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Finally heading in the right direction – Cartagena, Medellin, Salento, Popayan

COLOMBIA | Sunday, 9 September 2012 | Views [11658] | Comments [1]

Cartagena

Cartagena

With a bit of time in my hands in Parque Tayrona I actually managed to do some calculating and realised that I might be running out of time. That meant that I could no longer afford the luxury of overstaying and needed to get myself on the road and moving fast.

First stop after Santa Marta was Cartagena. There is no denying the beauty of this city. It has a proper Caribbean feel to it and at times seemed more like being in Cuba than in Colombia.

But with the cruise ships passing through the sea come huge amounts of tourist. It is definitely the most touristy place I have been to for a while and with that come much higher prices.

We spent the day wondering the charming streets of the old town - luckily it’s pretty compact and 1 day is sufficient to get to know it.

In the evening we did try to go out for few beers but after noticing the extortionate prices in the bars we settled for a beer in the square and an early night.

Next day we decided to take a tour to the mud volcano. It is a very, very bizarre experience which is sort of like floating in a pudding or melted marshmallows. All in all, it’s great, and I am really glad I did it but it is slightly weird. I have also proven that you can in fact drown there (I was told repeatedly that it was not possible), let’s just say that I was very happy to have other people with me…

Being on a tight schedule we left Cartagena for Medellin, on a night bus. I have to admit that it was a really stupid idea and that I should have not ignored the advice of many fellow travellers who told me that it’s much better to take the flight. Since I only decided to go to Medellin a day before the flights were too expensive but I now know I should have just paid the price.

The road is terrible. I am a very good night bus sleeper but it was pretty impossible to get any sleep on this bumpy, bendy, hell of a road. When I did finally managed to drift away, the bus stopped rapidly and I flew from my sit onto the floor. Needless to say, I was too scared to fall asleep again.

Matters were not helped by the fact that after 8 months of relative peace I finally got sick. I knew it was coming but this was not the very best moment. Luckily I was mostly in pain rather than having to run to bathroom every 5 minutes. But the terrible road was not much of a help.

And so I arrived to Medellin in not the best of moods, only to discover that it’s a large, polluted city – not what I was after at right that very minute.

We settled into our hostel, a very comfortable Blacksheep, and after couple of hours of rest I was ready to give Medellin a chance.

We walked through what remains of the very unimpressive Old Town, all the way to the university area. I have to say it did not correct my initial impression of the city. I was also, of course, a bit grumpy and feeling progressively worse. It was therefore a quiet night for me on the sofa, watching Harry Potter (yes, seriously).

The next day I decided that the best thing will be to just stay put, relax and hope that I will feel better.

And I did so the day after we went to a little colourful town of Guatape which is famous for the gigantic 200m rock and is surrounded by beautiful lakes. It was a nice day out with a perfect weather and definitely cheered me up.

In the end I didn’t get to experience the famous Medellin nightlife (we were there on Monday through to Weds) or the informative Pablo Escobar tour. Maybe if I did both I would have liked the place more. Instead I was really happy to be getting out of there and back to the quiet countryside of Zona de Cafetera.

Salento is in the middle of coffee country. It is slightly on the cold side but is surrounded by beautiful mountains and comes with constant supply of my favourite drug – coffee.

We stayed in a quiet Plantation House and of course after recovering from the journey the very first thing we did was to embark on the coffee plantation tour. It was very informative and the farm itself is also really beautiful.

After the tour it was time for the most exciting part of the day - we found this café run by US guy that served waffles and actual, real, peanut butter!

Next day we headed out to the wonderful Valle de Cocora, famous for its 60m palm trees. And just as we hit the trail, my camera broke. I couldn’t believe it!!! It was a brand new thing!!! Fuelled by frustration I basically run the whole way to the humming bird refugio  - good work that my knee recovered and could sustain the mad rush…

It is a really nice walk, you keep crossing the stream through wobbly bridges and pass small waterfalls. Because I was well ahead of everyone I ended up enjoying the route alone and was also the first one to get my cup of hot chocolate and cheese and enjoy the view of tens of humming birds.

 From there it was supposed to be a quick 1.8km up to the view point at La Montana. I was really happy that Michel joined me on this bit cause of course we got lost. We somehow missed the turn off and ended up walking 2 km back and then we had back track to where the sign was. So it was a good job that we were going pretty quickly (even though the 800m up was a struggle as I was fighting the frustration of getting lost and not concentrating on breathing) as otherwise we would have possibly run out of time to do the whole loop.

It was worth persevering as the view from the top onto the Valle is truly magnificent!!!

My original plan was to go to also visit Manizales which lies very near Salento and go up a volcano Nariz there. Unfortunately the route to the summit was closed due to the imminent eruption warning. Not wanting to risk it I decided to move on and leave the volcanos for Ecuador. And so the next stop was Popayan.

After bad experience with big city in Medellin, I was a bit weary of going there but I was proven completely wrong. Popayan is a beautiful place with some of the loveliest people I met in Colombia and charming whitewashed mansions lining the streets. Matters were definitely helped by the fact that I found a place to fix my camera and it was ready within the same day. I also received a gigantic portion of the local ice cream (I asked for one scoop but was awarded half a kilo) and so it was love of first time for me and Popayan.

The only disappointing thing was that the trip to the local thermal baths sounded so tricky and difficult as described by my hostel that I ended up not doing it and later heard that the journey was actually pretty easy and the views amazing. Oh well; instead we went to the local indigenous market town of Silvia. It was a nice morning out strolling around the food market and pots and pans stalls. We also found out from the ‘health show’ on the village square that all your illnesses can be easily cured by burying a potato filled with a raw mash of potatoes, carrots and ginseng. After 1 night in the ground the medicine is ready to help you prevent cancer, high blood pressure and any other illness you can think of…

And so I have run out of my time in Colombia…

Tags: cartagena, colombia, medellin, popayan, salento, silvia, valle de cocora, zona de cafetera

Comments

1

Finally something well written, straightforward and informative. Gave me inspiration.Thank you

  Barbara Jan 24, 2016 8:40 AM

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