Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kristin's Corner - Colombia

When we were first researching our trip, we both said we would like to visit the majority of the countries in South America, aside from "the crazy sketchy countries, like Colombia" (okay, maybe that was my wording, not Kevin's). Before we did much research on travelling in South America, our perception of Colombia was that it was a land of tourists being kidnapped, the FARC and druglords. After reading numerous Government travel warnings, our decision that Colombia was probably not going to be a stop on our adventure, let alone our first and potentially longest stop, was solidified. However, once we started researching safety concerns in Colombia, and in South America in general, and after reading numerous blogs from travellers, many of whom dubbed Colombia as their favourite country in South America, we decided it was a destination we could not miss.

We absolutely loved Colombia, and during the nearly seven weeks we spent there, it continued to surprise us. Who knew Colombia has mountains higher than those in the the Canadian Rockies, snowy volcanos, gorgeous beaches, modern metropolitan cities, quaint little towns, beautiful coffee fincas (well, I guess I sort of suspected this one), etc., etc., etc., all so diverse and all within a relatively short travelling distance from one another? I certainly didn't.

We also loved the Colombian culture and learning about Colombia's devastating and somewhat recent political strife. The following is an old saying about Colombia, which I think is very fitting:
When God was creating the world, He put gold into South Africa, some was left over, so He threw it into Colombia. He put coal into Appalachia, but there was some left over, so He threw it into Colombia. Then God distributed minerals like Iron and Nickel, again there were some left over, so He threw them into Colombia. Brazil received tropical fruits and Emeralds, there were some of these left over too, so He threw them into Colombia. The Middle East got a pot full of oil; the remainder God poured into Colombia. Flowers went into the South Pacific islands, there were some of these left over as well, so He threw them into Colombia. "Wait a minute," a watching angel said to God. "Do you realize that you’re making Colombia one of the most powerful nations on earth?" "Yes," God replied, "but don’t worry, I haven’t given them their politics yet.
I think that Kevin's blog posts and our pictures have done a good job of describing our time in Colombia, but I thought I would summarize our time there in the form of the following list entitled, the "Top 3 Things Kevin Missed":

1. People

As a whole, the Colombian people seemed to be incredibly friendly, vibrant and full of life. Seeing individuals singing to themselves and dancing as they walk down the street was not an uncommon sight. At first, we would find ourselves, with our North American levels of modesty, feeling somewhat embarrased when viewing these level of gregariousness, but have grown to love it, and I know it is this type of transparent "love of life" that we will miss when we return home.

Although the majority of the people we encountered seemed happy, we could also tell that Colombia's huge levels of poverty and recent political struggles have taken their toll on many. The levels of poverty we experienced were alarming and we were shocked at how many people we spoke with asked us how they could get a VISA to move to Canada as wanted to "get out". Very sad.

2. Food

We were a bit torn on the food situation in Colombia. While we absolutely loved, and will miss, some of the local foods, others left something to be desired. The cheap access to tropical fruits was more than I have experienced on any of my travels, including the time I spent in South-East Asia, so that was a definite plus. Also, a lot of the street eats were pretty good (although we did tire of them, arepas (corn and flour patties stuffed with cheese, chicken, etc.) provided us with numerous budget dinners). Another pro were the desserts. My absolute favourite treat was a cookie made of nothing but arequipe (caramel) and coconut... unreal.

That is about where the good ends. Colombians love to deep fry everything and anything and it is not uncommon to have four starches (all deep-fried) in a single plated meal. Even Kevin, who back home thinks of fried foods as somewhat of a treat, has said he never wants to see anything deep fried again. We are now in Peru and already notice the numbers of street-side pots of boiling oil are sharply reduced.

3. Our Favourites

Our top three favourite places/experiences in Colombia would have to be, in no particular order, our time in Bogota, Salento and the Lost City Trek.

Bogota is such a diverse city, where you can walk down the same street and be surprised by how modern it is and then a few steps later, saddened by signs of poverty. We also liked "living" in a city for more than a few weeks, where the people at our favourite markets would recognize us, and where we could explore different neighborhoods and meet numerous people.

Salento is one of the cutest little towns I have ever seen and it is surrounded by amazing hiking and authentic coffee fincas. After leaving pricey Bogota, it was also nice to be able to eat non-budget food for our dinners and sample some of the local "trucha" (trout, usually fried, of course).

Although after day 5 on the Ciudad Perdida trek, I may not have thought so, looking back on the trek, I don't really know what to say about it except that I'm pretty sure it will remain a "top 1 or 2" of our entire trip.

Also, I don't know if it's because we're type A's, but we've come to the realization that we like more active/cultural-based travelling, rather than the beach circuit... Do not get me wrong, I like a day on the beach, followed by a rum sunset just as much as the next person, but after a couple days, we get a little antsy (and Kevin gets burnt). Maybe that's why the touristy Caribbean coast did not make our "favourites" list.

So there you have it... As you can see, I kind of had to dig to find something, anything, that Kevin missed, but since he so kindly put the pressue on for me to write a blog post by notifying everyone in his last blog that one would soon be coming, I thought I better scribble something down.

We are now in Huaraz, a small town in the Peruvian Andes, acclimatizing for our next trek, which starts tomorrow morning, so I am mentally preparing to be gross again for 5 days. Anyways, Kev will post a new post upon our return.

Thanks for reading and hope all is well :)


  1. Good work Kristin! I think you are awesome!

  2. I loved reading this! I laughed out loud a few times. haha I am soo glad to hear that everything is going well and your's and Kevin's interest in the different cultures, and not just the beaches. Can't wait to read more about your adventures!! All the best!


  3. We could already tell by Kevin's posts that he was having a lot of fun. Glad to hear that it is mutual! Your post was very enjoyable and hope you can do it again. Lots of love to you both.

  4. Well done K! I especially like the title. Although maybe for your next post you could intentionally misspell "Corner" as "Korner". Wouldn't "Kristin's Korner" be cute (kute)?

  5. Great to hear your side too Kristin! Have fun in Peru! - Dying to know if a trip to Huaraz is worth it, was actually researching that this morning...

  6. Girl Klong! While I have been a big fan of Kevin's blogs, I like yours every bit as much! I hope he pressures you into another one (plus, based on early responses, I think you may get more followers). Your adventures sound fantastic. Calgary misses you though (and yes. I checked. The whole city misses you). Hugs to you both.

  7. Thanks Ladies! Dale, I originally titled the post "Kristin's Korner - Kolombia", but thought that was a bit much - I mean, what would I call it when I write about Peru? :)
    Miss all of you xox

  8. Will be making my way to Bogota to visit a friend in October... I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed it. Thanks for writing such lovely things about the place my friends and family are begging my not to go to. I'm looking forward to my trip now more than ever. Enjoy your travels...

    Boston, MA

  9. Kimberly - so glad that we could help get you excited for your trip. We have no doubt that you'll enjoy taking in the people and sites of Bogota. Thanks for taking the time to write.