Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Colombia - Bogota and the Carribbean coast

Well, it´s been a few weeks since I last wrote. Time flys! I´ve been busy, just existing and nothing more. I arrived in Bogotá on May 26th, and a banner in the airport greeted me saying ¨Colombia is passion¨. I have been reminded of this national motto frequently as I travel. Colombians I´ve met in general are very welcoming, gregarious, and optimistic about life. I´ve enjoyed every place we´ve visited immensely, and ended up staying longer than planned. There is a good vibe in Colombia. Despite warnings from the U.S. government about travel in Colombia, I have never felt in danger and everyone I talk to mentions how much safer it is now than it has been in the past. However, there is no denying the ever present struggle with insurgent groups, the military, and paramilitary forces. The FARC and the ELN are the two main guerrilla groups, controlling 40% of the country and touting 25,000 members combined. They get money through extortion and kidnapping, and also from drug trade which brings in $6 billion dollars per year to the economy. Additionally, there are 30,000 paramilitary troops who have committed equally heinous crimes in the name of rightest private interests. It´s a complex issue. I digress.

So when I arrived in Bogota, I joined forces with 3 traveling companions: Andy and Zac, friends I originally met two years ago in Ecuador; and Eli (aka Vince, Vincente), a bloke from Philadelphia. I spent only two days in Bogotá and have a limited feel for the city. But as far as bigger cities go, I like it. Many colleges/universities, plazas, cathedrals, museums, the national capital, and bars where you can dance until the wee hours of the morn. A highlight of Bogotá was meeting David, a friend from the states, who has lived in Bogotá for about 3 years. He has since gotten married and opened a gourmet restaurant in the cities´ historic center.

From Bogota we took a hot, humid, suffocating 18 hour bus ride to the Caribbean coast. That first night we stayed in Taganga, a small fishing village many people told us was beautiful. We did not see the value at first, but later it won us over as we found ourselves returning to the seemingly unimpressive yet charming and tranquil place.
From Taganga we had the vague plan of going to Palomino, a small coastal town near Tayrona National Park, to spend Easter week (similar to spring break in the U.S. - everyone goes on vacation). We coincidentally met someone who has a small finca (farm) right near Palomino, and he invited us to stay there. Not knowing whether this would pan out or not, we took the chance. Hours later as we arrived on the isolated beachfront coconut farm in a heavy-duty Willis jeep, dust sticking to our sweaty bodies and Scandinavian skin burning under the harsh sun, we smiled at the beauty and simplicity awaiting us. We spent the next week there in pure relaxation mode. My watch broke, and I was glad. I read the Tao of Pooh, which helped me to get away from always needing to be busy and doing things, and instead be able to quietly sit in peace and feel happy. We cracked open coconuts with machetes and drank the sweet milk, read in our outside ¨living room¨ full of hammocks, harvested fresh water shrimp from the river nearby, cooked our meals over a handmade fire ¨stove¨, braved the tumultuous ocean waves, bathed in a freshwater stream, built a sweat lodge, and went to a cock-fight. It was a week well spent.

We met some Colombians while at the finca who offered us a house to use in Taganga. Free - how can one pass that up? So we spent the last weekend of Easter week back in Taganga, enjoying the party. We ended up staying here a week as well. Andy, Zac, and I took a 3-day open water diving certification course. It was fantastic!

Well, I have run out of time for the moment. I will return tomorrow to add a few more photos, and bring you to the present time of my travels.

No comments: