A Travellerspoint blog

Bogota part II

After coming back from San Andres, I had about 10 days before flying home. Most of this time was spent getting ready to come home including present shopping, preparing a CV and emailing recruiters in Melbourne.

Highlights of this 10 days included:
My cousin in Australia married a Colombian so I met his brother and parents.
A big night out at an 80s bar. Colombian music today hasn't changed a lot from what it sounded like in the 80s.
Finally playing a round of golf.

Really though, there was a lot of nothing, but was good to spend my last few days relaxing.

The flight home was a bit rough - 30 hours and a lot of delays etc later - but it was good to finally be home.

Overall it was an amazing trip, but it is quite tough work when everyday things, like speaking spanish, getting places without transport etc are challenging. I think 6 months was an ideal time to have away. I have a short amount of time in NZ before heading to Melbourne to try and find a job there. I am looking forward to that challenge and again, it will be an opportunity to explore a cool new place.

Posted by Braddock 14:41 Comments (0)

San Andres Islands

After saying goodbye to Nato, I was on my own and with a fair amount of time to kill before heading home. I had decided to book a flight to San Andres islands, which I knew very little about, but a quick look on google images was enough to convince me it was worth a look.

When we were landing, I noted that the plane that crashed a few weeks earlier was still on the side of the runway with aviation people looking over it. It is a bit weird being in a plane and driving past a very similar plane, except in three pieces, with seats and whatnot scattered all over the place!

San Andres is not on the backpacker circuit. It didnt take me long to realise that I was one of a very few number of gringos on the island. The island is 12km long and 3 km wide at the widest. There is only one main town area which has a coastal area (full of tourist shops and resorts) and as you go inland, it gets more local.

The island is full of rich colombians and honeymooners who stay in the flash resorts. Thankfully I made a reservation at the one hostel on the island which was (semi) reasonably priced otherwise I could have been in for an expensive time. The island itself is amazing and reminded me a lot of Fiji - stunning white sand and water so clear you can see to the bottom no matter how deep and it is like a bath.

I heard that the diving was amazing, with 40+m of visibility. I met another gringo at a dive shop and we decided we would do our advanced open water course. Over the next few days we did a deep dive (to 46m which was waaay too deep for us, but the dive shop was run by cowboys), a night dive which was totally different, a shipwreck dive, navigation dive and some other dives. The diving was so much better than taganga. There were so many fish, so much coral and you could see for ever. Pretty much every dive I would come up and just gush how that was the best dive of my life!

We also did a day snorkelling trip to some keys (i.e. small islands) which again was fantastic. On the last day the other gringo was here we hired scooters and did a circumnavigation of the island. It was good to see the whole thing and despite my new mate nearly driving his scooter off a 3m cliff when trying to turn (he had never ridden before) and having to wash the dirt off the scooter to get our deposit back, it was good fun.

For the rest of the trip I did very little, which was fantastic. I lay on the beach, swam, read, had large siestas and ate food. Very relaxing, except for the nightlife in my room - I thought the massive cockroaches were bad, but they had nothing on the tarantula I found one night (I am pretty sure it was a tarantula because we saw them in a reptile exhibition in Medellin and we had a good look). I can confirm they are scary in a cage, but when you are half asleep, walking to the toilet, they are absolutely terrifying.

After 9 days I was ready to go back to Bogota as i had gone 5 days without talking to anyone. Thankfully I am outstanding company, but 5 days is a lot, even for me.

Posted by Braddock 16:55 Comments (0)

Bogota - Part I

Nato and I arrived in Bogota with an American that we had met in Villa de Leyva. Because we had decided to flag central america, I knew I had heaps of time in Bogota, so I booked a 9 day trip to San Andres islands to break it up.

Nato and Brent (the american) only had the one week in Bogota so we tried to cram in as many sights as possible.

On our first day, we checked out our area of town, called the candelaria, which is now historically preserved or something, so it is full of old buildings. We visited the gold museum, which I had heard was amazing, but I wasnt sure how a gold museum could be amazing. Anyhow, it turns out it was an important lesson in horses for courses, because it was BORING. Thankfully, because it was Sunday, museums are free, which was a relief.

We then went to the police museum which was fantastic. They had a cool Pablo Escobar display and there was a lot of cool stuff there to look at. That afternoon we went up a venicular to the top of a hill to get a view, but unfortunately, the only view we got was of the smog that seems to cover most of the city - probably from the 24-7 gridlock that Bogota seems to have!

We had heard that there was a lot of cheap leather in Bogota and the brothers at the hostel had put us in contact with their uncle who made jackets for a few leather shops. We spent a day looking round the outlet shops and then went and saw him and were able to tell him the design, get fitted etc and the next day, we had our own, custom made leather jackets! The price was pretty good and the lads were looking as sharp as they had all tour! It will definitely help me to blend in with the metros in melbourne!

We headed up to a place called Swesca, which is about 40 mins out of Bogota for a night as there is really good rock climbing up there. We went out with a few guides and it was my first crack at outdoor climbing. Nato had done a bit before and was really good. I got up some of the walls but had a few bails to match! It was a reminder that 6 months of boozing and eating is not ideal preparation for having to lift your own body weight, but there is plenty of time to sort that out when I get home!

We had a Friday night out on the Chiva, which is like a party bus, which was great, except they fed us absolute rocket fuel which led to substantial hangovers the next day. That night, we went out to dinner with my friend Charlotte who I did law with at Otago. She works for HSBC and has been living in Bogota for a year. Needless to say, we werent ideal company, and i promised we would be on better form the following weekend!

When Nato left the following Friday, I moved into Charlotte┬┤s spare bedroom. We had a night out at this club or restaurant place called carne de res, which is about 40 minutes out of town and can seat 3500 people. We went with her friends from the british embassy, who all get drivers in bullet proof cars, so it was pretty cool going out in one of them! we had a great night. the next night I went out to dinner with Charlotte, a few of her bosses and another couple. Again, it was quite surreal to be driven round by drivers and we ended up at a karioke bar which was a good laugh.

After that weekend, I had my flight to San Andres on Monday. i have 10 days in san andres and then am back for another 10 days in Bogota before heading home.

Posted by Braddock 10:09 Comments (0)

San Gil

After a very relaxing 3 weeks in Taganga, it was time to get some adrenaline back in the system so we headed down to a small place called San Gil. San Gil is touted as the adventure sport capital of Colombia. It wasnt quite in the same league as Queenstown, but it was pretty cool.

We checked into a new hostel which was run by two brothers who had lived in England (but were Colombian) and they were very cool dudes. The hostel was quite small so we spent heaps of time talking to them, they took us on trips to waterfalls and showed us round and generally made our time there really fun.

The first day, we went and did caving and canyoning. The caving was a bit scary - i am not claustrophobic, but there were some pretty tight squeezes, including going through water with only enough room for your head between the water level and the ceiling. We were certainly crossing fingers for no flash floods!

The canyoning part of the trip involved abseiling down some pretty substantial waterfalls which was a lot of fun, jumping across boulders and jumping off large ledges into natural pools to get down to the bottom of a canyon.

The next day we went rafting on the swares river, which is a grade 5 river and had been closed the previous few days as there had been a lot of rain. Our raft got flipped on the first rapid (which was only a grade 3), but the raft flipped sideways and the guy sitting opposite me flew across and landed on me. When I was underwater, I tried to swim to the top but realised he was sitting on me. I was reaching up, but only feeling his legs holding me down. Luckily, I pushed away and got to the surface, howver, whilst I was under, everyone had made their way to the ends of the raft so the guide could flip it over. I came up just in time to look up and see a raft flipping over and landing on me, so I went back under but got back up in the end. We went to the side and gathered our breath - I think I drank about half the river! One girl in our boat was a mess afterwards and wanted out, but she had to stick it out but just sat there and did nothing the whole time. Sometimes in the big rapids i would look behind me and just see two dinner plate sized eyes staring forward - not a happy rafter We managed to stay in the raft the rest of the time and it was heaps of fun! The rapids were enormous and it certainly got the heart rate up which was what we were looking for.

We had a few days of relaxing and I actually started to write a CV, 5 months into the trip! Our last activity, besides a few nights out, was a kayaking course, where Nato and I got a two on one tutorial on how to do an eskimo roll (what you do when your kayak flips in rapids to get upright) and then had the afternoon hitting some rapids. Admittedly, the rapids were only grade 1 and 2, not the grade 5 big boys from the rafting, but that was plenty for our limited kayaking ability.

All in all, San Gil was a pretty cool place, made all the better by the brothers who ran our hostel. They were really passionate about Colombia, spoke perfect English and were hilarious dudes as well. If anyone goes to San Gil, you should go and see them at El Dorado. They also gave us heaps of good contacts for Bogota and Villa de Leyva which was very appreciated.

We had two very low key nights at a place called Villa de Leyva on the way to Bogota which were very enjoyable, but do not justify a septate enty, so intead it gets a fleeting mention here.

Posted by Braddock 09:46 Comments (0)

Taganga

We got in a 5 hour minivan ride up to a place called Taganga. Taganga is a small fishing village on the coast which borders tayrona national park which is full of nice beaches. Taganga is becoming more of a tourist spot and is known primarily for cheap diving.

There was a lot of relaxing and partying here, but highlights were as follows┬Ę

1. in the first week i did my open water diving course which was heaps of fun. The dive school were very friendly and professional and the diving itself was very cool. Unfortunately, Nato couldnt do the diving because of his ashma.

2. we also did the lost city trek which involved a 5 day hike to the lost city. The trek itself was deceptively hard, despite only walking for 4 or 5 hours a day. The path was thick mud, and involved a lot of river crossings, some of which were fairly hairy! We slept in hammocks which wasnt ideal. Hammocks are ok for an afternoon siesta, but not really designed to sleep the night. To make matters worse, I had a light fever the first 3 days, along with a crook stomach. It wasnt that bad, but just took away my energy.

The lost city itself was pretty cool, but not as cool as Machu Picchu. Because of a mud slide a few days beforehand which wiped out one of the camps, we were able to sleep in the lost city itself, which was a cool experience.

Overall, i dont think we would do it again, but it was good to do and the body probably loved 5 days of exercise since there hadnt been a lot of that going on recently!

Other than that, we did a fair bit of relaxing, walking to other beaches and partying. We went across to santa marta one night for their independence celebrations which was lots of fun except I got pick pocketed and lost my wallet and a bit of cash. I even saw the kid with his hand in my pocket but by the time i grabbed him, he had palmed it off to his mother who had palmed it off to someone else. By the time the cops came, it was long gone! Luckily, I had taken my excess cash and cards out my wallet, so whilst it was a niggle, it wasnt the end of the world.

After an extremely laid back 3 weeks we decided it was time to move onto San gil, which is towards Bogota and is meant to be the adventure capital of Colombia.

Posted by Braddock 12:12 Comments (0)

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