Don’t Go There.
It’s Not Safe.
It’s Not Safe.
What did we like in Colombia?
- After 6 months of overlanding mystic mountains, winding roads and windy altitude, we were more than ready to indulge in some vitamin sea!
- Spending some family quality time with Christophe and Olivier, Dimitri’s brothers. Sharing the bad: getting lost on hikes, rainy camp nights, long bumpy rides AND the good: infinity pools, snorkeling away on magic islands, regeatoning the night away. The family gather up on the other side of the world was a real treat!
- You feel welcome when people in the street come up to you and say: ‘Welcome to Colombia amigos, we’re glad you’re here!’ In the 80’s-90’s, Colombia had a dangerous reputation: drugs, cartels, kidnappings. There weren’t much tourists visiting. The locals are now curious, astonished and proud to have travelers who want to discover their country.
- Good food! Our prayers have been answered 🙂 Plenty of fresh caught seafood every day. A whole lot more veggie dishes and healthy smoothies in every fruit combo you can think of.
What didn’t we like?
- New tourism in Colombia also means that some locals push it to the limits and see you as a walking wallet.
- In Cartagena, we couldn’t spend 5 minutes alone on the beach without street vendors stalking us. It could be for massages, drinks, food, jewelry, clothes, sunglasses, tattoo’s, hats, drugs… Name it and they offer it. If you don’t want any of it, try saying no 15 times and if that doesn’t work, politely walk away.
- Driving from Cabo de la Vela to Punta Gallinas, you enter a private land that is owned by several indigenous families. In the past, travelers stopped regularly to hand out sweets or gave money. Now, they take it for granted and oblige you to stop the car by holding or setting up chords and chains in the middle of the road with no other way out. It doesn’t feel like a friendly stop where you can choose to donate but a demand and they’re not kidding around. If you don’t want to encourage it, like we did, you can slowly drive through it and hope they let go. Tourist car drivers told us a lot of accidents happen with children, trying to stop cars anyway and eventually be run over. The government ask them not to give anything to stop encouraging their behavior. We counted at least 25 ‘stopping points’ on a distance of 10km. We understand that as tourist you enter their property. We feel that the government should set up a system with an entrance fee that is split up equal for all the families. Until that happens, the way they handle it now is abrupt, harsh and literally sets up a barrier between two worlds.
- Feeling hot hot hot! With more than 30 degrees and not a lot of breeze, we’re sweating our asses of in Colombia, getting sun burned (even with a 50 sunscreen protection), and heaving a lot of headaches. We still prefer the sun to the cold and rain though 😉
The highlights of overlanding Colombia
- Don’t miss the Cocora Valley if you want to see the tallest palm trees in history! Unfortunately, we missed a turn on the 5 hours hike tour and started unknowingly a 3 day hike road in pouring rain. Luckily, we realized it just in time to get back before dark! We do missed all of the miradors with the famous high palm trees, go figure that out 😀 At least we saw some close to the parking lot 🙂 Not the same, but still, breathtaking!
⦁ If you are a coffee lover like me, or just a curious person, make your way up to Salento. You’ll discover different coffee plantations. We chose ‘El Ocaso’ farm and took a ‘Coffee Tour’. We discovered the best kept secrets of the entire coffee making process in Colombia. We walked around in the plantation and even hand picked the best coffee beans to really get into the coffee mood. We ended up with a delish cup of coffee from their latest harvest.
- If you want to feel like you’re back in Antwerp (sunny terraces, funky restaurants and uptown bars), visit Medellin! We enjoyed learning about the history of Pablo Escobar (the man you don’t speak of in Colombia) during a 2.5 hour car trip. We visited the highlights where the most important things happened and all of our questions were answered. We absolutely loved our 4h free walking tour in the city where we got in touch with ho the locals feel about their town.
- After 670 stairs we made it to the top of the giant rock, the Piedra El Peñol in Guatape! It takes a few stops on the way up to catch some breath but the view at the top is magnificent! You get to stare at a blue green lake filled with hundreds of small islands.
- If you want to relax by the beach, swim in the ocean, wander in cosy streets with colonial houses and dance the night away, go to Cartagena! We loved our one day boat trip adventure where we hopped on islands, snorkeled (our snorkle material was shit and the coral was dead but it was still fun!), drank cocktails (in real coconuts) during swimming and listened to the music beat while the boat was catching waves.
- We enjoyed 4X4 offroad tracks and hacking into mud slides to free the road in Minca. It’s an oase of green, captured in mountains with at least a good splash of tropical rain once a day. Back home we live in a city. We know sparrows from pigeons. After that, everything’s a duck as far as we’re concerned. We got on an early birdwatching hike with Jungle Joe and Kaboom! Bird paradise opened up! We spotted at least 40 different species in all the colors you can dream of.
- Drive to Cabo de la Vela to enjoy beautiful kite surfing and make your way up to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost tip of South America. We went with a tour guide (4.5h drive + boat crossing). On our way, we got stuck 3 times in the mud and we had 1 flat tire but we do have to say it was the most fun and exciting part of the drive! 😀 We saw the remote dunes of Playa Taroa. We climbed up and slide down the sand dune right into the turquoise sea for some wild simplicity. We slept in hammocks for the first time on our trip. It was cold, my back hurt like hell, there were pigs walking around but still, I enjoyed the feeling of sleeping outside, like a big tribe family 🙂 Looking back we feel the travel part up to Punta Gallinas is long compared to what you see and do. We had the feeling: is this it? But if you do it by yourself, I think you can get a whole lot more out of it and discover more places out there. Just make sure you don’t get lost. It feels like a nightmare as there are no roads up there, just a huge land of nothingness.
- We walked for more than 2 hours in the rainforest to meet the Carribean coastline of Tayrona National Park. It’s a popular spot with different beaches to visit. Luckily it wasn’t that crowded when we were there, even on a sunday! Don’t forget to bring some sunscreen and loads of water. With more than 30 degrees and a humidity of 87%, you’ll sweat like never before. Be careful when taking a swim. More than 100 people died due to high waves and strong current. On some beaches it’s even forbidden, on others you have to stay close to the coast. Oh and don’t go for a dip in the lake between beaches and rainforest. We saw a big ass croco taking a bath 😯
- We felt that the world was mud-liscious and puddle-wonderful in El Totumo, a man-made volcano of 15 meters high filled with pure mud. Get your swim suit on (not your best one – the mud won’t entirely wash off, not kidding 👿 ) and float away in the tiny mud puddle crammed with tourist. If you like you’re personal comfort zone, this is not for you. Don’t dip entirely in the chocolate -like texture, it doesn’t taste the same and you won’t be able to get your eyes cleared – everyone hands are dirty 🙂
Where to next?
Right now, we’re waiting for our car Suzy. She’s on her way being shipped from Colombia to Panama in a container waiting for new adventures to come! We set sail for Panama with a stop-over in the San Blas Islands. We’ll see you soon to continue our overlanding adventure in Central America! Beaching until further notice 😉
Enjoy our pics and see you on the other side of the Darian Gap!
Sarah & Dimitri
Sarah & Dimitri