My summation of Colombia
I’ve been to Colombia twice now (once by myself, again with Lissette) and I have to say that I really loved the country and its people.
The geographical diversity is amazing. The multiple mountain ranges mean that climatic zones can change within a few kilometers. Example; Santa Marta and Taganga are totally dry, desert climate. About 25 km away, Parque Tayrona is lush rainforest. Cartagena is hot, like a Caribbean island. Inland, Bogota is surprisingly cool (almost cold in the evenings). I’ve also been to Cali in the south (hot) and Manizales (cooler) in the lush and mountainous coffee-growing area. Geographically speaking, I found Colombia was like visiting several different countries in one. And not only was the geography varied, the scenery was also quite spectacular.
I was worried before leaving about security and how people would react to me. Firstly, there are many soldiers in Colombia, they seem to be everywhere. Information offices were also manned by soldiers/police officers, all of who were very friendly and helpful. In Rodadero, I stopped at the information office to ask the location of the bus station – I ended up walking with two soldiers who insisted on taking me there. Once there, unsure, I asked them if I could give them a tip “Thank you senor, but we are not allowed to take tips”. In Cartagena, while walking around El Castillo de San Felipe, two very friendly soldiers with machine guns offered to show me the tunnels under the castle. “That’s where they’ll rob me”, I figured. No such thing. I took a picture of these two in the tunnels (you can see it in under my Cartagena post). When Lissette and I were in Parque Tayrona, the resort where we stayed was taken over one afternoon by the army – the President was there meeting some dignitaries. Army helicopters circled the resort. That night, after the president left, we were at the restaurant when a bunch of soldiers walked by. One of the soldiers politely asked, in English, “Sir, can I speak to you?”. Lissette and I spoke to him for about 5 minutes while about 20 soldiers stood around us, curious with funny smiles on their faces. Turns out that the soldier had wanted to prove to his friends that he could speak English.
Cartagena was beautiful, with lots of history; beautiful churches, an impressive castle, great walled city with fantastic old buildings and beautiful courtyards. I was very impressed. It also had some really good restaurants within some of the old buildings. Cartagena is a really romantic place, just loved it.
People – really friendly. The women are gorgeous. While I didn’t have any difficulties, Lissette said there were a few things she didn’t appreciate: 1) people, mostly men, sometimes gave her dirty looks, figuring she was my “puta sucia” (ie. my paid escort). 2) she found the Colombian women a bit aggressive towards me, showing no consideration towards her (I think this was mostly when we would look for a place to eat in Cartagena and where we would be approached by the girls trying to lure customers into restaurants). I think this was maybe the only complaint we had about Colombia.
Another thing I loved was the Spanish – Cartagena aside (where many spoke with that Caribbean slang), I found the Spanish clear and concise. The perfect place for anyone who’s taken Spanish lessons and who wants to improve their Spanish.
I could go on and on about Colombia, it was one of those places that I really didn’t know anything about and where I was a bit nervous about going. It ended up being really special. I would not hesitate going back to Colombia!