The Dreamer Hostel turned out to be quite a party hostel, with daily games for travellers to play and get drunk. This resulted in me playing Beer Pong for the first time, killer pool and card games in order to just drink more. It was just like being at University again. Also it was a great way of meeting my fellow travellers. All of them shocked when they found out my age.. “I thought you would have been late twenties max” they say lol.
Sitting at the bar, drinking a Club Colombia and chatting to Scott the Canadian that had a story for everything. I clock the bar girls stop mid pour and stare over my shoulder, I slowly turn to see what has caught their attention. Four guys arrive, the front two ripped and in good shape, and all in their twenties.
James was the blond with perfectly styled hair, who looked like he had just walked off the set of ‘Made in Chelsea’. It’s turns out he went to Harrow School, need i say more .. The other Ed, had the most incredible blue eyes that dazzled you against his dark hair and tan.
It turns out they are from the UK, best of mates that have just graduated and are travelling for a year. They join in on the drinking games with everyone else and once enough is consumes and the bar closes, we all head to a salsa club La Puetra in Santa Marta.
Boys being boys, they lark about and poor old Max, one of the four ends up with a sprained finger from trying to punch Ed. I sense this will be the sort of antics that will carry on through their year of travels. If they make it that far alive… Hilarious to watch.
So Hostel life has treated me pretty well so far, but I soon realise that it is a hot bed for germs and god knows what else. All across Santa Marta there is a break out of pink eye, and several in my hostel have it. Apparently it had originated from the ‘Lost City’ four day trek, and from a couple of Gringos. Some travellers coming North from Medellin report of it having made it the 835 km South.
Luckily I have avoided it – maybe it’s because I never use the gross hand towels. Why would anyone!!!
One of the good things about being gay in Colombia, is there is little chance of meeting a hooker in a bar. For the straights its just damned hard to avoid it. Prostitution in Colombia is legal and they are everywhere.
Dancing on the rooftop at La Brisa Loca – the best venue I have been to in Colombia. An attractive woman comes up to me and starts to dance, we speak some Spanish. I find out she is from Medellín and then she grabs my crotch and says “You like Sex”…
I say “No Gracias¨and move away.
Now I warn a couple of my new found friends to be careful of the the ladies, that some are ‘ladies of the night’. The majority heed my advice and some do not.. #dontkissahooker.
Thankfully we all successfully make it back to the hostel together.
What I love about this travelling alone, is you can do what you want when you want, you have the freedom to choose and just go with the flow. I did exactly this and changed my plans and headed to Minca and stayed at Casas Viejas for two nights.
Minca lies 650m high in the Sierra Nevada and is a new find on the traveller route for Colombia, so still pretty unspoilt and only 15km from Santa Marta.
Casas Viejas is thirty minutes further up the mountain and only accessible by motorbike. I hop on the back with both my travel backpacks and make the steep climb sometimes off road. Ouch my thighs..
I hop off the bike at my destination. The beautiful Casas Viejas is in the middle of a finca – coffee farm. The view from the main dinning area is the best I have seen yet. Looking out across the jungle to the cloud covered mountains ahead with just the birds playing their tunes. Absolute paradise.
The mornings are even more spectacular and on a clear day you can see Santa Marta on the horizon. At night your can walk higher up the finca to ‘Sunset point’ with a beer and watch the sky turn red and see the twinkling lights of Santa Marta in the distance. The food is pretty good here too, all cooked by volunteers. It’s perfect for hiking, bird watching over 300 species and seeing a lot of bugs, spiders and butterflies.
The Coffee tour at La Victoria, was well worth the 20,000cop £5. This Coffee farm like so many others is completely self sustainable thanks to the nearby waterfall powering everything. The water powers a single generator that powers the farm, the local brewery , the surrounding houses and the hostel.
A 24 pipe system across 150 hectares delivers the freshly picked Coffee beans to the little processing plant, and then goes through several processes of washing to make a bean ready to sell. Who knew most coffee is sold and shipped to its destination as a white bean, and is then roasted in the final destination.
Nothing is wasted, the good coffee beans are sold to international buyers, the less quality coffee is sold locally and the skin layers that are removed from the coffee bean are all used to make fertiliser for the new plants. Too think that this area was a no go zone for travellers just over two years ago due to the fighting that has plagued Colombia for so much of its past.
Due to my two amazingly chilled nights in the mountains I only have one night in Cartagena. Which to be honest I was fine with, from what I had heard from other travellers and from what I could see when I arrived.
After the six hour bus journey, I took the 30 minute taxi to El Viarejo in the old town, and just saw a dirty, uninspiring tourist trap, full off ugly hotels. The old town was mildly better with some colourful colonial buildings, but little else. The stifling heat and humidity makes it hard to want to do much.
Due to Avianca changing my flight to a 10am from a 7pm I didn’t have time to see much more of the city. Cali was my next destination and where my Colombian journey will come to an end.
Cali is home to Salsa, so I was so excited to be experiencing the city and meeting up with my travel chum Laura. Taking the one hour flight, was far better than the 20 hour bus. I arrived at El Viarejo in the district of San Antonio. I took a taxi from the airport which took 30 minutes and was 45,000cop £11.
El Viarejo have a few hostels in Colombia and out of the two I stayed in, this was the better of the two. The staff were much friendlier and the layout much nicer than the long corridor of Cartagena. The pool was perfect for cooling down, and the free nightly Salsa lessons were a great addition. The only down side was the bar closed 22:30, but this just forced you to head out to the many Salsa clubs, like Tin Tin Deo a must on a Thursday Evening.
The area of San Antonio was really pretty, with a great selection of restaurants and cafes. Corrine a particular favourite for freshly baked bagels and coffee for breakfast, Cafe Mocando for some delicious ice cream feasts, La 4ta Pared Cafe for a cheap evening meal.
Like many Colombian cities, there are the usual museums and church’s to see. Cali had lots of street art and murals painted on the side buildings that gave it a more youthful influence. Also there was a great indoor market ‘Plaza de Mercado Alameda’, worth a visit to try out the many varieties of fresh fruit and many street sellers selling ceviche.
The time has come to make my final bus journey 12 hours South to Ipiales, the closest town to make the final journey across the border to Ecuador. We were advised to book through transipiales, as they were the best operator on this route.
So glad we did, the bus was a double decker, we had seats at the front of the top deck, and the seats were super comfy and was my cheapest long distance bus journey at 45,000cop £11.
We arrived at Ipiales at 9am and were shocked by the sudden drop in temperature, from the warm sun of Cali, here I had to search for my warm coat for the first time. Ten minutes from Ipiales is the ‘Santuario De Las Lajas’, a beautiful basilica church that looks like Rivendell from lord of the rings is worth visiting.
One thing you notice this far South is how close you are to the border of Ecuador, as the local people change. They have become shorter, rounder and more brightly dressed. Can I say that!!! Oh well I have…
Colombia you have been more than I could have imagined, and I am sad to be leaving. I look forward to my many more future visits to your fabulous country and I hope my experience will encourage more to visit.