We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around South America for a second time. The first time of around, we met on a minibus in Santiago, Chile. Ten years later we’re back with little Betty in tow. This time around is going to be very different! For one, it includes Colombia. I still remember other travellers saying it was their favourite country in the continent and the disappointment of not being able to get up there.
Landing in Bogota as team Jacques, it was even more exciting, as ‘Uncle Dan Dan’, Nay’s brother was coming to meet us for the Colombia leg. Bogota was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t expect too much, but liked it. There’s a lot to do, mainly in the touristy Candelaria neighbourhood and we found a hostel where the owners had a little boy, Noah, who was a similar age to Bet. It was nice that she had a friend for a few days at least. It was also nice to meet up with Henry, who we travelled with back in 2005. He was now living in Bogota and took us out for a night. Thanks a lot, it was much needed and great to see you. Good timing on Dan’s part meant that he had babysitting duty a couple of days in. I don’t know who was more nervous, us or Dan! If your thinking of skipping Bogota don’t, you’ll probably end up liking it.
Internal flights are the way to go in Colombia. It’s a big country, much bigger than you think looking at the map. It’s also very mountainous making the bus journeys over long and tortuous roads not the most appealing. Above all else though is the fact that the flights are good value, really good value and Avianca the national airline is top notch.
Our flight from Bogota to Santa Marta was the first of three internal flights and meant a return to the heat of the Caribbean coastline. We travelled to the backpacker town of Palomino, which was a decent place to relax and ease Dan into the travelling.
Taganga was the next stop along the coast. Super affordable diving, the cheapest bags of water we saw in the whole of Colombia and the BEST BBQ your getting along this coast courtesy of Casa Moringa. Just don’t expect a ‘Caribbean beach’.
I’m not sure what happened, but we really started to feel the heat from Taganga on. The hottest ‘Air con’ bus we’ve ever been on took us to Cartagena, the colonial jewel of Colombia and also the hottest place, bar the Iraqi desert, i’ve ever been too. Well at the time it felt like it anyway. We ate the best street food in Colombia here and even Betty ate ok, considering she was on hunger strike, things were looking good…..Well apart from the heat.
Next stop Medellin. First mistake was staying for six nights in an Airbnb flat as we didn’t meet like minded travellers. Second mistake was not researching kids play areas. How hard can it be to find a playground for a little Betty who only wanted a swing, for the first time in her life? Medellin though was an ok city with a great Botero museum and metro system including cable cars for quality views of the city.
Also we have never seen such an eclectic mix of fruit. We had already tried a few new fruits along the coast, however in Medellin everyday was a treat day trying the next peculiar looking one from the fresh fruit aisle! See the ‘likes’ for our faves. For a shortish day trip from the city, take the bus to Guatape, it’s up there as one of our favourite towns in Colombia.
Jardin, Spanish for garden, was next on the list. Unbeknown to most Colombians outside of Medellin but definitely worth the journey even though we had a highly dramatic bus journey. Lets just say there were a lot of sick bags and groaning. For the first time it wasn’t Betty! Jardin as the name suggests is full of flowers, the main square was the nicest main square we saw in Colombia. Eight rose gardens, a nice church and plenty of locals sitting with their coffee and tintos. People watching at its best. Continuing the cable car theme there are two in Jardin, one of which consists of a garden shed on a wire. The other one takes you up to a shack on a hill overlooking the town, this IS the place for a sundowner, although the cable stops at 6 p.m! Never mind.
After eight hours, three buses and a well rehearsed sick drill, we arrive in Salento. Salento is in Zona Cafeteria, coffee is the name of the game in these parts. You can get a decent brew and its a great little town for a few days. We even experienced an earthquake one night. It shook Steve and woke Dan and Nay, whilst Betty was non the wiser. A little reminder again that the Earths rules are different in these parts.
A short pitstop in Bogota and an emotional goodbye to Uncle Dan Dan, was followed by a horrific bus journey to Villa De Leyva. Which is not three hours away by the way! VDL is a beautiful town though.
Throughout Colombia we met some nice travellers and locals but it was markedly more difficult travelling with Betty on this leg of our adventure. Nay and Betty seem to have ‘synced their cycles’ which meant trouble for the boys. Betty also decided she wasn’t eating in Colombia which meant meal times were challenging to say the least. Having Dan with us was great though and Betty made the most of her skills at manipulating us adult folk.
Just touched down in Buenos Aires, Argentina and things feel more comfortable straight off. Maybe it’s because we’ve been here before but probably because Betty has food back on the agenda! Ooooooohhhhh we love a good empanada……….
- Comida Casera Cafe at Mercado la Concordia and La Puerta Falsa. The choices for breakie in the Candelaria. Lamb shank soup for breakfast really? Yes.
- Graffiti tour Bogota. Do it.
- Botero Museum in Medellin. The one in Bogota is good, but Medellin’s is better.
- Juan Valdez Cafe in Cartagena. Air Con has never felt so good.
- Granadilla and Yellow Pithaya. Out of all the Colombian fruits and there are many, these two were the winners. Must try’s.
Most used phrases:
- Why’s she got one trouser leg up again!?
- We need to wash her hair tonight!
- Gasp!!! (Dan’s short intake of air), careful!!! (Dan to Betty), she’s fine! (Steve and Nay to Dan)
- Why does she run like that? Cute though.
- Did you hear that!? I’ve not heard her say that before.
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