Favorite Things: Colombia

When we got to Colombia we knew it would be special for a lot of reasons. One, it was our first time in South America, a continent that we plan to spend a long time exploring. Two, it was a country with a lot of negative stigma, which we tend to see as a challenge to prove the world wrong. In this case we won; Colombia is amazing! And three, our timing was extremely fortunate because it seemed like a ton of Overlanders were all converging on Colombia at the same time from the north and the south! We got to meet some of our heroes Julie and Markus of Tuck’s Truck, see Gabby and Sandro of Vanabundos who we hadn’t seen since Nicaragua, and meet so many new friends who have been traveling South America.

We found Colombia to be warm, inviting, and most of all safe for us. Though there are still problems, as in any country that has gone through recent violence, we were so fortunate to experience nothing but good things from the locals and the people most affected. They welcomed us with open arms and wanted to hear more about us and mostly how we were enjoying their country. We are so lucky to have met these people and visited this incredible place!

Stats List:

Arrived in Colombia: November 16th, 2017
Left Colombia: January 6th, 2018
Miles Driven: 1,904
Different types of “animal crossing” signs seen: 20
Number of animals seen: only lizards and never on the road…
Number of people at our Christmas dinner: 22
Number of books read: Taylor- 8, KP- 2
Escape Rooms done: 2
Nights we were up past midnight: Like 5, which is just ridiculous for us, but Colombia is a country that likes to start partying late, so when in Rome I guess…

Taylor’s Favorites:

 

1.     Favorite town: Tie between Cartagena and Salento. Both stick out because we spent a lot of time there and had exceptionally good food and experiences. Both are a bit touristy, but that offers you an abundance of things to do. But for all out beauty of landscape on top of good food and activities, Salento would probably take the cake!

DSC08544.jpg

2.     Favorite meal: Colombian food is good, but kind of all the same throughout the country, so for me it comes down to meals we shared with friends. Thanksgiving of Octopus and Carne, Bandejo Paisas (the tipico meals of Colombia) with Jordan, having a fancy dinner with our friend Paola in Bogota, eating vegan hot dogs (surprisingly good) with Gabby and Sandro, finding the best Indian food in Colombia with new friends in Salento, and Christmas dinner with 20 other overlanders.

3.     Most unexpected thing: How warm the Colombian people are. By far the most inviting and friendly people we’ve met on the trip, even beating out Mexico! They seemed genuinely happy to have a couple gringos in their country, no matter where we were!

4.     Favorite encounter: We were having a quick lunch at our friends Jo and Phil’s van after hiking the Cocora Valley, when we were all approached by a young kid about 10 who asked Phil, “did you really drive your van all the way from New Jersey?” Turns out his Colombian family, who joined us a few moments later, all live in New Jersey and were here visiting the rest of their family still in Colombia for Christmas. The extended family all gathered around us asking questions about our travels, how we liked Colombia, etc. and then we all took pictures together in front of the van. It was pretty crazy!

5.     Favorite Local Beer:  Aguila, might have been my favorite of all the national beers we’ve had so far!

6.     Favorite drive: The back road Cajamarca to Salento was epic! A drive that is about 6 hours, took us almost three days because we kept stopping to get pictures and videos, and to camp in beautiful remote wild camps. Check out the video KP made of our drive.

7.     Best free experience: Doing Zumba with a huge group of locals in the square in Cartagena! Such a blast!

8.     Most frustrating thing: We saw signs for animal crossings EVERYWHERE in Colombia, from anteaters to opossums to monkeys to sloths, but never saw anything more exciting than a huge lizard in Tagonga. Please enjoy this slideshow of all the animals you can (NOT) see in Colombia!

9.     Favorite experience: We had lots of amazing experiences in Colombia, but one of my favorites was getting up at 4:45am to hike up the side of Cerro Kennedy and watch the sunrise with Megan and Nick. It was pretty amazing!

10.  Best thing about the country: Colombian people really made it one of the best countries we’ve visited so far, but what also helped with that is that it is a VERY affordable country to visit. The exchange rate is in our favor right now, so after Costa Rica and Panama and the expensive of shipping, it was really nice to live within our budget again!

Favorite Picture:

I am embarrassed to say I haven't seen a lot of sunrises on this trip, but that made this one all the more special!

DSC08218.jpg

 

KP’s Favorites:

 

1.      Favorite town: Even though we spent more time in backpacker-filled Salento, it’s quieter, more reserved neighbor Filandia would have been my choice of the two were I looking for a place to live. Good restaurants, enough stores to get you supplied, and a quietly authentic town square filled with old men drinking coffee and children playing tag.

DSC08537.jpg

2.     Favorite meal: Christmas dinner at Steel Horse of course!

3.     Most unexpected thing: How slick a Colombian mountain bike trail can become with a little rain.

4.     Favorite encounter: Meeting up with Paola. We’d met her years ago on a Mediterranean cruise and were able to reconnect for dinner in Bogota. She’s lived in Bogota her whole life, but has worked and travelled all over the world. She brought along her friend Andres and we talked late into the night about Colombia, travel, and friendship.  

5.     Favorite beer:  Aguila. Cheap. Enough flavor you remember it’s beer. Hydrating.

 6.     Favorite drive: Definitely our 3 day wax palm drive into Salento. It was quiet, cool, and stunning.

7.     Best free experience: Camping out in the hills above Salento. Nothing around but pine trees and cool mountain air. A very welcome change from the humid parking lot camping of Central America.

8.     Most frustrating thing: All those amazing signs for exotic, wild animal crossings. We must have passed hundreds of those things, but we didn’t see even one wild animal in the whole of Colombia.

9.     Favorite experience: Learning to SCUBA in Taganga. Our school was awesome, we were camped with our friends, and it felt good to have a routine, even for a few days.

10.  Best thing about the country: How friendly everyone was. The people of Colombia are enthusiastic about their country and genuinely interested in you, where you came from, and why you’re there. Waves, smiles, and warm greetings are the norm across Colombia.

Favorite picture:

This one of Taylor and my brother Jordan looking cool on a park bench in Medellin. Jordan came to visit us for about a week and we had a great time together. I like this picture because there isn’t really anything going on, there isn’t a particularly stunning background, the focus is just on my family and their smiles.

DSC08264.jpg

Map of Colombian Campsites: