The Potato Chick
Travelling, eating and my other favourite things...
In a sentence...a brilliant end to our time in South America.
Food we loved...obleas –two thin wafers with arequipe (Colombian dulce de leche) and choc bits wedged between them. It was very lucky for our waistline that we waited until our last night in Colombia to try them.
Arriving in Bogota was a pretty exciting moment. We had already transited through its airport three times and it felt good to finally be paying a visit, albeit only for one night. It also meant I could send a message to my Dad informing him I was there. It’s always been a joke between us that I have an interest in travelling to places that my parents might perceive to be obscure and/or dangerous, with Bogota being the example my Dad always used. I guess he assumed it was such a far-fetched example I wouldn’t ever actually go there. Sorry Dad.
In more bad news for my parents, I really liked Bogota.
With very limited time, we wandered the city to see its street art, the main square and the many street food vendors selling delicious cheap treats. We also visited the fantastic Botero museum. Fernando Botero is probably Colombia’s most famous artist. His signature style, also known as "Boterismo", depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume. The chubby Mona Lisa pictured below is a good example of the results.
We reunited with Steph and Quinn for a few games of Tejo. This game consists of throwing a metal disc (the “tejo”) across an alley to a board covered with clay and set at a forty-five degree angle. In the middle of the board is a pipe target where the tejo is meant to hit. Triangle-shaped envelopes filled with explosive material are placed on the edges of the pipe so that it explodes loudly upon impact. After plenty of encouragement and advice from the drunken locals playing next to us, some improvement was noted. It was a great night out.
After some more exploring on foot and brunch at a new cafe opened by a Melburnian, we bid goodbye to South America. Special thanks to Bogota for making it so hard to leave.
Next stop...Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon, USA.
San Gil, Colombia
In a sentence...the weather hampers our plans for almost the first time on our trip.
Food we loved...the enormous meat lovers breakfast burrito at Gringo Mike’s. So good that we had it twice.
San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia. For not much more than what you’d pay at home for a night at the cinema you can paraglide or tackle some of the best white water rafting and mountain biking in the world. As regular readers may have noticed, Nick quite enjoys adventure activities. And so San Gil found its way onto our itinerary.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? The river level on Rio Suarez was too high. And by the time the white water rafting trip was cancelled for the second time it was also too late to mountain bike instead. A very disappointing outcome.
We consoled ourselves with plenty of delicious food – the aforementioned breakfast burritos, ribs and cheese-stuffed arepas. We also enjoyed a day trip to the nearby colonial town of Barichara. From there, we walked to Guane before returning to San Gil. The surroundings were beautiful and we hardly saw another soul the entire walk.
Although San Gil was a lovely little town with a shady central square we left with a distinct feeling of unfinished business. Yet another destination has made it on to our “we’ll be back” list.
Next stop...Bogota, Colombia.
Caribbean coast & Minca, Colombia
In a sentence...totally relaxing.
Food we loved...it’s a tie between the delicious (and great value) dinner at Babaganoush in Taganga and all the meals at Costeno Beach Surf Camp.
With our year-long trip drawing to a close, we made a beeline for Colombia’s Caribbean coast with only one item on our agenda – relaxation.
Unfortunately, we arrived in Taganga in the midst of Easter weekend, a time when Colombians typically flock to the coast. Taganga was everything I dislike in a coastal town – scruffy, strewn with rubbish, badly malnourished dogs wandering the streets, too many people and a cacophony of bad music. Not exactly the relaxing Caribbean getaway we had been hoping for.
We avoided the main beach and hiked 20 minutes round to Playa Grande. While good fruit smoothies could be found there it was still not as picturesque as what we had expected.
Luckily, we did manage to eat really well in Taganga. We found a fabulous cafe that made enormous chicken curry baguettes for lunch and also had two delicious dinners. Nick even squeezed in some diving. The dive instructor assured him that the town was not usually so “feral”.
For a change of scenery, we spent two days high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains at Casa Elemento. We spent our time reading, lazing on the giant hammock overlooking the mountains and drinking ice cold beers. When all the relaxing got a bit too much we spent a couple of sweaty hours hiking down to a nearby waterfall, arriving back at Casa Elemento just in time for a gorgeous sunset.
Costeno & Tayrona National Park
We saved the best for last. Costeno Beach Surf Camp was a fabulous hostel right on the beach. It had that lovely feeling of being in the middle of nowhere although it was only a 20 minute walk from the main road. Meals were communal and absolutely delicious – chilli con carne, pulled pork, chicken kebabs. And the brownies...so good.
We spent one day reading on the beach all day and the other exploring nearby Tayrona National Park. We had high expectations for the park and it did not let us down. Beautiful secluded beaches, hardly any people and a bakery selling rolls filled with dulce de leche.
The only disappointment of our time here was the fact that surfing lessons were cancelled, not exactly consistent with the name “surf camp”. Life is pretty good when that's the biggest disappointment you have to face.
Next stop...San Gil, Colombia.Posted 24 April 2015
In a sentence...the best colonial town of our trip.
Food we loved...Colombia’s take on ceviche – a copious amount of prawns smothered in a tomato-y cocktail sauce.
After a quick flight from Medellin we found ourselves in steamy Cartagena. We spent our time here simply wandering the gorgeous colonial town and its city walls and checking out the fantastic street art on the outskirts. For the sake of completeness we also checked out the Gold Coast-like waterfront resort area – totally gross.
After a 5am wake-up call (courtesy of our dormmates) we enjoyed a run along the ocean before hitting the road again. Cartagena had been lovely but it was time for some beaches.
Next stop...Caribbean coast & Minca, Colombia.
In a sentence...not what the naysayers would expect.
Food we loved...the amazing array of Colombian fruit.
Most commonly associated with cocaine production, warring drug lords and guerrilla kidnappings, Colombia has hauled itself out of the murky depths of despair to become a must-visit destination on the South American backpacking trail. While it will never be squeaky clean and I suspect cocaine will always be a major export, we enjoyed two fantastic weeks here.
Medellin, once one of the world’s most dangerous cities, was our first stop. I know I have written countless times about staying in “cool” neighbourhoods with bars, little shops and restaurants but the area where we stayed, El Poblado, really topped them all. I felt just as home there as I do in Melbourne. We found a local cafe selling great coffee, good Thai and Mexican food, a cute little park to drink in and I even spotted a few birthday presents for my sisters. Too bad the shops were closed for Easter (sorry girls).
As you would expect with such an interesting and violent history, the city’s free walking tour was one of the best we have done. Our guide Pablo (yes, that was really his name) was gregarious and passionate about the city he had grown up in, despite the fact that Medellin’s worst days cast a shadow over his childhood. With the exception of an enquiry as to whether Colombian drug money “built” Miami, he was happy to answer any drug-related questions but also spent a lot of time showing us the ways in which Medellin has cleaned up its act.
But it’s not all about the drugs. The next day we signed up for an exotic fruits tour of the local market. We spent a fantastic few hours wandering the market and trying an amazing array of fruits including about four different types of passionfruit and one that Colombians lovingly refer to as “stinky feet” which had to be cracked open with a hammer. The tour finished with a fruit smoothie. We didn’t know it at the time but this was the first of many many smoothies which we would drink during our time in Colombia.
We farewelled Medellin with an afternoon/evening of drinks and tacos with Quinn and Steph, the New Zealanders we hung out with in Rio. We didn’t exchange contact details at the time but ran into Quinn on our first day in Medellin. Proof that it is a small world after all.
Next stop...Cartagena, Colombia.