Travel Diary – Cristina’s an italian free spirit who is currently travelling solo around South America for several months covering Colombia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Below is a snippet from her travel diary which which includes some great insight into her feelings, thoughts and reactions to the first part of her adventure which started in Colombia.
I’d been waiting a long time to take this adventure and start this new way of life … I already knew that on the day before the departure, I would be overcome by a strange anxiety, which was the fear of not succeeding.
Destination South America, alone, with a rucksack bigger than me and no knowledge of Spanish! Destination Colombia, which is not considered in most people’s imagination a peaceful or safe of country. But at last, on June 15th 2011 I took off and began this wonderful and fortifying adventure …
My route began from the outskirts of the city of Medellin where I started to breathe the typical atmosphere of the inner part of the country and I started to taste the typical dishes and drink litres of coffee. Then I jumped at the opportunity to visit a quite unknown region, the Department of Chocó, on the west coast of the country.
An amazing, wild area, where the jungle meets the sea. An area which is also sadly known to be dangerous due to the presence of guerrilla groups (at least this is what they say) and has consequently been abandoned by tourists.
But I could not resist, I went there and it was exciting to share the quiet everyday life of the little village of Playa Huina near Bahia and to stroll on the beach, surrounded by playful children who couldn’t wait to be photographed.
It was tiring and gratifying to move into the Colombian jungle with a local family, searching for the biggest tree I had ever seen; it was terrible and touching to talk to those who directly experienced the Civil War and those who had lost husbands, fathers, children. Although for a few days, I felt part of that community, I still carry within myself all those smells, tastes, sounds and everything I had seen …
After that highly intense experience, I headed north to reach the Caribbean coast and one of the most charming towns I can remember: Cartagena de Indias. I can still see its magic, its beautiful colonial architecture, the innate joy of its inhabitants, its confusion, its music, its dances, all those women selling fruits with baskets on their heads and all the honking buses. A frenzied mess!
The same pleasant mess that I felt all along the northern coast of Colombia. In fact, after a week spent in Cartagena, I moved east, also stopping in Santa Marta, where I particularly enjoyed its surroundings, like the fantastic Tayrona National Park.
After a great trip there, I decided to stay one night in the park, in order to experience and enjoy the atmosphere of the park. So I slept outside in a hammock in front of the stormy Caribbean Sea, fell asleep and woke up with the noise of the waves…what an uncomfortable and unforgettable experience!
And then …. The journey continued south to Bucaramanga, where I couldn’t russel up the courage to try the local specialty: the famous “Big Butt Hormiga” ( Huge ants that are said to be delicious …), but I some how found the courage to go paragliding! What a thrill! I floated in the air and flew, I really flew! Maybe some of you will not find anything special about it… but I suffer from vertigo! Or should I say … Did I suffer?
Heading south again, here I am in the immense Bogota … which is even bigger than my eyes can take in, considering I was born and grew up in a village of 2500 souls. The city itself can not be described as “beautiful”, yet I was captured, I couldn’t say why.
Maybe after a week spent hanging around it, I caught its essence, its spirit and I appreciated it for what it can offer: for example the many interesting museums and cultural events such as the splendid Museum of Gold and last but not least, the Botero Museum, which is incredibly free!
And after Bogota …. It was time to visit the famous Zona Cafetera with the three cities of Pereira, Armenia and Manizales.
In the beautiful area of coffee plantations there is a place that I would recommend to everyone: it is a surreal town called Salento (yes, just like that!) from which you can reach Cocora Valley, with its indescribable landscapes,dominated by Colombia’s national symbol: the high “wax palm tree”, that can reach 60 meters in height.
There are no suitable words to describe the unique beauty of Salento and its valley: you have to go and see it for yourself!
It’s the only way to understand, I think … And away, away to the south again: to Cali, the city of the salsa, to Popayan, which is called the “white city” because all the houses, palaces and churches are painted white, thus giving it a unique light.In the end, I visited the city of Pasto, where you feel a border land atmosphere, considering its proximity to Ecuador. And then the frontier and the passage to Ecuador, with my heart beating fast,as it knew, and knew well, that this was the start of a new exploration …
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