I realize it hasn’t even been a full year since I began my first trip and blog post, crazy that it seems so long ago! One of the locations on my list that I didn’t make it to my last time was Colombia. However, I think waiting was a good idea because now I’m heading there in December when it’s lovely weather, a short(ish) flight from home, time-off work and traded tips from friends who have already been. This time would be different, since I would only be gone for 12 days, but I was excited nonetheless. I dug out my travel gear and started planning my route…
…The day had come (Christmas Day) and while I wasn’t originally nervous, cautions from worried loved ones had started to affect me a little. That quickly changed the second I landed in Bogotá. I re-found the familiar feeling of being some place foreign to me, yet feeling at home. I had to dust off some of my Spanish to get a cab and make my way to the hotel near the airport. I arrived after 11pm, but had a flight at 9am the next morning to arrive at my first planned destination, Salento.
The airport was easy to navigate so I made it to my gate quickly. After drinking a full coffee and water I needed to ask the gate agent if I had time to use the restroom. I thought I knew the sentence without putting it into my Google translate so I went up there to ask. I first asked if she knew English, but when she said no, I went ahead and asked in Spanish. She understood right away so I felt very confident and pleased with myself. It wasn’t until later that out of curiosity I checked it and what I really said was “Do you have time to use the bathroom?” She must have known what I meant..
Upon landing in Armenia, I was amazed at how lush and green the vegetation was, amazed, but not surprised. It was exactly what I pictured “Colombia” to look like based on movies and television. I love when my fantasies of a place become real. What did surprise me was how well maintained and expensive looking the roads, houses and businesses were. In other mountain or jungle cities I’ve been to, they’ve been older and less modern.
My hostel had a shuttle that picked me up from the airport, the driver was very friendly and kind. He drove quickly, but since the windows were down I didn’t get my usual car sickness. The other benefit of having the windows down was to be able to smell the fresh air. I could certainly smell the green plants and flowers. We passed lots of colorful homes, garden centers, and valleys while enjoying the tunes of Bob Marley, Gwen Stefani and Dave Matthews. Eventually we made it to the small town of Salento and to my home for the next 3 days, the Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel and their mascot the dog Freckles.
It was the cutest hostel!! It was earthy, open aired and clean. The receptionist was very thorough with a map and things to do, so I set off into town while my bed was being made up. The town square was just as cute. Colorful homes, hostels, restaurants and shops made even more colorful with left over Christmas decorations. I stopped into a few stores and quickly discovered that of all of the places I’ve traveled, the jewelry here is by far closest to my personal taste.
I stopped in at a place called Veggie for lunch and had a fruit and veggie smoothie and a salad while reading my book. I also forgot how much I loved to read while eating and eating alone because other solo travelers ask to sit with you.
I finally headed back to shower (and change out of the Sweaty Betty jumpsuit that I’ve now been wearing for over 24 hours). I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness, functionality and coziness of my 4-bed dorm. Although there was a girl in bed coughing quite a bit so let’s hope she’s just taking a siesta and not deathly ill. Luckily her curtain is drawn so that’ll help keep the bacteria enclosed.
Now feeling fresh, I went back into town to go to the “view point”. I admit, it wasn’t the best view I’ve ever seen but it was still charming, and at least some exercise up the steps. I stopped at a café afterwards because it had trendy decorations and loud music. I ordered something off the section of the menu called common Colombian drinks. I couldn’t translate much of it, but figured I was up for a surprise. It came out and not only was it pretty, it tasted delicious. Some type of hot fruit water with mint. Sort of a tea, but instead of tea leaves there was fruit in the bottom. The tea didn’t have caffeine and my lack of sleep was starting to hit so I went back to write, drink the free hostel coffee (coffee so good that I even drank it black) and take a quick snooze.
Up next was Tejo, a sort of “bocce” type game they play here, but with explosives! I went solo to Los Amigos where they play. It was sort of like a sports club/casino/fair. There were only 4 other people there so rather than play alone they allowed me to join them. I’m glad I did because it’s not a game you can play by yourself. Another great thing about these types of hostel towns, people are open to making friends. They were from Montreal and were fun to chat with while we played. Eventually I found my groove and was able to hit the target, it’s not super easy though. Basically, you throw this heavy rock into this pit of clay and try to hit the metal ring which has six “explosives” (gunpowder wrapped in paper) on it. They are like those snap rocket things I used to buy during the Fourth of July. There are different levels of scoring, but ultimately you want to make it explode. After two games we called it quits and I went to go get dinner.
I went to this place that I was told was a steak house, it was a super cute atmosphere but didn’t scream steak house so I went with a burger. After I ordered in clearly broken Spanish, the person next to me commented on my Spanglish. We continued to chat so eventually he asked if I would join him, and I’m glad I did because I had had enough solitude for the day. He was from Israel and had been travelling around Colombia for 1.5 months so shared some good tips. (I learned later that the best tip he gave me was to order a brown bag lunch for my hike the next day, that was a lifesaver). I loved walking through the square on the way back because it had become even more alive with lights and loud music.
I went back to my room, discovered what my coughing roommate looked like and met the two new girls who were super cool from Germany. I cozied up into my bunk, I’m seriously considering getting a bunk bed at home, and went to sleep by 9pm.