena, Colombian coffee really hit the spot. I have almost finished the bag I brought home with me; time for a return trip to resupply?
- Bogotá – a massive world capital at seven million people – is about a third the size of Mexico City. It is appropriately cultured for a city of its size, with enough museums, parks, and cool neighborhoods to fill up several weeks of sightseeing. I won’t say it’s completely safe – Plaza de Bolívar becomes a ghost town after dark and there are some aggressive homeless types wandering about – but if you are alert after dark you shouldn’t encounter too many problems. Bogotá is a cool place regardless; the hilly cobblestone streets and if-you-don’t-like-the-weather-then-wait-five-minutes climate reminded me of Cuzco, Peru, while the astonishing museums reminded me of my beloved Mexico City.
- Cartagena de Indias – the most well-preserved colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast – was everything I thought it would be and more. Like Bogotá, Cartagena isn’t perfect – from a mirador (lookout) high above the surrounding area I could see the city’s largest slum, otherwise well-hidden from the tourists – but the old town, beaches and surrounding residential towers are ridiculously safe, surprisingly clean, and home to what may be the best casual strolling on the continent. Indeed, if you are unimpressed by Cartagena you should probably check your wrist for a pulse.
- Santa Marta was a pleasant surprise. Though older than both Bogotá and Cartagena, Santa Marta isn’t nearly as well preserved. Still, it has a charming malecón (waterfront sidewalk), a terrific beach, and a perfect location as a springboard to a gazillion coastal, inland, and highland destinations.
- Ciudad Perdida, one such highland destination, was worth every step and ounce of pain to reach. The four-day hike was prettier than South America’s more famous Inca Trail trek, and a helluva lot harder, too. The ruins – pristine jungle terraces that our group of 12 had entirely to ourselves – don’t have that pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming oomph of, say, Machu Picchu, but they are impressive in their own right (although none of the original Tairona buildings survived). The food along the trek was good, the swimming holes were better, and the humidity was off the chart.
- The beaches are nice. I never made it to Tayrona National Park, said to have a pristine series of boulder-lined bays, but the few beaches I visited were surprisingly clean, swimmable, and perfectly warm. I am especially curious now to visit neighboring Venezuela and see what that country’s Caribbean coast has on offer.
- Finally – and something that must be addressed – is a question I got from every guy to whom I spoke after my return from Colombia: How are the women? If my girlfriend Pamela is reading is this, I’ll simply say that baby, I only have eyes for you, and that everyone else is just a fatty in comparison. For everyone else, I’ll honestly say that there are some pretty women walking around, but in general, most of them are no better looking than, say, the average Mexico City or Los Angeles female. I might have accidentally noticed that Colombian women seem to be of the oversized-mammary variety, but more interesting is the diversity in skin tones as you travel from inland Bogotá (majority Spanish-blooded) to coastal Cartagena (Afro-Caribbean) to the highland Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (indigenous). The few Colombian-born women I’ve met outside Colombia are probably better looking than the ones inside the country itself, though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Those are all the words that are fit to print…for now. Enjoy the pics I’ve shared below, and check out my Facebook page for even more. ¡Hasta pronto!
Above pic: Darkness falling upon Bogota’s La Candelaria district, as seen from the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez.
Below pic: Botero’s Gato (Cat) sculpture in his namesake Bogotá museum. Hawkers all over the country sell miniature liknesses.
Above pic: Pamela and I enjoying a mudbath at Totumo Volcano, near Cartagena. Fun!
Below pic: The girlfriend and I taking in the sun on our ridiculously-long boat ride to Playa Blanca (“White Beach”), somewhere in the Islas del Rosario. (As you can plainly see, she’s hotter than any Colombian ladies I saw walking around.)
Above pic: Santa Marta’s fabulous – and fabulously deserted – city center beach.
Below pic: Nothing special as photographs go, but this building – Santa Marta’s Customs House – is said to be the oldest colonial building in the Americas.
Above pic: The literal high point of Day One on the Ciudad Perdida hike. Somewhere beyond those clouds is Pico de Bolívar, Colombia’s highest coastal peak.
Below pic: Middle terraces, Ciudad Perdida.