I entered Colombia on what was supposed to be a 5hr bus from Quito Ecuador to the border, I quickly realised that wasn´t going to happen when the bus was an hour late and instead of leaving at 5am it didn´t roll up to the station until 6:30am. The ride was beautiful though, when ever i could keep my eyes open i was blessed with beautiful mountain scenery, green hills, small villages, canyons, along with fields and pastures. Rolling up to the border was probably one of the most painless crossings i have had thus far. exiting Ecuador was amazingly fast, and entering Colombia required NO paper work, just a 5 person line and a 1 minute or two while the immigration guard flipped to an empty page on my passport and stamped me in. My next bus was actually quite similar to the first of this long journey into Colombia, a estimated 12 hours to my final destination, and at 11pm with still 5 more hours to go i bailed on the remainder of the journey and stopped off in the town on Papayan.
Papayan: is a real locals town and i semi regret not spending more than a day there, with side trips to national parks, mountains with good biking, coffee tours, hot springs, and just good local food, i only spent the morning here before jumping on another epic bus journey. I was planning on heading to Cali but after talking to a couple of travelers re routed to the city of Salento located up in the hills which is one of the major coffee growing regions of Colombia. OH, hostel trails was a great hostel in Papayan.
Salento: More bus drama continued with my noon departure, i rolled into the city of cali around 4pm and hopped immediately onto a shuttle to Armenia. I arrived here around 9pm after a major traffic jam due to shitty weather and multiple upturned cars. the sight of the accidents didn´t deter the bus drier though from driving as fast as humanly possible which scaring the ever living shit out of me and probably all the other passenger (colombia drivers are absolutely crazy). When i arrived the bus driver laughed when i asked how to get to Salento because all buses for the night had stopped.
He was wrong and some how with my horrible Spanish i managed to get onto a mini bus which drove me for free outside of the city, honking at another moving minibus, they both stopped, i was pushed off my bus and onto the other. I had no clue what was happening but i was now salento bound and rolled into town an hour later.
Plantation House is one of the only "real" hostels in town, British run and sitting on a coffee plantain, the overly proud owner runs coffee tours where he boasts about his brilliant idea to grow the best coffee. sadly he has just taken over the estate a year ago and actually didn´t even have coffee to offer us since his yields are so low and it normally takes a couple of years to really start accumulating beans. He again proudly offered us the information that he purchased the estate (12 plus achers) for $50,000usd which is also a fruit farm with pineapples, bananas, plantains, blackberries, etc. etc. an awesome piece of land and amazingly cheap.
the city of salento is quiet, but beautiful place, it was easy to spend 3 days there and the local national park was worth a hike through. I visited and drank some great local coffee, walked the hills around the town and chilled out after way too much busing for the past 2 days.
Medellin: a city which came highly recommended by many and i was pretty excited to get there, sadly it was talked up a bit too much and although i enjoyed it, i really wan´t in the partyin´ mood which is primarily what is so great about medellin. I stayed a Tiger Paw hostel which is American run and hosts a beerpong night every Friday which sadly i missed, the hostel is located very close to zona rosa which is just packed with bars and restaurants, actually i have never see so many bars, clubs, and restaurants so close together, about 6 square blocks of wall to wall bars. I can´t say it wasn´t a good time walking around from place to place, but all in all was just a huge party. Not being the huge Reggeton club dancer or club goer, i actually did enjoy seeing a south american club with everyone moving to the same beat, rhythmically, all in one motion, it fulfilled my expectations of what a club down here would be like. Besides partyin´ and drinking good Colombian coffee, i went paragliding which really was not all that thrilling, a good experience, worth doing, but not all that exhilarating, you get strapped in, take a few steps forward, the wind comes in and all of a sudden your floating, very calm and peacefully.
Santa Marta: Finally i did it, from the southern most tip of south america all the way up north to the Caribbean coast, i spent two nights in santa marta and honestly didn´t love it, i found it to be just a city with nothing too special in it. Playa Blanca was a big stretch of sand with hotels behind it. not a terrible place but santa marta held nothing special for me.
Taganga: only a 5 min. taxi ride from santa marta was where i spent 2.5 weeks, a tiny slice of paradise, at least in my opinion. After 19 months of being on the road i was happy to put down my pack and just chill. this town of no more than 1,500 was excellent, it had a beach, some ok coffee shops, some decent food, but overall it was just relaxing and easy going. i spent most of my time relaxing on the beach, drinking fruit smoothies, sippin´colombian coffee, and organizing side trips to near by spots.
The lost city trek was highly recommended but something i was a bit disappointed with, a 5 day hike which could have been done in 3 was anything but a trek. i would call it a leisurely walk through the jungle, not a bad thing but not worth what it costs, the ruins at the top are ok, but being a jungle location the homes made years ago from wood and palm leaves no longer exist and all that remains is the stone stair cases and circular stone foundations, interesting but i think my heart really just wanted to relax, and 5 days to get to an average climax was not what i was looking for. I would say getting to the sight was just as fun and interesting as the lost city it's self.
Tyrona Park: this was worth every penny, a rather pricey (for Colombia standards) park entry fee as well as hammock fee for camping, was money well spent. Palm fringed beaches on a remote part of the Caribbean, amazingly relaxing, nothing to do but eat, sleep, have an occasional beer, and enjoy walking around the coast exploring different beaches.
Over all my time in Taganga was really enjoyable, a french run sandwich shop got most of my lunch buisness, a dutch chef running a excellent restaurant up on the hill in the city got some of my dinner business, and the local bbq joints that pop up around every corner we constantly frequented. Beers at the corner store were cheap and cold and the sun on the beach was nice and hot, i couldn´t be more thankful for taganga at this point in my trip. if arriving here earlier it would have probably lasted no more than 5 days, but i was happy to make it home base for about 15 of the 30 i spent in Colombia. OH, and as far as my travels go, this was the cheapest place that i have seen to get Scuba certified, which i finally did!