A Travellerspoint blog

Colombia (W2&3): Adventure, Wilderness, Beach then City

An action packed two weeks of grade 4+ white water rafting and a crazy five day hike; mountains of food, history and culture; beautiful beaches and the famous port town of Cartagena; and last but not least a volcano of mud…

sunny 30 °C

We spent three days in San Gil, the adventure sports capital of Colombia, though we weren’t that adventurous, we did do some white water rafting, which was a very fun and a first for Leon (who was scared stiff, but loved it in the end).

We also visited a pretty little town close by called Barrichara, which was lovely but earily deserted from there we took a two hour walk to another (even more deserted town) of Guane.

The town of Barricharra

On the last day (on our way to the next stop) we visited the beautiful canyon of Chicamocha, where we rode on one of the longest cable cars in the world (it was very long) and entertained ooursleves with icelollys and weird monuments.

A beautiful canyon, on a misty day...

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Me, Leon and the icelolly (left), me and the weird monument (right)

We then headed to Santa Marta and from there set out on the five day trek to Ciudad Perdida, the lost city. A beautiful hike, with good food and good company and a very interesting story. We stopped at many spots for swimming in the river; we spoke to a local tribes-man of the Cogi and we saw part of the ruins of the 2500 year-old city.

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Me and the lost city (left); well the city was made up of about 500 little plazas like this, but this is the best one we saw
Me and the sign for the lost city (right)

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Some lovely swimming spots...

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Our accomodations of nights 1 and 3...

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Our more luxurious accomodations of nights 2 and 4...

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Some fun and games...

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...and some new friends.

On the way back we stopped for two nights at the Colombian beach resort of Tyrona National Park, where we slept in hammocks to the sound of the waves (well actually I put it my ear plugs, but it could have been). We spent our time relaxing after the strenuous walking of the past five days, eating seafood and swimming in the lovely cool sea-water.

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After finishing the last day of ciudad perdida hiking, a mamoth 6hrs...
...we then went on to hike 1 hr further into Tyrona National Park

Us enjoying the beach!!

From here we caught the bus to Cartagena, the famous Colombian seaside port, we spent two days wandering the city, drinking juice, eating some lovely food wandering the churches and plazas, looking through the shops, drinking some cocktails and some beers.

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Some beautiful streets

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Some shopping, in what used to be the spanish dugeons...

...and a new hat, obviously necessary in each new place one visits in colombia.

Oh and I almost forgot the mud volcano; Volcan del Totumo - the sole reason I came to Colombia (joke; just in case that wasn't clear)... we went on a tour today to a mud hill in the middle of nowhere, that just happened to be one of three unique phenomena of the world, where allow the mud it 2km deep you CANNOT sink past your chest, in fact it is exceptionally difficult to move out of the sitting position...

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Me and Leon enjoying the mud bath.

And tommorow onto Medellin, after lunch at the hard rock cafe (an obvious necessity), we will be celebrating Christmas with the Gomez Family...

Posted by marajade1_200 14:35 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Colombia (W1): Two Much Anticipated Reunions

My arrival and my two wonderful reunions; Bogota, Helen’s Flat and the Salt Cathedral; and a weekend in the beautiful Villa de Leyva with fuegos pirotecnicos, Christmas Carols and uneven cobblestones.

sunny 34 °C

I arrived in Colombia confident in my newly acquired Spanish speaking skills, only to be baffled by the women at customs when she asked me what flight I arrived in on. I think I will probably always feel like a beginner…

Helen met me at the airport, as promised, and we gassed non-stop in the taxi to her flat, which is beautiful; sadly I didn’t take any photos (we were very busy gassing). We spent the majority of two days together, visiting the Salt Cathedral (which was exceptionally impressive), taking taxis, drinking coffee, taking taxis, eating cake (and other nice food, including an interesting and exceptionally delicious new fruit; the pitaya), going to the cinema to watch Hope Springs (it was very good, and I cried at least 3 times, maybe 4), and going to a Colombian Christmas Party (also called a Novena) to meet Helen’s friends from school and try some traditional Colombian delicacies and drinks … and did I mention about the taxi’s??

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Inside the Salt Cathedral, it used to be a salt mine and the walls are 85% salt

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A very pretty carving in the wall of the mine (left)
Me looking very happy by the side of my first toilet paper machine (right).
Yes that is right in colombia they sell toilet paper in the bathrooms in the same machines we sell tampos and condoms... very weird.

On day two, at approximately the same time I arrived, I bunddelled myself into yet another taxi, returning once again to the airport, but this time to meet my beloved. He was rather upset that it wasn’t the other way round; it is after all his country, he should by all rights have been meeting me at the airport, but there I was on the other side of the glass… in fits of tears (of course), waiting impatiently for Leon to notice me, and then waiting impatiently for his bags to appear on the carrousel before we both sped towards the exit and re-enacted a (still tearful) real-hello face-to-face.

After a late night catching up, and an early morning the next day (because of everything we had to do) we were rushing around Bogota, using more taxi’s, having a small but yummy breakfast at a traditional little eatery, sending Leon’s case to Bogata, having lunch at the restaurant of Leon’s aunt and finally getting on the bus to Villa de Leyva. We got to the bus station in the nick of time, as the traffic in Bogota is horrendous, getting on the bus at about 2pm, and then picking up Helen (and various others naturally) at close to 3pm at the last stop on the edge of Bogota, before continuing on to our destination.

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Villa de Leya was a beautiful little village, it is usually very touristy but it was even busier than usual this weekend because of the festival to turn on the christmas lights, but despite the crowds it was worth the visit.

The three of us spent an entertaining day and a half together in Villa de Leyva; we saw the fireworks on Friday and weren’t that impressed (only later discovering they were the practise ones). Then on Saturday we had a delicious Colombian breakfast, compete with hot chocolate and cheese (for me anyway), which is a local delicacy; and we went on a walk of the local countryside (up a hill, to see a little waterfall and a beautiful view) and did a little bit of shopping (as is natural to Helen and I).

Me and Leon at the top looking back down on Villa de Leyva

we ate a delicious Mexican dinner, followed quite naturally by coffee and cake; and then we went back for round two for the fireworks, which was a competition between five fireworks companies, and whilst each display was very good, after 2 hours of waiting for and then watching fireworks my feet and my back were aching like crazy and we were all quite happy to force our way out of the crush towards bed.

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These were the crowds, there really were a lot of people there!!

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And some of the fireworks to give you an idea...

On Sunday after a French patisserie breakfast, we parted ways, Helen went back to Bogota, ready for school on Monday and Leon and I (more often on the same page with regards to coffee and food) continued on to have a second, more Colombian, breakfast before departing for San Gil…

Posted by marajade1_200 20:27 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Español (W10&11): Saying Goodbye to Xela

Two long weeks of; school and study, wine and quezalteca, Thanks Giving and a Wedding, it’s somehow been a slow drag and yet flown away from me at the same time...

sunny 25 °C

School has been the same, work in the mornings, fooseball at break and studying in the afternoons, however it’s been a slower two weeks than normal as the weekly activities rota has gone in a full circle and I’ve done everything now, so there have been no more activities for me to go on with the school.

My two teachers have been Paty (in week 10), a lovely curly haired woman who gave me the extra push I needed in the subjective and Lety (in week 11), who loves to gossip, has some great stories and is the most forward thinking, rich, intellectual and talkative Guatemalteca (Guatemalan woman) I have met. So I’ve continued to improve ”poco a poco” (little by little).

Outside of school, I’ve had more free time, these past two weeks as I’ve not going on the trips. So I’ve been reading more, and watching T.V, but I’ve still managed to get out of the house a bit…

I went to a party on Thanks Giving, the first time I have celebrated the US tradition, and I managed to spend the majority of it talking with Gautemtecos (Guatemalan men), who were very flattering about my level of Spanish. I also went to a traditional Guatemalan wedding, which was a lovely experience, listening to the service, eating traditional food, and even talking to the priest and the father of the bride (I was famous, despite not knowing the bride or groom!). And I went out drinking a couple of times, which was a nice change as I’ve not done so since I left London, but I am pretty sure it didn’t help with my Spanish study the next day!!

The last Friday was spent cleaning my room, packing (which took far longer than it should have) and saying goodbye to my favourite coffee shop, and then early Saturday morning I was on the bus to Antigua. I spent the afternoon in Antigua enjoying the food and atmosphere; then I sleepily got on the “King Quality” bus to El Salvador at 4am.

I managed to avoid the first class bus system when travelling with Helen, but I prefer not to catch the local buses alone with all my gear, so King Quality it was, and I can now tell you why it is so expensive, it is definitely a top quality bus, I exceptionally enjoyed the service…

And I have now spent the better part of two days in San Salvador, and it is an interesting culture here. I am staying in a lovely guest house. As I am one of two guests they upgraded my room from a dorm room with a shared bath room, to a double with air-con, two walk-in closets and a huge private bath room with such a good shower; I cannot believe my luck!.

My woundrous room, I actually just this second got a room mate...
but the room is still lovely, I had it to myself last night and I was here first so I have the double bed!!

My advice from the hotel was to visit the old city centre and the new shopping mall. Two so unbelievably different places, and yet both super-busy and filled with locals. In the city centre I walked through a bustling market and saw four very different and yet beautiful churches. And in the shopping mall, I walked through and stopped for a coffee. And I have also visited the local “world trade centre”, a tall sky scraper and a beautiful patio area filled with restaurants.

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Here are some of the beautiful churches, inside and out.

And tomorrow is my flight to Colombia, I cannot wait to see Helen at the airport, but it still seems so long till I see Leon … four whole days, how is time going so slowly now?

Posted by marajade1_200 16:31 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

Español (W8&9): A Holiday with the 'Rents

The same beautiful sights I've seen before but this time with luxurious hotels, stacks of delicious food, plenty of wine and some quality catch up time with my beloved M & D...

It was lovely seeing Mum and Dad again, we had an amazing two weeks together, going back to some of the sights I’d seen before like Guatemala’s old UNESCO World Heritage city of Antiugua, Lago Atitalan National Park and the communities round the lake and I obviously introduced M&D top my home town of Xela and some of the sights around Western Guatemala as well.

This might not have been my first time at any of these places, but we still managed to do a few things I’d not done before, including...

...visiting Iximche (another Mayan ruins) on the way to the lake...

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...visiting Santa Catalina (on the lake), and doing some shopping...
(I don't like shopping as you know, but mother darling insisted)

...we bathed the Fuentes Georgians (some beautiful hot springs close to Xela)...

...we climbed Chicabal (as I did before), but this time we saw the active Santiaguito (my first sighting of an active volcano)...

...we went on a coffee tour and we got to see the coffee plants being grafted...
(not something I’ve seen before, despite the number of coffee tours I have been on)

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...and we went on a tour of Antigua and I managed to see many things during this tour I’d not seen before...
A beautiful garden (right), and me and mum posing in a mirror (left)

The proof that Antigua belongs to Coca Cola (left)
This is branded on ever lamp post in this city

The jade factory, watching the workers polish up and shape the jade for jewelery (right)

We also stayed in some truly lovely hotels during the trip; I squealed when I stepped into that first hotel room in Antigua; Mum sure does know how to pick them. And the two hotels we stayed in on the lake were beautiful as well.

My room in Hotel Antigua (Mum also has some lovely photo's of the pool).

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The second hotel, Laguna Atitalan, on the lake was just as nice

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And this is us in the hotel grounds going for a little (steep) walk, with lovely views

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And mum and dad relaxing in the hammocks!!

Along with this there was undoubtedly far too much wine drunk, in-between the food, sights, and walking we also had some good reading sessions and some good chats. All in all it was a lovely holiday and a nice break from Spanish school for me; it is back to the books tomorrow though, and I am looking forward to getting stuck into it again!

Posted by marajade1_200 12:08 Archived in Guatemala Comments (1)

Español (W7): Death, Saints, Kites and Ceramics

More studious behaviours (so unlike me, I know), along with a visit to a ceramics factory and the two day celebrations for Day of the Dead and All Saints Day…

This week my teacher was Rosario, a very lovely little old lady with lots of experience at the school, she was one of the first teachers to join the school when it began and she very proudly told me I was her 14,000 something student.

Rosario and I studying hard...

The documentary we watched this week was as educational and interesting as usual; Descovering Dominga about a Guatemalan child who went to live with an American Family and then 20 years later returned to Guatemala to rediscover her history.

We also went with the school on a trip to a ceramics factory where we get to see one of the artists at work and follow him through his daily tasks.

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The Ceramics Man at work (left), the shop selling his work (right)

And Thursday and Friday were two very special days in Guatemala, Day of the Dead and All Saints Day, and on these two days all Gautemalan families make the trip to the cemetery to pay their respects to late members of the family with flowers and by having picnicks and flying kites in the graveyards; I obviously went to visit the graveyard as well to see the sight, and was surprised to also find a large-scale fair and flower market parked outside the cemetery walls.

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Flowers for sale (left) and kites for sale (right)

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Some scenses within the cemetery, it's never normally this crowded or this beautiful

It was very interesting to see these celebrations first hand, and I am glad I was here to see it and I'd love to learn more about what kites have to do with Saints and Death...

Posted by marajade1_200 10:48 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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