Colombia. 

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First things first. Gotta get the name right. Note the cOLOmbia rather than cOLUmbia like the outdoor gear company, or Washington DC (district of columbia). Ok, now that we have that out of the way we can continue uninterrupted with our discussion of Colombia, and it’s a great place to talk about.

After leaving the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos in Ecuador, I was on my way to Medellin via a quick stop in the capital of Bogota. You might recognize the name Medellin if you’ve seen the hit Netflix show Narcos or ever watched any documentaries on drugs and the infamous Pablo Escobar. It certainly holds an indelible image of danger which sits well with many who enjoy hit shows and documentaries. But it also gives Colombia a bit of a bad reputation, and that’s something that the country is trying very hard to change. And for good reason! Colombia is a shell of what it was 25 years ago and that’s a good thing. Tourism is taking hold of many cities and I was able to see some of that firsthand.

In arriving in Medellin, I was also reunited with my wonderful girlfriend Nessie. I arrived there before her so naturally I rounded up the first hundred people I could find and got them to shout and clap as she came through the arrivals gate. Only kidding, they were already there looking for their own loved ones. We would be staying at her uncle’s home and he kindly came and picked us both up at the airport. He had a wife and one daughter who were waiting at home and had food ready for us. That was a big change. I had gotten used to hotels and hostels where you had to get everything done yourself and suddenly I was being asked if I wanted food, drinks, and anything else I wanted. It was a great experience of Colombian hospitality and it wasn’t close to ending.  Their home was beautiful with a Christmas tree and wreaths, bells, and other decorations dotted around the house. It was also impeccably clean.

We spent a few nights in Medellin including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The first few days were fine enough visiting different tourist spots within and on the outskirts of the city. But the best part was taking a drive through the “pueblos” or small towns just outside the city.  They each had beautiful squares lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, etc. There were loads of street vendors littering the blocks and people everywhere appreciating the lights and festivities put on for Christmas. But they weren’t congested with people. Instead there were just enough to make it feel like the places to be. I ate pan de bono (sweet bread), empanadas, and plenty of blackberry juice. I also had this amazing dessert that was a type of pastry filled with a jelly that came in endless varieties. I tried the blackberry and maracuya (passion fruit) and was stuffed in the most heavenly way. It was the type of day I tend to appreciate much more now at 26 than I did back in my early 20s and earlier.

It is an unfortunate case that many times when you begin to feel comfort in a place, that is the precise moment when you must leave. And so it was that the next morning me and Nessie took an early bus to the smaller city built into the Andean mountains called Manizales. I loved the weather there, it was chilly and generally drier. I think I craved the cooler weather because my biological clock was telling me that winter had come back home. In any case, we were picked up by one of Vanessa’s cousins after a rather nauseating bus ride through the winding mountain roads. We went to their grandmothers house and met some other cousins that day. Their grandmother is something incredible. She is in her mid 80s but could walk up hills and move around the house faster than I think I even could!  A very strong woman, but incredibly young at heart. A beautiful duality.

Well look at that, I’ve gone and become carried away with myself on Colombia. There hasn’t been much excitement yet in this amazing country but don’t you run away just yet! There’s more excitement than any of us can handle coming up in a later installment of Colombia.  Until then!